गुवाहाटी Guwahati (GWH): Government Railway Police (GRP) in Assam today opened a toll-free helpline number for passengers facing any harassment or security-related concerns during their journey.
Official sources said the helpline (1512), trial of which was under way, was made open for public use today.
“As soon as a passenger calls up this number and makes the complaint, our personnel in the call centre will take details of the complaint and immediately inform police personnel on the train to provide him/her assistance as early as possible. Our police team will register a case based on the complaint and status of investigation will be informed to the complainant over his mobile phone. The passenger will not have to leave the train for formalities,” a source said.
The GRP personnel on the train will work in consultation with railway protection force and will seek their help in case of serious security related issues.
The sources said the helpline would assist women passengers to lodge complaints of harassment during their journey and a plan was afoot to deploy women police personnel on the train as well.
“This helpline number will be displayed in trains and railway stations for passengers,” the source said.
पलक्कड़ Palakkad (PGT): Allocations for electrification of Shoranur-Mangalore stretch, broad gauge conversion of Palakkad-Pollachi sector, completion of traction sub-stations at Tirur to supply power, acquisition of land for erecting sub-stations at Kannur south, Cheruvathur, Uppala and Thokur, doubling work of Thokur-Mangalore patch, elevation of Kozhikode into a worldclass station and commissioning of feeder suburban Memu services are among the few things expected in this year’s budget by the Palakkad Division, which extends from Mangalore to Podanur, according to reports on Monday.
“More Memu services are required to ease the suburban rush. Conventional coaches take time to accelerate and decelerate, as well as to take off from stops at stations. Similarly, the electrification of the Mangalore-Kozhikode stretch is expected to be completed by 2016. The patch-doubling work of the 15-kilometre Mangalore-Thokur line, which requires tunnelling work, is in the tendering stage,” said additional divisional manager Mohan A Menon. The number of Memu is set to increase in the coming days, and so the capacity of its maintenance shed at Palakkad has to be enhanced, Mohan said.
The present length of the shed, which stands at 100 metres now, is to be extended to 210 metres in line with Kollam shed. The pit line, which is also in the elementary stage, has to be increased to three at least in Palakkad. Financial supports for all these are to be found from the upcoming Railway budget, the sources said.
They also said that the proposed Kanjikode coach factory has also made substantial progress. It doesn’t require the budgetary support as the Railways has already paid the cost of the land necessary for the project. The Rs 600 crore project is now on a take-off track with PPP upto 74 percent.
There still are two areas that require budgetary support, they said.
Elevation of Kozhikode station into a worldclass one along with the Mangalore station is one area. Laying of pit lines at Kannur makes the next by which the Railways expect to help support more long distance trains.
For elevation of Kozhikode railway station, KITCO has already presented the preliminary consultancy report to the Railway Board for which a clearance is expected, they said.
Various passenger welfare associations have been clamouring for more trains and value-added passenger amenities for a time.
A new Mangalore-T’Puram intercity express with limited stops, an intercity express to Bangalore from Ernakulam, a train from T’Puram to Kashmir, and a pilgrimage ciruit connecting Rameswaram, Madurai Meenakshi, Palani and Mookambika temple, which can be made possible if the Palakkad-Pollachi line gets commissioned.
The extension of Thrissur-Kozhikode train to Kannur, Mangaore-Kannur to Kozhikode and the Baindur-Kasaragod passenger to Kannur has also been in the list of demands put up by the passengers associations, said reports.
बेला Bela (BELA): The official at the Rail wheel plant at Bela near Chapra has an air of nonchalance as he says: “We have not produced anything in the last two months but workers and technicians have been trained. Some quantity of wheel sets have been manufactured and supplied to various railway zones.”
In the private sector, such under-use of infrastructure and manpower would be considered blasphemous. But officials of the Indian Railways believe it is normal for a production-ready factory to be waiting for three years for the opportune time and date for inauguration by a VVIP!
Built over 295 acres at a cost of Rs 1,417 crore, the Rail Wheel Plant in Bihar is capable of producing one lakh “Box-N” type wheels (used in freight wagons) a year, but has manufactured just 13,000 wheels since it was declared ready for production in March 2012.
Thirty kilometers from Chapra is Marhoura, the location designated in September 2007 for setting up a plant to make high power diesel locomotives. But for the twisted and rusted signboard, there is nothing to show that a rail factory is be set up at the site.
Farmers, who have already been paid compensation for land acquired for the factory, continue to cultivate their fields. “Another round of protests and demonstrations to demand a bigger amount of compensation will begin when –and if – actual work on the construction of the factory commences,” quipped a local scribe.
Marhoura, in any case, seems far from being launched any time soon. Just 220 of the proposed 1,200 acres required for the factory have been acquired. Compensation has been paid for only about 75 acres. A similar story is repeated at the nearby town of Madhepura, where authorities proposed the setting up of an electric locomotive factory in 2007.
What do the narratives of Bela, Marhoura or Madhepura have to do with Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu’s ambition of yanking the Indian Railways out of its financial crisis? The consensus in the Indian Railways is that the sprawling organisation needs to address its freight versus passenger distortions. For every rupee earned by the railways, 64 paisa comes from freight, 34 paisa from passengers and the remaining 2 paisa from sundry earnings.
The railways has been unable to correct or reverse this situation because of its inability to scale up its freight operations. To be able to do this, it requires more wheel sets, more high power locomotives and more tracks.
The Bela factory, for one, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The plant – built by Larsen &Toubro – has been ready for commissioning but seven kilometres of track to link the factory with the mainline network of the Indian Railways is still being built.
The facility – declared by the railways as one of its production units in August last year – does not have a full-time general manager and approximately 30% of sanctioned posts are vacant. The railways can be faulted for shoddy implementation, but not quite for its intentions. The Bela plant was conceived and built to augment the capacity of the Rail Wheel Factory at Bengaluru, but the manufacture of wheel sets has remained almost static in the past three years.
While the Bela plant has been idling, the Container Corporation of India – a public sector undertaking of the Indian Railways – has been importing wheel sets and axles every year. (Courtesy: HT)
“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” The exasperated cry of Professor Higgins in the delightful Hollywood musical of the sixties based on George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” may seem an unusual beginning for an article on the Railways. But it may seem less incongruous when juxtaposed with similar cries of despair: “Why can’t the Indian Railways be more (efficient) like a private company or corporation?” The subject of reform is certainly on everyone’s mind. The presentation of the Railway budget this week will be awaited with greater anticipation than usual for a few special reasons: it will be the first full rail budget after a new “reform-oriented” government assumed charge at the Centre, it will be the first budget for a new Railway Minister with a reputation for reform, and it will be presented against the backdrop of the deliberations of yet another ‘High Powered” (Bibek Debroy) Committee that is after that seemingly endless quest: How to ‘reform’ the Railways?
The sheer number of reports and policy prescriptions that have emerged over the last few decades as to what ails the Indian Railways and what needs to be done to set things right should make one wonder why nothing substantial is being done to change things if the remedies are so obvious. Clearly the problems lie with the implementation of those recommendations.
Reform is not an end in itself but a means to achieve certain clear objectives. In the case of the Indian Railways, reforms are aimed at ensuring adequate investments in a vital infrastructure sector for achieving a growth rate that keeps ahead of the economy as a whole, while providing quality transport service at minimum cost to society. For achieving these objectives, reforms can be classified broadly as those relating to its finances and those concerning its organisational structure. Some measures no doubt overlap.
Reforms imply change. It is human nature to resist change. In the case of the Railways, reforms, or even the mere intention to reform, can invite severe backlash from those within the system who see an existential threat in any such move. Further, changes to the organisational structure, apart from internal resistance, can disrupt an already functioning system during the transition period that can have serious consequences to the economy. The path is unclear; the outcome uncertain. A few examples will bring out the complexities involved.
A reform measure suggested in the past by more than one committee to tone up the Railways’s finances is to unbundle “non-core” activities such as health care and manufacture of rolling stock (mostly locomotives and coaches). Without entering into a debate on the pros and cons of the present arrangement, what needs stressing is that these two activities between them employ about one lakh personnel out of a total strength of about 13.1 lakh. Any such move will be stoutly resisted by the employees.
A peculiar feature of the Railways is that unlike a commercial undertaking, the salary levels of the employees are not fixed in relation to the earning potential of the organisation, but by an extraneous agency instead. The Central Pay Commission sets the pay scales of all central government employees every 10 years. Further, in the case of the Railways, the pension liabilities are met out of its own earnings and not from the Consolidated Fund of India, as in the case of the other Ministries. On the other hand, on the revenues front, the constraints in having a remunerative pricing for passenger traffic are too well known to require reiteration. Cross subsidisation through freight traffic earnings has its limits as, beyond a point, higher freight tariffs can become counterproductive by driving away traffic. Internal resource generation is affected. This decadal shock treatment by the Pay Commission is inevitable so long as the Railways remain an undertaking under the Central government with civil service status for its employees. Any change in this status will be resisted by the employees.
