Shunting Shock: Accident to Kochuveli-Bangalore Express train leaves S-14 like rusted tin

02tvark0-O1430Thiruvananthapuram (TVC): A sleeper coach of Kochuveli-Bangalore Express was squashed like rusted tin, leaving its hind quarters in the air, when the rakes were being shunted at Kochuveli. The incident took place around 3.30 pm on Sunday before the train was to depart, raising the bogey of what could have unfolded in the event of real crash with passengers on board.

Second class sleeper coach S-14 almost broke into two, with portion of the coach collapsing over the track. Besides S-14, two other sleeper coaches suffered damage. The train had total of 24 coaches.

Divisional Railway Manager (Thiruvananthapuram) Sunil Bajpai, admitting that the coach was unpardonably old.

Prestigious Gold Standard Foundation award for Delhi Metro for carbon mitigation projects

Delhi Metro registered with Gold Standard Foundation for energy efficiency measures

The Delhi Metro has become the first ever Metro and Railway system in the world to be registered with the prestigious Gold Standard foundation, which is a globally accepted certification standard for carbon mitigation projects. DMRC’s Project- ‘Energy Efficiency measures in DMRC Phase II stations’ was registered for this award-winning certification as the energy efficiency measures undertaken by Delhi Metro in 51 station buildings of Phase II qualified under the criterion verified by the Gold Standard auditors, DMRC said in a statement. The energy efficiency measures have been undertaken primarily in the heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting system and other energy efficient measures of station buildings.

The measures adopted at HVAC system result in reduction of electrical energy consumption, in comparison to that for a station building forming a part of Phase I of Delhi Metro with similar size and architectural perspectives. The various energy efficient measures adopted include Tube lights with 67 lumen/w efficacy, water-based cooling tower, Maximum utilisation of daylight in stations, implementation of sun film and energy efficient operating strategies.

All these measures lead to tremendous amount of energy savings.

Railways face Catch-22 situation post SC directive on ‘Doctor on Train’

New Delhi:  If the Indian Railways follows the recent Delhi High Court direction to the letter, passengers of long-distance trains who want urgent medical help won’t go untreated while travelling.

However, the catch lies in its implementation, considering the country’s struggle against acute shortage of doctors. India has only one doctor per 1,700 people. According to the Union Health Ministry figures, there are about 6-6.5 lakh doctors available in the country.

Acting on a PIL, a division bench—comprising Delhi High Court Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw—on January 22 directed the Ministry of Railways for employing one trained doctor along with the support staff, besides medicines and equipments necessary for life support, in each long-distance train.

The PIL brought to the court’s notice that there was no trained medical staff on the long-route trains to treat patients suffering from serious ailments like heart diseases, diabetes, asthma while travelling.

“At present, the Railways does not post doctors even on its premium Rajdhani Express trains, and passengers who need urgent medical help have to wait till the train reaches a station that has a railway doctor. At best, the ticket examiner or conductor can inform the guard, who passes on the message to the driver of the train,” the PIL filed by NGO Oro Foundation stated. Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest railway networks having 1,15,000 km of track over a route of 65,000 km and 7,500 stations.

The counsel appearing on behalf of the Railways contended that they will comply with the court’s order. This holds importance at a time when it has withdrawn doctors from Duronto trains last year due to technical constraints.

Earlier, replying to an RTI query by the NGO, the railways had admitted that there were 3,071 such trains in operation where even first-aid boxes were not sufficiently equipped and there was not even a single doctor or paramedic staff appointed on the long-distance trains.

The Oro Foundation filed a complaint with the Railways regarding the unavailability of adequate medical facilities and non-appointment of doctors in these trains. The Railways neither took any action on that complaint nor did it reply. The PIL cited a case wherein a passenger suffered a massive heart attack on Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express and no medical treatment could be provided to him and the train attendants were asking other passengers for help in panic.

The Railways has suggested the high court that they will highlight the concession scheme for doctors while booking of tickets. It offers 10 per cent concession to doctors on long-distance routes, who are ready to carry a specified medical kit and give a signed undertaking to help while travelling.

To improve Efficiency, Railways need consensus for National Rail Policy

Addressing a conference of General Managers of all Zonal Railways and Production Units recently, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge reiterated that safety of passengers would continue to be the topmost priority of Indian Railways. He called upon GMs to make all possible efforts to prevent accidents and to improve overall safety environment of railways.

The minister’s advice was prompted by recent rail accidents caused by fire. Every major accident is followed by empty promises. A formal probe takes time and public interest in an accident wanes by the time the report comes. Once public pressure is relieved, it is back to normal.

With more than 1.3 million employees, Indian Railway operates one of the oldest and most extensive networks in the world. Unfortunately, the government has done little to overhaul the creaking infrastructure to ensure passenger safety—despite countless committees, special panels, status reports and white papers pointing to the need to do so. Despite Railways’ central role in Indian society, its business style remains highly bureaucratic and subject to whims of the political class.

During the last two decades, railway ministers have treated their charge as a trade-off in coalition politics. The current minister, too, got the job after losing out in the race for the chief ministership of Karnataka to Siddaramaiah. In his short stint at the top, he has failed to sound even remotely articulate about issues important to the railways.

As the High Level Safety Review Committee headed by Anil Kakodkar pointed out in 2012, “within the railway system everybody is supposed to look after safety but in reality it is nobody’s baby”. Ironically, some major decisions on the basis of recommendations of the Kakodkar Committee were announced by then railway minister Dinesh Trivedi in his budget speech in 2012. Most of these were killed by petty politics.

For instance, Trivedi had announced the setting up of a railway safety authority as an independent statutory body that would be responsible for all aspects of safety regulation and enforcement. He had also declared that the Railway Board would have a member for safety and research and an apex research and development council would be formed to spearhead research and take forward safety. Trivedi lost his job shortly thereafter and none of those ideas have seen the light of day. The current Railway Board chairman has gone on record saying an independent safety regulator is not a practical idea.

Successive CAG reports on railways’ safety plan have lamented continuing use of overage locomotives, incomplete safety works at level crossings, lack of modernisation of signalling equipment, inadequate maintenance of assets and a failure to make recruitment to the crucial staff positions dealing with safety.

The tame official explanation of not implementing plans to increase passenger safety is paucity of funds. However, the fact that even the limited funds allotted for safety measures have never been fully utilised shows that the problem lies elsewhere.

If implementation efficiency is to improve, there has to be a broad consensus across the political spectrum on key policy issues concerning the railways such as growth strategy, organisational issues, financial structure, safety-related investments, fare and tariff policy and meeting public service obligations. Like the National Telecom Policy, there should be a National Railway Policy.

Home Ministry, DEA raise Security concerns on the FDI in Railways

New Delhi: With the government considering relaxing the FDI policy for railways, the Home Ministry and the Department of Economic Affairs have sounded a note of caution, citing “security” concerns, especially with regard to investments from China in this sensitive sector.

In its comment on the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the Home Ministry said Chinese investments in such a sensitive sector should be viewed with caution, sources said.

The Home Ministry, they said, has pointed out that China is India’s main rival on the economic and military fronts, with unresolved border disputes between the two nations.

On account of this, sources said, investments from the neighbouring country in this core sector may pose a danger to national security and should be viewed with caution.

The ministry clearly stated that Chinese investments should not be allowed in border areas such as Jammu & Kashmir, the North East and Sikkim.

It suggested the DIPP and the Ministry of Railways set up a core group with technical and security experts to evaluate proposals in the sector.

The Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) has stated that the railway ministry should keep in mind the strategic and security sensitivity of remote locations while framing specific projects in those areas, they added.

The DIPP has circulated a final note for consideration of the Cabinet for allowing foreign direct investment in suburban corridors, high-speed tracks and freight lines connecting ports, mines and power installations. The proposal will be taken up by the Cabinet soon.

However, existing passenger and freight network operations will not be opened to foreign investors.

Bangalore Metro to recruit 33 trade apprentices

Bangalore (SBC):  Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has invited applications for the post of Trade Apprentices for 33 vacancies. Selected candidates will undergo training for one year. Last day for application is February 15, 2014.

Fitter: 12 posts
Salary: During the initial training period of one year, apprentices will be paid the consolidated stipend of Rs 2,800 per month.
Eligibility: Age of the candidate should not be more than 21 years and not less than 20 years. Candidate should also have passed ITI certification in the trade of Fitter.

Mechanic R & AC: Five posts
Salary: During the initial training period of one year, apprentices will be paid the consolidated stipend of Rs 2,800 per month.
Eligibility: Age of the candidate should not be more than 21 years and not less than 20 years. Candidate should also have passed ITI certification in the trade of Mechanic R & AC.

Electrician: Eight posts
Salary: During the initial training period of one year, apprentices will be paid the consolidated stipend of Rs 2,800 per month.
Eligibility: Age of the candidate should not be more than 21 years and not less than 20 years. Candidate should also have passed ITI certification in the trade of Electrician.

Electronics Mechanic: Eight posts
Salary: During the initial training period of one year, apprentices will be paid the consolidated stipend of Rs 2,800 per month.
Eligibility: Age of the candidate should not be more than 21 years and not less than 20 years. Candidate should also have passed ITI certification in the trade of Electronics Mechanic.

