Cess of 3 percent on fares for Safety & Speed, 10 EMU sets for faster link among metros likely in Rail Budget

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s maiden Budget on Thursday is likely to give a major thrust to “speed and safety”. Mr Prabhu is expected to unveil a safety cess of three per cent on fares as well as a plan to import 10 EMU sets for faster connectivity among metro cities.

With the Rail Budget prepared under the close watch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government is likely to make a pro-poor outreach too, and introduce “Bharat Gaurav AC Express trains”, with fares less than regular AC-3 ones, sources said. It is also likely that at least five more Sampark Kranti Expresses will be announced for Bihar, where Assembly elections are due later this year.

Prabhu may unveil a proposal to lay a new rail line linking Delhi and Agra, exclusively for passenger trains catering to tourists and commuters of the extended NCR region, sources said.

The Rail Budget may propse the import of 10 EMU train sets from Japan, to be deployed for faster passenger services on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai, Chennai-Bengaluru and New Delhi-Chandigarh sectors, the sources said. These trains will be able to clock up speeds of upto 150 kmph, and the Railways hope to run trains on these three routes at around 135 kmph without any major track changes, the sources added.

The Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, is likely to get a major manufacturing unit for safety equipment, that could give direct employment to 1,000 people and indirect work for 10,000 more, sources said.

On safety, Mr Prabhu is likely to unveil a dedicated all-woman security force within the Railway Protection Force to ensure better protection for women on trains. Ladies’ coaches on trains could get a “panic button”, which if pressed would send alerts to loco-pilots, guards and the police.

With train mishaps increasing in recent years, suggesting errors by loco-pilots, Mr Prabhu is considering a plan to make train engines airconditioned. Also, Mr Prabhu may announce a proposal to decongest Mumbai by shifting the Western Railway and Central Railway headquarters to Ahmedabad and Pune respectively. The New Delhi-Anand Vihar connectivity is also on the cards, the sources said.

Interview with Dinesh Trivedi, former Union Minister of Railways on ensuing Rail Budget 2015

‘The government must understand that the Indian Railways is like a Kamdhenu cow. It can look after your GDP, it can look after the health of the nation. But the Kamdhenu cow also needs nourishment.’

‘You have not at all looked after the Indian Railways, you have ill treated the Indian Railways, you have mistreated the Indian Railways and you have given the Indian Railways step motherly treatment.’

‘I don’t think this government has understood the Indian Railways.’

Dinesh Trivedi, former Union Minister of Railways

Dinesh Trivedi, former Union Minister of Railways

Dinesh Trivedi is a rare politician – ever smiling, talkative, someone who has defied identity politics so prevalent in India, of caste, region and language.  A Kutchi Gujarati, he has achieved the impossible feat of getting elected from Barrackpore, West Bengal’s minority-dominated constituency where more than half the population is poor.

As India’s railway minister Trivedi made his mark in a brief period which brought him in direct confrontation with his party leader Mamta Banerjee who forced him to resign after he presented the Railway Budget in February 2012.

There is ample rumour in New Delhi that Trivedi will soon leave the Trinamool Congress, the party he co-founded along with others under Banerjee’s leadership.

Perhaps to pre-empt the possibility of Trivedi joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, Banerjee recently appointed him party vice-president.

In an exclusive interview to a media, Dinesh Trivedi discusses the challenges confronting Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu who presents the Railway Budget in Parliament on Thursday, February 26.

What kind of Railway Budget is coming our way? What are your expectations?

I would like to wish my friend Suresh Prabhu all the very best. The task which he has before him is such that only Prabhu can help Prabhu.

What I understand — of course, I am not privy to the Budget — looking at the health of the railways, I think it is in a huge crisis. I think it is going to go the Air India way.

I have always maintained that our political system has not understood the strength and power of the Indian Railways. The establishment has not even understood a simple thing — that the Indian Railways can add 2.5% to the GDP.

Without the Indian Railways you cannot even contain inflation because it handles transportation of goods. The railways are a great part of our total infrastructure. It is a very, very, difficult task before Suresh Prabhu.

What is coming our way? Can you help us guess?

My guess is very simple. There is no Budget.

Why?

For a Budget you need resources, and there are no resources available with the government.

There is no way you can increase fares and there is no way you can increase freight charges. Why do I say that?

Because the moment you increase let us say the freight charges because for so long you have been subsidising passenger fares from the income of freight, the elasticity of freight has been stretched to its total limit. Now if you increase freight charges, goods will go by road.

Similarly if you increase passenger fares, people would prefer to go by bus wherever possible.

So in effect, increase of fares or freight charges will reduce total revenue. I hope people understand this.

Don’t you see the Narendra Modi effect on the railway ministry?

I don’t think the government has understood what the Indian Railways are all about.

What is the Modi effect on the ministry?

I think we should give them a little time. We should be patient enough to find out what is going to be the effect.

One thing is very clear: Whatever you invest today is like a seed is to a plant, which then becomes a tree and bears fruit.

The process is going to take ten years. Whatever investment I made in the 2012-2013 Budget, the effct of it is coming now. You see much lesser accidents and incidents.

What elements must be in the Budget for you to term it a good Budget?

If you want to check the health of the Indian Railways, if you want to know the barometer of its health, the barometer of the health of the Indian Railways is its operating ratio.

What I was trying to do was to bring it down to 84 from 95. In five years, I want to bring it down to less than 74. In other words, in order to earn 100 rupees, you have to invest 74 rupees.

When I took over, in order to earn 95 rupees, you had to spend 100 rupees. Now in order to earn 100 rupees, you have to invest 105 rupees. So you are bankrupt.

The railways has no accounting system, so you can do jugglery. It has no accounting system. Nobody knows precisely which activity is giving you profit, which is not giving you profit.

It is like Modi ka Dukaan (grain shop), paisa aaya, paise ko dalle mein rakha idhar kharcha kiya udhar kharcha kiya (Money is earned, kept it in the treasury box, spend it here and there). You can’t make out which unit is giving you profit. So they can always adjust accounts their way.

There is something known as budgeted expenditure, what is happening in the future. Budgeted estimate is what all of us know. We never talk about the actual budgeted expenditure.

I have to see how much money the system would have to spend for development. So if you have new lines, you have doubling of the lines, you have got new routes, then it means something.

This is the money you would spend for development. There is a fixed expenditure which you would give for salary, you have to give it for maintainance, pension and stuff like that.

The actual development fund in the 2012-2013 budget was Rs 8,000 plus crore (Rs 80 billion plus). In the last budget, it was only Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion).

If you really want to replace all your old assets, maintain all your assets, repair all your assets, you may require Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 150,000 crore (Rs 120 billion to Rs 150 billion). now you have only Rs 300 crore.

The mischief is that there is the budgeted estimate, then comes the revised estimate and then comes the actual (expenditure).

If you are talking about Rs 300 crore as the budgeted estimate of your development fund, the actual must be much less than that. So this is a sign of bankruptcy. We are going the Air India way…

What are the big ideas for the Indian Railways?

I am not trying to pat my back, but I must say the Railway Budget is not a one year affair. I was very fortunate that in the year 2012-2013 it coincided with the 12th Five Year Plan.

So I said in my Budget speech that I am not making a budget for one year, I am making it for five years. And what I expect in 5 years is certain things which I listed out.

The railways has few sections. Number one: The tracks. Two: Rolling stocks which means coaches, wagons, locomotives. Third: The signal systems. Forth: Your bridges. Fifth are the assets all over India in form of stations. There is nothing much beyond these.

You have to spend money on these five. All five are priority, but at the moment if I have to spend a lot of money, I would spend a lot of money on signalling.

Why?

Signalling needs to get modernised. Most of the accidents are because of our system of signalling. Signalling should be directly connected through your modern braking system.

Supposing a locomotive pilot jumps a red light, even if he applies the brakes or not, the brakes automatically get applied like we have in the Metro.

It is not rocket science. We have done it and a lot of things were imported during my time and in a lot of places it is already working. Once we have modern signalling at all places, we will be much efficent.

