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RRB question paper leaks – exam scrapped

Special Task Force nabs two people in Lucknow

लखनऊ Lucknow (LKO): Sad news for all the aspirants, who were gearing up for Railway paper, as it is reported that railway recruitment board examination to be held in Lucknow on Sunday was scrapped after, the question papers were leaked.

Reportedly, just 90 minutes before the exam the question paper got leaked and knowing the fact, the Railway board cancelled the paper.

The Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force have arrested two people in connection with the question paper leak.

The question papers that were leaked, were for the exam of diesel driver was to be held today

This is not the first time when a paper has leaked during Railway examination. Earlier, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a chief vigilance officer of South Western Railway (SWR) and an advocate for being allegedly involved in leaking question papers of the Railway Recruitment Board exams in Bangalore.

The leaking of question papers for Railway Recruitment Board exams are not uncommon.

The latest leak comes just a fortnight after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a chief vigilance officer of South Western Railway (SWR) and an advocate for being allegedly involved in leaking question papers of the Railway Recruitment Board exams in Bangalore.

Karnataka Transport Minister inspects ongoing underground works of Bangalore Metro

बेंगलुरू Bangaluru (SBC):  According to Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy who inspected the project’s progress with BMRCL officials on Saturday said the company has already invited tenders for the work. “The tender process will be completed by December and the work on Phase 2 is expected to begin in January or early February,” he said.  With Phase 1 nearing completion, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) is gearing up to begin the Phase 2 of the Metro train project.

BMRCL MD P S Kharola said that work will be taken on Mysore Road-Kengeri reach first. “We have issued notices to acquire properties. About 5-6 acres of land has to be acquired for the project,” he said.

When asked about the controversial alignment passing through Jayadeva Hospital, Kharola said minor adjustments are being made to the line to limit the land acquisition.

BMRCL hopes to throw open Peenya-Hesaraghatta stretch as the next line on Phase 1. Kharola said the work on the stretch is likely to be completed in the next three months and trials will be taken up thereafter.

“The work on the East-West corridor — from Baiyappanahalli to Mysore Road — is nearing completion. All works, including tunnelling, are likely to be completed by this December and we will begin trials. We hope to commission the line by April- May 2015,” he said.

The North-South corridor, on the other hand, will be ready on by September 2015, due to the slow tunnelling work, especially near Chickpet, the BMRCL MD said.

No Bidders for small railway projects

मुम्‍बई Mumbai:  Bullet trains and diamond quadrilateral networks can wait. They are worth lakhs of crores of rupees. Let’s first talk small – about Rs 34 crore.

Three-and-a-half months back, the Central Railway (CR) issued a tender worth Rs 34 crore to build seven minor bridges that are part of the much-delayed third line between Kalyan and Kasara.

It attracted just one bidder. Before the CR could recover from this disappointment, came the next blow: even the lone was not qualified. The tender was re-issued earlier this week.

“It’s getting tough to execute such projects. Companies are not doing well and hence not keen on spreading their resources thin. Even those firms that have a few works in this range don’t want to take up new ones,” said a senior CR official.

The other reason, he said, is that since the cost of such projects is small, companies outside Mumbai are not keen.

“Setting up infrastructure here to start the work would itself be as costly as the profit to be earned. Hence, several projects are held up and cost keeps escalating,” he said.

The third-line project itself is the best example. CR had proposed the project to the Railway Board in 2009. The cost envisaged then was around Rs 252 crore. It would now need more that Rs 600 crore, the official said.

The Rs 34 crore tender re-issued earlier this week was for the construction of the seven bridges and for the remodelling of a road-overbridge (between Thakurli and Kalyan). Work on the third line on the 67km Kalyan-Kasara stretch can start only when the seven bridges are completed.

The route, with just two lines, is one of the most congested rail stretches in the country. Suburban trains compete with long-distance trains moving towards Nashik and then on to the north and eastern parts of the country. In addition, there are 20-odd freight trains.

CR records show 147 suburban trains run on these routes: 34 to Kasara, 39 to Aasangaon and 74 to Titwala. Also, there are 71 long-distance ones to places like UP, Bihar, Kolkata and the North-East.

Trains on Kalyan-Kasara route
Suburban trains: 147
To Kasara: 34
To Asangaon: 39
To Titwala: 74
Long-distance trains
Departures: 49
Destinations: 71

Wildlife Crime Control Branch seize 62 live Star Tortoises from Dimapur Parcel Office

Dimapur Tortoise racketदीमापुर Dimapur (DMV): The Wildlife Crime Control Branch under Wildlife Division, Dimapur, seized 62 numbers of live star tortoises from the Railway Parcel Office, Dimapur, on July 12.

Officer-in-charge, Wildlife Crime Control Branch, Ailong Phom, who led the seizure informed that the tortoises were found concealed under fruits in two fruit crates parceled from Delhi. In a statement released to the media, OC said that the seizure was made with the active assistance from the personnel of Railways Protection Force posted at Dimapur Railway Station and co-operation from parcel office staff.

Further investigation is on by the Wildlife Crime Control Branch of the State Forest Department along with Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Government of India to ascertain the trade network and apprehend those involved in the trade, the OC informed. The OC also informed that an officer from Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, (WCCB), Government of India, has already reached Nagaland to pursue the case further.

The Indian Star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is highly prized specimen in illegal wildlife trade as an exotic pet due to the beautiful pattern on their shells. The Star Tortoises are found naturally in India in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. They are also found in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The trade in star tortoises is banned under Appendix –II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. The Species is also protected under Schedule IV of Wildlife Protection Act- 1972 which bans its possession and trade.

Did the Metro help reduce air pollution in Delhi?

The Delhi Metro has been operational for over a decade now. Has it helped reduce the high levels of air pollution?

The Delhi Metro, an intra-city electric rail system serving the National Capital Region (NCR), has been operational since December 2002. By March 2012, the Delhi Metro had an operational route length of 167 km.
delhi-metro-map

While a key motivation behind building a mass transit system in Delhi was to ease traffic congestion, it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine that it may have a considerable impact on air quality as well. An improvement in air quality would presumably occur mainly because of the ‘traffic diversion effect’. This refers to the possibility that commuters who were earlier using personal transport such as cars and two-wheelers would switch to the Delhi Metro leading to net reduction in the level of vehicular emissions.
Investigating whether this actually happened becomes particularly important for Delhi because the city is infamous for its high levels of air pollution. On most days between 2004 and 2006, the average levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide exceeded the permissible standards set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Such high levels of pollution raise health concerns for the city’s inhabitants. The adverse effects of air pollution on health such as damage to the central nervous system, worsening of asthma and an increase in infant mortality rates, are well documented. Studies conducted by the CPCB find that high pollution levels in Delhi are positively associated with lung function deficits and with respiratory ailments. S.K Guttikunda and J.S. Apte in their book titled (Monitoring & Mapping Urban Air Pollution: A One Day Experiment in Delhi, India) found that about 10,900 premature deaths every year in Delhi occur due to ambient particulate matter pollution. In light of these facts, it is important to examine whether there has been any significant impact on air pollution in Delhi due to the operation of the metro.
Traffic diversion versus traffic creation

Based on transport economics theories, it is not possible to predict whether the net effect of the Delhi Metro on air quality will be positive or negative. The main argument is that along with the traffic diversion effect, there could be a traffic creation effect due to introduction of a new mode of transportation. The latter refers to new demand for travel generated by a faster and arguably more comfortable mode of transport such as the Delhi Metro. For example, new demand for travel could arise if, facilitated by the Delhi Metro, people decide to relocate to the outskirts of the city to possibly benefit from cheaper real estate prices, and then commute longer distances to work. If part of the increased distance is covered using pollution-intensive modes of transport (such as private cars), then this could negate any traffic diversion effect and could lead to an increase in overall level of pollution.

An added dimension that needs to be considered while studying the net effect is the presence of two coal-based power plants within the city limits that were operational during our study period (2004-2006). If operation of the Delhi Metro resulted in increased capacity utilisation of these plants in order to supply electricity for running it, then this could also contribute to higher overall emissions in the city.
Analysing the link between the metro and air quality

In our study, we examine the effect of the Delhi Metro on air quality using data obtained from the CPCB on four pollutants—nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide, between 2004 and 2006. This data is collected at two locations in Delhi—ITO, a major traffic intersection in central Delhi, and Siri Fort, a residential locality in South Delhi. We obtained hourly data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and relative humidity for Delhi from the India Meteorological Department.

