Railway minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda has presented his maiden Railway Budget 2014-15 on Tuesday. The newly elected Government of India (GOI) has stated that it would priorities and set timelines for completion of ongoing projects. Notably, ‘coal connectivity’ gets a specific mention in the Railway Minister’s budget.
“While an outlay for coal connectivity was mentioned in the FY2013-14 Budget Speech, there was no mention of the same in the FY14-15 interim Rail Budget speech by the previous government. Specifically identifying build-out of the coal connectivity trunk lines in Jharkhand (Tori-Shivpur- Kathautia), Odisha (Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega) and Chhattisgarh (Bhupdeopur-Raigarh-Mand) is encouraging,” said Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities.
“In this context, as per a June 2014 report citing Railway documents, the revised timelines for the Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh projects are Dec-16, Jun-16 and Sep-16, respectively,” it said.
“Ceteris paribus, landed cost of coal for Railways-fed power projects would rise biannually on account of the Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC) linked freight tariff reset.”
“Prima facie, setting up of Project Monitoring Groups (PMGs) comprising officials of GOI, state governments and professionals to expedite progress on the ground level is a much needed step in the right direction,” said Nomura.
“We maintain that the impetus of the GOI to augment domestic coal availability augurs well for most participants in the coal/power value chain – Coal India (COAL IN, Buy), NTPC (NTPC IN, Buy) and IPPs would be the key beneficiaries,” it opined.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Religare Enterprises Limited (REL) – a prominent financial services group Company offering brokerage, health & life insurance, asset management, small and medium enterprises (SME) lending, wealth management, institutional equities and investment banking services in more than a dozen countries, opined that India’s FY 2014-15 Railway Budget chose fiscal prudence over pump-priming, and said that Indian Railways for the first time focused on getting the beleaguered national carrier back on tracks rather than raise difficult-to-finance plan expenditure.
India’s FY15 Railway Budget chose fiscal prudence over pump-priming, focusing on getting the beleaguered national carrier back on tracks rather than raise difficult-to-finance plan expenditure. Modernization, cleanliness, and safety have instead been made top priorities. A near-plan holiday approach until existing projects are completed is sensible, yes, but festina lente was not enough for frothy markets which expected much more (NIFTY –2.1%, CNX Midcap –4.3%). There were shortcomings as well-no clarity on 1) The DFCs, 2) FUNDING of ‘bullet trains’ (or the need), and 3) funding of the ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’.
Plan outlay for FY15 is pegged at Rs.654bn (vs.Rs.634bn in the interim budget), but importantly, with lower borrowing, and funded out of internal accruals, which form one of three avenues identified for raising capital: 1) investible surplus from PSUs, 2) FDI and domestic accrual, and 3) PPP. If one were to extrapolate, fiscal prudence, innovative funding, and optimization/governance would be the key signals from the Union Budget as well.
Moderate revenue receipts targeted for FY15:
Gross traffic receipts for FY15 are budgeted at Rs.1.6trn, +14% on FY14RE, led by a strong 19.1% growth in passenger earnings (2% passenger traffic growth and rest led by recent fare hikes – see our note here) and 12.5% in goods earnings (led by +4.6% in freight-originating traffic to 1101MT). On the positive side – “periodic revision in passenger fare and freight rates, as approved by this august House, will be linked to revisions in fuel prices in order to insulate the Railway revenues from fuel cost escalation.”
Expenses to shoot up further, thanks to fuel:
Railway ordinary working expenses are budgeted to rise by 16% in FY15, with a large incremental chunk coming from staff/pension expenses (accounting for ~50% of the increase) and fuel costs (expected to rise 23% vs. the interim budget est. of 18% growth and accounting for ~32% of the increase).
Railway plan outlay budgeted at Rs.654bn:
The plan outlay for FY15 has been budgeted at Rs.654bn, implying a growth of ~10% over the FY14RE. Nearly 46% of this would be funded by the Gross Budgetary Support (of Rs.301bn, nearly same as interim budget est.), and the rest by internal resources (+5.9% to Rs154bn vs. the interim budget est. of Rs.104bn), market borrowings (Rs.118bn, down 8% from the interim budget est.) and PPP route (Rs.60bn, flat YoY).
Signals for the Union Budget, tighten your seat-belts:
It’s fair to assume the Union Budget on the 10th would have a similar approach: near-term pragmatism with a long-term vision. Actually, the fiscal balances preclude alternatives. We expect the commentary to be no different for the Union Budget as well.
पटना Patna (PNBE): Former Railway Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar said on Wednesday that bullet trains, proposed in this year’s Railway budget, were not feasible in the country, though the concept sounded very impressive. Kumar said that he travelled from London to Paris on a bullet train during his time and made efforts to have it in India too during his tenure as the Railway minister. “The concept of Bullet trains is indeed very impressive but it has been not been found feasible in India,” he said.
First of all, a dedicated track was needed for a bullet train to run and for which a huge amount of land was needed too, Kumar said. Besides, there should be no highways contagious to the tracks to prevent it from falling over road vehicles in case of accidents as the speed went up to as high as 300 km per hour, he said.
Railway minister Sadanand Gowda in his budget speech on Tuesday announced introduction of bullet trains starting off with the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector. Kumar said that the concept had been mooted for the first time during the Indira Gandhi regime and since then had been customarily finding place in Railway budgets except in his time. “The concept of Bullet train was mooted for the first time in India during time of late Indira Gandhi in 1980. Since than it has been finding place in the budgets of all Railway ministers except in my time,” Kumar, who was the Railway minister when NDA’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, told reporters.
कोलकता Kolkata (KOAA): The Rail Budget for FY 14-15 heralds a new era for railways to wake up from the slumber over a fairly long stretch of time. The slow growth in traffic and high operating ratio (at an unhealthy 94%) were clearly the result of wrong priorities, misdirected investments, and playing politics by announcing projects without caring for implementation.
It is evident from the fact that Indian Railways have added little capacity over the years, and have been faced with dwindling surplus for expansion and modernisation.
The railways, which are the lifeline of the nation, are struggling with precarious finances and are cash strapped, forcing the projects to suffer from huge time and cost overrun.
Sadly, the Railway Board, which is constituted by members with a wealth of knowledge and experience, presents a picture of weak organisational structure with lack of empowerment at functional level which delays decision-making process.
The budget has catalogued the deficiencies and drift in policy planning over the past decade, yielding ground to other modes of transport owing to their under-performance.
Admittedly, the share of the public transporter has come down from the onetime 65:35 to 30:70 at present. This is detrimental for national economy in every sense. Rail transport is the most economical means, environment friendly, cuts down carbon emissions and uses 30% of land used for express ways. In this backdrop, the Rail Budget presented today signals good economics over bad politics.
Without doubt, the railways will have the place of pride in the new scheme of things to match progressively with the best in the world. The Rail Budget is a visionary statement to put railways on fast track. The task is difficult but the resolve looks equally strong. There will be a massive requirement of funds, and apparently it would be a far cry to implement the policies with the severe funds crunch and an operating surplus of barely Rs 602 crore for FY15.
The commitment of the new government is reflected in the realistic policies of raising the resources by attracting private investment through PPP model, and no less importantly FDI going up to 100% in designated sectors. Wagon leasing, too, which has been largely in limbo under the current scheme, is going to be encouraged channelising plethora of funds in Rolling Stock investment.
The Diamond Quadrilateral Network will be the pace setter for rejuvenation of Indian Railways. The focus on Dedicated Freight Corridor, which has been lingering far behind schedule, and the laying of new tracks will metamorphose the rail movement.
India, which is aspiring to be a global economic power, is already late in planning to introduce high speed and bullet trains. Speed today is a symbol of progress, and the government has done well to accord high priority to the introduction of fast trains which will add momentum to trade and industry.
We, in Texmaco, have been waiting for this welcome turn of events and are extremely excited with the new direction of the budget. There would be obstacles, no doubt, but given the will, it is hoped that the government will triumph over it. For once, we feel that we have a government which will deliver.
वडोदरा Vadodara (BRC): Former Minister of State for Railways and MP Naranbhai Rathwa has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to link the tribal belt of Gujarat with tribal areas of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh through railway line.
Rathwa, who is also a noted tribal leader in the state, said work for two railway lines linking tribal belts of both the states was approved by former PM Manmohan Singh in 2008 but the project was shelved by railway authorities, citing that the Rate of Return (ROR) from the project was only 7 per cent, as against mandatory 14 per cent.
In the letter, the leader requested Modi to consider the plan and once again undertake the work, which included construction of two railway lines – 200 kms Dahod-Indore via Jhabua and 152 kms Chhota Udepur-Dhar line.
The cost of the 200 kms and 165 kms railway line projects was estimated at Rs 1,200 crore and Rs 600 crore respectively.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Forward looking initiatives like introduction of Bullet Trains and FDI in Railways would also enable the country to modernize its rail transport system
Vikram Kirloskar, President, SIAM has welcomed the Railway Budget presented by the Rail Minister Mr. D.V. Sadananda Gowda and termed it as a forward looking and progressive one.
Although the fine print is yet to be seen, the speech of the Railway Minister incorporates many of the recommendations SIAM had been making to the Railway Board for the last 3-4 years, Mr. Kirloskar said.
Kirloskar added that the auto industry is happy that many of SIAM’s recommendations have found a mention in the Budget speech. Enhanced port connectivity, automatic rebate for return load and setting up of private freight terminals and Logistics parks under PPP mode were specific recommendations made by the auto industry which have been accepted by the Railway Minister.
These measures along with the facility of online bookings of wagons will help the automobile industry in enhancing its utilization of railways for transporting its products more efficiently, thereby reducing cost of operations.
Forward looking initiatives like introduction of Bullet Trains and FDI in Railways would also enable the country to modernize its rail transport system to match the best in the world, he added.
The X-ray equipment will also be able to detect overheating of bearings, wheels and brake discs
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway Ministry is likely to propose installation of X-ray systems along the tracks to detect faulty parts in trains in the Railway Budget among a series of steps to enhance safety measures for passengers.
A new academy for advanced training of RPF personnel, which is long overdue, is also likely to be proposed in the Railway Budget 2014-15, to be presented on July 8 by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda under the new NDA regime.
Railway sources said the ‘Trackside X-ray System’ will be installed at suitable locations along railway tracks to detect loose or damaged parts of rolling stock which include locomotives, engine, coaches, and wagons.
The X-ray equipment will also be able to detect overheating of bearings, wheels and brake discs.
The installation of the equipment is expected to be one of measures to be proposed by the Railways to curb mishaps as faulty parts of rolling stock is a major reason for increasing number of train accidents, the sources said.
Since taking over the Railway Ministry after BJP-led NDA was voted to power, Mr. Gowda has maintained that enhancing safety and security of passengers is his prime concern and has advocated all possible steps in this direction.
Mr.Gowda has also shown keenness towards implementation of the recommendations of Kakodkar Committee to improve safety parameters of the national transporter.
Elimination of unmanned level crossings in a phase-wise manner, one of the key recommendations of the Committee, is also likely to find mention in Mr. Gowda’s first Railway Budget.
There are about 12,000 unmanned level crossings at present which witness maximum number of train accidents, about 40 per cent of total rail mishap, in the country.
Since it requires a huge fund to eliminate unmanned level crossings, the cash-strapped railways is likely to come up with a plan to have a dedicated fund for this purpose.
Railways is also expected to acquire modern devices to tackle foggy weather, which causes delay in train service in Northern India during winter season.
In order to strengthen its security measures, the Railway Budget is likely to announce a new academy for advanced training of RPF personnel. The state-run transporter will also have a Rail Security Management System, a paperless network connecting all RPF posts to keep itself abreast online.
Besides, Railways will expedite installation of CCTV, X-ray machines for baggage clearances and other gadgets which are part of the Integrated Security System at all sensitive stations. There are 202 railway stations identified as sensitive out of which only 93 are equipped with the system.
I rise to present before this august House the Statement of Estimated Receipts and Expenditure for 2014-15 for Railways. As I stand in this Temple of Democracy, I owe this opportunity to the people of this country who have elected us to represent them and to shape their destiny.
I am grateful to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji for having reposed his faith in me and entrusting this huge responsibility of leading Indian Railways. I promise to fulfill this responsibility and make every endeavour not only to lead Indian Railways, but also aid in building a vibrant India under the dynamic leadership of Narendra Modi ji.
It gives me immense pleasure to present my maiden Railway Budget. Indian Railways, being the nation’s prime mover, is the structure and soul of Indian economy. It echoes rhyme and rhythm in the hearts of every citizen of this country – from Baramulla in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and from Okha in the West to Lekhapani in the East. Madam Speaker, we all know that Indian Railways cut across all barriers of regions, classes and creed and is a microcosm of India on the move.
From a man on the streets of Bengaluru to fish vendors in Kolkata to the hustle bustle at Nizamuddin Station, everywhere you find a citizen of this country rushing to connect with Indian Railways.
Madam Speaker, though I am hardly a month old in the office, I am flooded with requests and suggestions for new trains, new railway lines and better services from the Hon’ble Members of the Parliament, from my colleagues in the Government, from States, from stake holders, from organizations and from people of all walks of life. I know that everybody feels that they have a solution for the challenges which Indian Railways face. I too thought so when I was an outsider to this system before I was exposed to the intricacies and complexities of this vast organization. Now, I am overwhelmed with the enormity of my responsibility in fulfilling these expectations as Minister of Railways.
This, Madam Speaker, reminds me of Kautilya’s words -
In the happiness of the people lies the Ruler’s happiness Their welfare is his welfare What pleases him, the Ruler shall not consider good but whatever pleases his people the Ruler shall consider good (- Kautilya’s Arthashastra)
Indian Railways run 12617 trains to carry over 23 million passengers per day connecting more than 7172 stations spread across the sub continent. It is equivalent to moving the entire population of the Australia. We run more than 7421 freight trains carrying about 3 Million Tonnes of freight every day. Madam Speaker, having achieved the distinction of entering the select club of railways of China, Russia and USA in carrying more than one billion tons of freight, I now target to become the largest freight carrier in the world.
Madam Speaker, as you know, apart from serving the passengers, Indian Railways carries coal
It carries steel
It carries cement It carries salt
It carries food grains and fodder and it also carries milk.
Thus, Indian Railways practically carries anything and everything and it never says no to ‘a thing’ if it fits in the wagons. Most importantly, we are the backbone of supply chain of the defence establishment and play a very crucial role in security of the nation.
Madam Speaker, while we carry 23 million passengers a day, there are still large number of people who have not set a foot on a train yet. We carry over one-billion tonnes of freight a year, connecting ports and mines to industrial clusters, but still there are vast tracts of hinterland waiting for rail connectivity. Though freight business has grown steadily over the years, Indian Railways carry only 31% of the total freight carried in the country by all modes. These are the challenges we have to face.
Madam Speaker, an organization of this magnitude vested with varied responsibilities, is expected to earn like a commercial enterprise but serve like a welfare organization. These two objectives are like two rails of the railway track, which though travel together but never meet. So far, Indian Railways have managed to do tight-rope walking by balancing these twin conflicting objectives.
Social service obligation rose from 9.4% of Gross Traffic Receipts in 2000-01 to 16.6% in 2010-11. In 2012-13, such obligations stood over Rs. 20,000 crore. The total investment, which is the Plan Outlay under budgetary sources, in the same year, was Rs. 35,241 crore. As an amount, the burden of social service obligation is more than half of the size of our Plan Outlay under budgetary sources.