Take the simple example of airlines and airports. Maybe about 15, 20 years back between two aircraft they used to keep a lot of space. Now it is like bumper to bumper traffic at airports. One aircraft lands, then another lands, then another, and everything you know goes on smoothly. It is because of modernisation of equipment.

Similarly in the railways you have to keep a gap of two kilometres between two trains. At any given point in time, between this two km band nothing happens.

If you modernise this, then it is almost like bumper to bumper. Then you have alert systems — if you have a train ahead of you, it automatically stops. These are things that are required.

Why does it take time for things to take shape in the Indian Railways?

Because we have not understood it. The establishment, the various governments have used the railways as a political tool. That if you support us, we will give you the railways.

Railways have always been used as a carrot, and not as a national asset. I think we have done a total disservice to the nation by using the railways as a bribe.

?How do you compare the railways with other ministries?

The railways is one of the best organisation in the world. The railways are like the army and the general of this army is the minister.

The minister is like god for the well-knit railway family. The minister can change the colour of the train, the minister can change the name of a station, the minister can change the direction of the train.

He is like god and that is our weakness in the system. I have always said that we have politicised the Indian Railways.

Are your hopes on the higher side or the lower side?

I have no hopes at all!

The last time I had mentioned that Sadanand Gowda’s Budget was a lost opportunity. This time, there is no opportunity at all. I am afraid the doctors have not understood the disease.

What do you think of the plan to introduce bullet trains?

The Sixth Pay Commission is knocking at the door. It may take some Rs 70,000 crore plus (Rs 700 billion plus) from the system. Then, the burden of additional pensions. Where are you going to get that kind of money?

The government must understand that the Indian Railways is like a Kamdhenu cow. It can look after your GDP, it can look after the health of the nation. But the Kamdhenu cow also needs nourishment.

If you tie the Kamdhenu cow and you don’t feed it and expect that she looks after the country, it doesn’t happen.

You have not at all looked after the Indian Railways, you have ill treated the Indian Railways, you have mistreated the Indian Railways and you have given the Indian Railways step motherly treatment.

I don’t think this government has understood the Indian Railways. We talk about bullet trains. First get your infrastructure in order, strengthen it.

The bullet trains are a great idea once you are strong. It is like you have a disease, but you want to use cosmetics on the face.

First be strong, the rest will come automatically. The priorities have to shift.

Does the Indian Railways have the werewithal to implement the idea of bullet trains?

The Indian Railways can do anything. Right form a gangman to a boardman, they are the most knowledgeable people. They are the best people you can get. But I am afraid, since the railways is going to go the Air India way, the best brains that used to come to the railways, the first class rankers, the engineers, are not coming now. So what you are getting, increasingly, is average talent.  In the long run, you are going to have a lot of problems in terms of maintainance, in terms of safety. (Courtesy:  Rediff)

Jubilant FoodWorks gains on tie-up with Indian Railways

VolkerStevinनोएडा Noida: Shares of Jubilant FoodWorks gained as much as 3 per cent in the opening trades on Wednesday after the company said that it has tied up with Indian Railways for delivering pizzas to commuters in trains.

The passengers can now order a pizza right from their train seat by placing order online or via phone call. The tie-up could open up a new and untapped market for Domino’s Pizza which is the flagship brand of the company.

The plan is in the pilot stages and initially the services will be made available on Delhi to Jaipur route.

Jubilant FoodWorks opened at Rs 1,685 and touched high of Rs 1,714 in the opening trades. At 9:50 AM, the stock was up 2.3 per cent at Rs 1,704.

Jubilant FoodWorks Limited is a Jubilant Bhartia Group Company. The Company was incorporated in 1995 and initiated operations in 1996. The Company got listed on the Indian bourses in February 2010. Mr. Shyam S. Bhartia, Mr. Hari S. Bhartia and Jubilant Enpro Private Ltd. are the Promoters of the Company.

The Company & its subsidiary operates Domino’s Pizza brand with the exclusive rights for India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and is largest and fastest growing food service company, with a network of 844 Domino’s Pizza restaurants (as of February 05, 2015). The Company is the market leader in the organized pizza market with a ~70% market share in India (as per Euromonitor data published in 2014).

The Company launched Dunkin’ Donuts in India in April 2012 in Delhi. The Company has 50 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in India (as of February 05, 2015).With the launch of Dunkin’ Donuts in India, the company is now well poised to address two distinct non-competing segments of the Food Service Industry in India, namely the home delivery of Pizza’s market and the all day part food and beverage market.

Dunkin’ Donuts is the world’s leading Donuts, baked goods and coffee with market leadership in Donuts, regular/decaf drip coffee, iced coffee, hot flavoured coffee, bagels and muffin categories.

Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) in India is positioned as a Food Café, occupying the sweet spot between Cafés and quick service restaurants. DD serve a wide range of Donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend drip coffee; Espresso coffee based beverages such as Cappuccino and Latte, Milkshakes, Smoothies, Iced Teas, as well as a delectable range of Burgers, Wraps, Sandwiches and side-bites. Each Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant is designed with care and brings alive the brand’s International, youthful, colourful and playful brand personality. The restaurants offer its young guests a great ambience to catch up with their friends and family in a relaxed and comfortable environment. And yes, Dunkin’ also serves the world’s best Donuts.

Rail Minister likely to Unveil a dedicated all-Woman Security Force within the RPF

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu may unveil a proposal to lay a new rail line linking Delhi and Agra, exclusively for passenger trains catering to tourists and commuters of the extended NCR region, sources said.

The Rail Budget may propose the import of 10 EMU train sets from Japan, to be deployed for faster passenger services on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai, Chennai-Bengaluru and New Delhi-Chandigarh sectors, the sources said. These trains will be able to clock up speeds of upto 150 kmph, and the railways hope to run trains on these three routes at around 135 kmph without any major track changes, the sources added.
The Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, is likely to get a major manufacturing unit for safety equipment, that could give direct employment to 1,000 people and indirect work for 10,000 more, sources said.
On safety, Mr Prabhu is likely to unveil a dedicated all-woman security force within the Railway Protection Force to ensure better protection for women on trains. Ladies’ coaches on trains could get a “panic button”, which if pressed would send alerts to loco-pilots, guards and the police.
With train mishaps increasing in recent years, suggesting errors by loco-pilots, Mr Prabhu is considering a plan to make train engines airconditioned. Also, Mr Prabhu may announce a proposal to decongest Mumbai by shifting the Western Railway and Central Railway headquarters to Ahmedabad and Pune respectively.

Will Rail Budget 2015 lay Roadmap for raising Rs.182000 Cr. needed to complete 359 pending rail projects?

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: With Railway finances under terrible strain, all eyes will be focused on whether Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will hike the fares and freight rates in the Rail Budget on Thursday which may contain proposals for ‘Make in India’ initiatives besides enhancing safety and security.

Minister of State for Railway Manoj Sinha had earlier ruled out a reduction in fares in the context of lowering of diesel rates but Prabhu is expected to make a tight rope walk as he tries to bridge the huge gap in finances while presenting his maiden budget in the Lok Sabha.

Prabhu is likely to unravel his grand plans of how to decrease the cross-subsidy for passenger service from freight earnings, which is touching Rs 24,000 crores, and the steps to increase goods transportation share in the national transporter with or without hiking fares.

For 10 years before 2012-13 there was no increase in rail fares. Then Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi had made an across-the-board hike in 2012-2013, but was made to roll back the hike in second and sleeper class categories.

Since then there have been hikes in passenger fares. In the first Railway budget of the Modi government in last July, fares were increased by 14.2 per cent and freight by 6.5 per cent.

Though there is a decrease in diesel price, electricity cost has gone up by over four per cent making it a balancing act for the fuel adjustment cost (FAC)-lnked tariff revision policy adopted by railways since 2013.

Currently there are 676 projects worth Rs 1,57,883 crore sanctioned and out of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs 1,82,000 crore. Considered a reformer, Prabhu may lay the roadmap for attracting private investment for the public transporter, which badly needs funds for completion of many crucial rail projects.