In order to establish a causal link between the Delhi Metro and air quality it is important to compare pollution actually observed in the period after the Delhi Metro became operational with its correct “counterfactual”. This counterfactual refers to the level of pollution in the hypothetical scenario where all other factors that affect pollution remain the same as in the post-metro period, and the only difference is that the metro does not exist in the counterfactual. Any difference between the observed pollution in the post-metro period and the pollution in the counterfactual can then be attributed to the Delhi Metro. To do this, we estimate the trend (pattern over time) in pollution using hourly pollution data over a reasonably long time period which includes the date of extension of the Delhi Metro. If we detect a sudden change in the level of pollution at the date of extension of the Delhi Metro, then we attribute this change to the extension of the Delhi Metro.

Between 2004 and 2006, there were six extensions of the Delhi Metro rail network. At each extension, we examine the time trend for each pollutant separately. We identify the localised, short-term effect on pollution that can be attributed to each extension of the Delhi Metro by conducting this analysis separately for pollution data from the ITO (Income Tax Office) and Siri Fort. Our preliminary analysis shows a reduction in the levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide at both locations. This reduction varies between 24-29% for nitrogen dioxide and between 26-69% for carbon monoxide. For sulphur dioxide, we find an increase of 90% at ITO, and a decrease ranging between 35-89% for Siri Fort. For ozone, we do not find a uni-directional effect even across extensions at a particular location .

Conclusions and caveats

To summarize, preliminary evidence points towards a reduction in the levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Given that both nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are important vehicular emissions, our initial findings suggest that the Delhi Metro has encouraged people to switch from private to public mode of travel resulting in positive effects on air quality in the city. In the light of our findings and given the existing evidence on the adverse health effects of air pollution, these indirect health benefits should be taken into account when urban policy makers contemplate setting up large scale intra-city transportation systems. We provide a rationale for subsidising these mass transit systems, such as the metro or dedicated bus routes, even when the direct costs do not show a net profit. These public transport systems should be considered seriously for other cities that face similar challenges in terms of vehicular congestion and health costs due to pollution.

Two caveats should be kept in mind while interpreting and understanding these results. First, the large number of missing observations in the pollution data makes this analysis particularly challenging. Further examination is needed to ensure that our results are not being driven by the pattern of missing observations. Second, for a few extensions, the magnitude of change in carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide are very large to be driven solely by a traffic diversion effect. Also, ozone is created in the presence of sunlight and nitrogen dioxide through a complicated non-linear process. The results for ozone do not show a consistent pattern in our analysis. In the light of these facts, further investigation is needed to rule out the possibility that our findings are not being driven by chance or poorly measured pollution data.

Deepti Goel is an assistant professor at the Delhi School of Economics.

Sonam Gupta is currently working as an assistant professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida.

This column has been reprinted with permission from Ideas for India www.ideasforindia.in

BMRCL to raise money from the market by floating bonds by July 20

बेंगलुरू Bangalore (SBC):  Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) will raise money from the market by floating bonds by July 20. It will be the first such initiative by a Metro rail corporation in the country. The move had been on hold for over a year due to market volatility.

BMRCL was watching the markets and waiting for the right moment to take the plunge. The budget announcement paved the way for deciding the date to float the bonds.

M. Naveen Kumar, Director (Finance), BMRCL told on Saturday: “We have been in a state of readiness but market conditions had been bad. The bonds are aimed at raising Rs. 300 crore in one tranche, which is sufficient for the time being.”

The other sources of funds are the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); French Agency for Development (AFD); nationalised banks, including Vijaya Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Bank of India; and Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited (HUDCO).

The “total debt component” — bonds and other sources — will account for 41 per cent of the total project cost — Rs. 13,845 crore — of Phase 1 of Namma Metro, which covers 42 km.

Preliminary alignment for Rishikesh-Karanprayag new line project has been finalised by RVNL

रषिकेश Rishikesh (RKSH): Preliminary alignment for Rishikesh-Karanprayag new line project has been finalised by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), a PSU under Ministry of Railways to whom this work has been entrusted for execution. Geo-physical studies and Geological mapping, work of staking of the alignment on ground with concrete pillars, processes for land requirement for yards, tunnel portals, bridge locations, etc. and submission of proposals to State authorities for forest clearance and land acquisition have been taken up.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways Shri Manoj Sinha in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.

Railways to install CCTVs in Ladies’ compartments

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: railway ministry has decided to install Closed-circuit television cameras in ladies’ compartments in phases in order to provide enhanced security to women passengers, the Rajya Sabha was told on Friday.

Responding to a query during the Question Hour in Rajya Sabha, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said, “We will do it phase-wise. We have already decided on this.”

The minister was responding to a question from filmstar-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan on whether the government was mulling installing closed-circuit television in ladies’ compartments.

Gowda also said 4,000 more posts of women Railway Protection Force personnel were being sanctioned to provide enhanced security to women passengers. Besides, eight sanctioned Mahila Vahinis (women RPF companies) would be recruited.

The Railways have a three-tier security mechanism of RPF, Government Railway Police and District Police. RPF supplements the efforts of GRPs to ensure protection and security of railway property and passengers among others.

Replying to a query on security mechanism in railways, Gowda said, “At present an average of 3,275 trains are being escorted by RPF and GRPs. Almost all existing vacancies in RPF are being filled. This will enable us to strengthen existing escorts and to escort another 1,500 vulnerable trains.”

MOSR gives in-principle Approval to 9 Port Connectivity Plans under PPP Model

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railways has given ‘in principle’ approvals to several proposals under its public private partnership (PPP) plan in sectors like port connectivity, elevated rail corridor and coach manufacturing factory.

The 12th Plan had envisaged port connectivities, production units, elevated rail corridor, private freight terminals, procurement of special purpose high capacity wagons and station development among others to be implemented through PPP, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

Besides, high speed corridor, dedicated freight corridor, logistics parks, electric locomotive factory, diesel locomotive factory, rail coach manufacturing factory and certain electoral works are to be implemented through public private partnership.

Railways has received 10 proposals under port connectivity plans out of which ‘in principle’ clearance has been granted for nine, Sinha said.

Forty five proposals have been received for private Freight Terminals and ‘in principle’ approvals have been granted to 22 such proposals and notifications for 19 have been issued, the Minister said.

Approval for 53 rakes has been given under liberalised Wagon Investment Scheme and approval for six rakes under Special Freight Terminal Operators scheme, six rakes under Automobile Freight Terminal and 10 rakes under Wagon Leasing Scheme has been given.

New IRCTC Rail Ticketing Booking Platform Works!

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Looks like the railways is delivering on a promise it made last year. Its ticketing website IRCTC has gotten a lot faster with the new update.irctc

The new update, called Next Generation E-ticketing System, seems to be quite snappy, even during peak hours. Although the new interface isn’t very slick, it seems to be very light.

Function over form seems to be the thinking. That works. I booked a couple of tickets this morning and was able to zip through the site, which would have otherwise taken much longer.

Obviously, the backend has been upgraded to support more users.

There are two captchas on the site, one at the time of logging in and the other after you fill in the passenger details. The second time, it gets a bit irritating. But otherwise, the site works like it should.

We hope the new platform stays up. It will probably take the Gross National Happiness Index a few notches up.

Preliminary alignment for Rishikesh-Karanprayag new Railway line project completed by RVNL

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  Preliminary alignment for Rishikesh-Karanprayag new line project has been finalised by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), a PSU under Ministry of Railways to whom this work has been entrusted for execution.

Geo-physical studies and Geological mapping, work of staking of the alignment on ground with concrete pillars, processes for land requirement for yards, tunnel portals, bridge locations, etc. and submission of proposals to State authorities for forest clearance and land acquisition have been taken up.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways Shri Manoj Sinha in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.

Gorakhdham Express Collision due to ‘Sabotage that led to Failure of Equipment: Railways

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railways today conceded that the Gorakhdham Express mishap on May 26 which claimed lives of 29 passengers, was caused due to ‘sabotage that led to failure of equipment’.