Madam Speaker, an organization spending an amount equivalent to more than half of its Plan Outlay under budgetary sources on social obligations, can hardly have adequate resources for its development works.
However, Madam Speaker, Indian Railways would continue to fulfill its social obligations, but sustaining these objectives beyond a point is not possible without compromising on efficiency and safety of train operations.
We have a total track length of 1.16 lakh kilometers; 63,870 coaches; more than 2.4 lakh wagons and 13.1 lakh employees. This calls for expenditure on fuel, salary and pension, track & coach maintenance and more importantly on safety works. This takes up most of our earning from the Gross Traffic Receipts. In the year 2013-14, Gross Traffic Receipts were Rs. 1,39,558 crore and total Working Expenses were Rs. 1,30,321 crore, which works out to an Operating Ratio of almost 94%.
This, Madam Speaker, implies that we spend 94 paise out of every rupee earned, leaving 6 paise only as surplus. This surplus, apart from being meager, is continuously on decline due to non-revision of fare. The surplus, after paying obligatory dividend and lease charges, was Rs. 11,754 crore in 2007-08 and is estimated to be Rs. 602 crore in the current financial year.
Madam Speaker, this meager surplus so generated is required to finance the Plan Outlay for safety, capacity expansion, infrastructure, improving passenger services and amenities.
Funds to the tune of about Rs. 5 lakh crore i.e. around Rs. 50,000 crore per year for next 10 years, are required for ongoing projects alone. This leaves a huge gap between what is available as surplus and what is needed.
While prudent efforts should have been made to address this gap, the tariff policy adopted lacked rational approach. Passenger fares were kept lower than costs, thus causing loss in the passenger train operations. This loss kept on increasing from 10 paise per passenger kilometer in 2000-01 to 23 paise in 2012-13, as the passenger fares were kept low always.
On the other hand, freight rates were revised periodically and kept high in order to compensate the losses sustained in passenger sector resulting in freight traffic getting diverted consistently. Also the share of railways in freight traffic came down consistently in the last 30 years. Madam Speaker, it is important to note that decline in the share of total freight traffic is potential revenue loss.
Madam Speaker, having spoken about how revenue was frittered away, now, let me touch upon how the investments were misdirected.
There has been focus on sanctioning projects rather than completing them. In the last 30 years, as many as 676 projects were sanctioned worth Rs. 1,57,883 crore. Of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs. 1,82,000 crore.
In the last 10 years, 99 New Line projects worth Rs. 60,000 crore were sanctioned out of which only one project is complete till date. In fact, there are 4 projects that are as old as 30 years, but are still not complete for one reason or another. The more projects we add, the thinner we spread our resources and longer it takes to complete them.
I am sure, if this trend is allowed to continue, many more thousands of crore will get spent yielding hardly any returns.
Madam Speaker, having spoken about never-ending projects of Indian Railways, let me throw some light on the kind of priority accorded in choosing projects. It is investment in doubling and tripling to decongest the over-utilized network, which brings money to Railways. On the other hand, construction of new lines, most of the times do not even meet operational cost as there is no commensurate demand.
In the last 10 years, Indian Railways made an investment of over Rs. 41,000 crore in laying 3738 kilometers of New lines. On the other hand, it spent only about Rs. 18,400 crore for doubling of 5050 kilometers though it was a priority for the health of the system.
I would like to read a comment on Indian Railways by someone, which I chanced upon. I did not understand it till I learnt about the facts I talked about so far:
“It is unheard of a business that has a monopoly, that has nearly 125 crore customer base, that has 100% sale on advance payment; but still starved of funds.”
This, Madam Speaker, is the story of Indian Railways so far.
Railways serving the social obligation would not have been an issue. However, in the name of social viability, the chosen projects were populist in nature, bringing hardly any revenue to the Railways. Investments continued in non-remunerative projects in the name of social responsibility. On the whole, neither the projects brought returns to Railways nor the social responsibility was met in full for many years.
This mismanagement and apathy brought Railways into the situation of severe funds crunch for many years, which is a result of the ‘decade of golden dilemma’ – the dilemma of choosing between commercial viability and social viability.
Madam Speaker, I am sure, my esteemed predecessors were aware of this precarious situation, but they, however, fell prey to the ‘nasha’ of claps in the House when they announced these projects.
Madam Speaker, I also can get claps from this august House by announcing many new projects, but that would be rendering injustice to the struggling organization. I would like to take claps throughout the year by setting things in order.
This state of affairs of Indian Railways needs immediate course correction. Among the many corrective steps that I have planned out, fare revision was one, which was a tough but a necessary decision. Madam Speaker, as they say – “The medicine appears as bitter in the beginning, but is like nectar in the end.”
This fare revision will bring Indian Railways an additional revenue of about Rs. 8,000 crore. However, we need more than Rs. 9 Lakh crore to complete the Golden Quadrilateral Network and about Rs. 60,000 crore for introducing one bullet train alone.
But Madam Speaker, can I depend only on hiking fare and freight rates and burden the public to realize these funds?
This is unrealistic. Thus, I need to explore the alternate means of resource mobilisation.
Leveraging Railway PSU Resources: Madam Speaker, Railway PSUs have done very well and are financially sound. I propose to launch a scheme to bring in investible surplus funds of Railway PSUs in infrastructure projects of Railways, which can generate attractive returns for PSUs.
Private investment in Rail Infrastructure through Domestic and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): Growth of Railway Sector depends heavily on availability of funds for investment in rail infrastructure. Internal revenue sources and government funding are insufficient to meet the requirement. Hence, Ministry of Railways is seeking Cabinet approval to allow FDI in Rail Sector.
Public Private Partnership: There has been a lot of talk about public private partnership for raising resources. Railways being a capital intensive sector have not been successful so far in raising substantial resource through PPP route. Madam Speaker, it is my endeavor to pursue this in right earnestness. It is our target that bulk of our future projects will be financed through PPP mode, including the high-speed rail which requires huge investments.
Madam Speaker, apart from mobilizing resources, I also need to strategically manage other aspects of railway planning and administration.
To meet this end, I propose the following initiatives:
Near Plan Holiday approach;
Prioritizing and setting timelines for completion of the ongoing projects;
Devising a mechanism for raising funds for Rail infrastructure;
Decision Support System for project implementation;
Strategic partnerships and transparency in procurements;
Aggressive indigenization of imported products;
Adopting safety standards matching international practices and setting up of Simulation Center to study causes of accidents.
Encouraging development of Locomotives, Coaches and Wagon Leasing Market.
Now, Madam Speaker, let me place before this august House the Financial Performance of 2013-14:
Financial Performance 2013-14:
Since presentation of Interim Budget and passing of the ’Vote on Account‘ in February last, financial position has undergone a change. Madam Speaker, Railways carried 1050.18 million tonnes. Goods Earnings were short only by Rs. 94 crore. Originating passengers, also, were less by 46 million over Revised target and Passenger earnings were short by Rs. 968 crore over Revised target.
Over all, though the Gross Traffic Receipts grew by 12.8% to reach Rs. 1,39,558 crore, it was short of Revised target by Rs. 942 crore. On the other hand, Ordinary Working Expenses stood at Rs. 97,571 crore, which was in excess by Rs. 511 crore.
Appropriation to Pension Fund had to be stepped up to match the actual outgo.
As a result, instead of ending the year with a surplus of Rs. 7,943 crore, the surplus was actually Rs. 3,783 crore i.e., a shortfall of Rs. 4,160 crore. This is after fulfilling the dividend commitment of Rs. 8,010 crore.
The internal resource generation for Plan, in 2013-14, was Rs. 11,710 crore, as against Revised target of Rs. 14,496 crore. This is short by Rs. 2,786 crore.
In simple language, in 2013-14, there was a decline in traffic growth as compared to Revised projections. Expenditure however, shot up and was more than what was estimated. The Operating Ratio deteriorated by 2.7% over Revised target to touch 93.5% by end of 2013-14 fiscal.
So far as our Plan Expenditure for 2013-14 is concerned, it fell short of Revised target of Rs. 59,359 crore mainly due to non-materialization of PPP targets.
Madam Speaker, now I proceed to present before this House the Budget Estimates for the year 2014-15.
BUDGET ESTIMATES FOR 2014-15:
Anticipating a healthier growth of economy, I hope to achieve total receipts of Rs. 1,64,374 crore and would peg total expenditure at Rs.1,49,176 crore.
I anticipate freight traffic growth of 4.9% amounting to 1,101.25 million tonne, an increment of 51.07 million tonne over 2013-14, based on trends in the first two months. I also anticipate a small growth in Passenger Traffic over 2013-14. Earnings from Freight Traffic are estimated at Rs. 1,05,770 crore and from Passenger Traffic Rs. 44,645 crore.
The fare revision which came into effect from 25.06.2014 has provided Railways a much needed respite however little it may be. As I have considered the requests of the suburban passengers for revision in monthly season ticket fares, the Revenue foregone on this account would be around Rs. 610 crore.
Here I may point out that periodic revision in passenger fare and freight rates, as approved by this august House, will be linked to revisions in fuel prices in order to insulate the Railway revenues from fuel cost escalation.
Madam Speaker, out of total expenditure, the ordinary working expenses have been proposed at Rs. 1,12,649 crore, which is Rs. 15,078 crore higher than 2013-14. This has been necessitated by fuel price hike and increase in staff costs. Pension outgo in 2013-14 had grown by about 16%. Keeping the same trend, provision for pension is kept at Rs.28,850 crore.
ANNUAL PLAN 2014-15:
Madam Speaker, I thank the Finance Minister for extending Additional Budgetary Support of Rs. 1,100 crore as Capital and Rs. 273 crore as Railway share from diesel cess for important Road Safety works. Largely owing to this measure and to the additional resource mobilization efforts, I propose to increase the plan outlay under budgetary sources to Rs. 47,650 crore which is higher by Rs. 9,383 crore over 2013-14. A large part of this higher plan outlay goes to safety related works which is also a high priority of our Government.
As I have increased internal resource component of Plan, I propose to scale down market borrowings through Indian Railway Finance Corporation to Rs. 11,790 crore. Resources from PPP are kept at the interim level.
Madam Speaker, time overruns and consequential cost escalations in completion of most of the railway projects have been a chronic worry of Railways for years. I propose to provide full financial outlays to projects targeted for completion in the current year itself, keeping in mind the priorities and safety. I have ensured adequate allocations for 30 priority works for their timely progress.
It is my concern to allocate the available resources to high priority areas like safety and capacity augmentation in train operations and in improving amenities and services for passengers, with high emphasis on cleanliness.
Madam Speaker, let me now spell out details of the focus areas of this Budget:
PASSENGER AMENITIES & STATION MANAGEMENT
Amenities at Stations: In the passenger amenities, Indian Railways envisage to provide foot-over bridges, escalators and lifts at all major stations including through PPP route.
Indian Railways would make earnest attempt this year to provide sufficient water supply, platform shelters and toilets at the Railway Stations.
Passenger Amenities through private entity: Indian Railways propose to extend service of Battery-operated Carts to facilitate differently-abled and senior citizens to reach any platform comfortably at all major stations.
We propose to involve individuals, NGOs, Trusts, Charitable Institutions, Corporates, etc. to provide passenger amenities at stations.
Office on Wheels: As Indian Railways carry lot of business travellers who spend substantial time on travel, in order to add best value to their time, I propose to provide workstations in select trains on payment basis. A pilot project will be launched by this year.
e-Booking of Railway Retiring Room: Online booking facility of Railway Retiring Room will be extended to all the stations during the course of the year.
Madam Speaker, extending passenger friendly services is the motto of Indian Railways. In this direction, I am expanding the scope of online booking: People can book a Train, People can book a Coach, People can book a Berth, and People can book a Seat in Chair Car
Madam Speaker, catering on Railways has been a major issue of concern for long.
In order to improve the quality, hygiene of on-board catering services and to provide variety, I propose to introduce Pre-cooked (Ready-to-eat) Meals of reputed brands in a phased manner.
Further, I sincerely desire to bring perceptible improvement in the catering services by introducing Quality Assurance Mechanism through Third Party Audit by NABCB certified agencies.
In addition to the third party audit, a system of collecting feedback through IVRS mechanism, from the travelling passengers on the quality of food served, will be launched shortly.
If the service is not to the standards set, especially in hygiene and the taste, severe action would be initiated against the vendors including cancellation of the contract.
Food Courts at Stations and Regional Cuisine while onboard:- Indian Railways also proposes to set up Food Courts at major stations to provide the option of ordering regional cuisine while onboard, through emails, SMS and Smart Phones, etc. A pilot project will be started shortly between New Delhi-Amritsar and New Delhi-Jammu Tawi sections.
Madam Speaker, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, said Mahatma Gandhi, our beloved Father of the Nation.
Madam, I am aware of the sorry state of affairs of cleanliness in the trains and stations. Railways have been attaching high priority to cleanliness, but it has always been a challenge to maintain the acceptable level of cleanliness owing to the sheer number of passengers handled at the stations.
Madam Speaker, I have substantially increased budget allocation for cleanliness in the current year, which is a 40% increase over the previous year. I propose to outsource cleaning activities at 50 major stations to professional agencies and to set up a separate Housekeeping Wing to have focused attention and exclusive responsibility of maintaining cleanliness and sanitation at stations.
Madam Speaker, a Corpus Fund for upkeep will be set up at Stations.
Use of CCTVs at Stations will be extended to monitor cleanliness activities. All-India level complaint / helpline number will be printed on the back of all PRS tickets. System of periodic third-party inspections will be introduced.
Further, Bio-toilets will be increased in sufficient numbers in trains in order to mitigate the problem of direct discharge of human waste on the tracks and platform aprons at stations.
Onboard Housekeeping Services, currently operational in 400 trains, has received good feedback from passengers. This will be extended to all the important trains. I also propose to increase Mechanized Laundries in order to improve quality of the bedrolls provided in AC Coaches.
We will introduce on an experimental basis RO drinking water units at Stations and in trains. Reputed and willing NGOs, charitable institutions and Corporate Houses will be encouraged to adopt and maintain stations for better cleanliness and upkeep.
Madam Speaker, safety of passengers is of paramount importance for Indian Railways. It is estimated that over Rs. 40,000 crore would be needed to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned level crossing and construction of Road-under-bridges and Road-over-bridges.
I have received lot of requests from various States for construction of Road-over-bridges and Road-under-bridges. I am making provision of Rs. 1,785 crore for Road-under-bridges and Road-over-bridges in this Budget. I would request concerned State Governments to expedite their proposals and pass on their share of the cost. I have decided to introduce a system of speedy clearances.
We intend to standardize designs and make these online. Delegation shall be done so that power of sanctioning is decentralized.
Elimination of Unmanned Level Crossings
Indian Railways have 30348 Level Crossings, out of which 11563 are unmanned. Each unmanned level crossing is being examined in detail and depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it by suitable modality.
Indian Railways propose to use modern Vehicle Borne Ultrasonic Flaw Detection System to detect rail and weld fractures. In addition Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRD) will also be tried at two locations as a Pilot Project.
In order to improve the safety of travelling passengers, I propose to bring in technology for automatic closing of doors before start of train, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches. A pilot project for limited number of trains will be taken up.
In order to strengthen security in trains and at Stations, 17000 RPF constables have been recruited and shall be shortly available for deployment. We also propose to recruit 4000 women RPF constables.
In order to ensure security of ladies travelling alone, special instructions are being issued for their safety in each class of travel. With the induction of women RPF constables, coaches for ladies will be escorted. Additional care will be taken for ladies travelling alone in all classes.