Note: Candidates should have passed ITI from recognised ITI Institutions located in the state of Karnataka (both private and government).

Candidates will be selected for the role of Trade Apprentice based on academic merit.

How to apply
To apply for the Trade Apprentice position with Bangalore Metro Rail, print a copy of the application form, duly fill it in and send it to the given address. Also attach attested copies of academic certificates, birth certificate and category certificate (if applicable). No application fees is required.

Advertisement and Application form:


Local Train derails in Kolkata, close shave for thousands

Kolkata:  Hundreds of commuters on the 31612 Ranaghat-Sealdah local had a narrow escape on Saturday morning when seven coaches derailed soon after the train left Dum Dum junction. Thankfully, it had not yet gained speed. Passengers felt a huge lurch and were thrown about in the packed bogies, but there were only minor injuries.

Services in the Sealdah main line remained affected throughout the day with Eastern Railway cancelling over 54 pairs of local trains. Long-distance trains were delayed. A track fracture seems to have caused the derailment, say sources.

The train started from Dum Dum at 6.05am and moved barely a few hundred yards when there was a huge jerk. Residents of Bediapara, who live near the tracks, saw the wheels of some coaches dragging along the ballast. Within seconds, the coaches tilted to one side and rested precariously on one set of wheels with the other set hanging in the air.

The motorman pulled the emergency brakes and brought the train to a stop. Inside the coaches, there was panic for a few minutes as people scrambled to get out. Railway staff arrived within minutes to help them. Some people were injured as they were thrown from their seats. The derailed coaches infringed on the up-track and this, too, was blocked. While the up-track was restored by 4pm, it was late evening by the time the Down line could be made cleared.

“Prima facie, it seems track fracture was responsible. However, we can’t be sure why this happened before a proper inquiry. The commissioner of railway safety will start his probe from Monday,” said Jaya Verma, divisional railway manager, Sealdah. Railway sources said a rail fracture was detected near Halisahar station on Saturday morning. It has been repaired.

Officials said that at times, the cracks are hair-thin and can’t be detected by drivers or maintenance staff. As a train moves over the affected portion, the stress increases and the rail snaps completely. On Saturday, while a few coaches managed to cross the affected part, the rear ones got derailed.

“A major accident could have occurred had it been a long-distance train or a non-stop local. People would have been certainly injured had coaches of a speeding train derailed in this manner. There was another risk. There could have been a collision had a train been moving on the Up track at that time. This is what happened in the Jnaneswari Express case,” a railway officer said.

The Sealdah main line section is one of the busiest in the country and lakhs of commuters use it every day to reach Kolkata. There were fewer passengers because it was a Saturday but thousands got stranded at several stations and were late for work.

DRM/Madurai inaugurates Emergency Medical Centre at Madurai Railway Station

Madurai_Railway_StationMadurai (MDU): A 24-hour free emergency medical assistance centre was inaugurated at the Madurai railway station, on Thursday. The emergency centre has been set up by city-based Vadamalayan Hospitals with life saving equipment.

Divisional Railway Manager, Mr.A.K.Rastogi inaugurated the centre in the presence of V Pugalagiri, CMD of Vadamalayan Hospitals. The division had earlier announced the opening of emergency medical centres in important railway stations in collaboration with interested hospitals in the locality.

Talking to reporters after the function, Rastogi said the emergency service will be free of cost to the passengers. The centre is equipped with basic medical equipment to handle emergencies including cardiac arrest, he said. Though the first aid kit is available with the stationmaster as per the protocol, proper medical treatment in emergencies given by the physician is always advisable and the people will be confident to be treated by doctors and medical technicians, he said. Based on this model in Madurai, the division will start opening emergency medical centres in important stations in the division in future, he added.

Pugalagiri said efforts are on to station an ambulance in the junction. The staff at the centre said that they have defibrillator and laryngoscope to provide artificial ventilation, in emergency cases. The centre will be manned by two medical technicians and a doctor will be available on call. If the patient’s condition turns critical, the hospital’s unit ambulance will rush to the centre for taking the patient to the hospital for further treatment, they said.

Titagarh Wagons expects Railways to finalise tender soon

MD TitagarhUmesh Choudhary, Vice Chairman, Titagarh Wagons says there have been news reports on earnings of railways having dropped for the first time. He says it is a vicious cycle, if they do not make new capital investment it would hit their earnings.

“We are trying to de-risk ourselves from the wagon business of the Railways” he said.

The Railways has not finalised any tender for wagons in the past 2.5 years, which has caused a lot of pain for wagon makers like Titagarh Wagons  . So much so that its net sales fell 80 percent and the company recorded a loss on an EBIT level. He expects a tender to get finalised in the next few weeks.

Titagarh Wagons posted a net loss at Rs 3.4 crore against a profit of Rs 8.97 crore on sales of 31.09 crore against Rs 153.63 crore year-on-year for the December quarter.

Umesh Choudhary, Vice Chairman, Titagarh Wagons says there have been reports of a drop in railways’ earnings for the first time. He says it is a vicious cycle, if they do not make new capital investment it would hit their earnings. He refrained from giving any forward looking projections at this point of time.

Q: Can you just tell us what happened which was so exceptional this quarter that your net sales fell 80 percent and you recorded a loss on an EBIT level in every segment that you operate in?

A: The primary segment if you see our historical numbers is our wagon business and it has been a very exceptional circumstance for the last 2.5 years, the railways have not finalised any tenders for wagons whatsoever. They did float a tender, I was on your channel about three months ago and I mentioned that the tender had been floated and we are hoping that the same would be finalised, but it is still not finalised yet, as a result of which the industry has absolutely no orders left with it at all.

We are hoping that the tender should get finalised in the next few weeks which will bring us some workload. On the private side the capital investment of all the container crane operators and special crane operators has also been completely stopped because of various reasons. They have not been themselves making capital investment.

Q: What is the hope for this quarter? We are already four weeks down or one third of the quarter down and we hear that there will be a big axe on plan expenses. Will that result in this order becoming a casualty or are you pretty sure of at least this tender coming in?

A: I am overseas right now, but I was just seeing some news articles about railways earnings having dropped for the first time. There has been less growth, but this is the first time that they have actually dropped. This is a complete vicious circle that the railways would get into, if they do not make new capital investment it would hit their earnings. I presume that railways must invest in wagons and even if the plan expenditure has to be cut, it cannot be cut in the earning commodity, wagon is the highest earning commodity as far as any rolling stock is concerned.

Q: How much business will it give you even if this order came by? What is the amount of the order?

A: I cannot second guess the amount of the order, because that is something which goes through a process, the railways would be placing an order. What I can also share with you is that the coach division of the company was absolutely non-functional for almost a year and half because of the technical issues with the railways. The railways were not issuing the designs, primary specifications; atleast that got resolved last month. As a result of which that revenue will start coming in from the coming quarter. The company is executing some export orders for wagons from Bangladesh which also would get reflected in the current and the coming quarters. So we are trying to de-risk ourselves from the wagon business of the railways but obviously it takes a little bit of time.

Q: That is the reason why you are also foraying into the manufacturing of tractors as well as agri equipments. Can you just tell us what your plans are there? What the capex line up will be and what sort of potential do you see from the agri space?

A: The capex is not going to be very large, because most of the facility in the infrastructure that we already have is going to be utilised, so it is going to be the balancing investment that is going to be required to be put in. We have created a subsidiary and the subsidiary has already been manned. We have some very good people who have already joined, who are experts in the field. We are intending the rollout of tractors from the coming financial year and I think this market has got a great potential because agri spend is going to continue on the rise and if you see the tractor business there has been a 20 percent growth in this year as well. So we are pinning a lot of hope in this business and taking this business quite seriously. This is one of the de-risking plans from the Indian Railways wagon orders.

Q: Are you likely to report a loss this quarter as well? In that case will there be any threat to your payment of interest to banks. I notice that your finance costs run at about Rs 1-1.5 crore a quarter. Will you be able to maintain those payments as well as salaries?

A: I would not be able to give any numbers as far as the current quarters are concerned, because that would be forward looking, but our financial costs are not at all high. If you see the financial costs that we have are primarily on account of bank charges for bank guarantees that have been issued and some interest on working capital, so we are completely debt free. I do not expect that the financial cost is going to be of any burden to us and as far as the results for current quarters are concerned, as I mentioned we are executing some export orders for this quarter, so we hope that the quarter should be better, but I would not really give any forward looking projections at this point of time.

National Academy of Indian Railways (RSC/BRC) to celebrate Foundation Day

railway staff collegeVadodara (BRC): The National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR) will celebrate its sixty-third foundation day on Friday. The academy is the apex level training and management development institute for the officers of the Indian Railways.

The academy provides training and management development opportunities not only to the newly appointed Railway officers but also senior officers. It also trains officers of other services of the Government of India and those from railways abroad.