Given the funds constraints, he is likely to go slow in announcing new trains and projects in the budget. Funds allocation will be made only for those projects including new lines which are strategically crucial, doubling and route electrification which are nearing completion, the sources said.

Besides seeking increased gross budgetary support of about Rs 50,000 cr for the 2015-16 fiscal, railways have
sought Rs 20,000 cr from the Finance Ministry as railway safety fund to do away with unmanned level crossings, a major reason for train mishaps across the country.

Prabhu will announce joint venture mechanism for implementing projects involving state governments and other external agencies. As the railway minister has stressed on improvement in passenger amenities before increasing fares, there will be a series of measures including utilisation of CSR funds to improve amenities at rail premises.

Prabhu is expected to focus on tapping more revenue channels and could announce some innovative ways for raising
resources through non-tariff methods like increasing revenues from advertisements and leveraging surplus land among others.

In line with the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign, Rail Budget is likely to give special attention on cleanliness exercise
and a slew of measures like provision for dustbins in all coaches besides proposal to cover 100 more trains under ‘On Board Housekeeping Services’. Bio-toilets in trains and stations will be covered under the Clean Train Station Scheme.

Keeping with the NDA government’s bullet train promise, high-speed train project between Mumbai-Ahmedabad and survey programmes for the proposed diamond quadrilateral route. The budget could also announce the much-awaited plan to procure 20 train sets for operating on the Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes to reduce travel time.

The budget is likely to announce plans for manufacturing coaches to run at a 200-km per hour speed at its Chennai
facility in keeping with the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Redevelopment of about 100 stations, leveraging empty spaces for construction of marketing complex and othercommercial projects are also on the cards. Introduction of AC rakes in the inter-city services to make the journey more comfortable will also be proposed in the Rail Budget 2015-16.

Manufacturing of many locomotive components like cranks shaft, alternators and forged wheels will also be proposed to be undertaken indigenously instead of importing these parts from outside as part of ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Prabhu, in his bid to make the railways disabled-friendly, is likely to make a proposal to provide for Braille signages in all new coaches to facilitate vision-impaired passengers.

Customer satisfaction will be a focus area of this year’s Rail Budget as a series of steps including air- conditioning of Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains for inter-city services and noise reduction in diesel locomotive cabs are likely to be proposed, the sources said.

In order to promote north-east connectivity, Prabhu will also announce introduction of DEMU services in north eastern states as a national project. Since many premium trains with higher fares have been introduced to boost revenue collection, the railways will undertake an exercise for upgrading of coach interiors including redesigning user-friendly toilets.

National Institute of Design (NID) is likely to be roped for redesigning the interiors of coaches. 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 public transporter 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.

The Railway Minister is likely to spell out plans for joint venture mechanism for implementing projects involving state governments and other external agencies. A committee led by former Banking and Financial Services Secretary D K Mittal, constituted by Prabhu, has already submitted recommendations for the new fund raising and revenue models like running of trains like Haldiram Express, Coca Cola Express.

Use of solar energy in a big way, launching of waste-to-energy project and proliferation of CNG in train operations are some of the green initiatives likely to be announced in the Rail Budget this time. Besides an elaborate exercise of water conservation including setting up of water recycling plants will also be announced by Prabhu in his budget address on February 26. According to sources, the coming Rail Budget will have detailed action plan consisting of long and short-term measures.

EXIM Boost: CONCOR preferred on improvement in Rail Infra, Higher Volumes

मुंबई Mumbai: Recently, the Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) stock has seen sharp gains on strong December quarter results and expectation of a favourable Railway Budget. Given the company’s vast infrastructure across the country, any impetus to projects such as the dedicated freight corridors will lead to jump in rail transport volumes and benefit the company.

Analysts say the government’s efforts to improve rail infrastructure, especially dedicated freight corridors, and the ‘Make in India’ push will help shift some volume from the road to the rail sector. Any progress on this front in theRailway Budget and better execution will benefit companies such as CONCOR in the medium term, says an analyst at a foreign brokerage firm.

concor indexThe stock’s recent gains have also been due to the company’s ability to pass on rail haulage charges and maintain pricing power. After a price rise in December 2014, the company could announce another next month to offset the increase in haulage charges. The pricing power results from the company’s dominance in the container transport segment (it has 75 per cent market share).

For the stock, the key trigger has been the uptick in export-import (EXIM) volumes in the December quarter. The Exim segment, which contributes 77 per cent to its revenue (the other segment is domestic business), grew a healthy 12 per cent, helping revenue grow 17 per cent year-on-year during the quarter. The price rise in the December quarter, as well as better margins, meant Exim segment realisations were the highest in about four years. At 20 per cent, annual growth in net profit was above expectations, owing to higher proportion of double-stacked operations and price increases. Analysts say the company’s performance in the Exim segment is likely to sustain in the coming quarters, with the management confident of maintaining volume growth in this segment in FY15 at 12 per cent.

Volumes in the domestic business, however, continue to be sluggish. Higher haulage charges (paid to Indian Railways) and diversion of some capacity to the better-performing Exim segment led to a 11.3 per cent fall in domestic volumes, with revenue declining five per cent year-on-year.

concor growthThough a smaller part of CONCOR’s business segments, the higher haulage charges (despite a fall in fuel prices) and a shift of some traffic to the road sector are impacting the company’s performance.

This is also reflected in the margin in the domestic business, which is at a four-quarter low of 5.3 per cent, while the Exim margin is 24.6 per cent.

The domestic business is expected to record volume growth of about three per cent in FY15.

Due to a better Exim performance and an expected price rise in March, analysts have increased their FY16 earnings estimate for CONCOR by about five per cent. At the current price of Rs 1,596, the stock is trading at 22 times its FY17 earnings estimate.

While the potential gain from these levels appears marginal, given the target price of Rs 1,670, investors will have to wait for a better entry point and a longer holding period to make money on this mini-Navratna company.

Overhaul ‘Freight Charging System’ to make IR more Profitable: says Yatish Rajawat

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Chartered accountant Suresh Prabhu has many advantages over previous railway ministers. The most important one being he does not have to satisfy the demands of state or a constituency. In the past, the portfolio of railways was given to alliance parties who would use its vast budget to announce populist schemes, ensure jobs for vested interests and investment.

None of the railway ministers saw the potential of the organisation as an infrastructure owner and its role in driving the economy of a country. The railways has the potential to drive the economy by making it possible for businesses to get their products to consumers, raw materials to the factories and moving people in a cost-effective manner.

To move people in a cost-effective manner means not making losses or profits. This should be the stated goal particularly for commutes up to 100 kms. This does not mean the metro but the intra-city commute. For tourism, the services should be better and should target profits on a seasonal basis. The railways has already started a variable pricing option in this regard.

There is also a large migratory passenger traffic that moves from the east to the north and west of the country. This is agriculture labour and has to be facilitated and protected from inflationary impact of fare hikes. So the passenger fares need to be kept low. A logistic algorithm that factors in traffic and seasonal movement of labour need to be used for dynamic fare pricing. Currently, the fares are based on demand and supply alone.

Until now, the norm has been to increase freight rates so that passenger fares can be discounted. This needs to be done in a more nuanced manner. It should neither be done away in a jiffy, nor should it be the stated goal. Freight fare calculation and making profit on it should be the responsibility of divisional railway managers (DRMs). One just needs to look at route planning and time taken on tracks to check the efficacy of a DRM. If the time on the tracks is longer or the route taken is longer, it shows poor planning by the DRM.

I had earlier suggested that the railways need to change the way it charges freight. Currently, it is on the basis of the shortest route to the destination not on miles or kilometers travelled. However, several CAG reports have pointed out that congestion on high-traffic routes indicates that the shortest route is rarely taken. Freight rates need to be recalibrated in such a manner that every booking is profitable and the customer gets a rate that is always lower than road transportation.

Currently, profits on freight are divided on a zonal and divisional level through apportioning of route travelled in these zones. This is an old way of accounting and reduces accountability for making freight profitable. Internal adjustments are made to share freight revenues between regional heads. Every booking has to be profitable and higher share of the revenues and profit should be given to the centre that makes the booking. Reducing the total time a freight booking is on tracks is important both for customers and the railways.