RPF escorting teams in trains will be provided mobile phones so that passengers can contact them when in distress. Security helpline will be augmented.
We will explore the possibility of building of boundary walls around stations through PPP route.
Madam Speaker, I foresee a huge untapped potential in the field of domestic tourism in our country. We plan to take up Eco-Tourism and Education Tourism in North Eastern States.
Special Pilgrim Circuits like Devi Circuit, Jyotirling Circuit, Jain Circuit, Christian Circuit, Muslim / Sufi Circuit, Sikh Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Famous Temple Circuit etc. have been identified. I propose to introduce specially packaged trains for these circuits. Private participation in this area will also be encouraged. I intend to introduce some trains for Pilgrims and Tourists in short run also.
One Tourist Train will run from Gadag to Pandarpur via Bagalkot, Bijapur and Solapur covering the pilgrim and tourist places of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Another such train will start from Rameshwaram covering pilgrim and tourist places like Bengaluru, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar. I also plan to run a special train featuring life and work of Swami Vivekananda to inculcate good moral values and propagate the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
Revamping Railway Reservation System
Madam Speaker, Railway Reservation System will be revamped into Next Generation e-Ticketing System. Ticket booking through mobile phones and through Post Offices will be popularized.
We will improve the system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7200 tickets per minute as against 2000 tickets per minute and allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time.
Facility of Coin Operated Automatic Ticket Vending Machines will be experimented.
Efforts will also be made to provide facility of buying Platform Tickets and unreserved tickets over internet.
Parking-cum-Platform Combo Tickets will be launched to facilitate the passengers and to save their time.
Madam Speaker, at the moment, the Railway Board, due to overlapping roles of policy formulation and implementation, has become unwieldy. Therefore, I propose to separate these two functions.
Staff Welfare – Care of Our Railway Family
Indian Railways has 13.1 lakh staff most of whom work on the cutting edge of providing rail services. It is my duty that they are taken care by providing adequate facilities. In this direction, I am initiating the following:
Presently an amount of Rs. 500 per capita is contributed towards Staff Benefit Fund. I propose to increase this amount to Rs. 800 per capita.
I propose to announce a special scheme for the meritorious wards of Railway persons for their outstanding performance in academics and sports for such children.
The Hospital Management Information system will be used to integrate all health units, Divisional hospitals and Central Hospitals as well as our empanelled hospitals.
Examine feasibility of providing air-conditioning in loco cabins;
SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF STAFF
I am contemplating on setting up of a Railway University for both technical and non-technical subjects.
We will tie up with technical institutions for introducing railway oriented subject for graduation and skill development.
In the meantime, staff at the ground level will be sent for short duration courses of technical and non-technical nature, involving locally available technical institutions. The exposure for specialized areas like high-speed, heavy haul operations, etc. will be undertaken for all level of staff and officers at appropriate institutes in India and abroad.
SPEED OF TRAINS
It is the wish and dream of every Indian that India runs a bullet train as early as possible. Madam Speaker, Indian Railways is on its way to fulfill that long cherished dream. We propose bullet trains by starting off with an already identified Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, where a number of studies have been done.
Madam Speaker, it was the vision of our great leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee ji, that gaveIndia the Golden Quadrilateral Road Network. Today, under the leadership of Narendra Modiji, we are embarking on an ambitious plan to have a Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail, connecting major Metros and growth centers of the country. A provision of Rs. 100 crore has been made in this Budget for high Speed project to RVNL / HSRC (High Speed Rail Corridor) for taking further steps.
Madam Speaker, while bullet trains would require completely new infrastructure, higher speed for existing trains will be achieved by upgrading the present network. Hence, an effort will be made to increase the speed of trains to 160-200 kmph in select sectors so as to significantly reduce travel time between major cities.
The identified sectors are: Delhi-Agra Delhi-Chandigarh Delhi-Kanpur Nagpur-Bilaspur Mysore-Bengaluru-Chennai Mumbai-Goa Mumbai-Ahmedabad Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur-Secunderabad.
Madam Speaker, as you know, the I.T. revolution has permeated into all spheres of human life. It has not only made life comfortable, but also made the service delivery efficient and the onus now is on us to make governance transparent and accountable using I.T. solutions.
Though Indian Railways has taken up computerization in a large way, all the efforts have not been in synergized. Hence, the desired results are not achieved. Need of the hour is to bring in a total change in the work culture of Railways and delivery of Railway Services by going in for large scale integrated computerization of major functions of Indian Railways.
Madam Speaker, Indian Railways is also going for a computer assisted Enterprise Resource Planning Solution, so that synergy is brought in. To begin with, following initiatives will be taken up:
Moving towards paperless offices in Indian Railways in 5 years;
Next Generation Ticket Reservation System;
Wi-fi Services in all A1 and A category stations and in select trains;
Real-time tracking of trains and rolling stock;
Mobile based Wakeup Call System for passengers;
Mobile based Destination Arrival Alert;
Station Navigation Information System;
Extension of Dual Display Fare Repeaters at all the Ticket Counters through PPP;
Digital reservation charts at Stations (Bengaluru model);
Extension of Computerized Parcel Management System;
Extension of logistics support to various e-commerce Companies by providing designated pick-up centres at identified Stations;
Providing education to children of Railway staff at remote locations through Railtel OFC (optical fibre cable) network.
Digitization of GIS mapping of land assets of Indian Railways:
Indian Railways hold vast land assets which need to be digitized and GIS mapped for better management and usage. This would help Railways in protecting the lands as well as leveraging it for raising resources. The resource mobilization using land assets will be explored through private participation in setting up railway related business in railway lands as well as for commercial development
Innovations Incubation Center
Madam Speaker, in an effort to keep pace with developments of the modern world, Railways have to adopt and reinvent itself constantly. Challenges of tomorrow cannot be met by the tools of yesterday. In this direction, I propose to set up an Innovations Incubation Center. This Center will harness the ideas generated from the staff of Indian Railways and convert them into practical solutions to increase efficiency of the system. Such innovations which result in cost saving as well as revenue generation will be suitably rewarded in the form of incentive.
As part of this exercise, I also propose to set up summer internships for the under-graduates of engineering and management studies. Students can intern at any of the various units of Railways i.e. Divisions, PSUs and Production Units.
Gathering More Resources
With a large backlog of sanctioned projects, funding continues to be the biggest challenge for the Railways. While private investment and customer funding for some port connectivity projects and few other Power Sector Projects has started, much more needs to happen if infrastructure creation has to keep pace with the requirement. We will interact with Industry and take further steps to attract investment under PPP through BOT and Annuity route and 8 to 10 capacity augmentation projects on congested routes will be identified for this purpose. Zonal Railways will be suitably empowered to finalize and execute such projects.
Madam Speaker, Indian Railways has taken up port connectivity on a priority through PPP mode of funding in tandem with Sagar Mala Project of Port Development. Railways will facilitate connectivity to the new and upcoming ports through private participation. So far, in principle approval has been granted for building rail connectivity to the Ports of Jaigarh, Dighi, Rewas, Hazira, Tuna, Dholera and Astranga under Participative Model Policy of Indian Railways, amounting to a total of over Rs. 4,000 crore.
Railways will speed up construction of critical coal connectivity lines in Tori-Shivpur-Kathautia Area, Jharsuguda-Barpalli-Sardega and Bhupdeopur –Raigarh- Mand Area. This will bring nearly 100 Million Tonnes of incremental traffic to railways and will also facilitate faster transportation of coal to Power Houses.
Total Station Development
Madam Speaker, we will take up development of identified stations to international standards with modern facilities and passenger amenities on the lines of newly developed airports through PPP mode. Initially, Indian Railways would develop at least 10 major stations of metro cities and important junctions with state-of-the-art facilities, leveraging land and air space in and around the stations.
Private Investment in Railway Logistics
Madam Speaker, Indian Railways propose to modernize its logistics operations by setting up Logistic Parks that provide for warehousing, packaging, labeling, distribution, door-to-door delivery and consignment tracking. In order to achieve better efficiency, mechanization of loading and unloading will be given top priority.
In the existing pattern of traffic movement of Indian Railways, more than 33% of freight trains over the system run empty since return traffic at existing freight rates is not forthcoming. In order to garner additional revenue by a suitable pricing mechanism, I propose to launch a pilot project whereby automatic rebate from the computerized FOIS system will become available to customers offering traffic over the present expected levels of loaded movement. This would help reduce the empty flows on the Indian Railway System apart from garnering additional revenue.
While there has been incremental growth in our parcel earning, I see a huge untapped potential in this segment which needs to be trapped by the Indian Railways. At present, most of the parcel business is hindering the movement of passengers on platforms. It is, therefore, necessary that parcel traffic is segregated to separate terminals where requisite facilities for storage/handling of parcels are made available to the customers and parcel consignments move in dedicated parcel trains running on fixed time table. Accordingly, a scheme for private participation in parcel movement will be launched shortly whereby procurement of parcel vans or parcel rakes by private parties shall be facilitated.
A new design of parcel vans with better tare to pay load is being finalized. It is expected that by putting these measures in place, we would be able to substantially improve our earnings from the parcel segment.
Private Freight Terminals (PFT)
To develop network of freight terminals, policy of Private Freight Terminals on PPP model is being further refined.
Movement of Agri-Products
I propose to give a boost to rail movement of fruits and vegetables in partnership with the Central Railside Warehousing Corporation (CRWC) by providing requisite facilities of temperature controlled storages at 10 locations viz Vatva, Vishakhapatna, Badagara, Cheriyanad, Bhivandi Road, Azara, Navlur, Kalamboli and Sanand on Indian Railways in the first phase. The aggregation and distribution from Railway terminal points shall be organized by the CRWC. I hope, apart from avoiding national wastage of these products, this would help producers of fruits and vegetable in different parts of the country in getting better prices for their produce.
Madam Speaker, Indian Railways propose to facilitate transportation of milk through rail by providing special milk tanker trains in association with National Dairy Development Board and Amul.
Madam, it is proposed to harness solar energy by utilizing roof top spaces of Railway Stations, other Railway buildings and land, including through the PPP mode.
Indian Railways will start using Bio-Diesel up to 5% of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. This will save precious foreign exchange substantially.
Project Coordination & Management Group
Railways have been suffering heavily because of time overrun and cost overrun due to poor project management. In order to overcome delays in project execution, I propose to set up Project Management Group at the level of Railway Board. Similarly, to expedite the projects at the ground level, a Project Monitoring & Coordination Group consisting of officials of State Government, Railways and professionals will be set up.
Transparency in Railway Functioning
Simplification of procedures and easy access to information bring transparency and trust in public. Transparency in administration, execution of projects and procurement will be given top priority.
Strategic Procurement Policies will be adopted to make the procurement process transparent and most efficient. E-procurement will be made compulsory for procurements worth Rs. 25 lakhs and above.
For the convenience of State Governments and other stakeholders, the status of ongoing projects will be made available online.
Connectivity to Remote Areas
Expansion of railways in Hilly States & Northeast regions:
Madam Speaker, I am happy to inform the House that there are 23 projects underway in the Northeast, of which 11 are National Projects. I propose to allocate substantially higher funds for these projects compared to previous years. In 2014-15, an outlay of Rs. 5,116 crore is earmarked for projects of North-East. This is 54% jump over allocations in the previous year. With higher allocations and by close monitoring of works in this region, I hope that Dudhnoi-Mendipathar New Line; Lumding-Badarpur-Silchar Gauge Conversion; Harmuti-Murkongselek and Balipara- Bhalukpong sections will soon get commissioned. These measures will also give a boost to the State capital connectivity projects in the region.
Madam Speaker, this august House is already aware that the Udhampur-Katra Rail link has recently been dedicated to Nation by Hon’ble PM fulfilling the long cherished dream of millions of pilgrims across the country. We have also tied up with Government of J&K for bridging Udhampur-Banihal portion by bus so that passengers can reach Srinagar with one single ticket from origin to destination.
Now, Railways will focus on the completion of missing link of Banihal to Katra.
Railway Projects in the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
There are 29 projects running in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana at an estimated cost of Rs. 20,680 crore. I intend to hold coordination meetings with the officials of the newly created States and consider their requirements so as to give necessary economic boost.
On the issues concerning Railways in the twin states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, a committee has already been set up of the Railways and State Government officials. Further action will be taken after receipt of the Report of the Committee.
Giving Boost to Suburban Traffic
Urban Transport: With the challenges posed by the steadily increasing urban population concentration in metros and in million plus cities, a holistic approach to urban transport is required. A smooth and seamless inter-modal access is essential to improve urban mobility and, therefore, a Passenger centric focus will be given to urban transport infrastructure creation. We will coordinate with other transport Ministries and urban bodies to develop optimal systems of integration of Railways with other transport modes.
Mumbai city will get 864 additional state-of-the-art EMUs over a period of two years. With completion of the conversion of traction from 1500 Volts DC to 25 KV AC in Mumbai Suburban Railways, the efficiency of operations would improve besides reducing cost of operations.
Madam Speaker, as you are aware, Bengaluru with bustling business activity attracts large commuters from surrounding rural areas and towns necessitating better connectivity of Bengaluru City with its suburban areas and hinterland. Study to Explore Possibility of enhancing the existing IR network of Bengaluru for meeting the above need will be taken up.
In addition, to cater to the demand of Passenger Traffic in Bengaluru area, Byyappanahalli will be developed as a coaching terminal.
Online Wagon Demand registration: Online registration of demand for wagons will be launched in the next two months. This will facilitate online payment of Wagon Registration fee as well as registering demand for wagons. Further a process for ERR (Electronic Railway Receipt) will also be initiated during the year.
Indian Railways propose to introduce corrosion-free wagons with low tare weight for movement of salt.
Dedicated Freight Corridor Project Implementation of Eastern and Western DFCs, a critical infrastructure project, will be closely monitored. The World Bank loan agreement for Kanpur-Mughalsarai section of Eastern corridor of Dedicated Freight Corridor will be signed in the current year for US$ 1100 million. During 2014-15, award of nearly 1000 kms of civil construction contracts is targeted.
Ever since assuming office, I have received innumerable requests for continuance of experimental stoppages from Hon’ble Members of Parliament and various public representatives. I understand that large number of stoppages have been provided on experimental basis over a period of time. While I appreciate the wish of everyone wanting a stoppage close to their place of work or residence, there is a cost to the system for each stoppage. Also too many stoppages result in slowing down of trains and increase the travel time particularly for long distance passengers. If this trend continues, most of our express trains will become passenger trains.
I would like to inform the House that I have allowed continuation of these experimental stoppages for a further period of 3 months, that is up to 30th of September 2014. These stoppages will be reviewed solely on the basis of operational feasibility and commercial justification. Demand for new stoppages hereafter will also be considered on the same criteria. We will try to provide alternate train connectivity to meet genuine demands of the public.
Surveys Besides expansion and capacity augmentation projects, assessment of future needs and requirements in the form of providing connectivity to hitherto unconnected regions, requirement of movement of goods from new production / consumption centre needs to be assessed on a continuous basis. I have also been receiving requests for projects from the Hon’ble Members, State governments and other public representatives. To honour their requests, I propose to undertake 18 Surveys for New Lines and 10 Surveys for Doubling, 3rd & 4th line and Gauge Conversion Projects in 2014-15. A list is appended at Annexure-1.
Surveys for Sagar-Chatarpur-Khujraho-Bhopal and Jabalpur- Udaipura-Sagar New line have been completed. I will get them examined expeditiously. Survey for Indore-Jabalpur New line will be expedited.