The foundation day ceremony on Friday will be presided over by NAIR director general Rajalakshami Ravikumar. Secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad Amrut Modi will be the chief guest while Gujarat Vidyapeeth vice chancellor Dr Sudershan Iyengar will be the guest of honour on the occasion. Iyengar will also deliver the keynote address at the event.

NAIR also gives away the Distinguished Alumnus Award on the foundation day. This year the former chairman of the railway board and a renowned Gandhian Y P Anand will be given the award. Other medals and trophies will also be given on the occasion.

NAIR was formerly called the Railway Staff College and was initially founded in 1930 at Premnagar, Dehradun. It was shifted to the Pratap Vilas Palace at Lalbaug in 1952. Having been set up at its present location on January 31, 1952, NAIR celebrates the day as its foundation day.

FDI in Railways: Policy to have Caution Note on Chinese Firms’ participation

Home Ministry red flags Chinese investments in Railway projects. While DIPP revises its proposal to allow 100% FDI in railways – Expert Group under Railways and Home Ministry to evaluate FDI proposals to address national security concerns

India’s trade ministry has revised a proposal to allow 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways after the home ministry flagged its concerns on Chinese firms potentially investing in projects near the international border with the Asian powerhouse.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), an arm of the industry and commerce ministry, has now proposed setting up of a core group with requisite technical and security expertise under the railways ministry to evaluate FDI proposals in the sector to address national security concerns, according to an internal note, a copy of which was seen by Mint.

“Ministry of railways shall set up a core group with requisite technical and security expertise to evaluate proposals of railway projects with a critical view to ensure that railways projects with private/foreign investments are not detrimental to overall national interest/security, keeping in mind the strategic and security sensitivity of remote locations while formulating the specific projects in those areas,” the note said.

The department had sent a cabinet note for approval seeking allowing 100% FDI in railway transport such as elevated rail corridor projects, freight terminals, suburban corridors, dedicated freight lines and high-speed train systems to meet the urgent need to modernize and expand the railway network, which require large capital investments.

The proposal does not require approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. An approval from the railways ministry will suffice, according to the original proposal. While the home ministry has expressed no reservation on foreign capital investment in railway transport infrastructure development, it has emphasised that the signalling and telecommunications of railway’s networks’ network should be entirely in the hands of Indian Railways.

“Similarly, the Railway Protection Force and the Government Railway Police should continue to be guarding force of Indian railway operations as per their charter,” the home ministry said.

However, the home ministry wrote to the DIPP that Chinese investments in sensitive and core sectors, which may pose danger to national security, should be viewed with caution.

“It is learnt from source information that some Chinese companies have shown keen interest in investing in Indian railway projects in a big way. Though India-China economic engagements continue to grow, China is generally perceived as India’s main rival not only in the economic field, but even militarily with unresolved border disputes between the two countries,” the home ministry said. “Chinese investments should not be allowed in sensitive border areas like Jammu and Kashmir, North east and Sikkim.”

The home ministry said that FDI in railway projects with involvement of the Chinese workers near the restricted areas and in vicinity of international border with China and Pakistan was not desirable from security angle. If unavoidable, Chinese workers and technicians may not be allowed to enter such areas without obtaining necessary security permits and requisite visas, it added.

China, according to the home ministry, is perceived as India’s main rival — in the economic field as well as militarily — especially with unresolved border disputes between the two countries. On that basis, the ministry is learnt to have told DIPP that investments made by Chinese firms, particularly in the core and sensitive areas, should be viewed with caution. It has said Chinese investments should also not be allowed in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Sikkim.

From the security point of view, the ministry has added, Chinese workers or technicians should not be allowed to work near the areas along the international borders India shares with China and Pakistan. They might be allowed to work in such cases but only after the government’s permission.

Also, it is leant, the home ministry has said that the overall security aspect, quality control, signalling and telecommunications for the entire railway network should be under the Indian Railways. DIPP has incorporated these changes and floated a revised draft Cabinet note — the reason why the matter was stuck and the Cabinet secretariat was not able to take it up as originally decided. Under the proposed FDI policy, the railways plan to earn around Rs 1 lakh crore through public-private partnership (PPP) projects in the 12th Five-Year Plan. Chinese firms are believed to be keenly watching the development, as they want to heavily invest here. Under the policy, the government wants to open the doors to foreign investment in areas like rail corridor projects, station development, locomotive manufacturing units, power plants related to railways, dedicated freight lines, high-speed train systems, logistics parks and freight terminals, as well as suburban corridors. Some of the Chinese names in the fray are CSR Corp and China CNR Crop.  Japanese and German firms have also shown interest to invest heavily in the world’s fifth-largest railway network.

Similar concerns of security were expressed in 2010 regarding China-made telecom equipment after which a telecom security policy was put together. As part of the policy, the telcos using the equipment are responsible for the security aspect as well and have to give an undertaking that there is no malware and spyware installed in the equipment.

The government is also in the process of setting up telecom equipment security testing labs across the country. The government introduced a new rule in 2010 that all equipment needed to be certified by International standard laboratories. From July next year, all telecom equipment should be certified by laboratories in India. This deadline was extended from May 2011 after two earlier extensions in March and October.

Most Indian telcos follow an outsourcing model where most of their operations including network setting up and management is outsourced to equipment makers and vendors like Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, Huawei and ZTE.

R.N.Das, senior fellow at think tank IDSA said the concerns expressed by the home ministry are genuine given the trust deficit and security dilemma between the two neighbouring countries. “I wish there are better investment cooperation between the two countries but the security concerns at present cannot be ignored,” he added.

The decision by the government to put a stop on the movement of executives working in Pakistan is significant, as there are many strategic sectors in which multinational companies are present or have equity stakes in both India and Pakistan.

Caveat on cards: Railway FDI policy to have a special caveat on Chinese firms; the home ministry has supported FDI in railways’ construction and maintenance segments but cautioned against investment by Chinese firms

Rationale: Ministry says China is considered India’s rival in the economic and military fields and there are unresolved border disputes with it

Out of bounds: Chinese investment may not be allowed in sensitive and core areas because that might pose danger to national security; so, J&K, the Northeast and Sikkim could be out of bounds for these companies

Limited labour: Chinese labourers and technicians may be barred from working in areas along India’s border with China and Pakistan. Permission likely only after government’s approval and proper visa procedures

MoU signed for Rs.1460 Crore Rail Coach Factory at Kolar

3BMU1330Bangalore: The Ministry of Railways and the State government on Thursday signed a pact to establish a rail coach factory near Kolar at a cost of Rs.1460 crore.

Vandita Sharma, Principal Secretary, Infrastructure Development Department, Karnataka, and K. Swaminathan, Advisor Project (Mechanical Engineering), Railway Board, signed the memorandum.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Minister of State for Railways K. Surya Prakash Reddy and Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), MSME, K.H. Muniyappa were present.

Speaking after the memorandum was signed, Mr. Muniyappa, during whose tenure as Minister of State for Railways the coach factory was announced in the Railway Budget, said that the factory would provide direct employment to over 5,000 people. It would also provide indirect employment to 10,000 people when fully operational.

Complimenting Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge for his initiative to fast forward the project, Mr. Muniyappa said that 1,100 acres of land, being given free by the State government, is available for the project. Another 500 acres of land are to be acquired.

Initially, the factory would produce 500 state-of-the-art railway coaches and in the second phase, the capacity would be increased to 1,000 coaches a year, he said without mentioning the date of commencement of production.

A release from the South Western Railway said that the project is being executed on cost sharing basis between the Railways and the State government. On completion, the Kolar factory would be the fourth such factory of the Railways in the country.

Sanvordem-Curchorem Rail Consumers urge Kharge to restore the train services on SWR

Sanvordem (SVM): Ahead of the interim railway budget for 2014-15 to be presented in the parliament next month, the Sanvordem-Curchorem rail consumers association has urged Union minister for railways, Mallikarjun Kharge, to restore the various train services along the South Western Railway (SWR) route which were suspended in 1996 during the gauge conversion work but have not been restored since.

SCRCA has demanded restoration of the Vasco-Mumbai express trains via Londa, Belgaum and Pune, considering the needs of the large number of people travelling on these routes for business, medical care and other purposes.

“The introduction of daily passenger trains as well as express trains along the route will lessen the hardships of passengers,” Devanand Bhandari, president of the association told.

It drew the attention of the railway minister to facilitate train service along the Vasco-Tirupati-Hyderabad-Secundarabad route by way of a link train which was available before the gauge conversion work.

The association demanded that the Vasco-Yeshwantpur bi-weekly express be converted into a daily service, and that it may be renamed as ‘Siddharudh Express’, while also urging for the conversion of the weekly Vasco-Chennai express into a bi-weekly service and that it be renamed as ‘Dudhsagar Express.’ A demand for converting the Vasco-Howrah Amravati express which runs four days a week into a daily service with a pantry car facility, also finds mention in the letter.

“Curchorem-Sanvordem railway station was once adjudged the cleanest and most beautiful railway station on the SWR in Goa. Unfortunately, the present state of this station is far from satisfactory. We request your kind favour to restore the old glory of this station which is the only transit point in Goa for all mineral transport from Karnataka and Goa,” adds the letter. Copies of the letter have been addressed to chief minister Manohar Parrikar, South Goa MP Fransisco Sardinha, North Goa MP Shripad Naik, and Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik.