As per the preliminary report of the Commissioner of Railway Safety, North Eastern Circle, the accident was caused due to failure of rail and hence the accident was classified under the category of ‘Failure of Equipment – Permanent Way’, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

Gorakhdham Express collided with a goods train near Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh leaving 29 passengers dead and 74 injured, 16 of them grievously, on May 26.

Gowda said medical relief and rescue teams were rushed to the accident site without delay.

Railways has also announced an enhanced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of deceased, Rs 1 lakh each to grievously injured and Rs 20,000 each to those with simple injury.

In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the grievously injured.

IR to heavily depend on IT & Telecom sector support for NexGen Rail Revolution in India

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  Railway Budget 2014 presented by the BJP Government offers more hopes to the India IT and telecom industry. Setting timelines would have assisted the ICT sector to get more support though the IT spending by railway.

Main beneficiaries of the Railway Budget 2014 would be enterprise networking vendors such as Cisco, Juniper Networks, HP, EMC, Microsoft, Riverbed, and Dell. IT spending will also assist Wi-Fi companies to look for more room for growth in India.

Incidentally, Railway minister did not keep deadlines to take Indian railways to the fast track. The Indian telecom industry guesses that there will not be enough spending during the current fiscal because most of the important measures – related to IT and telecom – are currently in the planning stage.

The Railway minister proposed Wi-Fi-services in A category trains and A1 stations. Though a well planned move, the scope of the work is limited to certain category. Also, telecom operators are yet to gear up to offer Wi-Fi broadband services across A1 stations and A category trains.

Several telecom operators categorically said that they will not invest in projects if they are not viable financially.

Digitization of reservation charts at stations – suggested in the Railway Budget 2014 – is unlikely to improve customer experience if the basic facilities are not upgraded to world class. If stations are not cleaned properly, what is the purpose of digitization? Are Railway officers trained enough to support the new IT revolution?

Working on making railway offices paperless in five years is one of the key developments in the rail budget. First, Railway minister has set a deadline. Second, paperless initiative encourages several PC, laptop and tablet companies to look for a strong Indian market. Microsoft, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, etc. will be the immediate beneficiaries. Will the Railways start kicking off its paperless journey this year?

Will E-ticketing through your mobile phone as well as expanding the scope of online booking create business for telecom and IT companies? The business will depend on the customer experience in the initial phase of roll out.

Currently, online booking from a PC is a nightmare for average Indians. First, you do not have high speed Internet to connect to the railway website. Second, railway site is not accessible during peak hours. Will your smartphone and poor broadband Internet connection from telecoms such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, etc. create bad experience to customers? Are telecoms readying to invest more to take Railway to the growth path.

CCTVs will be installed at major stations in order to keep a check on cleanliness, the Railway Budget said. Surveillance will be a value addition to ensure safety of travellers.

Revamping of the entire reservation system will also encourage investments in IT and telecom. But the Railway budget 2014 does not talk about timeframe for action.

E-procurement will be compulsory for procurement over Rs 25 lakh. Status of ongoing projects will be made available online. Both will ensure that Railway is investing more in IT. Companies such as Dimension Data, Wipro, TCS, HCL, etc. are waiting for the right action.

S.S. Mathur, General Manager at CRIS shares his views of the railway budget, and how it’s going to infuse current IT initiatives with a breath of new life

S.S. Mathur, GM-Corporate Coordination, Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), is very optimistic about the IT initiatives spelt out in the budget.

“The budget is futuristic and practical. It strikes a balance between short-term plans and long-term goals of Indian railways,” he says, lauding the budget as “positive and pragmatic”.

“Gowda has not given a laundry list of initiatives. He has outlined only those initiatives that can be implemented over the next two years,” he says. “These initiatives are not something revolutionary. It’s not a break from the tradition. There is an element of continuity.”

The world is witnessing a communication revolution. Internet and mobility are taking centerstage. And the Indian Railways are keeping up with the times.

“The initiatives are an attempt to set the foundation for information systems that will be at the forefront in the foreseeable future. Armed with these initiatives, we will have our fingers on the pulse of the customer. It sets the tone for a digital and mobile future,” Mathur says.

Ticket to Tech

Talking about the revamp of the E-ticketing system, Mathur said that it addressed a long-standing grievance of customers.

When the E-ticketing system of CRIS struggled with an ever-mounting load, the organization realised that incremental improvement in the system would not save the day. It would need an overhaul of the system.

“That’s when we decided to revamp the system. So there is nothing revolutionary about the next generation E-ticketing system. It’s an evolution aimed at improving the response time for the customers,” he says.

The E-office system is another example of a project that the budget will infuse new life into.

“We have been told that within the next five years all offices of the railways will be put on an information system, thereby reducing a lot of paperwork. This is not something revolutionary, but just a natural progression. However, the pace that it is now expected to pick up is revolutionary. To that extent, it is a reinforcement of the CIO’s vision,” he says.

Regarding the Indian Railways’ Wi-Fi plans, Mathur says that for the past four years the railways had been toying with the idea of providing Wi-Fi to passengers. This is the first time, however, he says, that the government has taken concrete steps in that direction.

The railways has a strength of 13 lakh employees and the E-office initiative will impact over 4.5 lakh supervisors and office workers.

Asked about whether he foresees any change management issues, he says he does not anticipate any implementation challenges in the form of user resistance or organizational culture.

“In this age, there is no resistance to the deployment of modern IT systems. It is just about developing the ability to structure, formulate, conceptualize, and execute large-scale IT systems on such a wide canvas. Acquiring the capacity to do that is the only concern,” he says.

Mathur is, however, cognizant of the fact that the IT-led modernization of the railways will require a Herculean effort, given the size of the Indian railways.

“There is a lot of follow-through that will have to be done, not just for IT initiatives, but also for the other organization-wide technology improvements. The nuts and bolts have to be worked out,’’ he says.

The fund required to execute the IT implementations has to be taken into consideration. “The revenue budget of Indian railways is Rs 150,000 crore. Of that, IT requires less than Rs 1,000 crore. IT’s fund requirements are minuscule of the total requirements of the railways,” he says.

25 Rail Projects announced in previous Budgets pending Govt nod

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  Twenty five railway projects announced in previous Budgets were still pending government’s approval because of huge throw-forward of the ongoing projects and limited availability of funds, Parliament was informed on Friday.

“There are 25 projects which had been included in previous Budgets pending government approval but the same could not be granted due to huge throw-forward of ongoing projects, limited availability of funds and competing priorities,” Railway Minister Sadanand Gowda said in Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

Depending upon remunerativeness, operational requirements, missing links, strategic and socio-economic considerations, projects are shortlisted for government approval normally before inclusion in the Budget.

However, sometimes projects are included in the Budget pending government approval, though physical execution of such projects is taken up only after obtaining the requisite nod.

Gowda said considering the return of revenue, only three projects out of the 25 would be ‘eligible’ for taking up for implementation.

He, however, did not name the projects.

The pending projects would require around Rs 21,000-crore (Rs 210-billion) outlay and these involve laying of some new lines, gauge conversion and doubling of lines.

After ‘Palace on Wheels’, now ‘Unity Express’ to promote rail tourism

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Worldwide Rail Journeys, of Palace on Wheels fame, is now working on an ambitious project to launch a one-of-its-kind train named ‘Unity Express’, in order to promote rail tourism in India.

India has a great potential for rail tourism. It has already got one of the largest railway infrastructures in the world. Making use of this existing infrastructure, rail tourism can be promoted in the entire country in a large way. It can also boost the economy immensely.

“The inspiration for this ambitious project is derived the recent General Election. It shows that even though there is diversity of ethnic cultures as you travel the length and breadth of India, the people are united by shared ties of belonging to one great nation. We plan to launch the ‘Unity Express’, which will take global tourists across the diverse map of India,” said Manish Saini, the director of Worldwide Rail Journeys.

“This will be a luxury train with luxurious coaches and the best-in-class services aboard. Rail coaches will be decorated as per the themes of Indian states like Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal etc. We welcome people from across the world to take a royal trip aboard this train of unity and travel in a style befitting Maharajas. Each region of India has a distinctive culture, reflected in its language, lifestyle, attire, music, art and cuisine. Aboard this train, guests will get to experience the cultural tapestry of India,” Saini elaborated.

The journey has been planned in such ways that when the train arrives in any state, guests will be treated to local cultural shows involving folk traditions, dine on the best regional dishes and visit notable landmarks.