I am happy to announce that the survey for Mysore-Kushalnagar portion of Mysore-Kushalnagar-Medekere New line has been completed and State Government has agreed to share cost of the project. This will provide Rail connectivity to important tourist destinations in Kodagu (Coorg). I propose to pursue this project for obtaining requisite approvals after completion of remaining survey up to Madikere.
A survey for new line between Tarighat and Ghazipur has been completed. However, the same needs to be examined by extending survey up to Mau so as to connect the line to the rail network further. It will be undertaken expeditiously.
New trains: I would like to inform this august House that while I have received innumerable requests from various quarters for running new train services, resource constraints preclude me from meeting many of them. Nonetheless, to meet the critical demands of the un-reserved and reserved segments for different sectors, I have decided to run Jansadharan group of trains and a Premium group of trains respectively, including those announced in the interim Railway Budget 2014-15. These services would be meeting the demand surges which manifest themselves on special occasions. Special trains would continue to run to meet the holiday and festival rush including services for Melmaruvathur, Velankanni, Jhalawar etc. for which I have received special requests from the public representatives.
I also propose to introduce 5 Jansadharan Trains, 5 Premium Trains, 6 AC Express Trains, 27 Express Trains, 8 Passenger Trains, 2 MEMU services and 5 DEMU services. Besides, I also propose to extend the run of 11 existing trains. These have been listed at Annexure-2.
Madam Speaker, I am aware that I would receive both praise and criticism alike.
Lastly, I would like to recall a popular verse of D.V. Gundappa, a famous poet, philosopher and writer of Kannada, who wrote under the penname – Mankutimma.
“It is not that after reading this book, there will be no more doubts. It is not that what we believe today will hold up forever. If someone points at some shortcoming, I have an open mind to correct. But for now, I believe this is right.”
With these words, Madam Speaker, I commend the Railway Budget for 2014-15 to the august House.
Annexure 1 (XXVII, Para No.1)
List of New Surveys
NEW LINES: Kanhangad-Panathur-Kaniyuru Mughalsarai – Bhabua vai Naughar Hoshiarpur – Amb – Andaura Aurangabad – Chalisgaon Singrauli – Ghorawal Lusa Gabbur – Bellary Shimoga – Sringeri – Mangalore Badovan – Jhargram via Chandil Talguppa-Siddapur Bhabua-Mundeshwari Jind – Hissar Gadag- Harphanhalli (Updating) Una-Hamirpur Ujjain-Jhalawar-Agar-Susner-Soyath (Updating) Hissar-Narwana Solapur-Tuljapur (Updating) Rail connectivity to Char-Dham, Kedarnath, Badrinath, etc. Rail connectivity to Iron ore mines between Nayagarh-Banspani DOUBLING, 3rd and 4th LINES and GAUGE CONVERSION:- Doubling of Jaipur – Kota Doubling of Chandna-Fort – Nagbhir Doubling of Mangalore-Ullal – Surathkal Doubling of Rewari-Mahendergarh Bhusawal- Badnera- Wardha 3rd line Kasara- Igatpuri 4th line Karjat-Lonavala 4th line Itarsi-Bhusawal 3rd line Gauge Conversion of Meter Gauge line in Ahmedabad area upto Mahesana. Gauge Conversion of Pilibhit-Shahjahanpur (Updating) Annexure 2 (XXVIII, Para No.2)
List of new Jansadharan Trains, Premium Trains, AC Express Trains, Express Trains, Passenger Trains, MEMU services, DEMU services and Extension of run of existing Trains:
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: With an aim of providing railway-oriented education, the Ministry of Railways, in association with Ministry of Human Resources Development and UGC have plans to set up a National Railway University for both technical and non technical subjects.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda also spoke about the plans for skill development of the staff while presenting the Rail Budget for 2014-15 in the Lok Sabha.
“I am contemplating setting up of a Railway University for both technical and non technical subjects,” Mr Gowda said.
He said the Railways could tie up with technical institutions for introducing railway-oriented subject for graduation and skill development.
In the meantime, staff at the ground level will be sent for short duration courses of technical and non technical nature, involving locally available technical institutions.
The exposure for specialised areas like high-speed, heavy haul operations etc will be undertaken for all level of staff and officers at appropriate institutes in India and abroad, he said.
Mr Gowda also spoke about plans to harness solar energy by utilising roof top spaces of Railway stations, Railway buildings and land through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
He added that Indian Railways will start using Bio-Diesel up to 5 percent of total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. “This will save precious foreign exchange substantially,” Mr Gowda said.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda has said that the railway reservation system will be revamped and converted into the next generation e-ticketing system.
Ticket booking through mobile phones and through post offices will be popularized.
Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today, Gowda said, the Indian Railways will improve the system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7200 tickets per minute as against 2000 tickets per minute and allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time.
The Minister said, facility of coin operated automatic ticket vending Machines will be experimented.
He said, efforts will also be made to provide facility of buying Platform Tickets and unreserved tickets over internet. Parking-cum-platform combo tickets will be launched to facilitate the passengers and to save their time.
He said that online booking facility of railway retiring room will be extended to all the stations during the course of the year.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: The new railway budget announced on Tuesday did not make any big bang announcements. Instead, Sadanand Gowda, the railway minister focused on consolidating finances of the railways. Here are pointers that explain railway’s finances:
1. INCOME: The railways income through passenger, freight makes gross traffic receipts. The government expects gross traffic receipts at Rs.1,64,000 crore in 2014-15. Two-thirds of that is expected from freight. This is higher than Rs.1,39,000 crore in 2013-14. Gross traffic receipts fell short of the target by Rs.942 crore. This puts an additional burden in 2014-15. The railway minister said that the market borrowing would be around Rs.11,790 crore in 2014-15. He has promised to keep it low and that could be good news for the overall budget.
2. EXPENDITURE: The total plan outlay for railways in 2014-15 would be Rs.47,650 crore. The railways propose to spend Rs.1,49,000 crore on various activities including modernisation of network, new routes, upgrading of passenger services at stations and on-board in trains during 2014-15. Major expenditure for railways includes pension provision at Rs.28,850 crore. The railways spent 94 paise for every 1 rupee earned in 2013-14.
3. FREIGHT : The Indian Railways expect to gain receipts of Rs.1,06,000 crore from freight. The rail network carries 1 billion metric tonnes of freight. However, it accounts for 31% of the total freight in India. Businesses use road or air as an alternative. This is because the government revised freight rates to compensate for losses in passenger fares.
4. PASSENGER TRAFFIC: Over 12,500 trains carry 2.3 crore passengers everyday. This is like moving the entire population of Australia in a day. The Indian Railways expects to make Rs.44,650 crore through passenger traffic. However, in 2013-14, it bore 23 paise per km per passenger loss. When the railway minister provided relief from fare hike to suburban passengers in Mumbai, it let go Rs.600 crore in revenue.
5. WHAT NEXT : The Indian Railways require Rs.1,82,000 crore to complete 359 projects of expansion and modernisation. The budgetary support of Rs.47,000 crore is not enough for the expenditure that the railways department proposes to incur over the next few years. The government is expected to encourage private sector and foreign investment in various areas. The budget also announced creating land parcels and unlocking value by creating logistical hubs around railway stations.
The Indian Railways will soon revamp its online reservation system, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda’s has said.
Presenting the NDA Government’s maiden Railway Budget 2014-15 in parliament on July 8, the minister said E-ticketing system will be upgraded to the next generation, which will support 7,200 tickets per minute to allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users.
Further outlining the IT initiatives, Gowda said the railways will be turned into a paperless organisation in the next five years.
“We will provide wi-fi services at A-1 and A category stations and in select trains, real-time tracking of trains and rolling stock, mobile-based wake up call system for passengers and mobile-based destination arrival alert system,” he added.
Gowda’s maiden budget, which spared passengers of any further fare hike, proposes to attract private domestic and FDI in infrastructure projects and pursuing private-public partnership to boost the finances of the cash-strapped railways.
However, rail fares were hiked only recently by a whopping 14.2 percent.
Gowda said he plans to leverage the PSU’s resources by bringing in their investible FUNDS in infrastructure projects.
He announced plans to introduce a bullet train in Mumbai- Ahmedabad sector and setting up of a Diamond Quadrilateral network of high speed rail connecting major metros and growth centres. A sum of Rs.100 crore has been provided for initiating the project.
Increasing the speed of trains to 160 to 200 km per hour on nine select sectors was another highlight of the budget, which proposes to allow all experimental stoppages to lapse after September this year.
The Budget disclosed that traffic growth declined and expenditures went up in 2013-14 as compared to the revised estimates of previous financial year.
Gross traffic receipts stood at Rs.1,39,558 crore, short of revised estimates by Rs 942 crore over the previous year.
The ordinary working expenses and pension outgo were also higher.
The budget estimates for 2014-15 assumes a freight loading 1101 metric tonnes, 51 metric tonnes more than the previous year, growth in passenger traffic at 2 per cent and freight earnings at Rs.1,05,770 crore.
Passenger earnings will be Rs.44,645 crore after a revenue sacrifice of Rs 610 crore on account of monthly season ticket fares.
Total receipts for the current year have been pegged at Rs 1,64,374 crore and expenditure at Rs.1,49,176 crore.
Disclosing that he needs more than Rs 9 lakh crore to completing the Golden Quadrilateral Network and Rs.60,000 crore for introducing one bullet train alone, Gowda told the House, “Can I depend only on hiking fare and freight rates and burden the public to realise these funds? This is unrealistic. I need to explore the alternate means of resource mobilisation.”
He proposed to launch a scheme to bring in investible surplus funds of railway PSUs in infrastructure projects which can generate attractive returns.
Proposing private investment in railways through domestic and FDI, Gowda said growth depends heavily on availability of funds for investment in rail infrastructure.
Internal revenue sources and government funding are insufficient to meet the requirement, the Railway Minister said, adding the ministry is seeking Cabinet approval for allowing FDI in rail sector.
FDI, however, will be limited to infrastructure development and not allowed in operations, he said.
He said the concept of PPP has not been successful in raising substantial resources for railways. “It is my endeavour to pursue this in right earnest. It is our target that bulk of our future projects will be financed through PPP mode, including the high-speed rail, which requires huge investments.”
Apart from mobilising resources, Gowda said he needed to strategically manage other aspects of planning and administration by adopting a near-holiday approach, setting timelines for ongoing projects, strategic partnership and aggressive indigenisation of imported projects.
The annual plan for 2014-15 has been fixed at the highest ever outlay of Rs 65,445 crore with gross budgetary support at Rs 30,100 crore, Railway Safety Fund Rs 2,200 crore, internal resources Rs 15,350 crore, external market borrowing Rs 11,790 crore and EBR-PPP Rs 6,005 crore.
The budget provides higher funds for ongoing projects in North East, including 11 national projects. Rs 5,116 crore earmarked for projects in North East, which is 54 per cent higher than the previous year.
Security & Safety
In order to strengthen security in trains and stations, the budget proposes to recruit 4,000 women RPF constables. Already 17,000 RPF constables have been recruited and shall be available for deployment shortly.
Gowda said safety of passengers is of paramount importance and it is estimated that over Rs 40,000 crore would be needed to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned railway crossings and road overbridges and underbridges.
A provision of Rs 1,785 crore has been earmarked for railway overbridges and underbridges.
While Udhampur-Katra rail link in Jammu and Kashmir has been dedicated to the nation, the focus will now be on completion of the missing link between Banihal and Katra.
18 new line surveys have been announced, which include rail connectivity to ‘chardham’ — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and Shimoga-Sringeri-Mangalore.
Five Jansadharan trains are being introduced along with five premium trains, six AC express trains and 27 express trains and eight passenger trains.
The premium trains are between Mumbai Central and New Delhi, Shalimar-Chennai, Secundarabad -Hazrat Nizamuddin, Jaipur-Madurai and Kamakhya-Bangalore.
Railway Budget occasions have been used over the years to announce much-hyped projects, with hardly any reaching the completion point. The Rs 1,49,176-crore Rail Budget presented by Ralway Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda was devoid of any (except for plan to run Bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad). It emphasised on timely completion of projects (new as well as old), bringing in transparency, cleanliness, passenger safety, etc. Budget may have disappointed people who have been expecting big-bang announcements. But, its focus on practical issues concerning railways and its users may prove to be beneficial for solving long-term challenges facing the railways.
Here is what industry experts have to say on the Railway Budget…
Arvind Mahajan, Partner and Head of Infrastructure and Government Services, KPMG in India:
Indian Railway Budget this year is definitely a significant departure from the past in terms of focus on passenger amenities, adoption of technology, capacity building and commercial soundness. Focus on passenger amenities gets a significant boost compared to the past and the facilities hereto available at airports only will be now be available at the railway stations. The introduction of bullet trains, high speed trains, upgradation of IT infrastructure including next generation e-reservation system are the steps in the right direction and addresses the long felt need of modernising the Indian Railways and making it customer friendly.
We also welcome the steps for creation of project management unit at Railway Board, Railway University, strategic procurement policy including procurement towards capacity building and long term robustness of Indian Railways operations. While there was discussion on PPP and FDI in Indian Railways, the budget speech lacked details and the announcements in the coming weeks will be important to understand the specifics. Having said that it is the step in right direction and it will be to the benefit of nation at large that these steps are implemented sooner.
What we missed was any discussion on Railway Tariff Authority as it is critical for attractive private investment in Indian railways. Overall, the Railway Minister did touch upon key aspects and has shown the intent to turnaround Indian Railways into a commercially viable and customer friendly organisation but the specifics of few announcements are awaited.
Nadir Godrej, Chairman, CII National Committee on Chemicals, and Managing Director, Godrej Industries:
The chemical industry welcomes the Railway Budget, which is aimed at bringing a new life to railways as well as industries dependent on it. We welcome the fact that the Railway Budget 2014- 15 emphasises technology and customer satisfaction. We are particularly appreciative of dedicated freight corridors on the Eastern and Western sectors of the Golden Quadrilateral. These freight corridors will help advance the growth of the developing parts of east and north east India- learnings can be taken from the western corridor. The chemical industry also welcomes the initiative by the ministry of increasing port connectivity by rail in PPP mode.
Movement of goods from and to ports is critical- this will surely help create jobs in the export sector in inland locations having rail connectivity. Special emphasis on the development of logistics will not only help movement of fertilisers and large commodities and give flexibility to EXIM trade which are crucial for the industry but also create jobs in the export sector. The launch of first bullet train on Mumbai-Ahmedabad route will help companies in the chemical industry from an operational standpoint as most of themanufacturing units are based along this corridor. The use of biodiesel at 5% is also a welcome move. The chemical industry will look to producing more biodiesel.
Jaijit Bhattacharya, Partner, Infrastructure and Government Services, KPMG in India:
The Budget appears to be very well thought out and has something for all its stakeholders without being populist. It provides the much needed strategic financial headroom required for the railways to enable it to make the necessary critical investments into modernisation and expansion. The much needed support for PPP as a significant source of investment capital is the backbone for providing strategic financial headspace.
The focus on safety and security is much appreciated. The special focus on unmanned railway crossings is a positive move from an overall safety perspective. Increase in RPF constables is a much needed step to improve the security in trains. In addition, using modern technology to enhance safety and security, as well as improved management by deciding to adopt an ERP, is welcome.
We hope that there is also a focus on energy efficiency in order to bring down the operational costs, thus improving operational profitability. The focus on making railways more friendly for differently abled passengers is also a positive move.