Converting the Indian Railways into a government-owned corporation is a reform measure that was suggested by the Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001), mainly as a means to attract private investment and to streamline its functioning. Another advantage claimed in favour of this measure is that it keeps the organisation at ‘arm’s length’ from the government, leading to greater functional autonomy. But mere corporatisation without intra-sector competition will be a cosmetic exercise. Besides, even with competition, in the Indian context, it would seem that the length of the ‘arm ‘is very short and is subject to considerable twisting (as in the case of Air India.) Introducing intra-sector competition further complicates the process, as in the case of that controversial ‘P’ word: ‘privatisation’.
The question of privatisation
There is no bigger controversial and emotionally charged subject associated with reforms in the Railways than the ‘P’ word. The arguments at both ends of the spectrum are often ideologically driven, dogmatic and ill-informed. The issue has been resolved to some extent by the recent unequivocal declaration by the Prime Minister that the Railways will not be privatised. But saying that the Railways will not be privatised is not to say that railway operations in India will not be thrown open to the private sector at some future date. What are the implications?
The incentives that drive the private sector, positive and negative, are the profit motive on the one hand and the existential threat of going out of business on the other. But privatisation without competition will degenerate into an oligopoly. To introduce an element of competition in rail operations, it will be necessary to separate the ownership and the management of infrastructure (track, signalling, stations, etc.) from train operations to allow either multiple operators to access the same track (route) or to have a system of franchise for particular routes.
Thus the entry of private players in railway operations along with a government-owned entity requires a fundamental reorganisation of the Railways. It is not about change of ownership alone, unlike many other sectors. Problems of coordination escalate to another level of complexity. The bureaucratic state will be replaced by the contract state. Effective regulation becomes critical and so also the speedy resolution of disputes that are bound to arise from time to time. The limited experience of the Railways so far in executing projects in the PPP mode has not been without its share of problems.
Adding to all this is the reality peculiar to this country: the political establishment across the spectrum, whether in power or outside, is loath to let go of some measure of control over a crucial infrastructure sector that is seen as a vote garnering machine.
It should now be obvious why there has not been any movement towards significant ‘reforms’ in the Railways. The process is complex, can invite severe staff backlash and can disrupt a reasonably well-functioning system, with serious consequences for the economy. Further the process is rife with uncertainty and can test the commitment and perseverance of any government, even one with a comfortable majority in Parliament. Significant reforms also need a modicum of consensus among all stake holders including the political establishment and cannot be rammed down from above through executive fiats and diktats. More committees are certainly not the answer. What ails the Indian Railways? What needs to be done to set things right? Nothing substantial is being done to change things if the remedies are so obvious. Reforms are aimed at ensuring adequate investments in a vital infrastructure sector to achieve a growth rate that keeps ahead of the economy as a whole. A quality transport service has to be provided at minimum cost to society. Also, the path to reforms has to be clear and the outcome certain.
The Railways should remain a Central undertaking with civil service status for its employees. The controversial word ‘privatisation’ is a threat to the safety of the system and the norms of democracy as the incentives to the private sector are only the profit motive. Modifications can be made in the Railways’ administrative and operational set-up along with the goal of modernisation. A reasonably well-functioning system should not be disrupted. (Courtesy: Shri K. Balakesari, former member staff, Railway Board)
Mumbai: With a growing middle class in India and more people moving from rural and suburban areas to urban centers, there is an increased demand for reliable, appealing and long-lasting transportation solutions that can withstand the high usage demands placed on municipal infrastructure. This is particularly relevant to the Mumbai rail network, perhaps the most densely packed and intensively used rail network in the world. With support from SABIC, Integral Coach Factory (ICF), located in Chennai, designed a three-seat modular system using injection-molded polycarbonate to replace conventional single thermoformed seats. In addition to receiving rail ministry and passenger accolades for the seats’ comfort and appearance, the new three-seat design is easy to maintain, resistant to weathering and vandalism, more sustainable and meets internationally-recognized rail car standards for flame resistance.
Integral Coach Factory (ICF) was selected to develop new modular seating for what is perhaps the most intensively used suburban rail system in the world. ICF was able to design a seating system using SABIC’s injection molded LEXAN™ 923X resin and a fresh design to replace conventional single thermoformed seats for the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), which is responsible for executing projects for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project under the sanction of the Indian Rail Ministry.
ICF selected SABIC’s LEXAN 923X resin for its excellent strength and scratch resistance and its compliance with international rail regulations, such as flame retardance and smoke density regulation UIC 564-2, app 11, and toxicity regulation NCD 1409. Additionally, the high-flow resin enables the seating to be manufactured using injection moulding, a process that is more efficient than traditional thermoforming, which can take days compared to hours. The injection-moulded seat system can also be recycled at the end of its life; unlike thermoset materials which are not recyclable.
दोहा Doha: A Joint Venture between Louis Berger and French rail engineering specialst Egis has been awarded a $79m contract by Qatar Railways Company to project manage all elevated and at-grade sections of the Doha Metro project.
This is the latest of a series of consultancy deals to be awarded on the project.
Atkins won a $135m deal for the design of the Doha Metro Gold Line in July last year and a joint venture between Parsons and Systra picked up a $233.5m supervision deal for the network last April.
Jacobs Engineering also picked up a a project management deal for the Red Line North and South lines in August 2013.
The Louis Berger / Egis joint venture had initially been commissioned to provide project management consultancy services to the project in August 2012.
Its latest deal covers 16km of at grade and elevated sections, which will also include passageways to a number of the stadiums being built for the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
The Doha Metro, part of the overall Qatar Integrated Railway program, is approximately 216km in length across four lines (Red, Green, Gold and Blue) with an estimated total construction value of $36bn. Approximately 100 stations are planned along the line, including two major stations built at Msheireb and Education City.
D. James Stamatis, president for Louis Berger’s international operations, said: “We are honoured to play a key role in bringing Qatar Railways Company’s vision to build one of the world’s most impressive, extensive and modern metro programmes to life.
The Doha Metro will be a global model for transit programs providing greater access, connectivity and mobility to its citizens.”
Chenab Bridge on Katra-Banihal section in Jammu and Kashmir
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: In a jolt to the ambitious project of building the world’s highest mega-arch bridge on river Chenab on the long-pending rail link to the Kashmir valley, an official committee headed by E Sreedharan has expressed “serious reservations on the safety and stability of this bridge”.
In its report submitted to railway minister Suresh Prabhu on February 4, the four-member committee unanimously said that “on this score alone, we are unable to endorse” the critical section across the Himalayan barrier from Katra to Banihal leading to Kashmir.
Though it was touted as a “signature bridge” for what was declared in 2002 by the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee as a “national project”, the committee gave eight reasons regarding the 359-metre high bridge’s “inadequate” safety factor. The 31-page report underscores the dangers posed to the mega-arch bridge by earthquakes, landslides and the proximity to the line of control.
“If this bridge is damaged, its restoration will take a minimum of five to six years ,” the committee observed. “As a result, the link to Kashmir Valley may remain disrupted for years together,” it said in its report. This damning expert opinion comes at a time when railway engineers have not been able to start constructing even the foundation of the mega-arch.
The unviability of the mega-arch is a major reason why the Katra-Banihal section, originally due to be executed by 2007, is nowhere near completion even after Rs 4,000 crore has so far been spent. The committee, therefore, recommended the scrapping of the present alignment of 126km between Katra and Banihal, skirting along the mountain slopes and geological fault lines.
The alternative it suggested is a shorter and straighter alignment of 70km cutting through the mountain ranges, shifting the location of the Chenab bridge from the gorge to the floor of the valley and thereby reducing its height from 359 metres to 120 metres.
Designed by railways’ chief engineer Alok Verma, the alternative alignment “cutting across mountain ranges and folds at right angles or near right angles and tucked deep into the mountains away from dangerous slopes,” the committee said, “is the right solution”.
The committee went on to say that this steeper gradient alignment was “undoubtedly superior” on considerations of “constructability, stability, survivability, safety in train operations, quick and easy evacuation of passengers from tunnels, saving travel time, more capacity, etc.”
Though the practicability of Verma’s alignment was being questioned by the engineers engaged in the project, the committee found it to be “a practical and adoptable alignment, which could set the trend for similar railway projects being contemplated by the government in the Himalayan region”. It added that “the new proposed line can be constructed faster and possibly at a lesser cost than what it would take for the balance works on the existing alignment to be completed”.
In a stinging indictment of the railway board, the Sreedharan committee said that if “the present pattern and style of implementation is followed”, the project already delayed by eight years, would not be completed “by any stretch of imagination” in another eight years. It said that “if the government wants to complete the project early, the present system and style of construction management will have to be changed”.
Accordingly, the committee recommended that the execution of the new alignment be “entrusted to a dedicated, fully government-owned company” which can take decisions on its own without any reference to the railway board. Without mentioning Sreedharan’s association with Konkan Railway, the committee recalled that a similar set up had been successfully tried for executing the project along the Western Ghats.
गुवाहाटी Guwahati (GWH): Experts and civil society organisations have pleaded for a dedicated freight corridor for the NE region for maintaining the regular flow of its products to destinations outside the region and regular inflow of the essential commodities etc. The region needs to send its products like tea, cement, paper, fruits, forest products etc, while it requires essential commodities, finished industrial products and raw materials for its industries.