“We are planning to tie up with a premier hotel chain to help guests sample regional culinary fare as we pass each state,” added Saini. “For now, the plan is to package it as a 21 days trip, covering the length and breadth of country.”

Each coach of the ‘Unity Express’ will have separate well-appointed cabins. The air-conditioned train will have a dining car, a lounge, and attendants for each guest to ensure their comfort. The ‘Unity Express’ is in the planning stage and Worldwide Rail is finalising the itinerary, duration of the tour, the important stops and experiences in store for guests.

Booking is on first-come-first-serve basis. At present Worldwide Rail is in talks with leading luxury train operators and government officials, from both state governments and the Centre to make this ‘Unity Express’ tour a reality in the near future, possibly before the end of this year. Worldwide Rail Journeys has invited also corporate partners to join hands with them in this ambitious project.

However, in the meantime, in order to promote the ‘Unity Express’, the company has decided to ply an existing luxury train – ‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’, on a chartered basis as ‘Unity Express’ on November 2015. In the long run, a dedicated train will be launched as the ‘Unity Express’.

Rs.1000 Crore for Development of Rail Connectivity in the North Eastern Region

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  With a growing global demand for organic food, North Eastern States will benefit from development of commercial organic farming, the Minister added.

The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced some major initiatives for North Eastern States and the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana while presenting the General Budget for 2014-15 in Lok Sabha today. In his maiden budget speech FM Shri Jaitley said, Rs.100 crore is being provided for development of organic farming in North Eastern States in the current financial year. With a growing global demand for organic food, North Eastern States will benefit from development of commercial organic farming, the Minister added.

The Finance Minister proposed a sum of Rs.1000 crore for development of rail connectivity in the North Eastern Region over and above the amount provided for in the interim budget.

Shri Jaitley said, in order to provide a strong platform to rich cultural and linguistic identity of the North-East, a new 24×7 channel called “ArunPrabha” will be launched for the expression of cultural identity and for creating greater awareness of the richness of the diversity of our country.

The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also announced that his Government is committed to addressing the issues relating to development of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the AP Re-organization Act, 2014. Provision has been made by various Ministries/Departments to fulfil the obligation of Union Government for both the states.

Budget 2014: Kochi Metro Rail gets Rs 462 Crores

Kochi Metro Rail project has got an assistance of ₹462.17 crore in the Union Budget. The allocation is the same as per the interim budget presented on February 17 this year has been retained in this Budget also.

Of this, ₹233.43 crore will be given as equity contribution, ₹66.95 crore towards interest free subordinate debt and ₹161.79 crore towards pass through external assistance (Loan) from Agence Francaise De Developpement (AFD).

Kochi Metro’s fund utilisation requirements would be significantly more this year, and we had requested for ₹878 crore for this financial year to meet our commitments. KMRL is hopeful that the Union Government will consider our request and enhance the budget allocation for enabling us to meet our project commissioning targets, said Elias George, Managing Director, KMRL.

Now Bangalore goes for Co-Branding: Namma Metro invite tenders

बेंगलूर Bangalore (SBC): Metro rail stations will soon have announcements on reputed product brands, along with those of arrival and departure of trains.

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has invited tenders from companies to co-brand with Namma Metro. Not only this, commuters will be greeted by banners of the brands, along with information signage at the stations.

To start with, the BMRCL has invited applications for Trinity station and subsequently will extend the facility to other stations.

However, contrary to the bids invited for MG Road station which is for establishing retail shops, co-branding will only allow the name of the brand to be put up, not the products.

Revenue Generation

Recently, Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu had suggested the BMRCL officials to utilise the Metro station premises for commercial purposes to earn revenue.

With this move, Namma Metro will be in league with the Delhi Metro, which earns a large part of its income through co-branding, advertising, retail outlets and eateries at its stations.

BMRCL Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola told, “It is a good way to earn non-traffic revenue. We will start with Trinity station for co-branding and MG Road station for advertising and retail outlets. After the completion of Phase I, the initiative will be extended to other stations.”

Tenders

According to BMRCL officials, Namma Metro is offering exclusive co-branding privileges for the company to be selected through tenders, by positioning the partner-company’s name and logo alongside the numerous Metro information signages at the road level, the concourse area and platforms.

With this, every time commuters enter or exit the stations, the partner-company’s name and logo are noticed well.

Each time a train arrives on the platform, the partner-company’s name will be part of the announcement. A space will be provided within the station to set up a kiosk to promote the brand.

Download the Tender Document Here: COBRANDING

Chandigarh Metro Rail project hits roadblock over PPP model

चंडीगढ़ Chandigarh (CDG): The much delayed Metro Rail project for Tricity has hit another roadblock, this time due to objections raised by Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator Shivraj V Patil.  Sources said Patil has opposed the public-private partnership (PPP) model for the project, suggested by the Ministry of Urban Development.

This has come in the way of finalising a memorandum of undertsanding which Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and the Ministry of Urban Development have to sign to jointly develop the project. Recently, the MUD had sent a reminder to the Administration, seeking comments on its draft MoU which proposed the PPP model.

Due to the disagreement over the issue, the Administration has not even sought comments of Punjab and Haryana. Sources said that the MUD might seek the opinion of the two states on its own, rather than wait for the Chandigarh Administration to do this.

The proposal for Metro Rail has failed to make any headway after the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation submitted a detailed project report a year and a half back.

The DPR proposed two corridors in the tricity: an east-west corridor from Grain Market in Panchkula’s Sector 21 to Transport Terminus in Mullanpur, and a north-south corridor from near the Capitol Complex in Sector 1 to Gurdwara Shaheedan in Mohali.

According to the DPR, the first phase of construction was to start in April 2013. The cost of the 37.57 km project was then Rs 10,900 crore. Obviously, the cost has since gone up.  The MUD favours the PPP model because of the high cost. The Administrator, however, wants that either the government should bear the entire cost or the project should be given into private hands.

The Delhi Airport Metro line is cited as an example of failed PPP projects. A Planning Commission working group on urban transport for the 12th five-year plan had also rejected the PPP model for developing of core urban infrastructure, especially the metro.

However, there are others who believe a project like the metro cannot take off without the PPP model. Former railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said, “The metro cannot be funded just by the states, there is a need for investment from the private sector and the PPP model should be followed. There is a need for the metro here to connect areas beyond the tricity region. Chandigarh is bearing the pressure of the adjoining areas. A metro would prove beneficial.”

Chandigarh has a vehicular population of around 10.07 lakh. Apart from this, there is rush of vehicles from the adjoining areas. Traffic congestion is on the rise. Several modes of public transport have been discussed over the years, but there is no clarity so far.

An Analysis of Railway Budget 2014-15

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda’s 2014-15 budget, which was pre-empted by fare and freight hikes last month, has three big messages to offer: consolidation, limited populism, and expansion largely with private investment. The big vision ideas – bullet trains and a diamond quadrilateral of high-speed rail networks – have been outlined, but their execution is likely to stretch over years, and will substantially depend on foreign investment.

The key policy change is thus the proposal to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in railway projects and an expansion of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to new areas. The first bullet train proposal – between Mumbai and Ahmedabad – could cost all of Rs 60,000 crore and which will need a completely new set of tracks can clearly not be funded without foreign participation. The diamond quadrilateral will need track upgradation to raise train speeds to 160-200 kmph, but even this will call for massive foreign and private investment. It can be taken up in phases – and the process has been begun in this budget with some nine sectors receiving the green signal.

Gowda’s speech can broadly be divided into two parts – a holding operation to stop the drift of the last 10 years; and a big-vision part that will need policy changes to materialise. The first part of his speech thus focused on a diagnosis of the railways’ ills, followed by some tentative short-term remedies, and ending with some dream items for the future. It is actually a responsible budget without too many populist flashes, and one has to wait for his second budget in February 2015 for the recommended policy changes to start moving the railway system towards the future.

Diagnosis:

Gowda essentially said that past railway ministers were fooling the public by announcing new projects without intending to finish them. Keeping passenger fares low effectively ensured that the railways lost freight business.