Lack of Evidence force CBI to close probe into irregularities in Railways

New Delhi: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had last year filed several preliminary inquiries related to postings/transfers and contracts related to work in railway board and RPF as it was suspected that there were large scale irregularities in the railways. However, after months of investigations, the agency has not found any evidence and the preliminary inquiries might be closed, said highly placed sources.

While investigating the jobs for sale scandal involving former minister for railways Pawan Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla last year, agency had learnt that there was a nexus between officials of RPF Officers’ Association and private persons in the transfers and promotions and officials paid money to get posts. It was alleged that lot of private contractors and businessmen were always seen in railways, even when they are not having any contract there and that illegal contracts were being given.

It was also alleged that the appointments in these associations were not happening on the basis of merits but by paying bribe to senior railway babus or executives.

One of the preliminary inquiries was registered to probe former minister Pawan Bansal’s private secretary Rahul Bhandari allegedly infringing in the transfer and posting matters of the railway ministry apparently for monetary gains.

Agency had even grilled Bhandari, a 1997 batch IAS officer, in this regard.

CBI sources said they did not find much evidence so far and call on the fate of investigations would be taken soon by the investigation team. The senior officials hinted that if nothing is found, the inquiries could be closed.

Beautiful Art and Paintings to Adorn the Walls of Madurai Railway Station

Madurai paintings templeMadurai Jn. (MDU): The usual sight of walls in railways stations are full of posters about different railway trade unions harping about their achievements, demonstrations and mudslinging. But the beautiful wall paintings depicting the specialities of Madurai are a breather at the Madurai Railway Junction. Few months ago, railway officials decided to utilise the wall space to depict the life of Madurai as an attraction for the visitors to the junction.

Seven paintings have come up till now and the Divisional Railway Manager, A K Rastogi had a look at them on Thursday. He suggested the titles of the paintings to be written in English as well, so that all can understand the picture titles. The seven paintings are about Madurai Meenakshi temple, Nayak Mahal, Mariamman teppakulam and the world-renowned jallikattu held in Alanganallur. It was a month-long work of K S Anandaraj, a Madurai-based artist who has painted them under the banner ‘Nandha Arts’. The two paintings on Mariamman teppakulam and jallikattu are painted above the station manager’s office and the rest are in the concourse area of the junction. One can spot them upon entering the junction on the walls above. Anandaraj said he picked up the painting theme based on the specialities of Madurai.

Meanwhile, division officials are planning to do more wall paintings in the future and they are working on it. Additional Divisional Railway Manager, V Ajith Kumar said that they want to showcase the life of Madurai through paintings and they are planning to do more such paintings with different styles. “We are working on it and we are also contemplating on setting up an art gallery in the junction with different type of paintings on Madurai,” he said.

College on rails to build bridges with Pakistan, experience life and culture

Akiljit and Simple eager to know about their roots

Akiljit Kaur grew up hearing stories of her grandfather’s journey on the train from Pakistan; the truck ride to the railway station; the long, searing journey on a train so packed there was no room to move; the killings, how many he never counted. Like millions of Partition refugees, Sardar Gurbachan Singh struggled to build a life in India — laying the foundation for Ms. Kaur to study at Delhi University’s prestigious Lady Shri Ram College.

Now, 65 years later, Ms. Kaur is hoping she’ll have a seat on a train to Pakistan: Delhi University’s ‘Gyanodaya Express,’ an annual cross-country travel opportunity for students which, for the first time, will be headed across the border.

Dinesh Singh, Vice-Chancellor, said the visit to Pakistan was “an exercise in building bridges between the young people of both countries.” Dr.Singh said the group would stay in Pakistan for a week, visiting the Lahore University of Management Studies, and the frontier town of Taxila —the cradle of the Indus Valley civilization.

The train is meant to be a kind of college-on-wheels — an opportunity to experience life and culture.

Kamla Nehru college student Simple Rajra also hopes to be on the train, eager to see the country where her grandparents met, fell in love and married. Her grandparents, Ms. Rajra says, were inseparable as children, and once even ran away together, setting of a search by the entire village. Their families were separated during the chaos of Partition, as they fled across what is now the Line of Control in Poonch. The families were resettled, though, in the same village in India — leading, eventually, to Ms. Rajra’s birth.

Her grandparents, however, never again saw the river bank where they used to meet — and Ms. Rajra hopes she will fulfil their dream.

Dr. Singh said he hadn’t been able to be present in the earlier Gyanodaya Express trips through India. “But I will most probably accompany the students on this trip,” he said. “We will open applications on a first come, first served basis during the university’s Anthardhvani Festival, which begins on February 14,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Maha Cabinet approve Metro Rail Project for Orange City – Nagpur to get Metro Rail

Nagpur (NGP):  Nagpur, the “orange country”, will soon become the third city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune to have a metro railway. The state cabinet Wednesday approved a proposal to construct two elevated metro line corridors linking important locations in the state’s second capital in Vidarbha region. The project will cost around Rs.8,680 crore and is expected to be completed in six years, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said. “Of the total cost, the centre and state will bear 20 percent each, the Nagpur local bodies will contribute 10 percent and the remaining 50 percent shall be raised through loans and other sources,” he said. The two lines shall link Automotive Chowk-MIHAN and Prajapati Nagar-Lokmanya Nagar, a distance of around 38 km. The project approval follows a study by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). This is the second metro rail project approved outside state capital Mumbai. Last year, the state government gave the green signal to the Pune metro railway which will cost around Rs.10,183 crore and is expected to be completed in phases by 2021. The Mumbai metro railway’s first phase linking Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar is nearing completion and is expected to be commissioned shortly.

Kerala wants exclusive container track to CIAL

Cochin:  The State has urged the Railways to lay an railway container track to Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) and to expedite the construction of a full-fledged railway station at the airport to provide railway connectivity for passengers.

The exclusive rail container track had been mooted as the third international airport of the State is growing at an average of 12% and in the wake of the commencement of the freighter flight operations from Kochi. At present, 2 weekly freighter operations take place from the Kochi airport.

Setting up a dedicated rail container track to the airport will be economic and can be effectively utilised to generate better yield and profit for the exporters, official sources said.

Adequate budget provision had been required by the State in the 2014-15 Railway Budget as the Railways had not taken any step for the construction of the railway station even after the foundation stone was laid.

Sources said, the flyers coming from the northern and southern regions of the State by trains are facing hardship due to the lack of rail connectivity to the CIAL. It has been pointed out that airplane and passenger traffic to and from the CIAL is growing at an average of 10% per annum.

During the 2012-13 financial years, the CIAL recorded 5 million passenger movements. The State is of the view that quality and cost-effective modes of public transport were needed at the airport which has become a pivotal point for business travel as well as for the tourists coming down to the State.

Railways’ station revamp plan remain unstuck for want of investor interest

New Delhi:  The railways, struggling to modernize its stations due to dearth of funds, has to rely on the PPP model for making at least few stations world-class.  However, railways’ initial plan to modernise five stations via the public-private partnership (PPP) model itself has come unstuck for want of investor interest. According to sources, even as the deadlines for awarding contracts for the five projects set by the railway board nears, the national transporter is yet to begin the bidding process.

In Budget 2013-14, the railways had set a target of Rs 1,000 crore as private sector investment for the development of five railway stations-Chandigarh, Habibganj, Shivaji Nagar, Bijwasan, Shivaji Nagar and Anand Vihar-phase II. Later, the board decided that by March end all these projects would be awarded.

The railways, struggling to modernize its stations due to dearth of funds, has to rely on the PPP model for making at least few stations world-class. The selected stations, as per the blueprint, were supposed to have all amenities available at stations across the world.

In September, the railways held several pre-bidding meetings with potential investors but the plan failed to take off due to lukewarm response.

According to the railways, the master plans of Chandigarh and Pune’s Shivaji Nagar stations have already been prepared by a consultant and are with the zonal railways for approval.

The master plans of other stations are being prepared by foreign consultants and will be submitted to the railways soon. The redevelopment project has been undertaken by the newly formed Railway Station Development Corporation.

“We have got the approvals from local civic bodies for providing basic amenities and making traffic plans for the peripheral areas of stations. The overall economic situation and slowdown in the infrastructure sector has had its toll on the station redevelopment plan,” a railway board official said.

Performance indicators shows substantial increase in spend, decline in earnings till Dec’13

With just over a couple of months to go this fiscal, not many in Rail Bhavan are hopeful of stemming the tide

With a vote on account (and not a full-fledged rail budget) just weeks away, the Indian Railways once again finds itself in uncomfortable though familiar territory. Their performance indicators till December 2013 show a substantial increase in their expenditures and a continuing decline in their earnings.

With just over a couple of months to go this fiscal, not many in Rail Bhavan are hopeful of stemming the tide. Whoever comes to power after the next Lok Sabha polls will, therefore, be saddled with a ministry stuck in a financial quagmire.