According to a press release, the experts and civil society organisations were making presentations at the technical session of a symposium on rail connectivity in India’s North East convened by the Senior Engineers’ Forum of Greater Guwahati, on December 20. They observed that such a network would also promote tourism in North East India, a long cherished dream of the Prime Minister of the country.
They referred to the fact that the Union Railway Minister had earmarked an amount of Rs 5,116 crore for the completion of the ongoing projects in the NE region.
They also pointed to the fact that the Prime Minister during his latest visit to the NE region declared an amount of Rs 28,000 crore for the development of the vital railway infrastructure in the region. He urged the States to remove all the hurdles like delay in handing over land, forest clearance, providing security cover, and making state roads and highways worthy for transportation of the necessary construction materials and machinery.
The participants of the symposium were of the view that without the active involvement of the states of the region, it would perhaps not be possible to utilize the above amounts for developing a proper railway network in the region.
They also expressed dismay over the news that only nine MPs from the region attended a meeting convened by the Union Railway Minister to discuss such issues. The Senior Engineers’ Forum has urged the MPs of the region to be active to meet the aspiration of the region’s people and to monitor the implementation of the developmental projects in the region.
The technical session was chaired by KG Deb Krori and in it AC Das, Ajit Pandit, JN Khatainyar, Bhaskar Dutta andMantu Bora (all engineers), among others, presented papers.
Earlier, General Manager of the NF Railway delivered the keynote address in the function. He spoke on the projects undertaken by the Railways in the region. The projected date for completion of the project to connect the capitals of the NE states with a railway network has been fixed to be 2020, he said.
Engineer Colonel (Retd) Manoranjan Goswami welcomed the guests and participants of the function, the press release said.
तिरुचिरापल्ली Tiruchirappalli (TPJ): The Additional Chief Security Commissioner, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Southern Railway, Aroma Singh Thakur, inspected the RPF Zonal Training Centre here on Friday and ascertained the facilities available at the establishment.
Ms. Thakur, who was on a day’s visit to the training centre, delivered a lecture on communication and listening to the constable recruits undergoing training at the centre. Constable recruits who were trained at the Railway Protection Special Force battalion here also attended the guest lecture.
RPF officials here said Ms. Thakur conducted a general inspection visiting the armoury, mess and the parade ground where the recruits were being trained in drill.
अजमेर ज्ञ Ajmer Jn (AII): Ajmer, which is gearing-up to become a smart city, courtesy a joint Indo-US initiative, is also set to get Rajasthan its first railway station to run on solar energy. Ajmer division of North Western Railway has decided to meet the power demand from solar energy.
A feasibility report of this project said that fixing solar cells will cost 1.16 crores to produce estimated 40 kilowatt power every year.
This project will yearly save Rs 52 lakh on electricity bill for Ajmer railway station per annum. “The solar panel will be fixed under the corporate social responsibility. The life of solar panel is expected to be 25 years,” said senior railway officer.
Under this scheme, the Ajmer station will save 75,000 units electricity annually. In the second phase, the solar panels will be fixed at Bhilwara and Abu Road stations.
मुंबई Mumbai: Passengers who travel by the country’s first Rajdhani Express (12951-52) between Mumbai and Delhi can feel safer with the Western Railway installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the coaches. The pilot project is the first of its kind in Indian Railway.
There are two CCTVs at each gate of a coach, one to capture images of entrants and the other to capture images of those exiting through the gate, located near the gate or above the washbasin. The monitor has been installed in a special cabin in the pantry car. The cabin is watched by telecom staff and is beyond the reach of other staff.
One of the onboard engineering staff, on condition of anonymity, said, “Every day one chip is installed in the main control console of CCTV cameras. This chip records entire movement of train in both up and down directions (Mumbai-Delhi-Mumbai). When Rajdhani Express arrives back to Mumbai Central on the third day, this chip is removed by telecom engineer. The chip is submitted to chief telecom engineer on daily basis.”
Similarly, the railways have decided to videograph passengers of trains on sensitive routes at the time of boarding as part of strengthening security measures. “Our efforts are to provide security escorts in all sensitive trains. We have already started the process of videography of all passengers in some selected trains so that we know who all are travelling in these trains,” railway minister Suresh Prabhu said as per agency reports.
Sharat Chandrayan, WR’s chief public relations officer, said, “The CCTV’s in Rajdhani Express is installed on a trial basis.”
Dr Ravinder Singal, commissioner, Government Railway Police, Mumbai division, said “It is a milestone as far as safety of passengers and their belongings is concerned. This will help us in quick investigation and detection of crime onboard.”
Anand Vijay Jha, WR’s senior divisional security commissioner (Mumbai Division), said, “CCTVs on Rajdhani will drastically reduce crime rate,” and also come in handy to locate misplaced luggage, he added.
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: With just few days left to present Railway Budget for this year, the idea of national four rail universities announced in the first budget of the current NDA government last July, is all set to be shelved for various reaSONS. After a series of pre-budget meeting, the cash strapped railways seems to have realised hard way that each university, brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was costing a whooping Rs.2000 crore. The government, sources here say, has now moved to set aside Rs.100 crore to set up a centre for railway research, instead high-profile universities to churn out graduates and post graduates in courses related to railway jobs.
The idea behind rail universities was that with an employee strength of 13.5 lakhs, Indian railways was forced to spend a huge amount on re-orienting manpower to suit the needs of the national transporter, that included trainings, right from hard core engineering to catering, hospitality and management. It was believed that while graduates coming out of railway universities will have assurance of getting absorbed in to the system, the railway will be spared of attending and spending money on training green horns. In plain words, it meant that even though these universities will be manned by railway ministry to teach courses on management, finance as well as specialised engineering courses, there will be no job guarantee for alumni, who will have to go through the established competitive processes — a subject that has been discussed internally, sources said.
It was also realised that as per government of India conduct of business rules, only human resources development ministry is allowed to operate universities. A special permission has been granted to ministry of external affairs, only in case of international universities that involve bilateral or multilateral agreements with other countries. Two prime example of this exception is Nalanda University and South Asian University, both involving foreign governments. “There is a need for looking at need for changes in law, to set up this university. We should have a full view on the issue before embarking on such a venture,” a Railway Board member told. At present, Railways has a training institute in Baroda.
Earlier, a Chinese delegation that visited the railway ministry, last year, had proposed to co-fund rail universities. The project was analysed by railway ministry officials, who visited three Chinese universities — Beijing Jiaotong University, Tongji University and Southwest Jiaotong University. China’s National Railway Administration is understood to have offered not only co-funding between Chinese railway universities and the Indian Railways, but also joint development of curriculum, design of the university campus and facilities, student and teacher exchange programmes, and offering latest learning technologies to India.
But back home, the railways over past many months was struggling with some teething trouble in the quest of such university, with flurry of exchanges between the Rail Bhavan and human resources development ministry. The EdCIL India, a PSU under the HRD Ministry is reported to have demanded Rs.60 lakh from the railways to make a detailed project report, including drafting a bill required for the creation of the university. Within the Rail Bhavan, there was also an intense lobbying also on the choice of location of the university, which was the ultimately left with railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who was supposed take the decision with the help of the Railway Board.
मुंबई Mumbai: The Railways’ plans to get its cash registers ringing by adding muscle to its freight-moving capacity is playing out in Mumbai in a way which clearly shows that the ports of Gujarat might have taken a march over the ones in Maharashtra. While the Central Railway is staring at stagnating numbers due to the falling container traffic from JNPT and Mumbai Port Trust, the numbers at Western Railway, thanks to Gujarat’s ports coasting along, is having a record-breaking time. The coming year will be even more important for both railway zones. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has already given all the departments of Railways a united challenge of increasing freight loading and earnings by 15 percent for the financial year starting April.
“The mainstay of the Railways, when it comes to freight loading, is the container traffic from ports (JNPT and Mumbai Port Trust). If that comes down, it means the freight scene is in a bad shape,” said a senior CR official. The numbers bear him out. Against an average of 700 containers handled per day from JNPT in 2011-12, it came down to 667 containers per day in 2012-13, 567 containers in 2013-14 and 556 in the current financial year upto January. CR’s overall container loading per day from all sources fell from 776 per day in 2011-12 to around 636 for the current financial year till January.
Narendra Patil, CPRO/CR says, “The container traffic from the two major ports has come down. The development of newer ports in neighbouring states like Gujarat has also taken away business from ports here. The choking of our lines due to suburban and long-distance trains has also affected freight operations.”
New Ports in Gujarat powering WR’s dream run
According to railway officials, there is a clear trend of traffic shifting from Mumbai-based ports to the newer ones in Gujarat. “These new ports have better rail connectivity, which is helping in quicker clearing of containers that come in. WR is getting full advantage of it,” said a WR official. Its freight load has seen a robust increase. In 2011-12, WR loaded 70.65 million tonnes of freight. This went up to 71.97 million tonnes in 2012-13 and increased further to 72.21 million tonnes in 2014. The current financial year, up till January, has been a bumper one with loading standing at an all-time high of 73.24 million tonnes.
How fast is WR growing?
Sharat Chandrayan, CPRO, WR said, “In fact, by January, we had managed to overtake the numbers for 2013-14. WR is growing at 21 percent as far as tonnage (freight weight) is concerned and over 29 percent in terms of revenue. The good performance of container traffic (from ports in Gujarat), imported coal and fertilisers are to be credited for this performance.”