Currently, profit on each booking is not known and there is no incentive for a zone to send the traffic through the shortest route. Freight traffic is the first one to be diverted in case of congestion. This mindset has to change and will do so only if it is measured how long does a freight train takes to clear a zone and what improvements have been done on timings. This does not need a very sophisticated system, GPS systems used by small fleet owners already do this.

The basic issue is not that profits of the railways need to be derived from passenger fares but how can freight be made more profitable. Currently there is a gap of Rs 24,000 to Rs 30,000 crores. The railway minister has already indicated that he may not announce large number of trains or new projects. Though it would be interesting to hear a project update report on Sadanand Gowda’s announcements in the last budget.

A major organisational reform was to split the project management and operational responsibility within the railways. Gowda had announced it in his first and last budget for 2013-14.  How this has been implemented by the Railways is very important. As it was one reform that faces the biggest resistance from the railways’ own bureaucracy. Project management is where contracts and tenders are awarded and this is where corruption resides.

(K. Yatish Rajawat is a Senior Journalist and Policy Commentator)

Railways to remain ‘Vibrant Lifeline’ for National Growth: says Dolat Capital

मुंबई Mumbai: Dolat Capital interacted with Arunendra Kumar, Ex Chairman Railway Board. It Indicates, major capex plans for Railways over medium term. “Railways: New Lifeline for Growth!”, says the report.

FDI is now allowed in 10 sectors in railways. Railways had an expenditure target of Rs.60,000 Crore in the current financial year. The sourcing is as follows:

  • Budget allocation: Rs 30,000 Crore
  • Loans: Rs 15,000 Crore
  • Railways internal resources: Rs 15,000 Crore
  • PPP: Rs 5,000 Crore (so far, this has not taken off as per the expectations of the government).

Given the projects that are under execution, the department has a capability of undertaking an annual expenditure of Rs 1,10,000 Crore. However, due to paucity of funds, it’s expenditure is restricted to Rs 60,000 Crore. The government is aware of this scenario and hence is encouraging private sector for incremental investments through PPP route.

The terms and conditions of the contract are more private-sector friendly. Earlier, railway contracts were more hegemonic in nature, leaving no bargain for the private sector. Now realising the importance of private investments, the railways have become more equitable in their dealings with the private sector.

PPP model in railways can be designed by varying one of the four key components; Land, Laying, Ownership and freight rebate.

The Central Government is also working on a State-wise SPV model. Herein, the GOI and state jointly undertake the project, both in terms of capital investment and execution.

Railways have projects that have long gestation period over 7 years. This restricts railways’ ability to raise debt from market, as servicing could become an issue in the interim.

There are two locomotive factories (assembling units) planned under PPP route. These would have a total outlay of Rs.3,000 Crore. The unique features of these projects are:

These would be largely assembling units and would undertake assembling, painting and testing related works.

Guaranteed orders worth Rs.30,000 Crore (a diesel locomotive is worth Rs 16.5 Crore and electric locomotive slightly higher).

The orders would include 800 units of electric locomotive and 1000 units of diesel electric locomotive.

The contract has rigid timelines, performance on fuel consumption and investment timeline clauses. Any deviation from the clauses would invite penalties

Land has already been purchased by the GOI and once bidding process is over, would be leased to the successful bidders.

Technical bids are cleared. For electric locomotive assembly plant Seimens, Alstom and GE have qualified. For Diesel locomotive assembly plant, GE and EMD (now Caterpillar) have qualified.

RFPS for financial bids are yet to be issued. The current government is concerned about the “guaranteed order” clause of the contracts. While it was well discussed by the previous government, the current regime is taking a fresh look at this. This is holding back issuance of RFP for financial bids.

While executing a railway project, alignment (identifying the route and achieving requisite clearances) is most time consuming. Typically, if alignment has been achieved and there is no tunnel/brigde/hilly terrain, 50km of railway line can be laid in a year.

There have been more proposals of port connectivity, incrementally.

DFC: Total cost of above 3400km estimated or Rs 810bn. The estimated completion for the project is between March 2018 to December 2019. It will lead to faster movement of freight traffic between West to North & North to East routes.

Wagons availability is not an issue considering the huge capacity both captive and private. The lead time required is also lower or 6-8 months vs other activities which require longer lead time.

To Download Report, Click HereRailways The Lifeline of Nation Economy post Rail Budget 2015- Dolat Capital

Rail stocks drop on profit booking ahead of Rail Budget-2015

मुंबई Mumbai: Shares of nine companies whose fortunes are linked to orders from Indian railways fell by 0.78% to 16.01% at 10:45 IST on BSE on profit booking ahead of Railway Budget 2015-16 on Thursday, 26 February 2015.  The Railway Budget 2015-16 will be tabled in the parliament by the rail minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday, 26 February 2015. This will be the first full railway budget of the Narendra Modi government and hopes are already running high that the document will contain innovative and out-of-the-box plans to turnaround railways and modernise the network and its supporting infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the S&P BSE Sensex was up 25.34 points or 0.09% at 29,000.45.

Among railway stocks, Hind Rectifiers (down 8.45%), NELCO (down 1.01%), Kalindee Rail Nirman (down 16.01%), Titagarh Wagons (down 9.99%), Stone India (down 9.74%), Texmaco Rail & Engineering (down 15.45%), Kernex Microsystems (down 4.95%), and BEML (down 0.78%) declined. Zicom Electronic Security Systems rose 0.17%.

Container Corporation of India dropped 4.36% as the stock turned ex-dividend today, 24 February 2015, for an interim dividend of Rs 8 per share for the year ending March 2015.

Most of these rail stocks had rallied in past one week. The Railway Budget 2015-16 will be tabled in the parliament by the rail minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday, 26 February 2015. This will be the first full railway budget of the Narendra Modi government and hopes are already running high that the document will contain innovative and out-of-the-box plans to turnaround railways and modernise the network and its supporting infrastructure.

The Rail Budget will mainly look at issues such as dynamic revenue earning model, freight and fare rationalisation, and capacity augmentation, report said. Although, the Rail Ministry has several plans for the fiscal year 2015-2016 to improvise the condition of Railways, there seem to be no relief for the passengers this year. Prabhu had some time back said that reduction in passenger fares is unlikely to happen although diesel prices have come down. The budget is expected to be inspired by Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, Make in India initiative and hi-end technology.

With ‘Swachh Bharat’ expected to be the keyword in the Railway Budget, Prabhu may announce major steps to improve cleaning efforts comprising installation of bio-toilets in trains and stations, provisioning dustbins across all types of coaches. Introduction of Wi-Fi services on station premises might be introduced as another major highlight of the budget this year. The Railway Budget might explore the possibilities of Information Technology (IT) to enhance the security of railway passengers and to curb growing incidents of crimes against women commuters. The North-East is also expected to get priority in the upcoming budget as an announcement for introduction of local services to improve connectivity in the region is on the anvil. Proposals for innovative funding for infrastructure projects are also on the anvil. The cash-strapped Railways has a challenge of completing more than 300 pending projects requiring an investment of around 1.7 lakh crore. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan of Diamond Quadrilateral – connecting metros with high speed trains – would also be tabled at the Rail Budget session. To run semi-high speed trains on several corridors, the budget is likely to propose indigenously built coaches or trains that can run upto 200 km per hour speed. All the proposals are expected to be in tune with government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, report added.

The government had last year, notified the liberalised foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for rail infrastructure, allowing 100% FDI through automatic route in the sector. FDI beyond 49% in sensitive areas will require Cabinet approval on a case-to-case basis.

A rangebound movement was witnessed as key benchmark indices hovered near the flat line in early afternoon trade. The barometer index, the S&P BSE Sensex, and the 50-unit CNX Nifty were currently trading slightly higher for the day. The market breadth indicating the overall health of the market was weak. The Sensex was currently trading above the psychological 29,000 mark, having alternately moved above and below that level in intraday trade so far. The Sensex had fallen below the psychological 29,000 mark after yesterday’s slide. The Sensex was currently up 30.84 points or 0.11% at 29,005.95. The BSE Small-Cap and Mid-Cap indices, both, hovered in red.