As per their revised estimates, while the railways’ earnings are likely to fall by a staggering Rs.4,558 crore from the budget estimates by the end of this fiscal, their expenses are all set to rise by Rs.1,560 crore. What this means is that its overall net revenues will be down by Rs.6,118 crore from what was projected in the budget estimates (see box).

After paying off their dividend liabilities to the central government, the railways are likely to be left with Rs.5,467 crore in their coffers as “excess” this fiscal. This “excess” is Rs.7,680 crore less than what was projected in last year’s rail budget.

This phenomenal fall in the “excess” is critical since all of it has to be invested in three funds, two of which, the development fund (which meets the expenditure to provide and upgrade passenger amenities), the capital fund (for creation of new assets), have a direct bearing on rail users.

When then minister Pawan Kumar Bansal read out the last rail budget speech last year, Rail Bhavan had estimated that it would end up with an “excess” of Rs.13,147 crore. From this money, Railways had projected investments worth Rs.5,433 crore into the capital fund, another Rs 3,550 crore into the development fund and the remaining Rs.4,163 crore into the newly-created railway liability reserve Fund.

Now, the ministry is staring at a situation where it will not be left with even half of what it had anticipated as “excess”. A steep decline in passenger earnings is what has led to the current situation. Till December 2013, the railways had estimated earnings worth Rs.30,848 crore from the passenger business. They have only managed to earn Rs.26,846 crores, a deficit of Rs.4,002 crore. The expected freight earnings in the same period are down too, by Rs.884 crore. On the other hand, the ordinary working expenses till December have overshot the projected figure by Rs,4,892 crore.

Speed Restriction in 168 Km Stretch of North Bengal forest areas not feasible – will hit Ops

Ministry of Railways also rejects plea for construction of elevated tracks over stretch of 168-km in view of tremendous cost.

The Railways informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it was not possible to have the entire 168 km-stretch of the North Bengal forest areas under speed restriction to prevent elephants from being mowed to death by speeding trains.

This stretch covers parts of Bihar, Assam and West Bengal and it has not only the highest concentration of wild elephants but also the highest mortality of jumbos.

As per the railways statistics, 65 elephants have been hit and killed by trains since 2010, mainly in this region. There were 22 deaths in 2013, the highest in the last three years.

Responding to a PIL filed by journalist Shakti Prasad Nayak, the Railways said that the 168-km long railway alignment between Alipurduar and Siliguri via Hasimara Passes, has already got periodic speed restrictions spread over as much as 95.3 km.

There is a permanent speed restriction of 50 km/hour over 22.4 km in the four reserved sanctuary areas of Buxa, Jaldapara, Chapramari and Mahananda and temporary speed restriction across other sections.

“It is practically not possible to have extended portions of railway tracks to be covered under speed restriction of 50 km per hour since this impairs punctuality of running 19 trains each way, with maintenance blocks and existing speed restrictions,” it said. It added that if speed restriction is imposed on the entire stretch, the number of trains would also be reduced to 9.5 trains each way and night closure of goods train would add to the capacity constraints in this section.

The ministry also rejected the plea for construction of elevated tracks over the stretch of 168-km in view of tremendous cost.

“Construction of elevated tracks over the entire stretch will have huge cost implications (Rs 8,000 crore).

Even the cost of laying elevated corridor in the reserve forest area covering a length of 17.4 km will be exorbitantly high apart from causing continuous disturbances to the wild life for an extended period,” it said.

With regard to suggestion of prohibiting running of goods trains at night, it said the step would affect economy of the north-eastern states and those trains, if stopped at night, would be susceptible to theft as well.

The ministry was responding to the direction given by the Supreme Court on December 10 to ensure that the speed limit of trains was lowered and goods trains were stopped at night while passing through elephant corridors in order to protect pachyderms from getting killed.

In its earlier affidavit, the ministry said that it was working on developing electronic intelligent surveillance system for receiving alerts in the control rooms on an elephant coming near to its tracks as 77 pachyderms died since 2007 after being hit by speeding trains.

Reliance Infra resumes paying Delhi Metro dues

Total exposure of the lenders, including Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank, was around Rs.1,800 crore

New Delhi: In a fresh twist to the Airport Express saga, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has resumed loan repayments to banks after initially disputing its liability to repay the loan taken for the project.

Bankers and government officials confirmed that the concessionaire—Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt. Ltd (DAMEPL), a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure—is paying its dues.

The 22.7km Delhi airport metro line, which connects the New Delhi railway station with the T3 airport terminal, was a joint venture between DAMEPL and DMRC.

Last year, a consortium of lenders led by Axis Bank Ltd had issued notices to the company for non-payment of dues. The total exposure of the lenders, including Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank, was around Rs.1,800 crore.

DAMEPL had contended then that there was no liability on its part to make any further repayment to the lenders as the Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (DMRC) had taken over the entire project on 1 July 2013 and was collecting revenues from both ticketing and retail business.

It said that the liabilities to the lenders are now to be repaid by DMRC.

The 22.7km Delhi airport metro line, which connects the New Delhi railway station with the T3 airport terminal, was a joint venture between DAMEPL and DMRC. DMRC built the civil infrastructure and spent more than half of the Rs.5,700-crore project cost, while DAMEPL brought in the rolling stock and was supposed to run it for 30 years. But Reliance Infrastructure pulled out of the agreement with DMRC in July last year saying the project was not financially viable.

The decision on the termination notice and on who will repay the debt is being considered by an empowered group of ministers on mass rapid transit system headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

“They (Reliance Infrastructure) are making the loan payments now. Irrespective of the unilateral termination notice by them, for us the concessionaire is still Reliance and they have an obligation to repay the dues,” said an official with India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd, whose UK subsidiary is a lender to the project.
An emailed questionnaire sent to Axis Bank on 27 January remained unanswered.

“After termination of the Concession Agreement and subsequent takeover of project by DMRC, DMRC has failed to meet its obligations under the concession agreement towards termination payment and the payments to lenders,” a Reliance Infra spokesperson said in through email.

“In these circumstances, DAMEPL without prejudice to its rights and claims under the concession agreement has made the debt service payments to ensure that the lenders of the project do not suffer owing to wilful defaults by DMRC in making payments to the lenders.”

“All such payments are being claimed from DMRC in the ongoing arbitration,” the spokesperson added.

A DMRC spokesperson said the matter to decide the concessionaire was under arbitration. “Whether Reliance is paying off the loan or not, it is a matter between the banks and Reliance,” he added.

Hatim Broachwala, an analyst at Karvy Stock Broking Ltd said, “Though there is no written rule as such, it would not look good for a company to get classified as a defaulter especially when another group company is bidding for a banking licence.”

Reliance Infrastructure is a Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group. One of the group subsidiaries, Reliance Capital is an aspirant for a banking licence.

Overaged & Outdated RE Overhead cables and alignment pose a danger

Railways still using outdated cables; passenger safety at risk

Posing risks to passenger lives, the Railways continue to use the overage and outdated Railway Electric (RE) cables to operate signaling systems.

The task of replacing these with the modern Quad-6 has remained painfully slow, with just 27 of the total of 64 block sections having been commissioned. “The condition of the RE cable and overhead alignment have deteriorated beyond maintainable levels and working on this has become hazardous”, says an internal document.

The cable replacement scheme was taken up as a pilot project in 2003 in the North Central Railway (NCR) zone on India’s busiest section from Jhansi to Banda on the important “Golden Quadrilateral” route.

With the pilot scheme having remained a non-starter, a huge question mark has come to hang over plans to replicate the scheme across the country’s rail network of approximately 64,000 route kilometers.

A big chunk of rail accidents in past years have been caused because of cable and signaling failures. In sections where the erstwhile Yugoslavia-made RE cables have completed their life of 30 years, train operations have become more risky.  RE cables are no longer being manufactured and spares for these are unavailable in the market, officials said.

“We are constrained to use the old RE cables, as the new cable systems have not been completed or handed over. Signaling failures have alarmingly increased because of the poor insulation of old cables and train operations have been adversely impacted”, said Manmohan Garhwal, the NCR Chief Technical and Signaling Engineer (CTSE).

Officials of the Indian Railways Project Management Unit (IRPMU) –the implementing agency – say that two-thirds of the cable replacement work had been completed and handed over to open line department. But the Railways have been unable to migrate to the upgraded system because of “deficiencies” in execution work, official documents show.

Despite repeated attempts to contact him, NCR General Manager Pradeep Kumar remained unavailable for comments.

CRS submits Report on Bangalore-Nanded Train fire – cites passengers’ negligence a root cause

Bangalore:  The preliminary investigation report by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), Bangalore, has noted that an “advertent act or act of negligence on the part of unidentified passenger(s) or person(s)” was the probable cause of fire in the AC coach-B1 of Bangalore-Nanded Express on December 28, 2013, which claimed 26 lives.

The report, which has been sent to Chief Commissioner, Railway Safety, by CRS Bangalore S K Mittal, on Thursday, states that the accident is classified under category “Error in working near railway line.”