What the future holds for state’s ports?
According to CR officials, the dedicated freight corridor between JNPT and Dadri near Noida, the proposed new terminal at JNPT and the Rs 107-crore under-construction third good line between Mumbai Port Trust and Kurla to evacuate coal quickly will see CR’s freight business get better than what it is currently. “But for the moment WR is sitting pretty because ports in Gujarat are attracting business because of the better facilities there as these are new ports,” said a WR official.
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: With Railways reeling under a financial crunch, the number of new trains to be announced in the Rail Budget is unlikely to be more than 100, much less than what is the normal practice every year.
Rail Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, who is considered to be pro-reform, is unlikely to announce many rail projects despite demands from states as several unfinished works are already languishing over the years due to lack of funds.
It has been a popular practice of the Railways to announce launching of about 150 to 180 new trains in its budget every year. About 160 trains were announced last year.
According to sources, Prabhu may just take a different approach by not announcing too many new trains in his maiden budget speech and instead do it gradually over the course of the year.
“After weighing pros and cons of a radical proposal of not to announce any new train in the budget, it now seems that a revised proposal is being firmed up for going ahead with announcement of limited number of new trains,” they said.
There might also be a proposal to brand some of the trains in a move to generate additional funds.
As per the proposal, these trains will carry advertisements of some popular brands and may even be named on them such as the Coca Cola Express or Haldiram Express.
The Rail Budget is also likely to have proposal for more unreserved trains with general second class coaches such as the ‘Jan Sadharan Express’ on popular routes to facilitate travel for the common man. Besides some popular destinations will be connected with new service as tourist trains.
The Railway Budget will be presented in Parliament on February 26.
The Rail Budget 2015-16 might also have proposals for acquiring 20 train sets to run on some popular Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes.
Trains for Bihar, a political move considering the upcoming Assembly elections, and the northeast are also likely to be announced. Attempts are being made to maintain a
regional balance while announcing new trains for states including Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bengal and Gujarat.
Rail Budget 2015-16 is also likely to offer business proposals for redevelopment of busy stations under PPP model.
Prabhu might also focus on aspects related to passenger satisfaction which include cleanliness, catering, linen, ease of access to booking information and tickets.
There might also be an announcement to set up an interactive customer portal in order to get direct feedback from passengers.
Currently, the cross-subsidy for passenger service from freight earnings is touching about Rs 24,000 crore (Rs 240 billion) annually.
DMRC looks to shrink queues with Exact Change Counters
New Delhi: Carry exact change if you want to surpass serpentine queues for tokens to travel on the Delhi Metro network from now on. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has opened dedicated “Exact Change Counters” at 20 stations starting Sunday.
“Only those passengers who bring exact change for purchasing token will be entertained at these counters. These commuters won’t need to stand in queues at manual token counters, and can buy token from Exact Change Counters without any hassle,” said the corporation. “These dedicated counters have been opened to facilitate and encourage passengers to bring exact change while purchasing tokens for Metro travel.”
The counters are operational at New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Rajiv Chowk, Anand Vihar, Shahdara and HUDA City Centre stations, among others.
Delhi Metro, on an average, faces a demand of approximately 7 lakh coins per day—of Re 1, Rs 2 and Rs 5 denominations. “The DMRC tries to ensure that enough change is available at stations,” it said.
“Despite all efforts, however, only about 4-4.5 lakh coins can be made available at stations on a daily basis, thus creating a big gap between demand and supply,” added the DMRC.
The corporation has also advised commuters to use smart cards instead of tokens. “By using smart card, one can avail a discount of 10 per cent on all travels. It also helps in managing the problem of change at stations,” it said.
The DMRC has installed Point of Sale (POS) machines at 73 stations for passengers to recharge their Metro smart cards using credit or debit cards, eliminating the need to carry cash to ticket counters.
These machines are installed at Dilshad Garden, Seelampur, Rohini West, Rithala, Pitampura, Shastri Nagar, Rohini East, Tis Hazari, Kashmere Gate and Jahangir Puri stations, among others.
The machines are also installed along the Airport Express Line. “These machines are available at Customer Care Centre of these stations,” said the DMRC. At present, about 70 per cent of the total over 26 lakh passengers use smart cards daily.
New Delhi: Since the 1970s, be it passenger fares or freight charges, lower-class or upper-class passenger fares, the Indian Railways has consistently trailed behind the average price gains in the economy, barring a burst in the late-eighties and early-nineties. In contrast, since the eighties, what it has been paying out to its employees, current and retired, has consistently outpaced inflation in the economy. And that mismatch between growth in pricing and cost is one reason the Railways finds itself in the spot it is today.
मुंबई Mumbai: Ahead of Railway Budget over the upcoming weekend, the market is expected to remain volatile over the next few days. At the moment, the market is at the upper end of the trading range, he says. As expected, there will be a lot of noise in the run up to the Budget. But Dutt does not expect major changes on the tax front in the Budget. The Budget needs to be a radical, out-of-the-box type of a Budget. If it indeed turns out to be a Modi Budget, or if finance minister Arun Jaitley truly manages to deliver, there will be a big rally in the market. As far as the Railway Budget goes, all positives that may come from it are already priced in. Certain core issues have been plaguing the Railways for many years now and if Suresh Prabhu has to bring the railways back on track, there is a need for some radical decisions on that front as well. Coming back to the markets, despite most investors increasing their IT play, IT is a crowded trade right now. Investors move money from the IT sector to some of the riskier assets and to buy banks on every dip. Indications are that the Nifty hitting 9500-9800 in the next 12 months.
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: One could take pride in Indian Railways’ being one of the largest commercial organisations under governmental control anywhere in the world, with its 1.3 million strong work-force carrying nearly 23 million passengers daily and lifting more than one billion tonnes of originating freight traffic in a year. Yet the standards of cleanliness on its passenger-carrying trains and stations are appalling, to say the least; the availability of berths for travel at short notice is a rarity; and its freight business is fast losing clientele.
The fact is that, despite its wide reach and strong presence in the national psyche, there is an all-pervading feeling of resignation and despondency about its quality of service. The complexities of managing this humongous department can be easily visualised from the fact that in the last three years it has accounted for the scalps of three Union ministers for one reason or the other!
Tight control over the working of the railways has never been easy. The catharsis experienced by the country in the railway strike of 1974 besmirched the administration as well as the unions. Not for nothing, both have skilfully avoided a repeat of a similar direct confrontation for the last 40 years. But the experience has also made the organisation very conservative, side-stepping issues and detesting strong stands. This has all coalesced into a fierce fondness for the status quo. The last 25 years of coalition politics have contributed handsomely to this state.
It is time to take stock of the four issues that should receive the railway minister’s immediate attention.
Freight movement must get a fillip to improve finances
The freight business is the bread and butter of the railway’s finances. The surplus from the freight business is unflinchingly utilised to subsidise the passenger business. In UPA-I, railway finances rode upon a healthy growth in freight tonnage of 8-10 per cent year after year, as can be seen from the Table. The trend for the last three years, however, is 50 per cent below this. Unless IR goes back to its earlier robust growth in originating freight, railway finances are going to remain under tremendous pressure. Two factors have been precluding a higher rate of growth: firstly, the Railways have abandoned the less-than-block-rake traffic altogether, and secondly, the world’s steepest freight rates.
First things first. While passengers have multiple choices of class and carriage, in freight services customers have to willy-nilly opt for a full rake constituting 3,500 metric tonnes of material. This take-it-or-leave-it situation has made IR suitable only for carrying bulk traffic like coal, ores and minerals, foodgrain and so on. Consequently, IR has been steadily losing its share of freight movement – down to 36 per cent, from 89 per cent in 1951. Per a McKinsey study, the share may decline to 25 per cent in 2020, causing a loss of five per cent of GDP.
The Railways must pull back its share of freight traffic to around 50 per cent by 2020 – a gigantic task, as that means annual growth of more than 10 per cent in originating freight traffic till 2020. But the Railways now depend solely on coal and ores and minerals for growth, which themselves are growing at only around four per cent. On the other hand, it is neither operationally feasible nor financially prudent to start running non-block-rake traffic or start conducting shunting at roadside stations. How to attract this traffic to rail?
There are three options: Utilise domestic containers to lift this traffic on a hub-and-spoke arrangement; utilise road railers to pick up piecemeal traffic; and use “RO-RO”, or roll-on, roll-off mode, to carry road traffic such as trucks on rail.
The first of these options has already been tried on the CONCOR fleet. The induction of private container operators too was expected to aggregate this piecemeal traffic, but the hopes have been belied. The loading/unloading of containers by gantry cranes or mobile cranes has proven to be quite expensive. The second option has been in the air for quite some time, but needs foreign collaboration, the details of which are proving to be intractable. The option of RO-RO has considerable potential if new wagon designs are adopted to load multiple axle trucks on tailor-made wagons capable of running at 100 kmph in loaded condition – the same as the BLC wagons used for carrying containers. This would be an innovative idea of Indian origin designed to solve an Indian problem.
Whatever the ultimately accepted method may be, it should be one which can generate at least 100 million tonnes of additional freight traffic for the Railways in the next two years.