Meanwhile, the government reportedly tabled the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Opposition parties remained adamant on their stance over the land acquisition bill and created a ruckus in Parliament even as the government said it is well within its right to issue ordinances.

Telecom stocks declined. Shares of companies whose fortunes are linked to orders from Indian railways edged lower.

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) bought shares worth a net Rs 601.91 crore yesterday, 23 February 2015, as per provisional data released by the stock exchanges. Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 163.79 crore yesterday, 23 February 2015, as per provisional data.

The market may remain volatile this week as traders roll over positions in the futures & options (F&O) segment from the near month February 2015 series to March 2015 series. The near month February 2015 derivatives contracts expire on Thursday, 26 February 2015.

In the foreign exchange market, the rupee edged higher against the dollar.

Brent crude oil futures edged lower in choppy trade.

In overseas markets, Asian stocks edged higher before US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s semi-annual monetary policy testimony to the Congress later in the global day. Most US stocks edged lower in choppy trading session yesterday, 23 February 2015.

At 12:19 IST, the S&P BSE Sensex was up 30.84 points or 0.11% at 29,005.95. The index fell 57.48 points at the day’s low of 28,917.63 in mid-morning trade. The index gained 79.71 points at the day’s high of 29,054.82 in early trade.

The CNX Nifty was up 9.90 points or 0.11% at 8,764.85. The index hit a low of 8,736.90 in intraday trade. The index hit a high of 8,777.40 in intraday trade.

The market breadth indicating the overall health of the market was weak. On BSE, shares 1,533 declined and 985 shares gained. A total of 93 shares were unchanged.

The BSE Mid-Cap index was off 20.20 points or 0.19% at 10,725.22. The BSE Small-Cap index was off 65.79 points or 0.58% at 11,323.69. Both these indices underperformed the Sensex.

The total turnover on BSE amounted to Rs 1665 crore by 12:25 IST compared to turnover of Rs 1360 crore by 11:15 IST.

Telecom stocks declined. Reliance Communications (down 1.49%), Idea Cellular (down 1.81%), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (down 1.86%), Bharti Airtel (down 0.69%) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) (down 1.01%) edged lower.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in a notification yesterday, 23 February 2015, slashed domestic and international termination call charges. Mobile termination charge (MTC) for all calls originating from wireless network has been reduced from 20 paise per minute to 14 paise per minute. Further, to promote investment and adoption of wireline network (so that they become an effective vehicle for delivery of high speed internet in the country), TRAI has decided to prescribe fixed termination charges (FTC) as well as MTC for wireline to wireless calls as zero. Termination charge for international incoming calls has been increased to 53 paisa per minute from existing 40 paisa per minute.

Container Corporation of India dropped 5.16% to Rs 1,514.50. The stock turned ex-dividend today, 24 February 2015, for an interim dividend of Rs 8 per share for the year ending March 2015.

In the foreign exchange market, the rupee edged higher against the dollar. The partially convertible rupee was hovering at 62.2825, compared with its close of 62.3125 during the previous trading session.

Brent crude oil futures edged lower in choppy trade. Brent for April settlement was off 40 cents at $58.50 a barrel. The contract had dropped $1.32 a barrel to settle at $58.90 a barrel during the previous trading session.

Meanwhile, the government reportedly tabled the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Opposition parties remained adamant on their stance over the land acquisition bill and created a ruckus in Parliament even as the government said it is well within its right to issue ordinances. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 will replace the ordinance promulgated by the government in December last year, which had brought changes in the earlier bill passed in 2013 by the UPA government.

Meanwhile, the stock exchanges have decided to keep the stock market open on Saturday, 28 February 2015, just like any other normal trading session when the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the first full-fledged Budget of the Narendra Modi government. Trading will start at 9:15 IST and conclude at 15:30 IST. Jaitley will begin his speech at 11:00 IST in Lok Sabha on 28 February 2015 as he tables the Union Budget 2015-16 in the parliament.

The Railway Budget 2015-16 will be tabled in the parliament by rail minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday, 26 February 2015. The Economic Survey will be tabled on Friday, 27 February 2015.

The next major event for the financial markets is Union Budget for 2015-16. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present Union Budget 2015-16 in Parliament on Saturday, 28 February 2015. Analysts will scrutinize measures in the Budget for financing infrastructure projects as well as the government’s own capital expenditure on infrastructure for the year ahead. This is the first full fledged Budget of the Narendra Modi government and analysts will look for a roadmap for economic growth for the next few years.

Changes in rates of dividend distribution tax, capital gains tax on sale of shares, Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT), if any, will be closely watched. The dividend distribution tax is currently at 15%. The minimum alternate tax is currently at 18.5% of book profits. Short term capital gains tax on sale of shares is currently at 15% while there is zero long capital gains tax on sale of shares held for a period of more than one year.

Analysts are awaiting further progress on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) during the ongoing Budget session of Parliament after the Constitution Amendment Bill for the introduction of GST was tabled in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of parliament. GST, touted as the single biggest indirect taxation reforms since independence, will simplify and harmonise the indirect tax regime in the country. Central taxes like Central Excise Duty, Additional Excise Duties, Service Tax, Additional Customs Duty (CVD) and Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD), etc. will be subsumed in GST. At the state level, taxes like VAT/Sales Tax, Central Sales Tax, Entertainment Tax, Octroi and Entry Tax, Purchase Tax and Luxury Tax, etc. would be subsumed in GST.

Asian stocks edged higher today, 24 February 2015 before the US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks to lawmakers. Key benchmark indices in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea rose by 0.24% to 1.05%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell by 0.45%. China’s mainland markets remain closed today, 24 February 2015 for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Markit Economics will tomorrow, 25 February 2015, announce preliminary reading of China’s HSBC PMI index for February 2015, indicating health of China’s manufacturing activity for that month.

Trading in US index futures indicated that the Dow could rise 11 points at the opening bell today, 24 February 2015. US stocks ended mixed yesterday, 23 February 2015 as lower oil prices dragged down energy shares. In economic data, sales of previously owned US homes fell in January as a tight supply forced up prices, showing the residential real-estate market faces an uneven recovery. Purchases slowed 4.9% to a 4.82 million annualized rate, the least since April, according to figures from the National Association of Realtors yesterday, 23 February 2015.

Investors will receive further clues on the central bank’s assessment of the economy and the timing of a rate increase when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gives two days of testimony to Congressional finance committees starting today, 24 February 2015.

Meanwhile, Greece yesterday, 23 February 2015, finalised measures which include plans to combat tax evasion and tackling fuel and tobacco smuggling in order to secure a bailout extension. Greece had previously delayed presenting the reforms by 24 hours. Euro zone finance ministers would today, 24 February 2015, discuss Greece’s plans as scheduled earlier.

Known as Pragmatic Man with Vision, Suresh Prabhu is expected to nurse badly ailing IR back to health

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: The Indian Railways may have failed to achieve growth and speed up work in the last 6 years, but it has achieved one thing. India has seen six Railways ministers in the last six years. The relative stability at the Ministry of Railways came under serious threat after the Trinamul Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee took charge as the Union Railways minister in 2009. Keeping an eye on the West Bengal assembly elections, Mamata introduced series of populist schemes affecting the health of the Railways.

Her predecessor Lalu Prasad was no different either. Lalu who literally ruled the Railways like a king between 2004 and 2009, was also known for populist schemes. His claims of turning the Railways around were finally proved wrong and he was even accused of cooking the books to show huge profits.

During Lalu and Mamata’s tenure, there was no fare hike and dozens of unviable schemes were announced. The coalition compulsions had kept the ‘reformist’ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to keep quiet and do nothing about the Railways.

After Mamata became the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011, there was no Cabinet minister of Railways for months and the ministry suffered badly with no leader and mandate. After a lot of dillydallying Mamata finally appointed Dinesh Trivedi as Railways minister. A pragmatic Trivedi realised that the Railways was in a very bad shape and made it clear that unless the government puts a full stop to populist schemes, the Railways will bleed to death. Dinesh Trivedi tried to tighten the belts in his maiden Railway Budget in 2012. However, the move enraged his lady boss Mamata so much that he was sacked a day after the presentation of the Budget. He was not even allowed to give reply to the debate on his Budget in Parliament.