However, his office was not forthcoming to elaborate further, on the grounds that it was an internal categorisation. The report also pegs the cost of damage to the coach at Rs 51.93 lakh including cost on account of damage to electrical equipment.

In his18-page report, the CRS has observed that all protective devices such as HRC fuses, MCCBs, MCBs and electric circuits were found intact in the coach except 40 amp MCBs and smaller MCBs for supply to light, fan and mobile charger circuits which were in burnt condition.

A staff of contractor who was sleeping on the bench in rear side of AC coach, who supplied bed rolls to passengers, felt heat underneath his bench. He, along with AC mechanic in the coach, pulled the alarm chain, states the report.

Further, the report observed that a burnt and melted adopter and burnt laptop were found on berth no 13 where burnt cells were also found. Another burnt laptop was found on berth no 40 and three pin top was found in burnt condition with hanging snapped wire near mobile charging point of berth No 39.

The post mortem report of the victims had suggested that majority of victims died due to gaseous asphyxia with 100 per cent burns and neurological shock.

As per preliminary report submitted by Andhra Pradesh State Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad, which had collected samples for investigation from the affected coach, there were no signs of explosion effect found in the burnt coach and the pattern of fire signature was slow and progressive indicating absence of inflammable substances and sabotage as cause of fire. However, a final report by APFSL, Hyderabad, is still awaited.

As per observations of CRS, the coach was completely gutted in the fire except that some berths had not burnt completely. All combustible material, except some partially burnt berths, were reduced to ashes. All lights, fans, night light fittings, mobile charging points in all bays, emergency lights and their respective wiring were found burnt. Interior panels, insulation materials, amenity fittings, seats/ berths, roof ceiling and flooring were also completely burnt, except portions of few berths and part of top roof ceiling. Window glasses were broken completely during fire fighting.

Almost all passengers of the affected coach deposed that they saw smoke first, states the report. Fire was first seen in bay 1 and/or bay 2 side and the coach was in flames in a very short span of time, the report suggests.

Incidentally, two emergency windows in the affected coach were not used and the passengers had used the front door and toilet door to escape and all the glass windows were found in broken condition. The report adds that there was excessive burning mark near berth No 7 up to floor level.

Rooftop travellers hold up Western Railway train for 20 minutes

Mumbai:  Two rooftop travellers held up a Western Railway local for 20 minutes and delayed other services on Wednesday morning, as they refused to come down despite authorities pleading with them. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) had to act with caution to ensure the duo didn’t end up singing themselves. The two men were nabbed after a chase and penalized.

The duo, Lalji Gautam, 20, and Ajit Pandey, 23, were seated on the rooftop of an Up local illegally. When the train arrived at Borivali station around 9.25 am, someone reported them to the railway authorities. The train was detained while uniformed RPF personnel walked up to the compartment over which the duo was seated.

The RPF pleaded with Gautam and Pandey, even roping in other travellers to convince them to get down. A large crowd soon gathered at the spot. “We can’t be too pushy in these cases as the crowd might just turn against the man in uniform,” a source from the RPF said.

“As it was morning peak hour, the situation was growing chaotic. On noticing that the fast line on platform 5 was held up due to the rooftop travellers, office-goers started rushing towards the slow line on platforms 2 and 3. The narrow foot overbridges were teeming with people. Women commuters had a tough time as they were pushed around. People were shouting because everyone was getting late,” said a media professional who witnessed the goings-on.

Witnesses said the RPF was preparing to climb onto the rooftop, when Gautam and Pandey finally began to descend. They tried to run but the RPF gave chase and nabbed the duo. They were booked under section 156 of the Railway Act and penalized Rs 500 each.

“Six trains were delayed due to the rooftop travellers’ antics. On an average, trains were delayed by 10 minutes,” said a WR spokesperson.

While Gautam is a Kandivali East resident, Pandey stays at Mira Road.

Kalam inaugurates Centenary Celebrations of Pamban Bridge

kalam pambanPamban (PBM): The iconic Pamban railway bridge at the southern tip of India completed 100 years with the centenary celebrations inaugurated by Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India at Pamban railway station in Ramanathapuram District on Tuesday. A long-time resident of Rameswaram and former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam inaugurated the Centenary Celebrations of the Pamban Railway Bridge — India’s first cantilever bridge, connecting the pilgrim-island of Rameswaram with the mainland. He turned nostalgic as a two-coach special train took him from Mandapam across the bridge. “Pamban bridge is part of my life,” Mr.Kalam said. As a young boy, he had travelled hundreds of times on the bridge to take newspapers to the island for distribution.

Mr. Kalam unveiled a plaque and released a book Marvels of South Indian Railway, marking the inauguration of the nearly month-long celebrations.  Mr. Kalam had also played a vital role in preserving the bridge. After the Railways announced its uni-gauge policy in 2006, and almost gave up gauge conversion at the bridge, he brought in IIT-Madras expertise to thrash out an engineering solution.

Southern Railway General Manager Rakesh Misra said the bridge was an engineering marvel that had withstood corrosion and a violent sea for over a century. The 65.23-metre-long rolling central lift span (the bridge is 2.06 km long), named after Scherzer, German engineer who designed and built the span, has been given a fresh coat of paint and decorated with lights. It opens up like a pair of scissors to allow vessels to pass through under the bridge.

The bridge is unique in the sense that its two spans open up to allow ships to pass under it. Another interesting feature of this is that a device fitted on the bridge warns railway officials if the wind speeds exceed 58kmph and trains are stopped from using the bridge. “An anemometer fixed at 56th pier over the bridge records the velocity of the wind and whenever the velocity of the wind exceeds 58 kmph, trains are not allowed over the bridge. This is ensured by suitable connectivity to the approach signals from the anemometer,” a senior official told.

The historic and famous Pamban railway bridge has completed 100 years of existence. This bridge, which is a great tourist attraction, is located between Mandapam and Pamban railway stations in Madurai – Rameswaram section of Madurai Division of Southern Railway. The Pamban Railway bridge connects the Rameswaram island to the main land.

The Pamban railway bridge was constructed between August 1910 and December 1913. The 2054.35 m long bridge consists of 145 spans of 40 feet steel girders and 1 span of 218 feet steel truss consisting of 2 lifting type of cantilever trusses. This span has been named after Scherzer, the Engineer who designed and executed this span. Works on the Scherzer span commenced in July 1913 and were completed in December 1913. A unique feature of this span is that it can be opened for the movement of boats / vessels by lifting the cantilever span for a maximum of 81 degrees in vertical plane. The Pamban Railway bridge was opened on 24th February, 1914 by Mr. Neville Priestley, MD, South Indian Railway Company Ltd. Railway traffic was opened in February, 1914 by the then South Indian Railway Company to facilitate transport between India and Ceylon.

With the help of Pamban Railway bridge, railway line reached Rameswaram island and extended upto Dhanushkodi, a place of pilgrimage at the eastern tip of Rameswaram island. Shipping services were operated between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar, a terminus of Ceylon Railway System. Regular steamer services were operated between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar as a part of Railway (Managing) System to carry passengers and goods between India and Ceylon.

Rakesh Misra, General Manager, Southern Railway welcomed the gathering and said that Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a living legend. During his inspiring speech attended by a large number of students and the public, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said that though Rameswaram was his birth place Pamban was his favourite. He wanted Southern Railway to introduce ‘Pamban Express’ between Chennai Egmore – Rameswaram with a refrigerated coach that would facilitate export of fish. He admired the engineering marvel that is Pamban Railway Bridge and appreciated the efforts of railway men who were responsible for the construction of the bridge. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam later unveiled a commemorative plaque and released a book titled ‘Marvels of South Indian Railway.’ Shri. A.K. Rastogi, Divisional Railway Manager, Madurai Division delivered the vote of thanks. Shri. K. Shivakumar alias J.K. Ritheesh, Hon’ble MP was the distinguished guest while Dr. M.H. Jawahirullah, M.L.A. graced the occasion as guest of honour.

Initially, it was decided to construct a new bridge meeting broad gauge standards. To execute this project, global consultancy tenders were called for. Multi-national organizations submitted their offers to carry out the construction of a new bridge at an estimated cost of Rs.800 crores. However, Railway Engineers, along with technical experts from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai and the Government of Tamil Nadu, conducted a detailed survey and recommended the conversion of the existing bridge to broad gauge standards instead of construction of a new bridge. Accordingly, strengthening, replacement and improvement works to Pamban railway bridge were carried out at an approximate cost of Rs.24 crores.

Upon completion of the gauge conversion works, the Manamadurai – Rameswaram Broad Gauge section, in which the historic Pamban railway bridge is situated, was opened for traffic on 12th August, 2007.

The humid atmosphere coupled with a high degree of salinity in the region demands constant monitoring and maintenance of the steel girders of the bridge. All efforts are being taken and requirements met to keep the bridge fit. This grand old bridge which remains sturdy, braving the elements for a century, is surely one of its kind. The pride of Indian Railways, the Pamban railway bridge is indeed an engineering marvel !