Secondly, Railways have fallen into a Catch-22 situation where freight rates are increased to compensate for less-than-expected growth in tonnage, which further drives the traffic away to road, as the Railways prices itself out. The only way to extricate the Railways out of this vicious cycle is to impose a moratorium on any increase in freight rates at least for three years. In the interregnum clients should be wooed back to rail by policies of rebates to loyalists, and so on.
Activity on accounting reforms was started 15 years ago, yet there is no sign of its culmination. When FDI and private partnership is being talked about, it is all the more imperative for IR to have a clear idea of sector-wise cash inflows and outflows. Lack of accounting reforms turns off investors and errors on revenue-sharing could later become an issue with the CAG.
Indian Railways was last restructured in 1951, when all the princely states’ railways and company railways were amalgamated. The administrative set-up has now become quite unwieldy, rigid and self-perpetuating, at the cost of national priorities. The government has rightly formed a high-powered committee to submit its recommendations. It is hoped that the report of this committee will be made public very soon, since its implementation in the field may prove to be an even more onerous job, entailing two to three years to complete. If not implemented during the tenure of this government, the recommendations will surely meet the same fate as that of three earlier committees – the Prakash Tandon Committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001) and Sam Pitroda Committee (2012).
Indian Railways has never been on the frontier of developing or innovating railway technology. It has always lagged behind its global peers on the adoption of new technologies. One primary reason is that there are no professional courses on railway engineering, operations or marketing available anywhere in India. On the other hand, the Chinese Academy of Railway Sciences (CARS) can boast of 2,300 scientific research achievements and 825 prizes for such research till 2012. Even a small country like South Korea is well served by the Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI). In India, a Railway university could support high-quality research.
The country will be looking for a new avatar of the Indian Railways in the coming Budget. The railway minister has an unenviable task on hand. He has to serve “new wine in a new bottle”. Any compromise with any one of these two components would not go down well with the Indian people without a tinge of rancor.
Rail Budget 2015 should not be business as usual
As a key component of globalising India’s transport infrastructure, the Railways requires massive investments to increase capacity and for upgradation to meet the transport challenge with speed, predictability and safety.
The massive amounts of investment that the Railways can absorb would be a welcome boost to the economy in its current state as well. Funds are needed for many things: augment rolling stock and improve the quality of coaches and wagons, build new lines, upgrade electronic signalling to ensure that tracks are not lying idle and strengthen track and bridge infrastructure for high-speed operations. To do all this, reforms are imperative on many fronts, but a prerequisite for substantial reform would be structural change in the organisation. The Railways should cease to be a departmental enterprise.
It must be recast into several separate companies such as the Konkan Railway Corporation, formed with equity participation by state governments or Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, a special purpose vehicle created to build dedicated corridors. These companies can own tracks and signalling or operate rolling stock, and even compete with one another.
Competition will drive efficiency, encourage them to make more profits and make their accounting more transparent. Companies can take in foreign direct investment, unlike a government department. With corporatisation, the culture of the Railways, too, will change from that of civil servants, to acquire the commercial orientation it lacks now.
The Railways’ market share in freight traffic has slipped badly, due to the practice of subsiding passenger fares with freight. Suburban passenger traffic can be handled by a separate company, where state and city governments put in money, to keep fares low. Tariff should be set by an independent regulator so that revisions become automatic. The need is also for better port connectivity.
Private investment should be roped in for freight terminals and dedicated high-speed corridors. The need is for the political class to make radical changes feasible.
विसाखपट्नम Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Activists of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) plan to stage a maha dharna in front of the Waltair divisional railway manager’s (DRM) office on February 24 demanding a separate railway zone with headquarters at Vizag.
District YSRCP president Gudiwada Amarnath alleged that the ruling TDP government in the state and the BJP government at the Centre have failed to fulfill the longstanding demand of the people of north Andhra for a separate railway zone.
Pointing out that the Waltair division, with annual revenue of around Rs.6,000 crore, is one of the highest revenue earners among all railway divisions in the country, he said a separate railway zone will not only pave the way for the development of north Andhra districts but also both the Godavari districts and will create jobs for the unemployed youth of the region.
Speaking to mediapersons at the party office at Jagadamba Junction here on Saturday, Amarnath said that as per the AP Reorganisation Act, the Centre should have sanctioned a separate railway zone for AP but it has done nothing even nine months after coming to power.
“Both the TDP and BJP governments have been cheating the people. The TDP and BJP MPs such as K Hari Babu, Kothapalli Geetha, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, K Rammohan and Avanthi Srinivas are not putting forth the issue forcefully enough before the central government at a time when it is preparing the railway and Union budgets,” he alleged.
He also accused Vijayawada and Guntur MPs of conspiring to get the new zone for their region.
Former MLA Tynala Vijayakumar said the Waltair division has 750 acres land, which is sufficient for a separate zone. Former MLAs T Gurumurthy Reddy, Karanam Dharmasri, Karri Seetaram were present at the meet.
PM Narendra Modi at Inauguration of new railway line from Hazaribag to Kodarma
हजारीबाग Hazaribagh (HZD): Prime Minister Narendra Modi today flagged off Hazaribagh-Koderma DMU train after inaugurating Hazaribagh town railway station here, which falls on the Dhanbad Division of East Central Railway. Modi inaugurated the station and flagged off the train from the dais where he addressed the public.
The project, which started 16 years ago, is the first stage of the Hazaribagh-Koderma-Barkakana-Ranchi railway line of the East-Central Railway. The 79.7-km first stage project cost Rs 936 crore, according to sources in the railways.
Modi was in Hazaribagh for the third time in under a year to inaugurate the 70 km Koderma-Hazaribagh rail line and flag-off a DEMU service between the two stations. Including the Hazaribagh railway station, the stretch has seven new stations and two halts. However, he chose to dedicate most of his 28-minute speech to the ongoing e-auction of coal.
Describing Railways as the backbone of the nation’s growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Centre’s endeavour was to connect every town in the country with rail link.
“The Railways is the backbone of the nation’s growth and for its development, the government has planned to develop it and desires to provide rail link with every town,” Modi said here.
Inaugurating Hazaribagh town railway station and then flagging off Hazaribagh-Koderma DMU, Modi said at a public meeting that the Railways play a significant role in both economic growth and development of the country. The Centre signed fresh MoUs with the government of Jharkhand to complete six major railway projects, including that of the Koderma-Hazaribagh-Ranchi rail project at the earliest, he said. These projects would be completed by March 2017 and both Centre and state would provide funds on fifty-fifty basis, Modi said.
Modi, who had the distinction of flagging off a train in Hazaribagh that saw its first train in the history of the railways, stated that Jharkhand possessed rich mineral resources and railway network in the entire Jharkhand could help transport the minerals through tracks.
The Centre signed fresh MoUs with the government of Jharkhand to complete six major railway projects, including that of the Koderma-Hazaribagh-Ranchi rail project at the earliest, he said.
These projects would be completed by March 2017 and both Centre and state would provide funds on fifty-fifty basis, Modi said.
Comparing Jharkhand with Australia for having the same type of natural resources, he said once natural resources of Jharkhand were utilised properly, the state would become the most developed one in the country.
“We are going to develop with the latest and modern technology and provide all amenities to passengers travelling by the trains. By modernising railways, we want to open more employment avenues for the unemployed,” Modi said.
Thanking farmers of Hazaribagh for providing land for the construction of 79.7-km Hazaribagh Koderma railway line of the East Central Railways, he also praised former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha for striving hard right from the days of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
Modi emphasised on the fact that the coal auction, which is still in its initial stages, is all set to go well over the Rs.1.86 lakh crore loss estimate that the CAG had made in 2012. “We have auctioned off 15 coal blocks to date, but we have already received Rs. 75,000 crore,” said the PM, making sure the crowd repeated the figure after him. Modi said that no one from the previous government has yet apologised for what he termed as a loot of the country’s coal wealth. “Those who sinned, those who looted Jharkhand, they have no shame. They have troubled the nation so much,” said Modi. “Has anyone from the previous government apologised yet?” he asked the crowd, which roared back in the negative.
Modi said that only two of Jharkhand’s 40 blocks to go under the hammer has been auctioned yet, but they have already fetched Rs. 12,500 crore. “This money used to be looted…. Even the CAG has been proven wrong,” said the PM. He told his audience that they had lost their coal bit had not received any money in return to date. “When the CAG took his report to the Parliament, some people in the government had come up with The Theory of Zero back then,” he said, recalling the UPA-II government’s claim of zero loss.
Earlier, Modi had words of praise for former Union Minister and Hazaribagh MP Yashwant Sinha. Sinha’s son Jayant Sinha is the sitting MP of Hazaribagh. Telling the crowd that Sinha had championed the much-awaited project – whose foundation stone was laid in 1999 by the then-PM A.B. Vajpayee – Modi said that it was a sign of how the country had progressed in 60 years since Independence: “Hazaribagh is not small panchayat, it is a large town…. I was observing Yashwant Sinha since arriving here today. He looks happier than the day he took oath as a minister.”
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Indian Railway’s construction company, IRCON, will enter highway construction business in Sri Lanka. Speaking to All India Radio, Executive Director of IRCON, S L Gupta said that the company will bid for the construction of expressways in Sri Lanka. He said that the company has vast experience in the field, both within India and internationally. The company has achieved major success in Sri Lanka by restoring rail link between Colombo and Jaffna.