The overall shift towards reforms in the railway’s board is a welcome step towards, what we hope is ‘corporatisation’ in Indian Railways. We believe this would give the railways the agility to modernise itself.
In addition to the above measures laid out in the rail budget, it would have been helpful if there was focus on non-traffic revenue generation to enhance profitability of the railways. Also, measures should be adopted to enhance domestic amenities for modernisation of railways.
Partner – Management Consulting, Head Strategy & Operations Practice, KPMG in India
Announcement of FDI in Railway sector and PPP for future projects will have a positive impact in terms of creation of new lines and capacity. This will help in achieving better road vs rail ratio for freight movement thereby reducing logistics cost for the industry especially for commodity players
The announcement to connect ports and speed up the existing delayed projects will debottleneck logistics and will help Railways keep in pace with logistics requirements of the industries.
Fruits and vegetable transport via AC storage, if implemented is surely going to transform the food supply chain in India and could have positive impact on availability, quality and costs. Though FDI in railway sector is positive, it will be better if this is on infrastructure area rather than non-core areas.
It is heartening to note that there is an aspiration to become the largest Railways, but this should be backed up a clear roadmap with time bound milestones.
Why the Railway Budget gives high-speed train maker Bombardier cause to cheer – Harsh Dhingra, Chief Country Representative, Bombardier Transportation India said technology innovation and passenger comfort will get a boost with increased private participation through PPP and FDI (Courtesy: The Hindu) – Edited excerpts
Q: How do you see the first Railway Budget of the new government?
A: The speech by the Railway Minister was interesting. The first Railway Budget of the Narendra Modi Government seems to have succeeded in sending the right signals to private players. The announcements and focus given to infrastructure development show the direction of the new regime for the next 4-5 years. The government will now focus on completing existing projects rather than announcing new ones, which is a positive thing. This shows the Government’s focus on stabilising the Railways.
Q: The government is mulling FDI in areas such as infrastructure. What is your take on it?
A: The announcement for high-speed trains and opening up of foreign investments for infrastructure is a good move. At least the beginning has been made by this. FDI in infrastructure would mean capacity augmentation in the field of cars, locomotives, track laying and rolling stock, among others. European and Japanese companies are already here. They will bring newer technology and encourage local component makers to opt for R&D.
Q: What will be the immediate effect of the Railway Budget announcements?
India will see high-speed trains running at 160-200 km per hour. Also, with specific focus on public-private partnership (PPP) in infrastructure, passenger comfort will improve and technology innovation will take place.
Q: What are the areas that need more private sector participation?
A: Mega rail projects require a high level of technology and investments. These projects would prove to be significant to the country as a whole — with technology injection and as an enabler to economic growth. Private participation will mainly happen in infrastructure like manufacturing of rolling stock and signalling solutions.
Q: What would this Budget mean to companies like Bombardier in India?
A: The government is keen on private participation in railways. The demand for rolling stock, high speed loco and Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) for inter-city transport will rise. This will create a win-win situation for private players and the Indian Railways. Bombardier is one of the major suppliers of high-speed trains. and, after the Government’s announcement of high-speed routes, we are prepared to make the required investments as and when such projects come up.
Q: What will be the focus area at Bombardier for the current fiscal?
A: Presently, Bombardier is executing an export order from Australia for metro rail cars, manufactured at Savli unit near Vadodara. We are also planning to participate in bidding for metro and monorail car projects in the domestic market. We recently bid for the monorail project in Kerala. We will participate in bidding for the Delhi Metro extension project beside Bangalore Metro, Ahmedabad Metro and Mumbai Monorail.
“As far as the industry is concerned, apart from FDI in certain segments, there has been no positive announcement about the Railways’ view and policy” – J.P.Chowdhary, Chairman, Titagarh Wagons
Titagarh: In a chat with media, J.P.Chowdhary, Chairman, Titagarh Wagons gives his views on the Railway Budget 2014 announcements.
He said that Titagarh Wagons while understanding the limitations of the honourable Railway Minister, whatever he has announced is based on innovative thinking, but much more needs to be done.
As far as the industry is concerned, apart from FDI in certain segments, there has been no positive announcement about the Railways’ view and policy that the Railways are likely to follow, in respect of the main bread earner, that is freight traffic. That is what the honourable minister has not clarified much. But I am sure it will come about as part of subsequent policy decisions, even if not as a matter of the Budget. FDI will come about and they will create more facilities or more units. That is one part of it, but in the last two to three years, even the domestic industry has been suffering from under utilisation of capacity and for that we need some policy framework, he said.
“The honourable minister has presented a balanced budget. Considering what we could hear so far, we have five areas of great interest for BEML” -Dwarakanath
Bangalore: In a chat with media, P.Dwarakanath, CMD, BEML, shares that the honourable minister has presented a balanced budget. Considering what he could hear so far, Dwarakanath said he have five areas of great interest for BEML.
The number one related to EMUs (electrical multiple units), where BEML have a very strong presence. The second point relates to high speed trains. As you know, BEML have the requisite base and the technology and experience and what it need to have is more investment which BEML is quite capable of doing and BEML have plans to enter this line, because of very strong technical base to take up this project.
The third aspect relates to safety. The maintenance of tracks is of great importance where BEML have got plans and have everything in place to take up track maintenance equipment.
The next point is about urban transport, where BEML is very strong player in urban transport and have plans to take up light rail vehicles for tier two cities. Last but not the least is the issue of mainline coaches. So new trains are coming up and there is a focus on replacement for the sake of safety.
New Delhi: India’s corporate honchos hope that the maiden Railway Budget of the Modi government will exercise tough measures to bring in a sea change in Indian railways by being more passenger friendly and giving thrust on improving the speed of Indian trains.
India’s corporate honchos hope that the maiden Railway Budget of the Modi government will exercise tough measures to bring in a sea change in Indian railways by being more passenger friendly and giving thrust on improving the speed of Indian trains.
“The sustenance of economy depends on railway as well. The gap between demand and supply especially of railway has been widening over the years. There are some key issues. Over all travel of passengers needs to be enhanced. Service for passengers need to be improved. Its expected that government will make announcements that address these issues. The development has to be seen in progressive manner. We also need to know about infrastructure to enhance the speed,” said Tilak Raj Seth, Executive Vice-President, Siemens.
Similarly Nalin Jain, President and CEO, South Asia GE transportation said, “The biggest political plan of Modi was to bring in the development. So people have expectations. The key is to make sure that the subsidy needs to be reduced which you give to passengers right now. Modi is taking some tough decisions in this regard I think. First focus should be on infrastructure.
Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda is presenting today where he has pitched for Foreign Direct Investment in Railways.
New Delhi: India plans to spend 654.5 billion rupees ($10.95 billion) on its railways in 2014/2015, the government said in its railway budget on Tuesday.
The government also expects total investment in railways through public-private partnerships to total 60.05 billion rupees in the current financial year that ends in March 2015.
In his maiden budget, the country’s railways minister Sadananda Gowda said his ministry would also seek cabinet approval for allowing foreign direct investment in the state-owned network, but passenger services would be excluded.
“The bulk of our future projects will be… by the PPP model,” he told India’s parliament, referring to public-private partnerships.
India’s railway, the world’s fourth-largest, has suffered from years of low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares. This has turned a once-mighty system into a slow and congested network that crimps economic growth.
The decision to push private investment signals the appetite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government has for taking tough and unpopular decisions he has said are needed to revive the economy.
Reform of the railways has long proven politically sensitive. Successive governments have backed away from modernization, preferring instead to use the system to provide cheap transport for voters, and jobs for 1.3 million people.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda presented the Rail Budget for 2014-15 financial year in Parliament on Tuesday. Here’s the full text of his speech.
Speech of Shri D.V. Sadananda Gowda
Minister of Railways
July 8, 2014
1. I rise to present before this august House the Statement of Estimated Receipts and Expenditure for 2014-15 for Railways. As I stand in this Temple of Democracy, I owe this opportunity to the people of this country who have elected us to represent them and to shape their destiny.
2. I am grateful to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Nar endra Modiji for having reposed his faith in me and entrusting th is huge responsibility of leading Indian Railways. I promise to fulfill this responsibility and make every endeavour not only to lead Indian Railways, but also aid in building a vibrant India under the dynamic leadership of Shri Narendra Modi ji.
3. It gives me immense pleasure to present my maiden Rai lway Budget. Indian Railways, being the nation’s prime mover, is the structure and soul of Indian economy. It echoes rhyme and rhythm in the hearts of every citizen of this country – from Baramulla in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and from Okha in the West to Lekhapani in the East. Madam Speaker, we all know t hat Indian Railways cut across all barriers of regions, classes and creed and is a microcosm of India on the move.
4. From a man on the streets of Bengaluru to fish vendors in Kolkata to the hustle bustle at Nizamuddin Station, everywhere you find a citizen of this country rushing to connect with Ind ian Railways.
5. Madam Speaker, though I am hardly a month old in the office, I am flooded with requests and suggestions for new trains, new railway lines and better services from the Hon’ble Members of the Parliament, from my colleagues in the Government, from States, from stake holders, from organizations and from peo ple of all walks of life. I know that everybody feels that they have a solution for the 2 challenges which Indian Railways face. I too thought so when I was an outsider to this system before I was exposed to the intricacies and complexities of this vast organization. Now, I am o verwhelmed with the enormity of my responsibility in fulfilling the se expectations as Minister of Railways. This, Madam Speaker, reminds me of Kautilya’s words
In the happiness of the people lies the Ruler’s happiness Their welfare is his welfare What pleases him, the Ruler shall not consider good but whatever pleases his people the Ruler shall consider good – Kautilya’s Arthashastra
6. Indian Railways run 12617 trains to carry over 23 million passengers per day connecting more than 7172 stations spread a cross the sub continent. It is equivalent to moving the entire pop ulation of the Australia. We run more than 7421 freight trains carrying about 3 Million Tonnes of freight every day. Madam Speaker, having achieved the distinction of entering the select club of railways of China, Russia and USA in carrying more than one billion tons of freight, I now target to become the largest freight carrier in the world.
7. Madam Speaker, as you know, apart from serving the p assengers, Indian Railways carries coal It carries steel It carries cement It carries salt It carries food grains and fodder and it also carries milk. 3 Thus, Indian Railways practically carries anything an d everything and it never says no to ‘a thing’ if it fits in the wagons. Most importantly, we are the backbone of supply chain of the defence establishment and play a very crucial role in securit y of the nation.
8. Madam Speaker, while we carry 23 million passengers a day, there are still large number of people who have not set a foot on a train yet. We carry over one-billion tonnes of freight a year, connecting ports and mines to industrial clusters, but still ther e are vast tracts of hinterland waiting for rail connectivity. Though fre ight business has grown steadily over the years, Indian Railways carry only 31% of the total freight carried in the country by all modes. T hese are the challenges we have to face.
9. Madam Speaker, an organization of this magnitude vested with varied responsibilities, is expected to earn like a commercial enterprise but serve like a welfare organization. Th ese two objectives are like two rails of the railway track, which though travel together but never meet. So far, Indian Railways have managed to do tight-rope walking by balancing these twin conflict ing objectives.
10. Social service obligation rose from 9.4% of Gross Traffic Receipts in 2000-01 to 16.6% in 2010-11. In 2012-13, such obligations stood over Rs 20,000 crore. The total investment, which is the Pl an Outlay under budgetary sources, in the same year, was Rs 35,241 crore. As an amount, the burden of social service obligation is mo re than half of the size of our Plan Outlay under budgetary sources.
11. Madam Speaker, an organization spending an amount equivalent to more than half of its Plan Outlay under budgetary sources on social obligations, can hardly have adequate resources for i ts development works. However, Madam Speaker, Indian Railways would continue to fulfill its social obligations, but sustaining these o bjectives beyond a point is not possible without compromising on eff iciency and safety of train operations.
12. We have a total track length of 1.16 lakh kilometers; 63,870 coaches; more than 2.4 lakh wagons and 13.1 lakh employees. This calls for 4 expenditure on fuel, salary and pension, track & coac h maintenance and more importantly on safety works. This takes up most of our earning from the Gross Traffic Receipts. In the year 2013-14, Gross Traffic Receipts were Rs 1,39,558 crore and total Working Expenses were Rs 1,30,321 crore, which works out to an Operating Rat io of almost 94%.
13. This, Madam Speaker, implies that we spend 94 paise out of every rupee earned, leaving 6 paise only as surplus. This s urplus, apart from being meager, is continuously on decline due to n on-revision of fare. The surplus, after paying obligatory dividend and lease charges, was Rs 11,754 crore in 2007-08 and is estimated to be Rs 602 crore in the current financial year. Madam Speaker, this meager surplus so generated is re quired to finance the Plan Outlay for safety, capacity expansi on, infrastructure, improving passenger services and amen ities.
14. Funds to the tune of about Rs 5 lakh crore i.e. around Rs 50,000 crore per year for next 10 years, are required for ongoing projects alone. This leaves a huge gap between what is available as surplus and what is needed.
15. While prudent efforts should have been made to address this gap, the tariff policy adopted lacked rational approach. Passenger fares were kept lower than costs, thus causing loss in the passenger train operations. This loss kept on increasing from 10 paise per passenger kilometer in 2000-01 to 23 paise in 2012-13, as the passenger fares were kept low always.
16. On the other hand, freight rates were revised periodically and kept high in order to compensate the losses sustained in passenger sector resulting in freight traffic getting diverted consis tently. Also the share of railways in freight traffic came down cons istently in the last 30 years. Madam Speaker, it is important to note th at decline in the share of total freight traffic is potential revenue loss.
17. Madam Speaker, having spoken about how revenue was frittered away, now, let me touch upon how the investments were misdirected.
Union Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda today spared passengers of any further fare hike, and in the Railway Budget for 2014-15 proposed to attract private domestic and FDI in infrastructure projects
Union Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda today spared passengers of any further fare hike, and in the Railway Budget for 2014-15 proposed to attract private domestic and FDI in infrastructure projects and pursuing private-public partnership to boost the finances of the cash-strapped railways.
He also said that the Railways need to balance commercial and welfare objectives.
Bullet Trains and Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has said that Indian Railways is on its way to fulfill the long cherished dream to run a Bullet Train. Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today, he said, the Railways proposes bullet trains by starting off with an already identified Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, where a number of studies have been done.
The Minster said, under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modiji, the Railways is embarking on an ambitious plan to have a Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail, connecting major Metros and growth centers of the country. A provision of Rs.100 crore has been made in the Budget for high Speed project to RVNL/HSRC (High Speed Rail Corridor) for taking further steps.
He said, while bullet trains would require completely new infrastructure, higher speed for existing trains will be achieved by upgrading the present network. The Minister said, hence, an effort will be made to increase the speed of trains to 160-200 kmph in select sectors so as to significantly reduce travel time between major cities. The Minister said, the identified sectors are:
Measures for Improvement in Safety and Security of Passengers
4000 Women RPF Constables to be Recruited
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has said that safety of passengers is of paramount importance for Indian Railways. Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today he said, it is estimated that over Rs. 40,000 crore would be needed to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned level crossing and construction of Road-under-bridges and Road-over-bridges.
The Minister said, he is making provision of Rs. 1,785 crore for Road-under-bridges and Road-over-bridges in the Budget and requested concerned State Governments to expedite their proposals and pass on their share of the cost.
The Minister said, Indian Railways have 30348 Level Crossings, out of which 11563 are unmanned. Each unmanned level crossing is being examined in detail and depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it by suitable modality.