Villagers want introduction of Pamban Express

Villagers of Pamban on Tuesday appealed to the railway authorities to operate an additional train between Rameswaram and Chennai and name it as Pamban Express. Former President, A P J Abdul Kalam made the representation to the railway authorities during the function on behalf of the people asking for Pamban Express with a refrigerated goods wagon attached to transport fishes from the island. The villagers in fact submitted a series of demands to the visiting railway officials. They also appealed to raise the height of the platform in the station and renovate it to modern standards.

Except Chennai Express and passenger trains, other important trains do not stop at Pamban though there is larger passenger patronage from the station, said M Patrick, panchayat president of Pamban. “We request the railway authorities to provide stoppages for all the trains crossing Pamban,” he said. Further, the villagers also urged the railways to revive the Coimbatore – Rameswaram Daily Express that ran before the gauge conversion. There is a weekly train at present and the villagers are asking for a daily train with refrigerated wagons to transport fishes.

“The weekly catch of the fish caught in the island is more than 150 tonnes. We need train facilities to transport such volume of fish to other destinations,” said Patrick.

Railway authorities have already agreed to improve the station since it was selected as Adarsh station last year. “We want the railways to support us like before and we placed our appeals through Abdul Kalam during the function,” Patrick added.

Kalam terms the Train Horn as ‘Divine Music’ while entering the Temple Town from Pamban Bridge

kalam pambanRameswaram:  As he threw open the month-long celebration of Pamban railway bridge on Tuesday that will be completing 100 years on February 24, former President Abdul Kalam recalled the fond memories the cantilever bridge had brought in his life.

Kalam, who travelled to Pamban railway station by a special train from Mandapam termed the sound of the train entering the bridge, as divine music. He hoped that the divine music lasts longer and turned his brief journey on the train into a poem, which he later read it out to the villagers and asking them to recite after him.

Kalam, who hails from Rameswaram said that he used to travel on the bridge regularly right from his childhood days, as it was the only connectivity between the island and the mainland. Constructed in 1914 to improve trade and tourism with Ceylon, the bridge contributed to the livelihood and improvement of the people in Rameswaram island to a great deal and he recalled how the newspapers he distributed in his schools days came through the trains.

“The bridge has become part and parcel of everyone’s life in this island,” he said. He also appreciated the Southern Railway for maintaining the bridge very well in spite of it being surrounded by a highly-corrosive environment. During a cyclone in 1964, 124 spans of the bridge were washed away by tidal waves leaving it with just 19 pre-stressed concrete girders and the Scherzer span. E Sreedharan, the then executive engineer of railways restored the bridge within 67 days. When a barge rammed against it last year, the railways again had a daunting task and with the support of the local people managed to restore it in seven days.

“The bridge was instrumental in connecting lakhs of people with the island. I wish that the bridge should last long and the divine music of the train while crossing it continue forever connecting people across the region,” Kalam said.

Y S Rajan, professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who graced the occasion said that the bridge means connecting people.

M H Jawahirullah, Ramanathapuram MLA shared an interesting piece of information associated with the bridge. “Many Muslim households around Pamban name their girl children a ‘White’ prefix. One such common name is Whitebeevi. This is done in honour of the wife of British official, Mr White who was the project officer during the construction of the Pamban bridge. Both of them were involved in many humanitarian works in the region as the couple lived in the locality during that period,” he said.

Rakesh Misra, general manager of Southern Railway said the Pamban Bridge is an engineering marvel and the pride of the zone.

For the people of Pamban panchayat, the celebration was their own as the entire village turned out for the function. In fact they had insisted earlier with the railway authorities about hosting the event in Pamban against the earlier schedule of Mandapam. “We are thankful that the railway authorities considered our request to host the event in Pamban and we believe that the closing ceremony next month would also be held here,” one of the villagers said. Ramanathapuram MP, J K Ritheesh, Madurai divisional railway manager, A K Rastogi and other railway officials also took part in the event.

Manduadih-Chhapra passenger bogie derails at Varanasi railway station

Varanasi Jn (BSB): The slow speed of 55132 up Manduadih-Chhapra passenger train helped in averting a major tragedy as one its bogies derailed and partially overturned while the train entered the Varanasi City railway station on Tuesday afternoon.

The train traffic on Varanasi-Audihar main line has been stopped due to which trains moving on Varanasi-Chhapra and Varanasi-Gorakhpur lines were delayed.

According to eye witnesses, the train entered the Varanasi City railway station at around 3.50 pm. The moment the engine touched the platform number one, a bogie attached just behind it derailed and partially overturned. As the train was in slow speed it stopped immediately after the derailment of the bogie and averted a major tragedy.

Passengers standing on platforms and railway employees immediately swung into action to rescue the injured passengers immediately. Fortunately only a few passengers suffered minor injuries in the incident and were provided first aid at the station. However, the public relation officer (PRO) of North Eastern Railway (NER) Varanasi division, Ashok Kumar denied that anyone suffered injuries in this incident as the number of passengers on board was meager.

The divisional railway manager, NER Ajay Vijayvargiya along with other senior officers of the division reached the Varanasi City railway station. The cops from several police stations also reached the incident site.

The railway officials refused to make any comment on the incident and said only initial investigation would reveal the cause of derailment. However, they said technical error and not human error is suspected to be the cause of incident. One of the reasons evident at the site is the broken railway track and it is suspected that similar damages in the railway track led to derailment.

Following the incident, the Varanasi-Audihar main line was blocked and affected the movement of trains on Varanasi-Chhapra and Varanasi-Gorakhpur routes. Kumar said mainly the Kisan Express and Chhapra-Durg Sarnath Express were delayed due to the incident. The process of opening the Varanasi-Audihar main line by detaching the derailed bogie and shifting rest of the bogies on other line has been started by 5 pm. The officials hoped that the Varanasi-Audihar main line would become clear for the train movement by late evening.

Five member-panel to probe incident

A five-member committee of technical experts will probe into the matter of derailment of a bogie of Manduadih-Chhapra passenger train at Varanasi City railway station.

After inspecting the accident site, the Divisional Railway Manager of North Eastern Railway (NER) Varanasi division, Ajay Vijayvargiya constituted a team of five members including senior divisional safety officer, senior divisional engineer-III, senior divisional mechanical engineer (carriage and wagon), senior divisional operation manager (general) and senior divisional signal and telecommunication engineer, on Tuesday evening. He has also set a deadline for submitting the probe report.

Earlier, when the media persons contacted Vijayvargiya at Varanasi City railway station he said the initial investigation of the site hint that some technical disorder with the bogie or the railway track led to derailment. The actual reason would become clear only after further investigation for which a team has been constituted. He said the first priority was to remove the derailed bogies and the train from Varanasi-Audihar main line to resume the normal train movement on the line.

Railway PSUs hand over dividends worth Rs.505 Crore

New Delhi: Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge received cheques amounting to a total of Rs.505.31 crore as dividend for the year 2012-13 from the seven public sector undertakings functioning under his ministry.

In 2011-12, the total dividend paid by these seven PSUs was Rs.405.78 crore.

“Despite the slowdown, Railway PSUs have performed well and are paying approximately 25 per cent more dividend in 2012-13 as compared to the previous year,” a senior rail ministry official said.

The heads of all seven PSUs – Container Corporation of India Ltd (CONCOR), IRCON International Ltd, RailTel Corporation of India Ltd (RCIL), RITES, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) – met Kharge and personally presented the cheques.

Besides Kharge, all Railway Board members were present during the meeting.

The maximum dividend was paid by IRCON Chairman-cum- Managing Director, Mohan Tiwari, who handed over a cheque of Rs.148.06 crore. He was followed by Concor CMD Anil K Gupta, who gave the minister a cheque for Rs.143.48 crore.

The cheque for the lowest amount was from IRCTC, which returned a dividend of Rs.11.77 crore.

IRFC MD Rajiv Dutt presented a cheque for Rs.110 crore while the RITES cheque, presented by CMD RK Mehrotra, amounted to Rs.50 crore, RVNL CMD Satish Agnihotri handed over a cheque for Rs 27 crore while RK Bahuguna of RCIL gave a cheque for Rs 15 crore.

Western Railway to text Meal Rates to Outstation passengers

Mumbai: Western Railway has launched an awareness campaign, called Know Your Rights, to educate passengers about the correct pricing and quantity of the food provided on outstation trains.

WR had received several complaints of contractors overcharging passengers, serving fewer food items, and demanding money to serve curds or packaged water though these are included in the meal package.

“As a pilot project, passengers on five trains, including Maharashtra Sampark Kranti, Avadh Express and Paschim Express, will receive an SMS stating the standard vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal rates, along with the helpline number and email ID to register complaints,” said Sharat Chandrayan, WR chief public relations officer.

Leaflets of the campaign, along with meal rates and helpline numbers printed on them, will be also distributed among the passengers.

“WR provides onboard catering services in outstation trains through pantry cars and train vending. The price, quantity and quality of each food item is fixed by the railway board. If a passenger finds that he has been overcharged or the quantity is not as desired, he can complain by calling on 1800111321 (toll-free), or 09004441955 or send an email to,” said Chandrayan.

WR plans to soon extend the drive to other trains too.