Sri Lanka’s cabinet had recently decided to discuss Indian participation in highways and other infrastructure development in the country and not rely solely on China. The matter was also raised by the Sri Lankan side at discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the visit of President Maithripala Sirisena to Delhi earlier this week. Sri Lankan government is reviewing all the projects aided by China.
PM Narendra Modi, wearing traditional attire, waves during the celebration of the 29th statehood day of Arunachal Pradesh
ईटानगर Itanagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today dedicated to the nation the 21.75-km long Harmuti-Naharlagun rail line and flagged off the Naharlagun-Delhi AC Express and the Inter-City Express between Naharlagun and Guwahati, thereby bringing the strategically located border State of Arunachal Pradesh to the country’s railway map.
Modi also inaugurated the Itanagar Water Supply Scheme and laid the foundation stone of a 132KV transmission line before declaring the ‘Festival of Arunachal’ open – to the cheers from a huge gathering. He also released a souvenir to mark the 29th Statehood Day of Arunachal Pradesh.
Prime Minister assured Arunachal Pradesh of much more development in next five years than it had seen in past 28 years but cautioned the people to see that the government spends each penny judiciously.
Reiterating his vision of converting the northeastern states into the organic farming capital of India, Mr Modi, while addressing a large gathering in Itanagar, said that there is no dearth of money for development of the region but accountability and transparency in utilisation of fund was equally necessary.
Appealing the people to ask for the account of public money used by the government, Mr Modi said, “You should ask me also if your money is judiciously used for the development or not. I have asked my ministers and officers to visit the region frequently to monitor progress of development work and to ensure better utilisation of the Central fund.”
Mr Modi, who was in Itanagar to inaugurate the celebrations of 29th Statehood Day of Arunachal Pradesh, said that frontier state is blessed with huge natural resources, which has potential to convert the state into the “growth engine” of the region.
“Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in northeast in terms of area. There is less population here but tremendous potential for growth. I assure you that you will witness more development in the state in next five years than it had seen in last 28 years,” said Mr Modi.
He appealed to the people of the state to extend their cooperation in harnessing the huge hydropower potential of the state for their own progress and for lighting up the entire country. Mr Modi referred the examples of Nepal and Bhutan, which after initial hesitation and concern, has started harnessing its hydropower potential to transform their economy. He said that another Himalayan state Himachal Pradesh has done the same for India.
He said that Arunachal Pradesh could provide electricity to the entire country. He however asserted that proper compensation should be given to people who get affected by hydropower projects.
Earlier, the Prime Minister also flagged off the first train connecting the frontier state with Delhi through remote control. The Naharlagun-Delhi airconditioned weekly express train flagged off by Mr Modi will complete the 2,100-km long journey in 38 hours connecting Naharlagun station, about 10 km off Itanagar, with Delhi.
Mr Modi also flagged off Naharlagun-Guwahati intercity express at the function in presence of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki, governor Lt. Gen. Nirbhay Sharma (Retd) and railway minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu. The Prime Minister also inaugurated a water supply scheme for Itanagar and laid the foundation stone for a 132 KV transmission line.
Pointing out that rail network is the backbone of the economy of any region, Mr Modi said that biggest stumbling block of the Northeastern states have been connectivity.
Mr Modi also announced that there will be 18 new FM channels waiting to be started in the region and the government will set up six new agricultural universities in the region. Contrary to what was expected, Mr Modi did not touch the contentious issue with China in his speech.
Among others, Arunachal Pradesh Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Nirbhay Sharma, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju were present on the occasion. State Assembly Speaker Nabam Rebia and Home Minister Tanga Byaling were also present.
Four new Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) have taken charge of Secunderabad, Vijayawada, Guntur and Hyderabad Divisions of SCR respectively today i.e., 20th February, 2015.
Shri Ashesh Agrawal -New Divisioinal Railway Manager of Secunderabad Division of SCR
Shri Ashesh Agrawal has taken over the charge as Divisional Railway Manager, Secunderabad Division of South Central Railway today i.e., 20th February, 2015.
Prior to his new posting, Ashesh Agrawal worked as Executive Director / Freight / Railway Board looking after wagon maintenance policy and design issues of entire Indian Railways.
He joined Indian Railways as a Special Class Apprentice in March 1982 and worked in various senior positions on Indian Railways including Chief Workshop Manager of Wagon Work Shop, Jhansi, which is the biggest Wagon Workshop on Indian Railways.
During his tenure, he was also Chief Project Manager for construction of a new coach mid life rehabilitation workshop.
He also worked on deputation as Director (Policy) in the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India. During his service, he has also completed four Engineering Degrees and MBA.
Sri Ashok Kumar, DRM/BZA
Shri Ashok Kumar of Indian Railway Service of Engineering (IRSE) assumed charge as the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Vijayawada Division.
Shri Ashok Kumar, joined the Indian Railways Service of Engineers (IRSE) on 21st July, 1986.
Amongst the assignments he had held earlier are, as the Executive Director (Structure) and Executive Director (Track Machines) at Railway Designs & Standard Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow.
Shri Ashok Kumar holds a rich Administrative and Management experience and is a keen sports enthusiast.
Shri Ashok Kumar said he would be keen to increase the performance of operational efficiency on Vijayawada Division, improved passenger amenities, safety, security with special attention to enhance freight and passenger earnings.
His hobbies include sports, current affairs and tourism.
Sri Vijay Sharma, DRM Guntur
Shri Vijay Sharma, of Indian Railway Service of Engineering (IRSE) assumed charge as Divisional Railway Manager of Guntur Division.
He joined the Indian Railway Service of Engineers in the year 1984.
Shri Sharma started his Railway career as an Assistant Engineer at Koraput in Rayagada district of Odisha.
Later he worked as Divisional Engineer & Senior Divisional Engineer in Lucknow and as Deputy Chief Engineer /Construction/Jodhpur.
Shri Vijay Sharma also handled the assignment as Executive Director (Track Machines) at the Research Development and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow (Ministry of Railways) before joining South Central Railway in the year 2010, where he was serving as the Chief Engineer in the office of the Chief Administrative Officer / Construction, South Central Railway, Secunderabad before his new assignment as DRM of Guntur Division.
Smt Aruna Singh, New DRM of Hyderabad Division
Smt Aruna Singh Takes Over as Divisional Railway Manager, Hyderabad Division
Smt Aruna Singh has taken over the charge of Divisional Railway Manager, Hyderabad Division of South Central Railway today i.e. 21st February, 2015. Smt Aruna Singh belongs to Indian Railway Services of Signal Engineers (IRSSE) and joined service on 9th March, 1987.
Smt Aruna Singh started her career from Northern Railway and worked in Signalling as well as Telecom Maintenance units apart from working as Deputy Chief Signal & Telecom Engineer /Construction.
The recent assignments in Senior Administrative Grade held by her were Chief Signal Engineer/ Northern Railway and Executive Director, Railway Electrification (Signalling and Telecommunication).
चेन्नई Chennai (MAS): Anupam Sharma has taken over as the new manager of Chennai Railway Division on Friday. An IRSME (Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers) officer, Mr Sharma held the office of Group General Manager in rolling stock design division of M/s RITES Ltd in Gurgaon before coming to the city.
A Mechanical Engineer with a masters degree in financial management from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Sciences (JBIMS), Mumbai, he has also worked in Mumbai Division in Central Railway.
He had served as additional divisional railway manager in East Central Railway at Samastipur too.
He also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Management Policy from Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad.
मुंबई Mumbai: Even as Mumbaikars look expectantly toward railway minister Suresh Prabhu to perform a miracle and make their everyday commute bearable, it has come to light that Central Railway (CR), which caters to an eye-popping 42 lakh passengers per day, is running short of 35 rakes.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said, “It’s just that there is a very big difference in demand and supply of the number of services and we should be running 35 more rakes to accommodate the current rush that we see on the CR every day. Hence, so many people are getting squeezed into a number of rakes that are clearly not enough.”
The CR has a total of 121 rakes, of which 75 run on its mainline, 36 on mainline harbour, and 10 on trans-harbour. One rake can provide 12 services per day and the CR currently runs 1,619 services every day.
The official further said that while Mumbai sees a growth in number of passengers by 2 per cent every year, it translates into 30,000 more commuters in hard numbers. “We have been maintaining that there is a 2 per cent increase every year, but this means 30,000 commuters are added, that too going by conservative estimates,” he added.
So much so, CR has asked the Railway Board to consider growing needs, especially in far-off suburbs like Thane, Kasara and along the Harbour Line.
“We have identified some lines and particular corridors on the lines that have seen exponential growth in the past two years. For example, Thane to Vashi, Vashi to Panvel, Thane to Kasara and Karjat have been identified as corridors that will soon be on par with the mainline rush between CST and Thane,” the official said.
हावड़ा Howrah (HWH): Officials of state-owned railway wagon manufacturer Burn Standard Co. Thursday night decided to withdraw the suspension of work following requests from unions and its personnel to resume work.