He said, Indian Railways proposes to use modern Vehicle Borne Ultrasonic Flaw Detection System to detect rail and weld fractures. In addition Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRD) will also be tried at two locations as a Pilot Project.
The Minister said, in order to improve the safety of travelling passengers, he proposes to bring in technology for automatic closing of doors before start of train, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches. A pilot project for limited number of trains will be taken up.
He said, in order to strengthen security in trains and at Stations, 17000 RPF constables have been recruited and shall be shortly available for deployment. He said, the Indian Railways also proposes to recruit 4000 women RPF constables. He said, in order to ensure security of ladies travelling alone, special instructions are being issued for their safety in each class of travel. With the induction of women RPF constables, coaches for ladies will be escorted. Additional care will be taken for ladies travelling alone in all classes.
The Minister said, RPF escorting teams in trains will be provided mobile phones so that passengers can contact them when in distress. Security helpline will be augmented.
He also said that the Railways will explore the possibility of building of boundary walls around stations through PPP route.
Catering Services to be Improved; Food Courts to be Set up at Major Stations
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has said that in order to improve the quality, hygiene of on-board catering services and to provide variety, the Indian Railways proposes to introduce Pre-cooked (Ready-to-eat) Meals of reputed brands in a phased manner. Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today he said, to bring perceptible improvement in the catering services, he proposes to introduce Quality Assurance Mechanism through Third Party Audit by NABCB certified agencies.
He said, in addition to the third party audit, a system of collecting feedback through IVRS mechanism, from the travelling passengers on the quality of food served, will be launched shortly. The Minister said, if the service is not to the standards set, especially in hygiene and the taste, severe action would be initiated against the vendors including cancellation of the contract.
The Minister said, Indian Railways also proposes to set up Food Courts at major stations to provide the option of ordering regional cuisine while onboard, through emails, SMS and Smart Phones, etc. A pilot project will be started shortly between New Delhi-Amritsar and New Delhi-Jammu Tawi sections.
Budget Allocation for Cleanliness in Trains and Stations Increased Substantially
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has announced substantial increase in budget allocation for cleanliness in the current year, which is a 40% increase over the previous year.
Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today, he said, the Indian Railways proposes to outsource cleaning activities at 50 major stations to professional agencies and to set up a separate Housekeeping Wing to have focused attention and exclusive responsibility of maintaining cleanliness and sanitation at stations. He said, a Corpus Fund for upkeep of stations will be set up.
The Minister said, use of CCTVs at stations will be extended to monitor cleanliness activities. All-India level complaint/helpline number will be printed on the back of all PRS tickets. System of periodic third-party inspections will be introduced. Further, Bio-toilets will be increased in sufficient numbers in trains in order to mitigate the problem of direct discharge of human waste on the tracks and platform aprons at stations.
The Minister said, Onboard Housekeeping Services, currently operational in 400 trains, has received good feedback from passengers. This will be extended to all the important trains. He said, the Indian Railways also proposes to increase Mechanized Laundries in order to improve quality of the bedrolls provided in AC Coaches.
Railway Reservation System to be Revamped
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has said that Railway Reservation System will be revamped into Next Generation e-Ticketing System. Ticket booking through mobile phones and through Post Offices will be popularized.
Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today he said, the Indian Railways will improve the system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7200 tickets per minute as against 2000 tickets per minute and allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time.
The Minister said, facility of Coin Operated Automatic Ticket Vending Machines will be experimented.
He said, efforts will also be made to provide facility of buying Platform Tickets and unreserved tickets over internet. Parking-cum-Platform Combo Tickets will be launched to facilitate the passengers and to save their time.
He said that online booking facility of Railway Retiring Room will be extended to all the stations during the course of the year. Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today he said, the Indian Railways is expanding the scope of online booking for people to book a Train, book a Coach, book a Berth and book a Seat in Chair Car.
Rail Tourism to be Promoted to Tap the Potential of Domestic Tourism
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda has said that Indian Railways plans to take up Eco-Tourism and Education Tourism in North Eastern States. Presenting the Railway Budget 2014-15 in Parliament today he said, Special Pilgrim Circuits like Devi Circuit, Jyotirling Circuit, Jain Circuit, Christian Circuit, Muslim / Sufi Circuit, Sikh Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Famous Temple Circuit have been identified. The Minister said, he proposes to introduce specially packaged trains for these circuits. He said, private participation in this area will also be encouraged and some trains for Pilgrims and Tourists are intended to be introduced in short run also.
The Minister said, one Tourist Train will run from Gadag to Pandarpur via Bagalkot, Bijapur and Solapur covering the pilgrim and tourist places of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Another such train will start from Rameshwaram covering pilgrim and tourist places like Bengaluru, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar. He said, he also plans to run a special train featuring life and work of Swami Vivekananda to inculcate good moral values and propagate the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
Railways Committed to Meet Social Service Obligations Despite Rising Costs
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda, while presenting the Railway Budget for 2014-15 in Parliament today, said that the Social service obligation of Railways rose from 9.4% of Gross Traffic Receipts in 2000-01 to 16.6% in 2010-11. In 2012-13, such obligations stood over Rs. 20,000 crore. The total investment, which is the Plan Outlay under budgetary sources, in the same year, was Rs. 35,241 crore. As an amount, the burden of social service obligation is more than half of the size of our Plan Outlay under budgetary sources.
An organization spending an amount equivalent to more than half of its Plan Outlay under budgetary sources on social obligations, can hardly have adequate resources for its development works. However, Indian Railways would continue to fulfill its social obligations, the Minister said.
Steps to be taken to Attract more Investment Under PPP Model
Railways will interact with Industry and take further steps to attract investment under Public Private Partnership (PPP) through BOT and Annuity route and 8 to 10 capacity augmentation projects on congested routes will be identified for this purpose. Presenting the Railway Budget in Parliament today the Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda said Zonal Railways will be suitably empowered to finalize and execute such projects.
The Minister said with a large backlog of sanctioned projects, funding continues to be the biggest challenge for Railways. He said while private investment and customer funding for some port connectivity projects and few other Power Sector Projects has started, much more needs to happen if infrastructure creation has to keep pace with the requirement.
Shri Gowda said that Indian Railways has taken up port connectivity on priority through PPP mode of funding in tandem with Sagar Mala Project of Port Development. Railways will facilitate connectivity to the new and upcoming ports through private participation. He said, so far in principle approval has been granted for building rail connectivity to the Ports of Jaigarh, Dighi, Rewas, Hazira, Tuna, Dholera and Astranga under Participative Model Policy of Indian Railways, amounting to a total of over Rs.4000 crore.
Rail Budget Identifies Areas Needing Strategic Management
The Minister of Railways Shri D. V. Sadananda Gowda, while introducing the Railway Budget for 2014-15 in Parliament today, said that there is a need to strategically manage various aspects of railway planning and administration. To meet this end, the following initiatives have been proposed:-
a. Near Plan Holiday approach;
b. Prioritizing and setting timelines for completion of the ongoing projects;
c. Devising a mechanism for raising funds for Rail infrastructure;
d. Decision Support System for project implementation;
e. Strategic partnerships and transparency in procurements;
f. Aggressive indigenization of imported products;
g. Adopting safety standards matching international practices and setting up of Simulation Center to study causes of accidents.
h. Encouraging development of Locomotives, Coaches and Wagon Leasing Market.
Texmaco Rail & Engineering, Titagarh Wagons, Kernex Microsystems and Kalindee Rail were among the top losers
मुंबई Mumbai: Stocks of companies associated with the railways declined Tuesday after Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda presented his maiden railway budget in the Lok Sabha.
A benchmark index of Indian equities markets also plunged 517.97 points or 1.98 percent Tuesday after the new government presented its maiden Railway Budget.
All the stocks were in red. Heavy selling pressure was seen in capital goods, metal, consumer durables, oil and gas, auto, banking, realty, IT and healthcare sectors.
The index of Indian equities markets hit a new high of 26,190.44 points during the morning session.
Profit booking wiped out the early gains made in these stocks at the end of Tuesday’s trade.
At the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers) decreased 4.99 percent or 6.75 points at Rs.128.60, moving down from previous close of Rs.135.35.
Stocks of Transformers and Rectifiers (India), reported loss of 0.34 percent or 0.75 points at Rs.219 from its previous close of Rs.219.75. Hind Rectifiers shares too cane under selling pressure, it fell 4.94 percent or 2.95 points at Rs.56.80 from previous close of Rs.59.75.
Container Corporation of India stocks lost 7.12 percent or 95.95 points at Rs.1,252.10 from its previous close of Rs.1,348.05.
Shares of wagon maker Texmaco Rail and Engineering fell 19.84 percent or 28.90 points to trade at Rs.116.80, declining from its previous close of Rs.145.70.
Scrips of another wagon manufacturer Titagarh Wagons, was down 4.99 percent or 16.50 points at Rs.314.05 from its previous close of Rs.330.55.
Stone India’s scrip lost 4.91 percent or 2.35 points at Rs.45.55 from its previous close of Rs.47.90.
The 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the S&P Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which opened at 26,166.92 points, closed at 25,582.11 points (provisional), down 517.97 points or 1.98 percent from the previous day’s close at 26,100.08 points.
The Sensex touched a high of 26,190.44 points and a low of 25,495.04 points intra-day.
The S&P BSE capital goods index plunged by 803.49 points, metal index plummeted by 567.17 points, consumer durbales index slid by 414.12 points, oil and gas index dropped by 350.89 points, bankex went down by 413.67 points, realty index slipped by 150.04 points, power index went down by 152.63 points, auto index was down by 367.98 points, healthcare index lost 144.19 points and IT index slipped by 100.37 points.
The wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed trade at 163.95 points or 2.11 percent down at 7,623.20 points.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government disappointed markets with its first major economic policy statement on Tuesday, promising to seek foreign and private funding for the railways but giving no details of how it would lure investors.
Investors had harboured expectations for Modi’s government to use the railways budget – which precedes the full budget by two days – to detail widespread reform.
India’s state-owned railways are the fourth-largest in the world. They have suffered from years of low investment and populist policies that have kept fares low.
But that has turned a once-mighty system into a slow, badly-congested network that crimps economic growth.
The railways cost the government around 300 billion rupees ($5 billion) a year in subsidies and spend 94 percent of revenues on operating costs, leaving next to nothing for investment.
“The bulk of our future projects will be… by the PPP model,” Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda told parliament in his first budget, referring to public-private partnerships.
Gowda’s speech promised to get the railways’ finances in order, complete long-delayed projects, seek cabinet approval for a long-standing plan to allow foreign direct investment and jumpstart ambitious plans for high-speed rail.
The budget contained some minor measures, such as a greater use of “mechanized laundries” to eliminate the washing by hand still employed to clean much of the bedding on sleeper trains.
But it was short on details of how the wider goals would be met and how Gowda would get foreign companies such as Bombardier and General Electric to invest.
Stocks fell sharply following Gowda’s speech, with the Sensex closing down 2 percent after the government dashed investors’ hopes for greater spending on the railways, while bond yields rose.
The government revised up planned spending to 654.45 billion Indian rupees for the year ending in March 2015, an increase of 1.8 percent from an interim budget prepared in February by the last government.
It calculates investment in the network through public-private partnerships in 2014/15 to total 60.05 billion rupees, more than in the interim budget, but a fraction of the cash needed to overhaul the network.
RELIC OF BRITISH RULE
India’s use of a railway budget separate from the national one is a relic of British rule, when the network was the country’s major industrial asset and a major revenue earner. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the full federal budget on Thursday.
“There is nothing in this entire budget which tells you how they will make it attractive for private sector,” said Manish R. Sharma, executive director of capital projects and infrastructure at PwC India.
“Given that in the past PPP has not taken off in railways…it would be very important to see how they come up with implementable mechanisms which the private sector will buy,” he said.
Stock investors also expressed doubts about the prospects for PPPs, with shares in India’s railway-related stocks falling after the speech. Texmaco Rail & Engineering closed down 19.9 percent while Titagarh Wagons dropped 5 percent.
Gowda said proposed market borrowings would total 117.9 billion rupees this fiscal year, down from 128 billion rupees estimated in the interim budget.
“Budgeted outlay is looking below expectations as the government is looking for more private partnerships now than on previous occasions,” said Deven Choksey, managing director at KR Choksey securities.
Reform of India’s railways has long proven politically sensitive. Successive governments have backed away from modernization, preferring instead to use the system to provide cheap transport for voters, and jobs for 1.3 million people.
That sensitivity was on display on Tuesday, when supporters of India’s main opposition party gathered outside Gowda’s residence to protest against a recent fare rise, and one protester removed the minister’s nameplate from his gate, local TV showed.
Modi’s government pushed through a fare rise last month, but partially rolled it back later, under political pressure. ($1=59.7400 Indian Rupees)
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Bullet trains are set to become a reality in India with the first service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government sought to run Indian Railways – one of the world’s largest – like a “commercial enterprise but serve like a welfare organization”.
In the Railway Budget presented to parliament Tuesday, Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda unveiled many new measures to make Indian Railways, which runs about 20,000 trains and ferries 23 million passengers daily, a modern, efficient and commercially viable utility.
He presented proposals, subject to parliamentary approval, for introduction of 58 new trains, paperless office in five years, digital reservation charts, wi-fi in select stations and trains, wake-up call for passengers, separate freight terminals, office-on-wheels for business travellers, more money for cleanliness and safety, food courts at stations, expansion of rail tourism and better connectivity in hilly areas and northeastern states.
He also promised a diamond quadrilateral project of high-speed rail connectivity between the four metros.
He said some identified stations will be developed like modern airports.
Having already hiked passenger fares by 14.2 percent and the freight carriage charges by 6.5 percent, which is expected to fetch additional revenue of Rs.8,000 crore, Gowda focused on ways to earn from other sources, such as allowing foreign equity in areas excluding operations, as also public-private partnerships. Details, he said, would be worked out.
He said Rs.500,000 crore ($83 billion) will be required over the next 10 years to fund the modernisation plans of the network, as against the actual spend of Rs.18,400 crore in the past 10 years, but noted that freight and passenger fare hikes alone could not fetch such large requirements.
Gowda also made it clear that commercial viability cannot be sidestepped.
“An organisation of this magnitude vested with varied responsibilities, is expected to earn like a commercial enterprise but serve like a welfare organisation. These two objectives are like the two rails of the railway track, which travel together but never meet,” he said in his hour-long speech.
Prime Minister Modi was quick to react. “The Railway Budget keeps in mind the development of India. We can see the great use of technology also,” he tweeted, adding: “This budget strengthens institutional mechanism. It focuses on transparency and integrity.”
India Inc. largely welcomed the budget, saying it is reform oriented and opens up vast opportunities for the public-private partnership in a whole gamut of areas, including cleanliness, upkeep of major stations like the airports, and IT infrastructure. The industry bodies also lauded the government’s promise of encouraging domestic as well as foreign investments in the sector.
However, the stock markets reacted negatively with benchmark Sensex plunging by nearly two percent. Railway-related stocks tumbled on lower than expected increase in plan outlay. Texmaco Rail & Engineering slumped by 20 percent. Most other scrips fell at least five percent.
Gowda pegged the total planned outlay for fiscal 2014-15 at Rs.65,445 crore, which is just 1.8 percent higher than Rs.64,305 crore announced by his predecessor in the interim budget presented in February.
Ranked among the world’s top five, the Indian railroad network ferries 23 million people and 2.65 million tonnes of goods daily, or 1.1 billion tonnes annually, from 7,172 stations on 12,617 passenger and 7,421 freight trains over more than 64,000 route km.