After the TMC broke away from the Congress led UPA, Pawan Kumar Bansal took charge as the Railways Minister. Since 1996, for the first time, the Railways Ministry was returned to a national party from the clutches of regional parties. However, his tenure was also short lived. PK Bansal had to quit after his nephew was caught while accepting bribe for a posting in the ministry. This scam severely dented the reputation of Bansal who was seen an ‘honest’ politician.

After Bansal’s ouster, the Railways ministry was handed over to a top Dalit leader from Karnataka, M Mallikarjuna Kharge. It was a consolation prize for Kharge, who lost the Karnataka chief ministerial race to Siddaramaiah after party’s return to power in May 2013.

Kharge had less than a year and had to follow the populist measures keeping an eye on the general elections, which Congress lost miserably. He could not even present a full budget. His valiant attempts to present a vote on account was also got drowned in the chaos created by the opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The period between 2009 and 2014 has been known as ‘wasted years of wasted opportunities’ of Indian Railways. Not a single bold step to nurse the Railways back to health was taken during those years.

During his poll campaign the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed on the need to restore the glory of Railways. The near bankruptcy of the Railways was also one of the main poll issues.

After he took charge as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi appointed former Karnataka chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda as his Railways minister. Gowda presented an interim budget in June. He even gave some hints that his government was committed to reforms saying goodbye to populist schemes. But his tenure ended in just five months. In October 2014, in a surprise move, Modi brought in Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu as the new Railways minister. Prabhu immediately quit the Shiv Sena to join the BJP.

Known as a very pragmatic man with a vision, Prabhu is expected to nurse the badly sick Indian Railways back to health. To achieve that, he has to administer bitter pills. Since the BJP alone has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, Prabhu can’t blame coalition compulsions for his government’s failure to put the derailed Railways ministry back on the tracks.

Will he be able to do that? His maiden Budget on Thursday will have the answer

Indian Railways sets up Environment Directorate to check Pollution

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: The Indian Railways, in a bid to protect environment and keep a tab on energy consumption (electrical and diesel), has set up a separate environment directorate. The directorate will monitor zonal railways, including North Central Railway, and check pollution control, conservation of resources and consumption of traction energy.

The Environment Directorate is being headed by an Advisor functioning under the Chairman of Railway Board. Executive Directors from Civil Engineering, Electrical, Mechanical, Traffic, Commercial, Finance, Efficiency and Research Directorate have been earmarked to be a part of the newly formed Environment Directorate.

In this connection, Advisor, Railway Board, K Swaminathan has written a letter to the general managers of all the zonal railways including North Central Railway. The number of the letter is 2015/Environ/6/1.

The Environment Directorate will monitor zonal railways and production units across the country with regard to their performance on environment issues, particularly on pollution control, efficiency in consumption of energy, conservation of resources particularly water, proper use of land including afforestation and development, production and use of alternative sources of energy.

The Directorate has also given instructions for working on environmental issues which includes audit and accreditation on environment in major activity centres at workshops, depots/sheds and railway stations to be completed early in a time bound banner.

It also focuses on maintaining a vigil on the trend of consumption of traction energy and measures to reduce it. It also envisages undertaking audits on energy and water consumption in the ‘A category’ consumption centers and ensuring completion of the same along with an action plan within next six months.

It will also foresee introducing a system of user level (including stations) monitoring of consumption of all types of energy as well as water on a monthly basis, along with a trend analysis and bench marking of the total consumption.

Besides that, it will also stress on identification of ongoing works having positive contribution towards environment and taking forward the same for timely completion and realization of benefits.

World Bank insists on Timeline for delayed Bombardier rakes

मुंबई Mumbai: The World Bank (WB) is miffed with the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) because of the more than one year delay in delivery of 72 Bombardier rakes.

The World Bank, which had sanctioned a Rs 4,436 crore loan for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project 2A under which the new trains were to be delivered, in a meeting with MRVC officials on Monday asked them as to the reason for the delay.

Officials on condition of anonymity said that the WB was told by MRVC that the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety in Lucknow had sent an approval letter for the new rakes to the Railway Board in Delhi on February 18.

“The 72 rakes have become a matter of ego among railway officials; they are already dealing with a lot of public and political pressure about the delay in the rakes and had to reassure the World Bank that delivery would happen soon because finally the former has paid the money,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

Senior officials present at the meeting said that WB officials insisted on a timeline. “The WB officials were given assurance that the rakes would be delivered to them in the next 10 days. Although nothing has happened yet, they seemed extremely concerned about the delivery,” said a senior official.

The 72 rakes had undergone trials in October and November 2013, on the Kalyan to Karjat section but were stuck in safety checks ever since.

The Commissioner Railway Safety in Mumbai had objected to 64 features, chief among which was the gap between the footboard and platform that was thought to be too wide.

It was only after both the Central and Western Railway assured that the platforms would be raised that the file was sent to Lucknow.

A second meeting will be held on Tuesday.

Hitachi to buy Rail and Traffic Signal businesses of Italy’s Finmeccanica for US$2b

Hitachi Railटोक्यो Tokyo:  Hitachi will buy the rail and traffic signal businesses of Italy’s Finmeccanica for an estimated US$2.1 billion, reports said Tuesday, as the Japanese firm looks to expand overseas and challenge major international railways firms.

The Italian defence and aerospace company has agreed to sell its rail car unit AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS, the world’s number two traffic signal company, to the vast Japanese conglomerate, according to reports.

The purchase is expected to be worth more than 250 billion yen (S$2.9 billion), with Finmeccanica set to announce the agreement as early as Tuesday.

“It is true that we are negotiating with Finmeccanica over the railway businesses, but the reported agreement has not been announced by our company,” a Tokyo-based Hitachi spokesman told.

Shares in Hitachi fell 0.81 per cent to 827.9 yen on the Tokyo Stock exchange Tuesday morning following the news reports.

Hitachi and three other companies stepped forward as prospective buyers after Finmeccanica announced plans last summer to unload the two subsidiaries.

The Japanese firm came close to sealing a deal last November, but a subsequent offer from a Chinese company delayed Finmeccanica’s final decision.

Insigma-offer-for-AnsaldoUnder the reported deal, Hitachi plans to first acquire all shares held by Finmeccanica in the two companies and then make a tender offer to turn the Milan Stock Exchange-listed Ansaldo STS into a wholly owned subsidiary as well, the Nikkei said.

The Italian giant holds a roughly 40 per cent stake in Ansaldo STS.  It is the latest step in Hitachi’s long-running pursuit of the two companies, with Italian media reporting in March 2012 that the conglomerate was interested in buying the firms.

The acquisition will push up Hitachi’s annual rail-related sales to more than 400 billion yen – about half that of Canada’s Bombardier, Siemens of Germany, or France’s Alstom, the reports said.

With the planned acquisition, Hitachi’s rail operations, which have so far focused on Japan and Britain, will now go global and gain Italian rail car production facilities, the reports added.

Having invested in own Ticketing System, CR not keen to integrate it with other modes

मुंबई Mumbai: The Suburban Railway in Mumbai has been reluctant to integrate their ticketing system with other modes of transports since it has heavily invested in suburban ticketing itself.

Officials from the Commercial Department who are in charge of the ticketing system said that they are tired of waiting for the integration in Mumbai and had to implement their own systems due to increasing demand at counters.

“When the Railways was waiting for the state government to make a move on seamless ticketing they were moving at snail’s pace. Meanwhile, the suburbs kept extending all the way to Badlapur and we didn’t have any other option but to create avenues to decrease the rush at the counters through smart cards on our Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMS),” said an officer.

The Railways had given a major push to Cash/Coin Ticket Vending Machines (CTVM) in its budget last year and officials expect an announcement for further integration of the system in Mumbai on February 26 as well, when the new budget will be announced.