Justifying the 14.2 percent fare hike that took effect from 25 June, which drew considerable political flak, Gowda pointed out that passenger fares were so low that freight hikes needed to be more than what the traffic could bear. The net result was a drop in rail freight traffic’s market share. On the other hand, losses per passenger km (the cost of moving one passenger by one km on the rail network minus the revenues) had more than doubled from 10 paise to 23 paise between 2000-01 and 2012-13. Clearly, “the tariff policy adopted lacked a rational approach.”

Gowda also clearly indicated that past railway ministers were fooling the public with populist projects which they never intended to complete. “There has been a focus on sanctioning projects rather than completing them.” In the last 30 years, of the 676 projects sanctioned at a cost of over Rs 1,57,883 crore, less than half were completed, and completing the remaining half and more will require a further Rs 1,82,000 crore. Another statistic: in the last 10 years, only one of the 99 new line projects worth Rs 60,000 crore undertaken was completed. This means all of UPA’s railway ministers, from Lalu Prasad to Mukul Roy to Pawan Bansal, were busy pulling wool over the public’s eyes. When projects drag on indefinitely, the investments are essentially dead investments.

Short-term remedies:

Among the many things Gowda proposed was to limit new trains and projects and focus on completing existing ones; improve the operating efficiencies of the railways from 94 percent to 92.5 percent to generate more internal resources; and raising passenger and freight rates periodically depending on fuel prices (coal, power and diesel, all of which may rise in the near future). So another fare and freight hike before the next budget cannot be ruled out.

Of the 58 new trains being introduced, there are more in the premium (five), AC Express (six) and Express (27) categories which attract higher fares, and just five Jansadharan (unreserved) trains and eight passenger trains, among others. The mix is thus moving towards higher fares.

With these measures, and expecting economic growth to pick up, Gowda has budgeted for higher revenues of Rs 1,64,374 crore in 2014-15 and total expenditure of Rs 1,49,176 crore. Freight traffic will grow 4.9 percent to 1,101 million tonnes and passenger traffic by a small margin.

The short-term remedies clearly focus on raising revenues by periodic increases in fares and freight and keeping a tight rein on expenses. The only internal sources the railways have are their captive companies like CONCOR, IRCTC (the ticketing company) and various coach and locomotive companies that generate surpluses. Gowda has proposed that these companies’ surpluses can be used to build railway infrastructure.

Most railway shares were flat or down after the budget as they saw no new resources flowing to the sector in the short run – only plans to conserve resources and use the resources of public sector units on long-term projects.

New initiatives and resources:

The railways, despite announcing a hike in the plan outlay by Rs 9,383 crore to Rs 47,650 crore in 2014-15, are essentially doing little more than upgrading safety and tracks, improving station cleanliness, building more manned level crossings, improving e-ticketing services, and such routine work. Beyond cosmetic projects like offering food courts and wifi on trains, there clearly isn’t much money left over for Narendra Modi’s big-ticket projects – bullet trains, the high-speed diamond quadrilateral projects, and the Sagar Mala plan to connect railheads to ports. This needs additional resources from private and foreign parties.

What this means is that future growth will come only from private and foreign resources – for which the policy network will have to be evolved between now and the next railway budget.

Among the things Gowda proposed were seeking cabinet approval for promoting private investment in rail infrastructure – both domestic and foreign – and a shift in emphasis to higher funding through public-private partnerships (PPP). Gowda said that the “bulk of our future projects will be financed through PPP mode, including the high-speed rail which requires huge investments.” PPPs have not been successful in the railways so far, and if this is to work in future, clearly the policy framework has to be extremely investor-friendly. That is the challenge for Modi and Gowda over the next six months.

Corporatisation and PPP:

The one thing which could have brought in oodles of cash he did not announce is corporatisation of the railways or its zonal networks. Or the handover of railway operations to private parties. But he did throw hints that the zonal railways could be empowered to finalise PPP projects through BOT (build, operate and transfer) projects to augment capacities on congested routes. He said: “We will interact with Industry and take further steps to attract investment under PPP through BOT and annuity route and 8 to 10 capacity augmentation projects on congested routes will be identified for this purpose. Zonal Railways will be suitably empowered to finalise and execute such projects.”

Gowda’s message to India is thus simple: I am cutting my coat according to the cloth. In future, we have to buy the cloth from private sources. We don’t have the money to do it all for ourselves.

eCommerce players welcome Railway Minister’s move to set up logistics support

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: Ecommerce players have welcomed railway minister Sadananda Gowda’s move to set up logistics support for them, as it would offer them an alternative to the expensive air cargo that they now rely on for delivery.

In his first rail budget on Tuesday, the minister had said the railways would extend “logistic support to various ecommerce companies by providing designated pick-up centres at identified stations.” Rail cargo could be up to 45% cheaper than air-cargo, according to distance and volume, as per industry estimates.

“The initiative is certainly a positive move forward for the ecommerce industry,” said Rohit Bansal, co-founder of online marketplace Snapdeal. “The extension of this mode of transport to the ecommerce industry will further ascertain timely and faster delivery of orders to consumers.” Bansal, whose firm is targeting sales of about Rs 6,000 crore this fiscal, said it would also lower costs, which meant that “customers can get their products at even better prices”. The company’s third-party logistics partners at present use airlines to transport 95% of Snapdeal’s orders. The industry is waiting for clarity on what “pick up centres” mean.

“Will this be for end-customers to pick up or for ecommerce sites?” asked an ecommerce entrepreneur, who did not want to be identified.

But industry insiders said the initiative will help propel the $2.3 billion (Rs 13,760 crore) industry forward. “This is a strong recognition of the importance of the ecommerce industry’s ability to provide value to consumers in India,” said Samuel Thomas, Amazon India’s director of transportation. The global ecommerce major launched India operations a little over a year ago.

So far, ecommerce companies did not use railways due to issues like delays and pilferage. “They could use a judicial mix of road-rail and air to improve fulfilment while reducing the cost of delivery,” said Manish Saigal, managing director at advisory firm Alvarez and Marsal.

Companies have already begun discussing such possibilities. “We can set up a collections and returns centre at stations,” said Praveen Sinha, cofounder of Delhi-based fashion portal Jabong. “We can consolidate orders and book as cargo on trains which could then be picked up directly.”

Amazon India’s Thomas said this will work well especially for daily train commuters “who can pick up their packages as soon as they deboard the trains at their regular stations.” Dedicated ecommerce logistics companies are also planning fresh services for their e-tail clients.

“It will also help us offer a separate product offering to our clients, giving them an option of a cost-effective alternative of using the railways for transporting shipments between cities, though the delivery might be delayed by a day or two,” said Sanjiv Kathuria, chief executive of logistics company DTDC’s ecommerce arm DotZot.

DG/CISF inaugurates Special Ladies Frisking Enclosure at Pragati Maidan Metro Station

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: The Director General of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Shri Arvind Ranjan in the presence of Director (Operations)/DMRC Shri Sharat Sharma today inaugurated a special ladies frisking enclosure at Pragati Maidan Metro station and also inspected the security arrangements and preparedness of the staff in dealing with the passengers on day to day basis.

This new type of frisking enclosure is a first of its kind for ladies in the entire Delhi Metro network which is designed in such a way that two women can be checked/frisked at the same time and thus, paving the way for faster checking and movement of female passengers without waiting in queues, especially during peak hours.

More such type of frisking enclosures for women are planned to be installed at some of the major metro stations like Rajiv Chowk, Kasmere Gate, Karol Bagh, Central Secretariat etc.

Impact of Rail Budgets on Indian Stock markets over the years

Similar to the Union budget, announcement of the Indian railway budget too is known to have a positive or negative effect on the Indian Stock market.

On 8 July, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda presented the rail budget. In tune with it, the Indian stock indices traded lower after surging for a few hours. The Sensex opened higher by 66.84 points at 26166.92, while Nifty also hit higher by 14.45 points at 7804.05 points during opening session. But, the index recorded its biggest single day fall in over 10 months during closing hours.

In the past too, budgets have had an impact on Indian stocks. The table below represents the history of Indian rail budgets from 2006, which had a direct impact on the value of Indian stock indices on that particular day:

RLDA to develop Theme Parks, Resorts in 20 Hectares Land of Rlys at Bushi Dam and Thane

मुंबई Mumbai: Profits generated from leasing out two plots, which measure over 10 hectares each, will be used for infrastructure and new rail projects on CR.

The Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), which deals with commercial exploitation of Railway property, is freeing up two plots in Thane and Lonavala, for setting up of resorts and theme parks.

The two plots include the popular Bushi Dam at Lonavala, where the Railways own 10.12 hectares of land, and a 12.82 hectare plot that houses Dighe Dam on the Thane Belapur Road.

The Delhi based RLDA has called for expressions of interest from hotel chains and establishments that own and run entertainment parks and picnic spots, who would be interested in taking up these plots on lease.

“The two plots at Dighe Dam and Bushi Dam will be given for commercial exploitation. We have called for bids from hotel chains and entertainment parks for setting up of theme parks and resorts here,” RLDA General Manager Virendra Kumar told. “The places will be developed and the money earned will go to the CR kitty, as both these properties are located on Central Railway.”

Bushi Dam is one of the most popular picnic spots in Lonavala, which a number of people from Mumbai and Pune flock to on weekends and especially during monsoon. It belonged to the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, and is now part of Central Railway’s property.

“After receiving proposals, we will evaluate the revenue that can be generated from commercial exploitation of these plots, and lease them out for periods of 30 to 45 years,” said Kumar.

“Both these properties face water bodies. In fact, there is no major resort in the Thane-Navi Mumbai region, and the 13-acre plot at Dighe Dam offers huge potential. Being in close proximity to Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli and Navi Mumbai, a resort here will surely attract huge crowds. Interested parties could also construct an IT park or offices, since it is close to the IT hub in Navi Mumbai,” another Railway officer said.

Besides these two properties, the Railways are offering two more properties for development in Kerala. These plots involve 5.66 hectares at Peermade and 5.5 hectares on Pallanthurthi Island.

The profits generated from these ventures will be used for infrastructure and new rail projects on Central Railway.

Can the Proposed ‘Tech Overhaul’ refurbish Indian Railways?

The rail budget wish list reflects due thrust on technology but its success will ultimately be defined by the execution plan

There are snags here and there that people face as they try to avail rail services both online and offline and then there are pieces of technologies to fix them. Rail budget seems to be banking hard on those technologies to renovate the overall experience of Indian rail. The wish list encompasses a slew of areas that rail ministry plan to deploy technologies on in coming days—from next generation e-booking to real time tracking of train to GIS mapping.

We spoke to industry people and found them upbeat but wary. Because tech has a life cycle that calls for a strict governance for users to actually benefit from them. So, no matter how much you plan to invest on technology, if you don’t govern them right, users will speak ill of them.

The technology initiatives outlined in the rail budget would bring in transparency and greater efficiency in the system, for sure, if implemented successfully. The list of measures proposed is actually much awaited to drive a holistic transformation of the organization.

Some of the initiatives proposed are about passenger amenities while others are meant to strengthen internal functioning of the Indian railway. Prior to presenting the budget, the railways have also announced their debut on Facebook and Twitter which is a good beginning.

We spoke to industry experts after the formation of the new BJP government on how the new government should leverage technology across healthcare, education and curbing corrupting and the responses were overwhelming. You can read the stories.

Some of the proposed IT initiatives

  • Revamping railway reservation system to nextgen e-ticketing
  • Future e-ticketing to support 7200 tickets per minute and to allow 120,000 simultaneous users
  • Real-time tracking of trains and rolling stocks, mobile based wakeup call system for passengers, mobile based destination arrival alert.
  • E-procurement, made compulsory for procurements worth Rs 25 Lakhs and more
  • GIS mapping and digitization of railway land
  • Extension of logistics support to various e-commerce companies

Improving the e-ticketing capabilities
IRCTC ticketing system is a largely used online service by users. It’s time, the ministry should embark on improving the system capabilities to enable next generation e-ticketing for users to book tickets right from their mobile phones and is proposed by railway minister Satyananda Gowda.

The system will improve its e-ticketing capabilities to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against 2,000 tickets per minute and allow 1, 20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time, said the minister. This is a big leap. Gowda also said that the railways will move towards going paperless in five years.

Constant monitoring, governance needed
R Chandrashekhar, president of Nasscom says on his blog, “the thrust on technology initiatives in the railway budget are a welcome step to improve efficiency, modernization, customer satisfaction and access.”

“Leveraging technology makes a nation stronger and secure”, says Murali Ramalingam, Country Manager, Ixia. “It is a welcome move and one amongst many steps towards making Indian Railways ‘world class’,” he adds.

shijo-joseph-head-it-gujarat-gas-We also spoke to IT managers to know what they think about it and here is what they have to say.

While the budget is ambitious on tech front, lots of improvement are required for Indian railways to transform. “I think the railways need to work on basics.

They really need to work on improving the user friendliness of the systems for users to actually benefit from,” says Shijo Joseph, Head IT, Gujarat Gas Ltd.

anirban-chakraborty-dgm“The wish list sounds great but I  think implementation and careful monitoring is more important,” says Anirban Chakraborty, DGM & Head, Future Group.

“You implement something great and people don’t use it does not make sense.

There are lot of other things involved in it like creating awareness, providing support, ensuring users participation and monitoring as part of the governance,” says Anirban.

Pune metro plans rest on Centre’s vision

पुणे Pune: The Pune metro project got no specific mention in the Budget. But there is hope as it did say that metro rail systems, including light rail systems, have been useful in decongesting large citiesm

“For two million plus cities, planning of metro projects must begin now. The government will encourage development of metro rail systems, including light rail systems, in the PPP mode, which will be supported by the central government through viability gap funding,” said finance minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the BJP government’s first budget.

In February, the UPA government had accorded an in-principle approval for the elevated Pune metro plan which includes two corridors – PCMC building to Swargate and Vanaz to Ramwadi, covering a total distance of 31.51 km. The Centre was expected to issue a government resolution (GR) about the next action and other details for the project. However, nothing concrete has come up.

The metro may be in the shadows, but the standing committee of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) last month, approved the light rail project. The train route has been planned from Shivajinagar to Hinjewadi with 21 stations in between. It will cover 21.60km, of which 6.35km will be in Pune city areas. It will be elevated as well as along the road.

A Japanese company has given financial support to design the plan and will also prepare a detailed feasibility report. The train aims to connect core city areas to locations with high concentration of information technology companies.

Standing committee chairman Bapusaheb Karne said that the PMC will pursue the metro and light rail project with the state and Centre.

Member of Parliament Anil Shirole said he will take up the metro project with the government and ensure that it is launched soon with amendments.

He added, “It would be inappropriate to implement the metro project without rectifying the mistakes in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation report. Experts have pointed out the flaws in the report and we will ensure that the required amendments are made. We are not against the metro, but we will not accept in its present form.”

Railways to consider hike in Insurance Cover for rail mishap victims: says Ram Naik

मुंबई Mumbai: Senior BJP leader Ram Naik on Thursday said that Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda has assured him that the demand for increasing insurance cover to victims of train accidents would be positively considered.

Naik said he and Mumbai North MP Gopal Shetty met the Railway Minister in Delhi on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum on demands and suggestions regarding railways.

“The minister said the demand for increasing insurance cover for victims of railway accidents would be considered,” Naik stated.

Presently, Rs 4 lakh is given as insurance to the family of the railway victim upon death. Other victims get insurance cover in proportion to their injuries.

“These amounts were decided way back in 1997 and no revision has been made in the last 16 years. Looking at the hiked cost of living we urged upon the Railway Minister to increase these insurance amounts appropriately. He readily agreed to consider,” Naik said.

Naik and Shetty also submitted the memorandum on behalf of Railway Claims Tribunal Bar Association Mumbai.

They told the minister that the post of judicial member at Railway Claims Tribunal, Mumbai is vacant since last two years and the decisions are given only by the technical member of the Tribunal.

Complainants often feel that their cases are not considered judiciously. The Railway Minister assured the duo to fill the vacancy at an early date.

Naik, a former Railway Minister himself said issues related to Mumbai Suburban Railway were also discussed with Gowda.

They urged him to publish “white paper” on Mumbai suburban Railways to which the Minister assured to consider the demand.

Rail Budget 2014: High on intent, short on time-defined plans

Consistent with high expectations of the new government, it was hoped that rail budget 2014-15 would indeed chart a new direction, delineate a bold plan, as envisaged in President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to Parliament, for a radical restructuring of Indian Railways, which is not merely an important infrastructural behemoth, but the nation’s lifeline.