With a network stretching from Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir in the foothills of the Himalayas to the southern tip of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, the Indian Railways is also among the largest employers with an estimated 1.4 million people on its rolls.
Shifting to finances, Gowda pegged the total receipts at Rs.164,374 crore and the total expenditure at Rs.1,49,176 crore while expecting a 4.9 percent growth in freight and a small growth in passenger traffic this fiscal. He projected an operating ratio, or the amount spent to earn one rupee, at 92.5 paise – one paisa more than in 2013-14.
“The Indian Railways will improve system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against 2,000 tickets and allow 120,000 simultaneous users at any point,” the minister said, adding that coin-operated vending machines will also be launched.
As regards the high-speed projects, the minister said Indian Railways would require more than Rs.900,000 crore ($150 billion) to complete the golden quadrilateral network and about Rs.60,000 crore ($100 billion) for introducing one bullet train alone.
“It is the wish and dream of every Indian that India runs a bullet train as early as possible. Madam Speaker, Indian Railways is on its way to fulfil that long cherished dream. We propose bullet trains by starting off with an already identified Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, where a number of studies have been done,” Gowda said.
Modi, in his election speeches, had talked about introducing bullet trains, after seeing them run in Japan and China, if he came to power.
Gowda also listed four new ways to mobilise resources — allowing foreign equity, more public-private partnerships, commercial funds augmentation by state-run railway firms and extending tax holidays for long gestation projects
With a poor track record on safety, the railway budget also proposed a multi-pronged approach to make train journey safe, secure and comfortable for passengers, with more thrust on passenger amenities, cleanliness and efficient station management.
In a report presented in 2012, an official committee chaired by noted scientist Anil Kakodkar had put the number of rail-related deaths at 15,000 people per annum. “No civilized society can accept such a massacre on their railway system,” the report said.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Welcoming the thrust on resource mobilisation in this year’s rail budget, India Inc Tuesday welcomed the new government’s maiden exercise as practical and execution-oriented.
“The Minister has presented a practical and execution-oriented Budget, laying emphasis on implementation of on-going projects and focusing on monitoring them for an early closure”, Sumit Mazumder, president designate Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and chairman, CII special task force on Railways told reporters here.
“Setting up of a project management group at the level of Railway Board and a project monitoring and coordination group is a positive step as this would help in reducing delays in project execution”, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) president Sidharth Birla said in a statement.
Notable measures in the budget presented by Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda in parliament include the proposal of starting bullet trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, developing a diamond quadrilateral network of high speed trains connecting major metros and growth centres in the country and a target of nearly 1,000 kms of civil construction contracts towards implementation of dedicated freight corridors in the east and west.
Industry chamber Assocham appreciated the Railway Minister for making a detailed assessment of the financial state of Indian Railways.
“The mounting pressure on the services provided by Indian Railways coupled with deteriorating financial health makes the task of preparing Annual Railway Budget progressively difficult over the years”, ASSOCHAM said.
“India’s freight network, especially the decision to set up a dedicated freight corridor seems quite significant”, said Ratul Puri, chairman, Hindustan Power projects.
“With right implementation, the rail budget should improve the railways sector through the thrust on connectivity in three coal evacuation lines, including areas like Jharsuguda in Odisha”, he added.
“Railway budget this year is definitely a significant departure from the past in terms of focus on passenger amenities, adoption of technology, capacity building and commercial soundness”, said Arvind Mahajan, partner, KPMG India.
बेंगुलूरू Bangalore (SBC): Business chambers and industry captains in Karnataka Tuesday hailed the NDA government’s maiden Railway Budget and termed its proposals as being on the right track.
“The rail budget, presented by Railway Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda in parliament earlier in the day, is on the right track and holistic in approach, giving priority to safety measures, timely completion of projects, increased financial discipline and passenger amenities,” Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) president S.Sampathraman said in a statement here.
Noting the budget aims at course correction in light of mismanagement, apathy, populism in starting new projects but not completing, and severe fund crunch that has dogged the railways over the years, he said structural reforms and resource mobilisation from its state-run enterprises, foreign direct investment (FDI) and public-private partnership (PPP) will help the ministry in capacity building and expansion of its network.
“Support for projects through PPP as a source of investment capital will provide financial headspace, while transparency in administration and project execution are noteworthy,” Sampathraman pointed out.
Proposal to modernise the rail network, a bullet train on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and high-speed trains in nine sectors, including Mysore to Chennai via Bangalore will improve connectivity and save time.
“Revamping reservation system, buying e-tickets to enter platforms and travel without reservation through Internet, real-time tracking of trains and rolling stocks and wireless fidelity (WiFi) in select trains and at important stations will benefit passengers, public and ordinary commuters,” he said.
Allocation for setting up a railway university to train its employees in technical and non-technical areas and setting up innovation and incubation centres to generate new ideas will help the railways to keep pace with the emerging technologies in transportation of people and freight.
“The budget has also proposed schemes to facilitate procurement of parcel vans and rakes by private parties and setting up private freight terminals on PPP model to augment its resources,” Sampathraman added.
Lauding Gowda for presenting an operational and practical budget, Bangalore Chambers of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) president A.N. Chandramouli said thrust on improving efficiency, restructuring the railway board and outsourcing cleaning services will bring about a dramatic change in operating passenger and freight trains.
“The rail budget proposals appear to be more operational and practical even in the face of shrinking revenues. Announcements such as launching bullet trains, FDI and PPP are positive steps,” he said.
The chambers welcomed the setting up of a project management group at the board level to minimise delays in project execution. Similarly, project monitoring and coordination group consisting state officials and professionals will expedite projects.
The chamber also commended Gowda for proposing to use enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to synergise operations, make the railways a paperless office in the next five years and extend computerised parcel management system and logistics support to e-commerce firms through pick-up centres at identified stations.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Planters’ Association (KPA) thanked Gowda for announcing a new line from Mysore to Madikeri and completing the survey from Mysore to Kushalnagar in the state’s southern region.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi described his government’s maiden Railway Budget as one that will play an important role in ushering in nation’s development.
“The Rail Budget will prove to bring in speed, development to Indian Railways, security and service to citizens. For the first time there is holistic railway budget of modern India. Railway cannot be run on an adhoc basis. This Rail Budget will prove that Railways plays an important role in the Nation’s development,” Modi said.
“Institution mechanism is necessary; this budget gives strength to that and to transparency and integrity. This Rail Budget will become a huge power for the economy. Its about developing the nation through development of railways.
Railways have come up with initiatives which shows where we want to take the country, not just the Railways. This Rail Budget will contribute to trade and the economy,” Modi added.
“The country will now feel in real terms that this is Indian Railway. For a long time, the vision was broken, not unified.
The foundation of 21st century India gets reflected through this budget,” he further added.
Earlier today Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda presented his maiden Railway Budget where he introduced a slew of reform measures to modernise Indian Railways. (ANI)
गुल्बर्गा Gulbarga (GR): The people of Karnataka in general, and those from North Karnataka in particular, expect a bonanza for the region in the Railway Budget set to be presented by D V Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday.
They had expected a lot from Mallikarjun Kharge when he presented the interim budget in February, but were in for a disappointment as not much came off the budget. However, they had reconciled to the fact that it was only an interim budget.
Kharge, keeping in mind the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, managed to please his vote bank in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region by announcing several new trains to ensure that the region was better connected with south Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra, apart from the National Capital of New Delhi.
The main demands from people of North Karnataka included starting new trains from Hubli and Bangalore to Mumbai, converting of the Hubli-Kurla weekly train into a daily train with modified timings, introduction of new trains from Hubli to other centres, expediting the proposal to start a new route between Dharwad and Belgaum via Kittur, and speeding up the work on the doubling of track between Tumkur and Birur, among others.
State BJP president and Dharwad MP Prahlad Joshi has explained to Railway Minister Sadanand Gowda the injustice meted out to Karnataka in railway-related projects. Responding to the plea, Sadanand Gowda said that being an MP from Karnataka he knew the problems and demands of the region very well and would do everything to set things right.
Extension of the Hubli-Kurla Express train up to Dadar and new trains between Hubli and Chennai, Hubli and Mangalore, and night express to Bangalore from Hubli. New line works on the Hubli-Dharwad-Kittur-Belgaum, Haveri-Gadag, Gadag-Harpanahalli-Harihar, Harihar-Shimoga, Talaguppa-Honnavar (linking to the Konkan Railway Line) and Davanagere-Tumkur routes are being demanded.
Hubli-Ankola new broad gauge line is a dream project capable of ushering in an era of economic growth for the region. But none of these were considered in the past and the people are hoping that Sadanand Gowda, who knows the needs of the area, would do justice to the state this time. There have also been a long-standing demand for creating Gulbarga and Mangalore divisions within the SWR.
जम्मू Jammu (JAT): Will Katra’s gain be Jammu’s loss? Locals in the area are worried that the development of the new railway line will affect their livelihoods, as pilgrims heading to Vaishno Devi will be able to bypass Jammu completely. This will affect tourism, the main source of income for many in the area.
Last Friday, amid much fanfare Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Udhampur-Katra railway line. While, this development was lauded by many, residents of Jammu have expressed some wariness over the new rail line. The reason: the new line will allow the million pilgrims heading to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine to bypass Jammu completely, which has so far been the travel hub for devotees.
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, said, “This is a welcomed development, as pilgrims will be able to directly reach Katra. However, there is skepticism among traders, who are wary that it might affect the tourism business, especially those in the dry fruits, hotel and transport sector.”
Explaining further, she said, “Jammu, known as the city of temples, thrives essentially on the high pilgrim footfall, as well as the trade of dry fruits such as walnuts, almonds and other food items, including rice, Kashmiri rajma and Kashmiri handicrafts, which generate huge income for the locals.”
Anuradha added that Jammu is not entirely dependent on pilgrim tourism, as it also functions as a transport hub for all major parts of Jammu and Kashmir apart from being the winter capital of the state.
“The expectation from both the Centre and the state government will be that it would work on maintaining the balance. Also, development of Katra has to be stepped up, so that it can cater to the huge flow of pilgrims. Additionally, there are ecological concerns which need to be addressed,” she concluded.
Avtar Krishnan Mota, Chief Manager, Punjab National Bank (J&K Circle) says, “Traders fear a drop in business in hotels and sale of products. But, one good thing is that tourists visiting Srinagar will still have to use Jammu as a halt point. This can change only when the train connectivity up to Srinagar becomes functional, which will take some time.”
And it appears that the Katra station and train hasn’t gone down well with all. There are murmurs of displeasure over the poor development and pitiful maintenance of tourist spots in Jammu. “The Katra railway station is beautiful and scenic, while the Jammu railway station does not even have a proper boundary wall, says Pradeep Dutta, a journalist in Jammu.
In fact, even Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during the inauguration pointed out that Jammu station needed to upgrade vis-a-vis the Katra station, which is equipped with all modern facilities, including a tourist guide counter, a cloak room, a VIP lounge and escalators.
Additionally, several other ambitious plans to develop tourist attractions in Jammu are yet to take off. “There has been a plan to develop an artificial lake near the river Tawi Bridge and construct a ropeway between Bahu Fort and the old Jammu Palace. Both these projects are yet to see the light of day,” added Mota.
Many in Jammu cite the case of Pathankot, which connected three states of Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Punjab, before Jammu came up as a railway hub. “People are worried that Jammu will go the Pathankot way and experience a sharp dip in tourist footfall, which will adversely affect life in the city,” says Rekha Chowdhary, Indian Council of Social Science Research National Fellow, Jammu University.
Rekha added there is a need to revive the charm of Jammu by creating new tourist attractions and promote the already existing spots in a more innovative manner. The famous Raghunath temple is one of the key tourist attractions apart from many other temples in Jammu, which would need better maintenance and upkeep to continue drawing tourists.
She also points out that even if Katra experiences a boom in hotels, it would also have to ensure that the supply of basic amenities such as water and power supply can cope with the tourist rush. “People will still need to use Jammu, which has quite a few hotels, so people shouldn’t get too alarmed, said Rekha.
With the state assembly elections around the corner, it would serve the central government well to ensure continued business and tourism in Jammu apart from planned development of Katra. It will be interesting to see if Jammu residents will be ready to cast their confidence in PM Narendra Modi’s promise of “winning the hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
मांगलूर Mangalore (MAQ): The All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), South Western Railway (SWR), urged the Prime Minister and the Minister for Railways to accord top priority to safety in Railways besides taking steps to reduce the expenditure and increase productivity.
Over the years, the numbers of railway zones and divisions have increased from nine and 52 to 17 and 64 respectively, without there being much increase in productivity. The number of officers too, has increased from 8,000 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2012 whereas the route network has increased just by 11,000 km between 1947 and 2014, said Association’s zonal General Secretary C. Sunish.
Submitting a memorandum, Mr. Sunish noted that Narendra Modi had invited suggestions from general managers of Railway zones and divisional railway managers about improving the performance. However, people on the ground like loco pilots could effectively highlight actual issues and problems and hence the memorandum, he said.
Mr.Sunish said the English had introduced the railway zone system to decentralise administration in the absence of sophisticated communication systems. Zones receive budgetary allocation and distribute among divisions.
The Chinese Railway has recently scrapped zones. Indian Railways too could do away zones and allocate funds to divisions and the Railway Board could monitor functioning.
If at all zones could not be eliminated, existing zones should be thoroughly reorganised by equitable distribution of divisions and merging zones functioning in close geographical proximity, he said.
Mr. Sunish said safety departments, under divisions/ zones, are unable to enforce safety norms independently, and urged the Ministry to bring them directly under Commissioners of Railway Safety.
He alleged that the bureaucracy is only concerned about economy while the government alone can ensure safety because of its social obligation. Inquiries after mishaps hold only Group C and D employees responsible absolving the higher ups, who actually take decisions concerning safety, he pointed out.
Though human failure is said to be responsible for two thirds of accidents, the Railways has not done away with 13-hour minimum duty and six continuous night duties for loco pilots.
The Association strongly urged the Ministry to implement reports of Anil Kakodkar and Justice Khan committees, he said. Motorman should be posted at both the ends cabs of suburban electrical multiple unit (EMU) trains to avoid delay in turnout times as well as to offer rest to the motorman not on duty.
The Railways could increase revenue by properly pricing the season tickets, checking ticketless travel, he added.
Loco Pilots’ suggestions for Railway Budget
Bring safety department under the direct control of commissioners of railway safety of respective zones
Reduce unreasonable workload on loco pilots; provide ergonomically designed comfortable loco cabins
Reduce expenditure—number of officers increased from 8,000 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2012; zones and divisions from 9 and 52 to 17 and 64 without corresponding increase in productivity
Complete overhauling of tracks, signalling and other infrastructure to increase train speed.
नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Ahead of Railway Budget, industry body ASSOCHAM on Monday asked the government to provide Rs 20,000 crore each for next two years in form of a soft loan or a grant to upgrade and plug all loopholes in the Indian Railways.
The industry chamber said the financial assistance will enable transformation of the Indian Railways, which at present is under tremendous financial constraint, into the most efficient and affordable carrier in the world. It said the support would evoke interest of global investors to invest in upgradation of the Indian Railways network.
“Capacity enhancement, efficiency, expansion and safety are major issues being faced by Indian Railways which plays a crucial role in development and operation of infrastructure sectors like coal, power, steel, cement and other critical sectors like fertilizers,” said ASSOCHAM Secretary General DS Rawat.