On the other hand BEST seems open to the idea. Its general manager Jadgish Patil said, “We welcome the card integration with other modes of transport, we are only waiting for clarity on the payment gateway. We are told that the state is keen on the project and we are co-operating with other modes for a better understanding for the system.”

University of Mumbai to set up a ‘Rail Innovation and Technology Centre’ for Students

मुंबई Mumbai: The University of Mumbai is collaborating with the Indian Railways to set up a ‘Rail Innovation and Technology Centre’ to offer specialized courses to students.

With a budget of Rs 143 crore set aside for the project, the centre aims to develop cutting-edge technologies in the rail-wheel interface, noise and vibration control, in the signal system, and also in building high-speed railway networks.

The project was approved by the management council of the university on Monday. It is a first-of-its-kind collaboration, said a university official.

Specialized courses related to railroad technology at the post-graduate level and sustained research at higher level was proposed in the agreement. Along with research and innovation, the centre will offer PG courses in railway mechanical, civil and electrical engineering along with several diploma courses.

“The courses will be designed as per the needs of the railways. The centre will train the engineers dedicated for expertise in railway engineering. Students at the centre will also have assured jobs in the railways,” registrar of the university M A Khan said.

He said collaboration talks were initiated when railway minister Suresh Prabhu came visiting for the Indian Science Congress last month. The railways will disburse funds over five years, starting with Rs 25 crore in the first year.

The innovation centre will function from the specialized school of engineering to be set up at the university sub-campus in Kalyan.

The courses will be offered at Kalina, and the sub-campuses at Kalyan and Ratnagiri. The university budget was also presented in the council meeting on Monday.

The Technology Centre will also focus on intelligent systems engineering involving detection, sensing, communication, materials, structures and software technologies that can be applied to rail infrastructure, operations and traffic, i.e.

  • the track (materials, installation, monitoring, maintenance, design, and performance);
  • associated vehicles (trains and their operation),
  • other plant (e.g. signalling, communications, information management).

While focussing on this central theme, no aspect of railway-related research is excluded and collaborative projects will be encouraged in any relevant area.  The Technology Centre will:

  • identify Indian Railway’s research and development needs, matching projects and expertise against them,
  • present Indian Railways with a range of state-of-the-art engineering research outcomes (e.g. IP) and ongoing activity from which it can draw, use to stimulate its own thinking or contribute to or collaborate in.

Suresh Prabhu likely to present White Paper on Railway finances

Making a point Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Member (Traffic) of the Railway Board, DP Pande, at a seminar organised by the Centre for Transportation Research and Management (CTRAM) in Secunderabad

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is likely to present a White Paper in Parliament on finances and projects in the ailing national transporter.

“The White Paper on Railways will mainly look at issues such as dynamic revenue earning model, freight and fare rationalisation, and capacity augmentation,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

All directorates have given inputs to prepare the status of their ongoing projects and pending ones, reasons for delays and solutions, the official said.

The report is likely to be presented during the the Budget Session of Parliament.

The then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had presented a White Paper in December 2009 and a Vision 2020 for the transporter.

However, this time, Prabhu is mainly focusing on the tapping more revenue channels.

A committee led by former Banking and Financial Services Secretary D.K.Mittal, constituted by Prabhu, has already submitted recommendations on the new fund raising and revenue models for the railways.

676 projects worth Rs 1,57,883 crore have been sanctioned. Of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs 1,82,000 crore.

In the last Rail Budget, 30 priority projects (which include all types of projects) were selected according to need and availability of funds.

The Minister has also taken steps for forming special purpose vehicles with the state governments for execution of rail projects in their respective states.

According to the plan, the coming Rail Budget will have detailed action plan consisting of long and short-term measures.

Can’t provide Police Protection to all Outstation Trains, Railways tells Bombay HC

Alok Bohra, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF, Central Railway

Alok Bohra, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF, Central Railway

मुंबई Mumbai: Indian Railways has informed the Bombay High Court (HC) through an affidavit that it will not be able to provide police protection to all outstation trains owing to lack of sufficient manpower. However, the affidavit states that it will provide protection at night to trains plying on vulnerable routes.

A division bench of justices Abhay Oka and Anil Menon has asked the railways to reconsider its stand, saying that it was required for the safety of passengers.

The HC was hearing a petition filed by Bhavika Mehta, who lost a leg while chasing a thief aboard a train in 2012, seeking the presence of policemen aboard outstation trains.

The affidavit filed by Alok Bohra, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF, Central Railway, states that in the wake of the increasing crime rate on trains, the ministry of railways had laid down guidelines for escort duty.

“The directives mainly aim at effectually identifying the vulnerable/highly vulnerable trains by respective zonal railway protection force officers escorting such trains,” says the affidavit.

An average of 1,300 trains that ply on vulnerable and identified routes/sections are escorted by RPF teams daily, in addition to 2,200 trains being escorted by GRP teams from different states.

The affidavit states that the railways has taken steps to ensure the safety of passengers, especially in women’s compartments. All ladies special trains running in metropolitan cities and ladies coaches of local trains are being escorted by RPF and GRP officers. The railways also said it is considering providing mobiles to all train escorts.

Further, the creation of 4,192 posts for lady RPF personnel has been announced in the railway budget of 2014-15. The proposal is pending with the finance ministry. Moreover, 8 mahila vahinis, consisting of 1,056 lady RPF personnel, have been sanctioned, states the affidavit.

“An integrated security system consisting of electronic surveillance of vulnerable stations through CCTV, access control, anti-sabotage checks has been finalised to strengthen surveillance mechanism over 202 sensitive stations,” it adds.

Mehta, the petitioner, was travelling from Amritsar to Mumbai Central in 2012 when she was robbed by a thief. When she tried to chase him, he pulled her out of the running train while escaping.

Mehta had approached the court seeking compensation from the railways for medical expenses she incurred after her accident. Since she could not avail of medical aid in a nearby railway/civil hospital, she got herself admitted to a private hospital in Chandigarh, for which she claimed a compensation of Rs.9 lakh. This was granted to her, but the railways later denied her claim for compensation for a prosthetic leg, which cost her another Rs.5 lakh.

32 illegal Shanties constructed at Diva LC Gate needs demolishion to improve Punctuality on CR

दिवा जं Diva Jn (DIVA): The Central Railway (CR) plans to improve its punctuality, which is heavily affected due to the Diva Level Crossing (LC) gate, by demolishing 32 illegal shanties constructed at Diva. Although the plan had been drawn out a while ago, officials said the Diva riots in January had pushed them to pursue it again.

Officials hope that by demolishing the shanties, two of the tracks can be diverted with a new alignment that will curve around the LC gate at Diva, thereby saving time of the trains due to halts at the gate and improve punctuality on the line. Diva has been identified as a trouble spot as it is the only such station that has eight tracks passing through, which include fast and slow corridor, as well as the line that ferries goods.

An official, on condition of anonymity, said, “A plan has been made for improving the situation at the CST end with the 32 shanties being demolished and diverting the line that will curve around the LC gate, thereby solving the problem once and for all. When people are crossing over, since it’s the only way to get to the other side in Diva, they stop trains on all these tracks”

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, in a presentation to the state government, had asked for help in shutting down the LC gate through Mumbai due to the disturbances caused in running the trains on time and said that it has been one of the primary reasons behind deaths due to trespassing.

Members of DRUCC/Mysore urge Allocation of Sufficient Funds to Ongoing Projects in Railway Budget

मैसूर Mysore (MYS): Stakeholders in the region are realistic about their expectations from the forthcoming Railway Budget to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

They want existing projects and services sanctioned for the region to be fulfilled by way of fund allocation, apart from conceding their pending demands.

This includes the growing chorus for additional train services on the Mysuru-Bengaluru section, Mysuru-Hassan-Arsikere section, an inter-city express connecting Mysuru with Hubli, increase in the frequency of trains to Mumbai and Jaipur, and direct train service to Ahmedabad.

“But for these, we only hope the projects announced in earlier Budgets get allocation to ensure completion,” said Suresh Kumar Jain of Mysore Industries Association.

These demands were aired during the Divisional Level Railway Users’ Consultative Committee.