However Railway budget constituted a litany of familiar platitudes instead — firstly an epitaph of the institution of a separate rail budget itself, and secondly a crisp description of the vision for IR to be an infrastructural bulwark for the economy. Bristling with contradictions and uncertainties, the budget, no doubt high in intent and a reminder of the enormity of responsibilities devolved on IR, falls far short of time-definite action plans.

There is an endemic gridlock in railways, a broken asset. Teetering and faltering, IR continues to wallow in the pernicious dynamics of status quo, whose potential remains to be unlocked by bold political leadership and a dollop of capital. If that potential was unleashed, IR could puff hard and add some 2% to India’s flagging economic growth.

While alluding to IR’s plight of “how revenue was frittered and investments were misdirected”, Gowda implied that no organisation can afford to get stuck in time, history or geography. No doubt the last two have been decades of disaster, letting IR slip, afflicted by the twin scourge of ministerial profligacy and technocratic pusillanimity, preventing IR from following simple business norms of optimally pricing its services and judiciously restructuring investments.

Why should government feel shy of radical initiatives? Why should new good money chase old bad investments? Why carry forward the unsustainable overburdened shelf of projects, some languishing for decades, including unviable throw-forwards, some of them of 1974-75 vintage?

IR needs to sprint. Just jogging will at best keep it where it is. Traffic for rail has been smothered; capacity crunch has been endemic. IR now moves only 10% of the country’s passenger traffic and less than one-third of its freight. As the National Transport Development Policy Committee has just revealed, the non-optimal intermodal distribution owing to IR’s declining share in the transport market causes a loss of 4.5% of GDP to the national economy. Most expert bodies have argued for IR to achieve an optimal 50% share in country’s freight market by end of 15th five-year Plan.

Minister Gowda referred to “structural reforms” of the Railway Board. Ever since the birth of Railway Board, IR structure has remained much the same — hierarchical and feudal. Operational silos have eroded IR’s energy and vitality. The present departmental structure results in compartmentalisation and concomitant ills.

Even with 12,000 passenger trains carrying 23 million travellers daily, IR has only 10% market share of country’s passenger business, which keeps shrinking. It needs to substantially expand and modernise its infrastructure, stations, pre-board and on-board services. It must urgently upgrade its wherewithal well ahead of the completion of exclusive freight corridors to ensure 10-12-hour journeys on the 1,500 km Delhi-Mumbai/Delhi-Kolkata Rajdhanis (as envisaged 50 years ago), and three-hour travel on Shatabdis covering 400-500 km routes.

A clear imperative for IR is to create capacity and accelerate asset velocity with proactive maintenance rather than reactive repairs, attempt to leapfrog by piggybacking on new technologies along with new genre managerial ethos, redimension freight and passenger businesses which too must be segregated for appropriate focus, earn much more and save as much, generate substantial investible surpluses through increased volumes, dynamic pricing, substantial downsizing, and pare down unit cost of operation.

Over 10% of the existing rail and road network capacity can be unlocked by upgrading existing assets, ensuring a zero failure of fixed and mobile assets. With many zonal administrations recently added on the system, IR, like China Rail did in 2004, is well advised to opt for empowered stations, depots and centres functioning directly under the zone, removing the intermediary divisional layer.

Rail budget rightly emphasised the dilemma IR faces — of “tightrope walking by balancing” conflicting objectives of a commercial enterprise and social obligation. IR must shed the ambivalence inherent in its perceived role of a departmental undertaking with public service obligation and instead have an unambiguous commitment to being a corporate entity with inalienable responsibility to carry the nation’s freight and passengers efficiently and economically. It must drastically prune concessions and subsidies, continuing only those that genuinely reflect corporate social responsibility.

Railway minister has relied heavily on PPP for IR’s ambitious development schemes. Private capital has been hard to come by. It is incumbent that IR identifies and addresses all organisational and institutional deficiencies inhibiting PPP. There is little justification for IR to continue to commit its scarce resources to in-house manufacture of much of its rolling stock and other equipment, when these have failed to modernise and have fallen steadily behind commercially operated alternatives. Its moribund research and development outfit is similarly in need of immediate revamp and reorientation.

Modi sarkar must not miss the train. As an old patient, IR has had plenty of prescriptions, but continues to resist bitter medicines. The recent electorate mandate has been for a radical, swift restructuring, not merely mundane, incremental changes, for real spring-cleaning, not mere window-dusting.

Rs.100 crore sanctioned for Lucknow and Ahmedabad Metro Rail development

“For two million plus cities, planning of metro projects must begin now. The government will encourage development of metro rail systems, including light rail systems, in the PPP mode, which will be supported by the central government through viability gap funding,” said finance minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the BJP’s first budget

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  In a major push to the Metro Rail network , Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech on Thursday highlighted the importance of reaching out to all “two million plus cities” for decongesting them. He also set aside a sum of Rs. 100 crore in the current financial year for two new Metro projects in Lucknow and Ahmedabad.

Mr. Jaitley spoke about how Urban Metro Projects have proved to be very useful in decongesting large cities. “For two million plus cities, planning of Metro projects must begin now.

The government will encourage development of Metro Rail systems, including light rail systems in the public private participation mode, which will be supported by the Central government through the Viability Gap Funding,” he said.

With this the Centre appears to have decided to use the Metro as a tool of rapid and planned urban development. Earlier, only three million plus population cities were considered for Metro projects.

As per Census 2011, there are 19 cities with two million plus population.

Rail Budget 2014 not clear on Fund requirements to reach Targets: India Ratings & Research

High on Promises, Low on Design, says India Ratings & Research

New Delhi:  While the Railway Budget 2014-15 talks about India trying to be the largest freight carrier globally and identifies alternative funding requirements to achieve this target, it does not state a clear strategy to meet these requirements, says the report.India Ratings & Research.

Alternative ways proposed to finance railway operations include encouraging private sector participation through public-private partnerships, leveraging railway public sector undertaking resources and allowing foreign direct investment (after Cabinet approval) in the rail sector.

The passenger and freight tariffs were raised in June 2014 and the budget estimates operating surplus to increase to 9.1% in FY15 (FY14: 6.5%). Two proposals of the rail budget – transporting fruits and vegetables by air conditioned trains and milk by special milk tankers – can provide some comfort in controlling runaway food inflation.

Another area that received attention was connectivity to the North-Eastern region. Despite acknowledging the fact that growth of the sector depends heavily on the availability of funds for investment in rail infrastructure, borrowing by the Indian Railway Finance Corporation Limited is pegged at only INR117.9bn.

Ind-Ra believes for large infrastructure projects with a long gestation period, public equity along with strong supervision and control is the best alternative. We believe the announcement of bullet trains and diamond quadrilateral for high speed trains are all statements of good intent and will take a while to come true.

French Cos. show keen interest in India’s Bullet Train project

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: With the announcement of bullet train several companies from France are keen on taking up the project.

Railway minister Sadanand Gowda had announced in his Rail Budget on Tueday, July 8, that a bullet trian would be run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Not only this the Centre had also announced foreign direct investment into the railways sector. Following this a number of French companies have come forward to participate in the project.

The government had unveiled these plans in the Railway Budget, 2014-15 presented in Parliament on Tuesday.

Some of the French firms which have evinced interest in the proposed high-speed rail project include SNCF, Alstom and Veolia. “We have participated in the construction of the Delhi Metro and are doing consultancy for the ongoing Mumbai and Bangaluru metro projects,” French mobility and logistics major SNCF Senior Vice President Philippe Lorand said in Mumbai on the sidelines of an event on Wednesday.

“We would also like to participate in the high-speed train project too, if given an opportunity,” he added. Lorand is a part of a 28-member French business delegation which visited Mumbai to explore business and investment opportunities in India.

The company is present in the country through its four subsidiaries namely AERP, Geodis, Keolis and Systra.

After completing the renovation of the CST railway station in Mumbai, SNCF is now looking at investing in the renovation of other railway stations in the country like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Amritsar, he said.

Alstom Transport’s representative also said that it would like to enhance its presence in the country by participating in more railway projects.

At present, the company has a presence in infra and services projects such as Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore metro railway projects. “We would like to become partners in the modernisation of Indian railways and bring it to international standards,” Alstom India Transport Managing Director Bharat Salhotra said.