“We have decided to withdraw the suspension of work notice effective midnight today (Thursday) which was earlier served,” the company’s deputy general manager of personnel and administration G.H. Nag told.
The company, however, is in the process of communicating the same officially to the staff and contractors’ trade unions, asking employees to resume work.
Arupesh Bhattacharya, president of the Howrah division of Trinamool Congress-affiliated union INTTUC, told: “We haven’t still received any official intimation from the company over the withdrawal of the suspension notice. We are in talks with the management and keen to resume work.”
अहमदाबाद Ahmedabad (ADI): Imagine you board a train in Mumbai, Surat or Vadodara to reach Ahmedabad. After hours of journey, the train enters into the city of Ahmedabad, and you can see the city from train window. You ready your luggage and wait for the train to arrive at the railway station. But suddenly your train stops. And it stops for not just five-ten minutes but for half an hour to hour! There’s total dark on both sides of the train. There’s no platform. Railway station is not far, but not near too. You feel like ‘oh God!kinar pe aake naav atki!’
You speak to your co-passengers why the train is just not moving? Why is it halting here? And experienced travelers would reply that it is halting here because there’s no third track available, and two tracks are already occupied.You are surprised to know about such kind of problem. But that’s fact. Daily thousands of passengers suffer due to lack of availability of platform to park the train or availability of third track!
Thankfully, solution of this problem may arrive this year or next year. The railway department has already completed survey of a new 10 km line connecting Kalupur and Vatva in Ahmedabad. A proposal has been finalized and forwarded to headquarters. If this task gets approval in union railway budget scheduled on 16 February, the work may start in next six months or so. The cost of this proposed 10 km line would be about Rs. 38 crore.
सिकंदराबाद Secunderabad (SC): The Telangana Police today held deliberations with South Central Railway (SCR) officials on several security related issues including strengthening of safety measures.
Telangana (Railways & Road Safety) Additional Director General of Police, T Krishna Prasad met SCR General Manager P K Srivastava to hold discussions on several security related issues, a SCR release said.
The key issues discussed included strengthening of security measures in Railway system, setting up more number of Government Railway Police (GRP) posts in SCR, fortifying GRP escorts in vulnerable trains etc.
The senior officer has assured that security in MMTS trains (local trains) will be given utmost priority in coordination with Railway Protection Force personnel, it said.
Mumbai: In a chat, Anand Tandon, Independent Analyst, shares his views on Railway Budget. Excerpts:
Do you play into defence or Railway-linked stocks?
Anand Tandon: I have been proponents of those two sectors for a while now. We have seen many companies over the last few days rally almost 30-40% after already having established a fairly strong run over the last few months. So, I am not sure that from a valuation perspective, any of these businesses are now looking like being very attractive.
That said, if you are really a long-term investor, then these businesses will eventually catch up because the numbers can be very dramatic. You look at $30-40 billion of defence expenditure that is budgeted for every year and even if you assume that over a period of next 10 years, let us say half of it were to move to India, you are looking at $20 billion move every year from then on.
So, it is very large industry that will get created and this is a thing that should have been done much earlier. Railways is certainly an area where it is lot more difficult to play given the fact that there are only a few levers that the government can press in terms of infrastructure and so on and here again we find that most of the companies whether they are container companies or wagon manufacturers have already done very well.
Some of the other equipment manufacturers are actually going to go to private foreign companies. Even though they may be made in India but they are not going to be made for the Indian investor.
Right now if you are trying to play for the budget, it is a bit too late and the best way would be to actually move out of the way because the best expectations you can get have probably been priced in, maybe you will get another 5% up as far as the budget sectors are concerned.
More disappointment is likely because at the end of the day, not everything that you wish for can be given to you and therefore some of these sectors may see significant cooling off post budget statement.
While you broadly touched upon the railway budget but the rally that we saw in Titagarh Wagons yesterday was a bit of a sentiment rub off across some of these railway related stories, what do you think the market is expecting from the budget because even when you talk to investors they are really looking for an investment opportunity in the space?
Anand Tandon: The wagon orders that have come out from railways for the last two years have been more or less non-exciting. The expectation is that you will get back to a certain size of orders over the next couple of years and you have reason to believe that with the good minister handling railways who has a good track record in earlier government and the fact these prime minister has gone on record to say that he expects to see the railways as a driver of GDP growth, you would expect that there will be significant investment coming through.
So, it is not surprising that some of the companies which are directly or indirectly related to railways are doing well. Container Corp has been doing quite well over the last few days. Therefore, the valuations at some time have to catch up.
गुडगाँव Gurgaon (GGN): The Haryana Mass Rapid Transport Corporation (HMRTC) has given its nod for Metro connectivity to Old Gurgaon, reply to an RTI application has revealed.
“Old Gurgaon is one of the city’s most crowded regions and figures show that route can benefit the most from Metro connectivity,” Aseem Takiyar, a city-based RTI activist who filed the query, said.
“The board of directors of HMRTC, in its meeting (held on December 24), has decided to provide Metro connectivity to the populated area of Old Gurgaon and has further decided that feasibility report of this project may be prepared…,” the response said.
Gurgaon MLA Umesh Aggarwal told Newsline, “After the December meeting,we started working on the feasibility report that eventually got approved. This project will benefit over one lakh commuters daily.”
According to Rapid Metro, the route will stretch for 12 km and have 11 stations, Aggarwal said. “The routes we are looking at are from Gurgaon railway station and Huda City Metro station. Between this, the route will cover Sector 4-5 Chowk, Sector 4-7 Chowk, Rajiv Chowk, Sohna Chowk and Subhash Chowk.”
Aggarwal said the project is going to cost Rs 300 crore per km, amounting to about Rs 4,200 crore for the 12 km route. “We are very excited about this opportunity and our full support is with the relevant authorities. We look forward to the project taking place,” a spokesperson of Rapid Metro said.
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railways is likely to propose the use of radio-frequency identification tags in its upcoming budget for tracking and tracing of Wagons, Coaches and Locomotives even as the Indian Railways looks to leverage information technology in a big way to improve services.
Rail Budget 2015-16 is expected to propose extensive use of IT systems in everything from the management of rolling stock to the development of Apps for passengers and provision for Wi-Fi on rail premises.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has given directions for leveraging the use of IT in railway functioning and the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices in wagons, coaches and locomotives is a step in that direction, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
Prabhu will propose that RFID devices be used for freight maintenance management, locomotive management, coach maintenance management and fuel management systems so as to ensure more effective and transparent functioning.
Using RFID devices, it will be easier for Railways to know the exact position of wagons, locomotives and coaches and also the fuel position. Currently, such data is maintained manually, which leaves room for inaccuracy. There will be a progressive shift from periodic maintenance to predictive maintenance of rolling stock by leveraging IT, the official added.
With the introduction of RFID, the issue of shortage of wagons, locomotives and coaches is expected to be addressed in a more transparent and expeditious manner, the official said. IT will also be used for enhancing the security of railway passengers, particularly women.
Provision of CCTV cameras in ladies’ coaches and development of an app for improving the security of women passengers are also likely to be announced. Digitised land mapping is also expected to be part of the Budget proposal.
Creation of a land bank and commercial utilisation of vacant land is the motive behind going for digitised land mapping, the official said. While New Delhi station has already become Wi-Fi-equipped, Prabhu is keen to extend the facility at other major stations. The twin proposals for e-procurement and e-payment are also to be made specifically to promote e-governance in railways, he said.
Bullish on Railway-linked stocks – Also driving investors to the stocks are signs of improvement in non-railway orders and a belief that the financial condition of the companies cannot get worse than this!
मुंबई Mumbai: Ahead of the railway budget, a familiar story is playing out in the shares of companies that manufacture wagons for Indian Railways. Stocks of Titagarh Wagons Ltd and Texmaco Rail and Engineering Ltd are rising on hopes that the forthcoming railway budget will lift the industry from what one company termed in its annual report as a “state of despair”.
Wagon tenders for 2013-14 were released in April last year. For the current fiscal year, they are not yet released, though tenders are expected anytime now. The funds crunch at Indian Railways means orders are not only seeing inordinate delays, but are also shrinking. Against 16,500 wagons in 2010-11 and 18,000 in 2011-12, the railways is targeting to procure 13,162 wagons in the current fiscal year.
The intervening period has seen a capacity build-up, intensifying competition and driving margins lower. As a result, revenues of the companies halved from 2010-11 to last fiscal year. But as hope springs eternal, many expect the forthcoming rail budget to change this. It is expected to lay a road map for modernization and capacity expansion of the national carrier, which could increase wagon orders.
“The rolling stock division of the company is poised to show improved working with the inflow of orders from Indian Railways, ministry of defence and private sector. The impetus to the rail sector by the government is expected to be reflected in the upcoming railway budget,” Texmaco Rail said early this month.
Also driving investors to the stocks are signs of improvement in non-railway orders and a belief that the financial condition of the companies cannot get worse than this. Umesh Chowdhary, vice-chairman and managing director of Titagarh Wagons, told the company is seeing order inflows from private firms after a long hiatus.