“Innovative policies are required to be framed to attract finance for capacity building works. Effective public-private partnerships (PPPs) would go a long way in delivering modern, high quality public services competitively. Foreign direct investment in railways would also provide a big boost to its modernization and bring in state-of-the-art technology,” he added.
The Railway Budget 2014, presented on Tuesday is being seen as a mixed bag, but it addressed a lot of digital developments. The budget laid plans for Wi-Fi in stations and on trains, and also discussed upgrade of IRCTC’s online ticketing infrastructure, raising the number of bookings from 2,000 per minute to 7,200, and supporting 1,20,000 simultaneous users. Setting up regional food courts, and letting people order the food via SMS or email while on board the train could have a big impact, while a mobile-based wake up call, and destination arrival alerts could come in very handy for travellers.
Some of these facilities are already available thanks to private companies. We took a look at the best websites and apps for people traveling on trains, which can make rail journeys better. Here are five of our favourites:
1. Travel Khana
The new Railway budget has made provisions for improving the quality of food on the trains, which includes ready-to-eat meals of known brands and improved and modernised regional food courts that’ll let you order food using SMS or email. You can already get food delivered to your train though, thanks to Travel Khana, a Web-based service which lets you place an order and then track the food until delivery when the train reaches the selected station. For example, if you select the Punjab Mail between Delhi and Mumbai, then Travel Khana lets you order breakfast at Gwalior, lunch at Jhansi or Bhopal, and dinner at Itarsi or Khandwa, with multiple restaurants at each location. At present, Travel Khana has ties with over 1,000 restaurants across India, and offers food deliveries to trains in 80 cities, and has options for group bookings.
2. Indian Train Alarm
Another item in the budget is a mobile-based wakeup call systems, and destination arrival alerts. This will be very useful for travellers who need to disembark at stations late at night, to make sure they don’t miss their stops. In case you want to take advantage of this facility right away, the Indian Train Alarm app can help make sure that you’re up when your station is approaching. Available on the Google Play store for free, the lets you set an alarm based not on the time, but rather location. You can choose from over 2,500 Indian stations listed in the app, or mark your station on the map.
Making use of the location services on an Android-based smartphone, users can set alarms that go off 5, 10, 15, or 25 kilometres from the chosen station, with a half kilometre margin for error. The best part about the app is that it works even without Internet access.
3. Rail Radar
Rail Radar is a service that was initially launched by the government, but the plug was pulled on the programme last year. Luckily, it was relaunched by Rail Yatri, the company that made the app. The service lets you see where all trains in the country are, in real-time, on a map. It uses different colours to mark trains that are running on time or running late, and you can track individual trains. Rail Yatri also has an Android app which features live train information, integrates with Travel Khana for food bookings and includes features such as a speed check for your train.
4. NTES (National Train Enquiry System)
If you don’t need to see the trains on a map and just want to quickly check timings and status, then the NTES website and Windows Phone apps are a good choice instead. You can check train statuses on the website and via the App. It allows users to check the timings for trains, or get live updates from stations, train schedules, and check for cancelled, diverted or rescheduled trains. If you’re an Android user, you can instead use the Indian Train status App, which uses information from the NTES in order to provide similar information to the users, in addition to a Launch Map feature that launches the default Android Maps application and uses Google maps to show real time location of the selected train.
5. PNR Status Rail Flight Tracker
This App from online travel agency Ixigo is available for free on the Google Play store, and helps you stay on top of your travel plans. It can check your inbox for messages from IRCTC (and also major airline booking sites) and find all PNR details. Once that’s done, the app keeps a record of your travel dates, and helps you view, manage and track your trip status. The app can also alert you if a booking changes status (from wait list to confirmed) and also informs you about delays or cancellations. In case your PNR isn’t in your inbox, you can also add it manually, and then track all updates.
These are our five favourite sites and apps for train journeys, but if you have a favourite that we missed, let us know in the comments.
कुर्ला Kurla (CLA): The recent lowering of railway tracks in Kurla to make space for conversion from direct current 1,500 kv to 25,000 volt and the many tracks left unclamped for the purpose has cost the central railway (CR) dearly. On Wednesday when the city experienced heavy rain at most places, the railway tracks in Kurla, which is a low-lying area, went completely under water, throwing harbour line services out of gear and inconveniencing commuters.
“We had lowered the track for DC to AC conversion at the foot over-bridge near Kasai wada. Kurla, which is already a low lying area; so the water lever rose even more quickly owing to this problem,” said a source. Also, for the conversion work, officials had left several points where trains switch tracks unclamped. “Due to the conversion work which requires us to make changes near the Kurla car shed, we had left 11 such points unclamped. We usually clamp these points before the monsoon but this time for technical flexibility, we left them open,” said a senior railway official.
The 11 points are located on the harbour line, on the way to the Kurla car shed. “Harbour suffered more than the mainline because of this reason; the 11 points had to be manually clamped. We sent out our men by 11 am when the points had gone red but by that time, the water had risen quite high and our men found it difficult to locate the points,” said another senior official.
When contacted, Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Division Mr.Mukesh Nigam said, “Yes it is true that Kurla’s harbour line was affected because there were 11 major points where trains change tracks that were not clamped.”
मुंबई Mumbai: This is a statistic the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of Central Railway (CR) will not be proud of. A reply to an RTI query has revealed that in the last seven years at least 50 jawans and officers of this elite force have been caught in the net of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) department of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The RTI query filed by human rights activist Samir Jhaveri has also found that many of them were either suspended, dismissed or have been compulsorily retired.
According to the reply furnished by Udai Shukla, additional chief security commissioner, these jawans and officials were found adopting illegal practices such as demanding illegal gratification, bribe, protecting illegal hawkers or extorting money from passengers. A detailed list given under the RTI reply said that of these 50 offenders, chargesheet were filed against 11 accused, while cases against 11 accused were pending in CBI special court. Sanction has been given to prosecute 17 accused, while four have been acquitted and three convicted.
Most of the 28 jawans and officers were trapped when B. S. Sidhu was the chief security commissioner (CSC) of CR.
Mr Jhaveri, who unearthed the fake bail bond racket at Kurla railway station, and the extortion racket at LTT, is the man responsible for trapping 27 jawans and officials. “I wanted to check the status of the CBI corruption cases,” he said, adding. “I hope this force will adopt ethical practices and regain its glory back.”
बीकानेर Bikaner (BKN): The CBI is probing the role of several senior officials of the railway ministry in connection with its investigations into the alleged irregularities committed in awarding contracts related to the construction of four railway bridges on Sultanpura-Hanumangarh-Sri Ganganagar (Jaipur) route in 2012.
According to sources, preliminary investigations by the agency have revealed that the senior officials of the concerned zone of the railway ministry allegedly awarded contracts for the construction of four bridges to the same private firm in 2012 which had earlier been disqualified by the zone officials. “Investigations have revealed that the earnest money of the suspected firm was forfeited by the railway officials when it failed to start the construction work of the same bridges in 2011,” sources said. “Again in 2012, the same firm was awarded the contract for the construction of these bridges when it quoted a high initial price. The CBI is also examining the role of senior officials of the railway ministry in this matter,” sources said.
The agency (Delhi zone) recently registered a preliminary enquiry to probe the role of senior officials of the railway ministry in this regard, they added. Earlier, the CBI had registered a PE against six senior officials of the Western zone of the Indian Railways in June to probe their alleged role in the purported irregularities in the recruitment of lower level staff.
Role of senior officials of the railway ministry is being probed by the agency in connection with its investigations into this PE also (registered June), sources said.
Investigations revealed that some candidates were recruited overlooking their ineligibility for the post. “Recruitment of 15 candidates are under the scanner of the CBI. Investigations also revealed that eligibility criteria, prescribed by the railway ministry, were tweaked by the suspected officials at the time of recruitment,” sources said.
At a conference of senior railway officials recently convened soon after D.V.Sadananda Gowda took charge of his new department, the Minister of Railways had talked of bringing about a comprehensive change in the railway system. He had exhorted those present to bring about a drastic improvement in efficiency, train punctuality, safety, cleanliness and services. Referring to passenger amenities, he wanted to know why the trains and stations were not kept clean and tidy despite every passenger wanting it, and called for quick solutions to overcome these deficiencies.
Very soon thereafter, the Railways announced a sharp hike in passenger fares. Not unexpectedly, this bold move—the clichéd expression being “biting the bullet”—led to widespread protests from all sections of rail users. However, it also received welcome support from several economists, political analysts and leading national newspapers.
In order to justify that the increase in passenger fares was necessary for increased efficiency and a better quality of service, it now becomes incumbent upon the railway administration to provide a higher level of satisfaction to its customers. This alone can win the trust and confidence of the travelling public. If amenities at stations and on-board trains are made better, if the number of train accidents are reduced through timely attention to tracks and rolling stock, and if there is a marked improvement in train punctuality—say over the next six months to one year—the public anger with the escalated fares will abate and it will be able to understand and appreciate the government’s rationale behind this rise.
For this to happen, the Railways shall first have to find out if all amenities that it professes to provide are in fact being made available to its users, and if so, how satisfied are they with the quality of service. Once this can be correctly assessed, a suitable action plan can be readied to raise the standard and quality of each facility to an optimal level. Budgetary allocations can then be decided accordingly, works prioritised and deadlines set for their completion. A monitoring mechanism can also be set in place to ensure that there is no dilution in the quality of service.
A national survey for evaluating the level of passenger satisfaction, both on-board the trains and at stations, can help in setting the goals. The survey should be carried out by an independent agency with a proven track record. No comprehensive survey of this kind is known to have been commissioned by Indian Railways so far. The Comptroller and Auditor General did, however, carry out a survey of this kind, albeit on a very limited scale, during the course of a performance audit of the rail ministry some years ago. It had then concluded that though a majority of passengers felt that the services were improving over the years, they continued to rate their overall experience at five/six in a scale of 10, indicating that greater efforts were needed at improving the services.
The results of the audit also revealed that, though the Railways’ initiatives to develop modern and model stations have been well received, passenger amenities were inadequately provided and their maintenance was not efficient. The proposed survey will bring out in the open how far the Railways’ ambitious project of developing more than 900 model stations—aimed to equip them with certain upgraded amenities—has been implemented and how successful it has been in promoting passenger satisfaction.
Elsewhere in the world such surveys have been carried out to help countries arrive at a proper assessment of the deficiencies noticed in railway services. In 2011, a survey on passengers’ satisfaction with rail services, including the trains, stations and the rail network in their country, was conducted within the European Union. The survey was requested by Directorate-General Mobility and Transport and coordinated by Directorate-General Communication. The passengers were asked about certain features of stations that affect them most. These were: ease of buying tickets, the provision of information about train schedules and platforms, personal security in the station, car parking facilities, the quality of station facilities, and the cleanliness and maintenance of such facilities.
The first three ranked the highest in terms of passenger satisfaction. Across almost all countries, more than 70 per cent of passengers were very satisfied with the ease of buying tickets at stations, more than two-thirds of passengers were highly satisfied with the provision of information about train schedules and platforms, and an equal proportion with their personal security on-board the trains and at stations. Three other features were identified as ones that rail passengers—across most countries—were most dissatisfied with: car parking facilities, the quality of station facilities, and the cleanliness and maintenance of such facilities. This has enabled the railway authorities to focus their attention on areas found deficient in service.
In the UK, the National Rail Passenger Survey provides a network-wide picture of customer satisfaction with rail travel. Passengers’ opinions of train services are collected twice a year from a representative sample of passenger journeys. Their overall satisfaction with 32 specific aspects of station and train services is then compared over time. For the spring of 2014, an overall sample size was 30,000 for all train operating companies combined was taken and results documented. Nationally, the percentage of passengers satisfied with their journey overall was 82, and that of passengers satisfied with punctuality/reliability was 77 per cent. While the survey highlighted individual areas of frustration for passengers—insufficient room for passengers to sit, or attitude of staff on train on some train services—the underlying message for the industry was a positive one.
Indian Railways can attempt a similar exercise so that it can direct its efforts towards improving those amenities which show a high percentage of user dissatisfaction. Quite naturally, it will take time to usher in the improvements, but after these take effect, it can set in motion a virtuous cycle: greater political support for the Railways, increased funding, superior service delivery, larger number of satisfied passengers, increased ticket sales and improved profit margins. Some of these profits can then be reinvested in development of better amenities, thereby initiating another reiteration of the virtuous cycle.
कालचीनी Kalchini (KCF): Various wildlife organisations from the Dooars region have blamed the Indian Railways and the forest department for rising elephant deaths in train related accidents. Elephant deaths have been frequent in the region since 2000, yet the two departments have failed to learn from their mistakes, they lamented.
The jungles in the Dooars region are famous all over for the elephants and many tourists visit the region to see the magnificent creature. However, the number of these Asiatic elephants have continued to decline over the years due to various regions, including depleting forest reserves, human encroachments and even poachers. To add to the woes, the frequent killing of elephants by trains has considerably added to the reduction in the numbers in areas spanning from Rajabhatkhawa in Dooars to Gulma near Siliguri. The wildlife organisations fear if the same satiation continues the jungles of Dooars may not have any elephants left at all.
The wildlife enthusiasts further explained that any natural death of an elephant is understandable, but death after being hit by a train is not natural. They said the continuous deaths will have an adverse affect on the jungle ecosystem and will also destroy the balance between human and nature.
Notably, a total of 54 elephants have been killed by speeding trains in the region ever since the Siliguri-Alipurduar railway track, which passes through the elephant corridors in Dooars, was converted from narrow to broad gauge in 2004. According to the central government, the best way to reduce frequent death of elephants along the route would be to stop the service at night along the Dooars line (Gulma-Alipurduar) or should run at a maximum speed of 25 km per hour as 78% of elephant deaths occurred during the night (6 pm to 6 am).
With rising number of elephants deaths after being mowed down by trains and increasing pressure from environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts, it remains to be seen what action the railways and the forest department will take in the future to reduce the deaths.
Foresters rue Staff Crunch
Forest officials have said they are having a tough time keeping an eye on railway tracks given the staff crunch they have been facing, and the depredation in several villages and tea plantations.
Foresters have raised this issue after two elephants were mowed down by a special Army train at Hasimara in Jalpaiguri hours yesterday.
Forest officials responsible for maintaining coordination with railway officials always receive phone calls at midnight from villagers and tea plantation authorities about elephant depredation.
They are in no position to keep a close watch on the elephant corridor close to railway tracks and respond to phone calls about elephant mayhem in agricultural fields and tea plantations at the same time.
Deputy Field Director of Buxa Tiger Reserve, Apurba Sen, admitted the problem and said: “Foresters face problems in Hamiltanganj and its adjoining areas when it comes to managing elephant depredation. They receive several phone calls every midnight. They cannot pay attention to the railway tracks when they have to respond to the phone calls.”
According to Mr Sen, a routine coordination meeting would be held shortly between railway officials and foresters.
Authorities have asked forest guards to keep a watch on elephant herds just in case some of the animals are injured by the trains.
“Apart from the death of two elephants, including a female adult, there is no report of an injured elephant yet. We have asked the forest guards to keep a vigil on the herds to detect any injured jumbo,” Mr Sen said.
A herd of 23 elephants was there in the morning after the incident and it left the area soon after people assembled there.
Senior foresters do not want to blame the rail department and forest department staff for their lapses after the death of the two
People For Animals, Siliguri, meanwhile, served a deputation to the NF Railway general manager through the NJP area manager today, requesting him to check the speed limit of trains running between Siliguri Junction and Alipurduar Junction.