SAIL bags two RVNL contracts for supply of Rails worth over Rs.650 Crores

भिलाई Bhilai (BIA): Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) has bagged contracts for supplying over 1.17 lakh tonnes of rails by bidding successfully for two global tenders floated by Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL) for major upcoming passenger rail line projects in the country. The total value of the two contracts is over Rs.650 crores. Domestic as well as global rail manufacturers had participated in the tender.

Based on the guidelines of Asian Development Bank, the funding agency for the projects, RVNL had issued global tenders to get the best prices from the best supplier with prior experience of supplying rails with high quality specifications. RVNL is a special purpose vehicle created by the Government in 2003 for development and implementation of projects pertaining to strengthening of the Golden Quadrilateral and port connectivity.

SAIL will supply 106,600 tonnes of UIC 60 kgs/m rails and an additional 10,740 tonnes of IRS 52 kgs/m rails to RVNL for four important passenger carrying railway line projects connecting Hospet-Tinaighat, Daund-Gulbarga, Titlagarh-Raipur and Sambalpur-Titlagarh. The schedule for supply of the high quality (Grade 880 Class A) rails by SAIL would be completed within 18 months from the date of award of contract.

SAIL’s flagship Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), which has been supplying rails to the Indian Railways since its inception, specialises in production of long rails and has installed various ultra-modern processes to meet product specifications of global standards. SAIL fulfills the Indian Railways’ entire requirement of close to 7 lakh tonnes of rails annually.

BSP, the sole supplier of 260-metre-long rail panels to the Indian Railways, is gearing up to meet all future requirements of the Railways, including head-hardened rails, as part of its ongoing Rs. 17,265-crore modernisation & expansion programme. Work is progressing rapidly at BSP’s new 1.2 million tonne per annum capacity Universal Rail Mill designed to produce world-class rails that would enable SAIL to roll out the longest single-piece rails in the country. BSP’s new Rail Welding Mill which is equipped to produce 260-metre long rail panels has a future provision of manufacturing 520-metre long welded panels as well.

Vizag’s famous Multi-cut Egg Artist Shankar aspire to join Railways

multicut Egg locomotive replicaविसाखपट्नम Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Though the Railway Budget – 2014 is a “big disappointment” for people of North Andhra and the Visakhapatnam region, a replica of a locomotive made by multi-cut egg artist Silaparasetty Durga Shankar is sure to become a big draw.

Shankar, hailing from the city, has been involved in the art since 2001. He made the replica of the first locomotive that chugged out of Visakhapatnam on October 1, 1894. He used eight emu egg shells and four hen egg shells, ice-cream sticks, ball pen refills, and some fancy items to make the locomotive.

“I spent around Rs.8,000 for making the locomotive as the emu eggs are costly and, while cutting, many shells develop cracks and go waste. I used egg shell for the brake shoes, engine door, and caps. Some of the decorative items, shaping liquid and gumming material are expensive,” he says.

10VZVISKREG1EEGA_1139238e“I have learnt the art on my own during my spare time and perfected it over a period of time,” says Mr. Shankar, who works in a private firm.

He has produced over 100 art works with egg shells. These include models of motorcycles, musical instruments, car and snake.

A replica of the cricket World Cup grabbed the attention when he placed it on the Internet, and a model of ‘Eega’ (housefly), the popular Telugu film by Rajamouli (Makkhi in Bollywood), won the appreciation of the ace director himself.

He was invited to participate in the Poultry India Show organised at Hitex, Hyderabad, in 2012.

He had designed the logo of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) with shells. His art works, displayed at the show, won the appreciation of visitors.

HY09EEGA_1138140eShankar’s plea:

Shankar’s father Harishandra Rao retired from the Railways as senior electrical lineman in 1998.

Being the eldest son, he aspired to join the Railways and support the family.

He had been appearing for the Railway Recruitment Board examinations, but luck had not favoured him so far.

“In 2012, I received the hall-ticket after the examination on June 10, thereby depriving me of a chance,” he says.

He hopes the Railways would provide him a chance to work as a multi-cut egg artist by giving him a suitable job.

Rail Budget 2014-15 much more than ordinary Maintenance Budget: Equity Market Analysts

Railway Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda has presented Railway Budget 2014-15 on 8th June in the Parliament.  Increased passenger amenities, more safety measures, timely completion of projects and increased financial discipline are the main highlights of the Railway Budget.

Commenting on the rail budget, Prashanth Tapse, AVP Research, Mehta Equities said, “We see this budget was much more than an ordinary maintenance budget because of time limitation and due to paucity of funds. It was the first rail budget under the Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi, and Government needs more time to work out the real blue print to change the face of Indian railways.”

“We liked the thought on FDI in railway and PPP models approach which will act as game changer strategy for railways going forward, but this has to be looked upon for more details after govt give a clear blue print,” he said.

“Railway minister has also given a practical approach in focusing on completing ongoing projects with limited funds, which if implemented will boost the railway revenue respectively.”

“We expect some more announcements in the coming weeks and will be important to understand the ideology and road map of Modi lead Govt,” he opined.

Focus on Amenities/Safety/Project completion/Fiscal discipline are positive signs: ICICIdirect

नयी दिल्ली New Delhi:  Railway minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday presented the Railway Budget 2014-15. Increased passenger amenities, more safety measures, timely completion of projects and increased financial discipline are the main highlights of the Railway Budget.

Commenting on the rail budget, ICICIdirect said, “The Railway Minister presented the Rail Budget 2014-15 with a thrust on improving the structural agility of Railways as an organization by proposing to separate policy and operational functions of the Railway board. In addition, the budget focused on improving passenger amenities along with safety.

Keeping fiscal discipline in mind, the railway stayed away from announcing new projects and instead stressed on consolidation and implementation of the work in hand. Infrastructure creation also received a thrust as FDI and public private partnership will take centre stage due to lack of internal resource generation and government funding. In addition, the railways intends to digitize its vast land assets to raise resources for development.

The budget is broad based in its approach as it focuses on multiple objectives such as implementation of existing projects, more safety measures and better passenger amenities along with focusing on infrastructure.

These objectives are expected to be met through a combination of structural reforms like separation of functions of the railway board, using technology as a lever to drive internal and external efficiency and funding these developments through FDI, land monetization, PP route, etc. All these bode well for the railways, which has failed to live up to the economic expectations of the populace, over the years.”

India’s Railway reforms on modern track: opines Rathin Basu, MD/Alstom

rathin alstomThe Rail Budget is a step in the right direction. It recognises the urgency to improve execution by prioritising key projects instead of spreading limited resources across an unmanageable number of projects. It squarely gives a strong thrust to the use of Information Technology to provide better quality of service to customers. Opening the railways to foreign direct investment is welcome — it will provide the much needed push to the cash-strapped sector as well as foster creation of world-class rail infrastructure.

Bold steps

The Government’s proposal to fund big-ticket projects such as high-speed railways via public-private partnership mode and the allocation of ₹100 crore is certainly a positive step towards modernisation of the railways. Having said that, considering that the transport elasticity of demand with respect of the GDP is in the range of 1.25 to 1.5, the target to increase freight traffic by 50 million tonnes seems rather short of the demand. While some steps have been announced to increase passenger revenue, limited initiatives have been unveiled to improve the top line of the Railways.

While the decision to segregate the policy formulating Ministry of Railways from the Indian Railway Board is a good first step towards restructuring, the Government will need to take bold steps to ensure that a modern structure is put in place to ensure that the overall vision for transformation of Indian Railways as the key driver of India’s growth story is realised.

Safety first

The High Level Safety Review Committee (Kakodkar Committee) set up by the earlier Government had provided a number of key recommendations related to modernisation of railways. It is imperative that immediate action is initiated on these. Some initiatives such as implementation of ETCS-Level 2 need to be implemented on a war footing to improve safety levels. Similarly, the railways needs to upgrade its technology in locomotives as well as passenger rolling stock, beyond the LHB coaches supplied by Alstom, which technology is over 15 years old.

Alstom India is well-equipped and keen to provide modern technology in signalling, locomotives and high-speed trains to actively participate in the growth story of the Indian Railways. If the railways are to fully benefit the economy and the society, the Government will have to bring in more money, including private and foreign investment. In this regard, we feel the Government’s reform agenda is on the right track.

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