The orders may be small, but if substantiated by renewed ordering from Indian Railways, then it can help the companies turn the corner, analysts say. Bigger orders can help the companies increase their capacity utilization levels, which are very low right now. Against a capacity of 6,500-7,000 units, Titagarh Wagons reportedly produced less than 1,000 wagons last year. “While (wagon) prices have already fallen to abysmal levels, the cycle is likely to turn as volumes pick up and competition abates,” Religare Capital Markets Ltd said in a note.
That said, it is important that unlike in the railway budget last July, the coming budget gives details on how the government wants to turn around the railways. Investors will look for proposals that can help the companies improve their revenues over the next year. Disappointments on this front can trigger profit-booking in these stocks, considering that both of them have gained more than 60% from the day the current minister took charge.
On railways, clearly there is sufficient progress on the freight corridor. That apart, the focus of this government has been to move expenditure from revenue side to capex side. From that point of view, Rail Industry do think capital expenditure in railways will be a big thrust area and lot of private players will be able to participate in this entire railways and associated logistics story. So, there is going to be a capex burst for the railway sector and there will be opportunities. Rail Industry shall focus on the relatively front round, well-managed and decent quality companies and there are quite a lot of them in the railway space. So, it does look like a credible place to park your investments in.
Experts opine that “both railway and defence are important space and certainly one will have to look very closely at the individual stocks. Many of the railway stocks have run up ahead of time and valuations are on higher side but the companies are likely to get benefited with higher amount of order inflow coming in from this particular segment.” “The actual impact would happen with a lag of two-three quarters. Therefore, come second half of financial year 2015-16 would see many of the railway stocks would start producing the performance against the expectations that we have at this point. Certainly the market is buying at least a year-year-and-a-half in advance into these companies but this visibility is important and this where market is giving thumbs-up to many of the railway stocks including some of the MNC companies which hold large potential and they are yet to find larger orders coming in. But as and when the sector starts opening up these companies should be getting the lion share out of those orders which would come in. Therefore, the industry would remain positive on railway.” Therefore, to a greater extent industry would believe that there would be inquiries to begin with, orders to begin with but the business would happen with a lag of around two-three quarters but remain positive on them. One will keep looking at individual ideas whenever the market gives opportunity to add them into portfolio into both these spaces, they remain exciting.”
ईटानगर Itanagar: Prime Minister of India Mr.Narendra Modi will formally open the train link to Arunachal Pradesh and also flag off two trains – one a weekly express train to New Delhi, and the other a daily inter-city to Guwahati on his visit to Itanagar on Friday, to attend the 29th statehood day of Arunachal Pradesh – the first Prime Minister of India to do so till date.
Modi is also likely to formally announce work on a proposed 378-km railway line from Missamari in Assam to Tawang on the China border on Friday.
“The prime minister will flag off the two trains, both express trains that will formally put Arunachal Pradesh in the country’s railway map,” said an official of the Northeast Frontier Railway, which has constructed the 21.75-km railway link from Harmuti (Assam) to Naharlagun at a cost of about Rs 400 crores.
But, even as the first train, a passenger train, was informally inaugurated on April 7, 2014 (amid the Lok Sabha elections), it had to be pulled off after strong protests by several student groups which wanted a foolproof mechanism in place to stop ‘outsiders’ from entering Arunachal Pradesh where entry is restricted for only those who obtain an Inner Line Permit. The situation had reached such a stage that while railway employees were threatened, the state government advised the railways “to stop the train running to Naharlagun in the wake of the security problem” on May 8.
“While two of the trains that will now run to Naharlagun are express trains, the Naharlagun-Dekargaon passenger which will also resume from tomorrow will now have coaches in which only passengers with reservation will be allowed to travel,” said the railway official. Naharlagun, which is about 10 kms from Itanagar, the state capital, is located at an elevation of 300 metres above sea level while the railway length into Arunachal Pradesh is only about 11 kms.
The railways meanwhile is also working on three more railway projects in Arunachal Pradesh, a state which shares 1080 kms international boundary with China. “The most important and challenging one is 378-km line proposed to take off from Misamari in Assam through the rugged mountains up to Tawang via Tenga at an elevation of 3048 metres above sea level,” the official said. The other two are – the 249 km North Lakhimpur-Bame(Along)-Silapathar line and the 227 km Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai line.
बंगलोर Bangalore (SBC): RailTel, the telecom arm of Indian railways, has partnered with Cisco to launch a video conferencing platform for government departments struggling to cope with travel curbs, pitting itself against larger rivals such as Airtel and BSNL.
“Government has put a lot of travel restrictions in various states and central government departments as a part of the austerity drive,” said A Seshagiri Rao, Director-Network Planning and Marketing, RailTel Corporation of India.
Shri R.K.Bahuguna, CMD/RailTel lighting up the lamp at the Inauguration Ceremony of Telepresence Services by RailTel. Also seen in the picture are Shri A.Seshagiri Rao, Director (NPM)/RailTel and other officials from Cisco
“We decided to launch the service to help such government departments connect with each other through video and cut down travel costs by at least 50%.
RailTel expects to earn over Rs 100 crore in revenue from the services by 2017. The overall market for enterprise video collaboration in India is expected to cross $150 million by then, according to Cisco.
“We have long been an unknown name in the telecom domain. With this partnership, we are moving up the value chain and would soon launch many other services that can be delivered on our strong broadband network,” Rao said.
RailTel will pay Cisco for telepresence video equipment that it will rent to both government and private businesses, and use its own broadband network – 45,000 km of optical fibre cables running along railway lines and data centers in Hyderabad and New Delhi -for connectivity.
Cisco will also manage a network operations center set up at RailTel’s data center. Both the companies will jointly sell the services to businesses across the country . “We strongly believe that video will play a critical role in a digitised economy , which will push sales for our video solutions in India,” said Sandeep Mehra, country head, collaboration sales, India and SAARC, at Cisco. “Through this partnership, we hope to tap into large opportunities in public sector, education, healthcare market in small cities, where RailTel has a strong presence.”
The company is maintaining its central infrastructure including multi-point bridge, streaming, recording facility and 24×7 help desk facility at its Tier-III Data Centre at Hyderabad. The central PSU is ensuring the high availability of central infrastructure with DR site working in active load balancing mode at Gurgaon.
“Digital India program of Government of India is one of the most important initiatives for the growth of the country and telepresence service will play a stellar role in strengthening the program,” said Puneet Gupta, Managing Director, Enterprise & Public Sector Sales, Cisco India & SAARC.
Indian Railways, Patna High Court and Central Warehousing Corporation have already signed for the platform on a pay-per-use basis.
रांची Ranchi (RNC): Railways sealed a fresh MoU with Jharkhand on 19th February 2015 to complete six long-pending projects by March 2017 and agreed to share 50:50 the revised costs of Rs 5,775 cr, the fallout of which would mean more train links for the state, including at least three new passenger services within a year.
After today’s MoU, signed between Railway Board Executive Director (Works) Mr.Ved Prakash Dudeja and Jharkhand State Transport Secretary Mr.Ratan Kumar, the state government is looking at paying Rs 3,221 crore, of which Rs 2,219 crore it has already cleared.
Now, the Raghubar Das government needs to shell out Rs 1,002 cr.
“Today is a happy day for the state. Railways is a lifeline for both transportation and augmenting economic opportunities. Completion of the projects would pave the way for better networking of the state with other parts of the country,” said Chief Secretary Rajiv Gauba, who was present at the signing ceremony at Project Building along with a host of dignitaries including GM/East Central Railway/Hazipur zone A.K Mittal, Divisional Railway Manager, Ranchi division Deepak Kashyap and revenue and land reforms Secretary K.K.Soan.
Chief Minister Das was, however, absent. State officials said he was busy with the cabinet expansion scheduled for later in the evening today.
The first MoU to complete the six projects, including links between Ranchi and Barkakana, Hazaribagh, Koderma and Lohardaga, along with connections between Koderma and Tilaiya (in Bihar) and Deoghar and Dumka (see chart), was signed 13 years back in 2002 between Jharkhand and railways.
At the time, the projects were to cost Rs 1,997 crore in all and were to be completed by 2007. The state was to contribute 66.67 per cent, while the railway ministry’s share was 33.33 per cent.
A fresh MoU was signed again on February 14, 2012 with a revised budget of Rs 3,771 crore and a fresh deadline of 2013 as the six projects remained incomplete.
The funds sharing pattern was revised to 50-50. Unfortunately, the deadline lapsed again, and the projects were nowhere near complete. Today’s was the third MoU. It stipulates a fresh deadline of March 31, 2017.
Asked about the primary reasons behind the recurring delays, chief secretary Gauba refused to dwell on the past.
“Let us not conduct a post-mortem of the impediments. We have streamlined all hurdles, namely, land acquisition and forest clearances. Now, we are optimistic that the projects will be completed on time,” he told.
Dudeja said he was optimistic too.
“The state government has assured us complete support for timely completion of the projects this time. Earlier, the bottlenecks turned out to be land acquisition, forest clearances and demands of road over bridges (ROB),” he said.
GM/East Central Railway Mittal said Jharkhand could hope to see the operation of three trains soon if railways was able to maintain schedules in some of the key stretches that make up the six projects.
But, he refused to say if new trains would be sanctioned for Jharkhand in the coming railway budget.
“The decision of new trains is the prerogative of the railway ministry. I have given you details of the status of projects and the various possibilities,” he signed off.