Funding is expected for the Mysore-Madikeri railway line project. The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued clearance for taking up survey work between Kushalanagar and Madikeri last year. The preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey of the proposed railway line which was launched in December 2011, was taken up between Mysuru and Kushalnagar only and a partial report was submitted to the government. Though it was shelved by the Railway Board, it has been revived after the State promised to take up partial funding.

The Mysuru-Kushalnagar link entails an expenditure of Rs. 660 crore and will also link Hunsur and Periyapatana. The Shivamogga-Harihar new railway line is another project for which allocation are awaited.

Terminal at Belagola: The Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) representative Sudhakar Shetty said Mysuru station was saturated and hence the proposal to develop another terminal at Belagola should get funds.

The FKCCI is also keen that Chamarajanagar was developed so that some of the trains terminating at Mysuru could be extended to run up to Chamarajanagar and help decongest Mysuru.

Likewise, expectations are high for the Mysuru-Nanjangud-Nilambur railway line to provide a link to Kerala.

SCR freight earnings up 35% in January

The zone registered a 7.40% jump in total freight carried to 10.59 million tonne (mt) during the period, when compared with 9.86 mt in the last year period

सिकंदराबाद Secunderabad (SC): Secunderabad-headquartered South Central Railway posted a 35.2 per cent growth in freight revenue at Rs 945.47 crore during January this year as against Rs 700 crore for the corresponding period last year.

The zone registered a 7.40 per cent jump in total freight carried to 10.59 million tonne (mt) during the period, when compared with 9.86 mt in the last year period. In the process, it has surpassed the Railway Board’s target for goods earnings and loading for the period.

“Close monitoring of the running of freight traffic, appropriate interventions, rationalisation of operational practices, maximising rolling stock utilisation, coupled with a huge surge in the rail traffic handled at Krishnapatnam and Kakinada ports were instrumental in registering high growth during January, 2015,” SCR said in a release today.

SCR for the period Apr 2014-Jan 2015, led by outperformance in freight loading, saw its cumulative originating revenue earnings shoot up 24.3 per cent to Rs 7,476.60 crore as against Rs 6,014.89 crore last year. It carried 90.35 mt freight during the aforesaid period, when compared with 87.8 mt during the corresponding period last year, a growth of 9.7 per cent.

Segment-wise, coal contributed 55 per cent to the total freight loading at 51.17 mt (46.71 mt last year) by the end of Jan, followed by cement at 23.63 mt. It loaded 5.05 mt of foodgrains and 4.21 mt of fertilisers.

Launches Concierge Services for advance booking of cabs, porters

A new service called Concierge Services has been introduced in SCR at Secunderabad and Tirupati railway stations enabling passengers to book cabs and porters before their train arrives at the station. These will also be provided shortly at Vijayawada and Guntur stations.

Under this, passengers having confirmed train reservation can book these cab/porter 36 hours in advance online at www.irctc.co.in and www.irctctourism.com. After booking of the services by the passengers, the details of cab services and contact numbers will be intimated to them before their train arrives at the station. The staff of Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be available at the stations to ensure hassle-free services to the passengers on their arrival, SCR stated in a release.

At Secunderabad, cab services will be provided for Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and AP Express trains. At Tirupati, cab services will be provided for passenger arriving by trains coming from New Delhi, Secunderabad, Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. The porter charges will be applicable to two pieces of luggage weighing 40 kg and one trolley load.

Post bifurcation of State, residual Andhra keeps High Expectations on Railway Budget 2015

विजयवाडा Vijayawada (BZA): The reorganised state of Andhra Pradesh has high expectations from the railway budget of Narendra Modi’s government, as the railway connectivity is vital for some of the ambitious plans of TDP government in the state for development of the state as logistic hub.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is very much keen on developing the state as port of call for the trade and commerce from South East Asian countries and railway connectivity from the proposed ports to the hinter-lands and rest of the state is essential for it to become as reality.

Separate Railway Zone to be named as South East Coast Railway for the state has been the foremost demand for the state and expectations are high from the Railway budget in that regard. However, sources in railways say that it is unlikely to materialise in the budget and the central government would only try to appease the state by promising to consider it in next railway budget. State Government is also expecting the state to provide a major share of budgetary allocation for the completion of the pending railway projects including doubling and new-lines in the state.

Some of those pending works include Vijayawada-Bheemavaram-Nidadavolu, Yerragunta-Nandyala-Jaggayyapet-Vishnupuram, Kakinada-Pithapuram. Though state-government had agreed during previous budgets to bear 50 percent of the costs for the development of Obulavaripalli-Krishnapatnam railway line for the doubling works for Guntur-Tenali, there has been not much progress till date. State government expects more funds allocated to those projects on priority basis.

The long pending Kadapa-Bangalore new railway line works ares not progressing as expected with no encouraging budgetary allocations since last couple of years, though the project was given green signal in 2008-09 railway budget. As far as doubling works are concerned, the works are under progress, but would require substantial funding for them to be put on fast track for earlier completion,’ a senior railway official told.

Andhra Pradesh has mainly two railway zones – South Central Railway (SCR) and East Coast Railways – operating in the state. Though there is a long standing demand for merger of Waltair division, currently under East Coast Railways with SCR, it has not be considered in any railway budgets till date. Now expectations are that a new zone would be created into which Waltair division will merge.

Though there has been a demand for Kotipalli- Narasapuram railway line, given the high cost, the proposal was set aside in the previous budget. People of Godavari districts are hoping it be considered this time. Another proposed new-line Srikalahasti-Nadikudi is still under survey. If it materialises, Rayalaseema and Andhra regions in the state will have a better railway connectivity and the pressure on the mainline between Nellore and Vijayawada will be decreased.

Though a wagon workshop in Khazipet was proposed, it had not materialised, neither did a medical college at Secunderabad in the last budget. Rail Neer project at Vijaywada was proposed and even 3 acres of land at Krishna canal was identified for the purpose, but the project was not given the sanction. Will it get the sanction this railway budget? people of the new capital region of the state hope so.

Development of Tirupati and Secunderabad as the world class railway stations proposed more than five years ago, though it was sanctioned, is yet to materialise. People of Tirupati, one of the most visited pilgrimage centres in the country, hope so.

In general, people of the state are expecting more compartments, which are convenient and safe, as the waiting list for almost all the trains either originating or passing through is always long now a days. Another issue they want resolved on priority is availability of quality food and water. In recent times there has been several complaints in regard to those two issues.

GRP launches Toll-free Helpline Number on NFR

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.

Palakkad Division stays fingers crossed

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.

New Trains

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.

Bela Rail Wheel Plant waiting for its VVIP inauguration

Bela Rail Wheel Factoryबेला 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)

Process of reforms in IR can disrupt reasonably well-functioning system with serious consequences on economy

K Balakesari ex.Member Staff Railway Board

K Balakesari ex.Member Staff Railway Board

“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.

Reforms

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)

SABIC highlights Innovative Design and Material Solutions for Safety, Aesthetics and Durability for Railway industry

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.

Louis Berger-Egis JV wins new Doha Metro Rail deal

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.”

Sreedharan Committee expresses Serious Concern over ‘Stability’ of Katra-Banihal rail link

Chenab Bridge on Katra-Banihal section in Jammu and Kashmir

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.

Dedicated Freight Corridor for the Northeast urged

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.

Additional CSC/RPF/SR inspects RPF Zonal Training Centre at Thiruchirapalli

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.

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As a first step towards Smart City tag, Ajmer Railway Station to run on Solar Energy

Ajmer RSअजमेर 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.

Western Railway to install CCTV Surveillance Cameras on-baord Rajdhani Coaches.

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.

National Rail Universities to remain a Pipe Dream?

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.

High Density of Suburban & Long-Distance Trains, New Ports in Gujarat makes CR loose Freight biz to WR

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.

Rail Budget likely to give green signal to less than 100 trains

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.

Delhi Metro Rail Corp opens up dedicated “Exact Change Counters” at 20 stations

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.

IR’ freight, passenger tariffs consistently trailed behind inflation, but employee spending rose exponentially

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.

Freight Movement