Copper wire theft rampant in Daltonganj, Railway officials worried

Daltonganj (DTO): Railway officials in Barkana and Phusro in Palamu district are having a tough time checking theft of overhead wires. RPF officials claimed that many villagers of Mehna Gangi and Garnaha in Garhwa are involved in the crime. Earlier, three persons were jailed for stealing wires but that did not help in curbing the theft.

Pankaj Kumar, RPF inspector in Daltonganj, said 50-60m of wires near Garhwa Road junction (East Central Railway) were detached recently, but “thieves could take away only 35-40m”.

Miscreants use hexa blade to cut wires. The blade is fitted to a bamboo pole that is extended to cut copper wires. The procedure is fraught with danger and miscreants, in most cases, do not take simple precautions like using rubber shoes or gloves, said a railway official, adding that they never found such evidence.

Palani-Tiruchendhur towns to get new connectivity

Madurai (MDU): The Madurai railway division has officially announced that the much-awaited Palani-Tiruchendhur passenger would be inaugurated in the third week of February and Silambu Express running between Chennai Egmore and Manamadurai will be extended till Shencottah from February 2.

Meanwhile, a daily train between Nagercoil and Bangalore is expected to be operated from February 2, according to the rail users association in Kanyakumari. The train which was operated as a weekly special since 2010 was withdrawn only last week and since then the rail users expressed fears whether a daily train would be operated. However, though the rail users are jubilant over the new train, the railways, is yet to make a formal announcement in this regard.

Though all the new trains announced for the region in the railway budget have been inaugurated, the Palani – Tiruchendur passenger connecting the two abodes of Lord Muruga and benefitting large number of pilgrims is yet to chug out. Under these circumstances, the division is expecting to operate the train shortly. In the same way, rail users between Virudhunagar – Manamadurai will be getting connectivity to Chennai for the first time.

The 67-km stretch, which was inaugurated after gauge conversion last year, was not enjoying much of train operations except for the Kanyakumari – Puducherry Weekly Express and Karaikudi – Manamadurai DEMU, which was later extended to Virudhunagar for six days in a week. Madurai divisional railway manager A K Rastogi said that they have received notification on extending the bi-weekly Silambu Express from Manamadurai to Shencottah and the train operation will commence on February 2.

“We are glad about the announcement because we will be getting direct train to Chennai after the gauge conversion,” said A Malairajan, president of Consumer Forum in Aruppukottai. The rail users also have placed the demand for more rail connectivity from the region like operating Chendhur Express through Aruppukottai and a new passenger train between Rameswaram – Shencottah through their area, he said.

Railway officials at Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai said that most of the trains announced in the railway budget will chug out by February. Crew shortage is impeding the operation of trains and the Southern Railway is working it out. “Most probably all the trains announced in the budget would be operated by February end,” a senior official mentioned.

Kolkata Metro to run weekday services till 11pm

Kolkata: It has already started services from 10am on Sundays. Now the Metro Railway is planning to extend weekday services to 11pm. The matter came up for discussion on Monday during a meeting between senior officials of the Metro and Railway Board in Delhi. The proposal to extend services till 11pm was made by Minister of State of Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury recently.

“In Delhi, Metro services continue till 11pm. It should be the same in a city like Kolkata. I won’t promise anything but have asked the Metro authorities to consider the possibility,” Chowdhury had said.

According to a Metro official, the matter is under active consideration. While there are sufficient rakes at the moment to extend services by an hour, officials are facing trouble in convincing operating staff to stay back till after 11pm. Now, the Metro operates two shifts. If the timing is to be extended, overtime will have to be paid. This, added to normal operating costs, would work only if the services are patronized.

“Now, the last trains start from Kavi Subhas and Dum Dum at 9.45pm. Operations take much longer to wind up. The motormen can go off duty only around 11pm after completing the trips and parking the rakes

. Even the booking clerks and station staff have to wait till the last train passes. The booking clerks then have to check their balances with the number of tokens sold before calling it a day

. If the last trains are to start from either end at 10.45pm, they may have to stay till midnight. We are now trying to convince them,” the Metro official said.

According to him, even if the timing is extended, there are likely to be only four additional services, two from either end at 30-minute intervals. Given the situation in Kolkata, a late-night Metro is likely to be very popular. Late-night buses are few and far between. Most people who return from work late or spend evenings out with family or friends have to depend on taxis that either refuse or demand exorbitant fares.

“I get held up in office at times. On some of these days, I get lifts back home from my colleagues. When there is nobody going my way, I am at the mercy of unscrupulous cabbies. Men at the Shakespeare Sarani crossing flag down shuttle cars and before long the area is deserted. If the Metro were to run for an hour longer, it would be a blessing for people like us,” said Ankita Roy, an advertising professional.

Pamban Rail Bridge – Scherzer’s span withstood 1964’s Nature’s Fury

img_9297Pamban (PBM): The Pamban rail bridge, India’s first cantilever bridge, connecting the island of Rameswaram to the mainland, has been decked up for the centenary celebrations beginning here on Tuesday to culminate on February 24 when it will complete 100 years.

The 65.23 metre long rolling central lift span, named after Scherzer, a German engineer who designed and built the span, has been given a fresh coat of paint and decorated with illuminating lights. It opens up like a pair of scissors to allow vessels to pass through under the bridge.

Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam would inaugurate the celebrations by unveiling a plaque in the presence of Minister for Handlooms and Textiles S. Sundararaj and Divisional Railway Manager (Madurai) A.K. Rastogi on Tuesday.

abdulkalamMr. Kalam had played a vital role in the bridge completing 100 years as he had helped the railways to strengthen the bridge to broad gauge standard with the expertise of IIT-Madras when the railways announced the uni-gauge policy in 2006 and almost gave up gauge conversion at the bridge and allow it to defunct.

The 2.06 km long bridge is the second longest sea bridge after Bandra-Worli sea link.

Located at the world’s second highly corrosive environment, next to Mexico, the strength of the bridge was put to test for the first time in December 1964 when a severe cyclonic storm hit this part of the area. All the girders, both RCC and steel, were washed away.

Two of the 141 piers were also damaged but the Scherzer’s span withstood nature’s fury.

A team of engineers, led by the then Assistant Engineer E Sreedharan (Delhi Metro) swung into action and salvaged the girders and put the bridge back on the rails in just five months.

Suffers jolt

The bridge suffered a jolt on January 14 last year when a barge, being taken through the channel, crashed into the bridge, damaging the 121st pier after anchor failure. Train services were suspended but resumed in a week after a team of railway engineers led by Chief Bridge Engineer repaired the pier. The need for rail connectivity between the main land and the island arose in the late 1870s when the East India Company, expanding its trade, decided to establish a rail link between Danushkodi and Colombo, a railway engineer said.

Ahmedabad stations start Biometric Verification for Railway Tickets

Biometric Verification for Railway TicketsAhmedabad (ADI): Next time you go to the railway reservation counter at Kalupur or Gandhigram, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide your biometric data before booking train tickets. To curb the menace of touts, the Western Railway has introduced a system of biometric authentication of ticket buyers at reservation counters.

“Anyone who goes to the reservation centre to purchase a railway ticket will have to collect a token after recording his finger and palm print. Incidentally, this system also ensures that the person does not have to stand in a queue. An electronic board will tell the person the counter number where he can purchase his ticket,” said a senior railway official.

Umesh Khatri, private firm accountant, said he found the system helpful. “You don’t need to be highly-qualified to use it. When the electronic board displays your number, you head to the counter assigned to you. I also liked the fact that there are many seats there. Waiting for long periods of time can become tiresome. Senior citizens will benefit a lot from this initiative,” said Khatri.

Similarly, Nirav Daswani, a businessman, said that the process is really simple once you become familiar with it. “It simplifies the process of ticketing. There will be less chaos and people will be more disciplined. And, as there is no queue, there will be no jostling or quarrels,” Daswani said.

Railways officials said that the system was earlier introduced in metro cities and when it was found to be successful there, it was implemented in other parts of the country. An official said that a genuine customer will visit the reservation counter perhaps once a month if he is a businessman. Touts, on the other hand, tend to visit reservation centres several times a day. The biometric authentication system will help authorities identify the touts and distinguish between them and genuine customers, the official said.

Officials said that identifying touts and black-marketeers will be easy since the counters also have CCTV cameras installed. A person who is captured by the cameras regularly and whose biometric data is also recorded frequently could be a tout. Also those who just loiter at the centre but do not register their biometric data will be classified differently. “We are in the process of evaluating the data which has been recorded so far,” said a senior officer.

SWR registers improved performance in the current fiscal ended 31st Dec

Hubli (UBL):  South Western Railway (SWR) has registered an increase in both goods and passenger earnings in the first 9 months of the present fiscal year (FY), achieving a gross earnings of INR 3,388 crore.

The zone had carried 145 million passengers in the first 9 months, recording an increase of 0.45%, said General Manager of SWR Mr.Pradeep Kumar Saxena.

Despite the ban on iron ore export by the State government and restrictions on mining, SWR had carried 25.7 million tonnes (mt) of freight, Mr. Sexena said.

With gross earnings of INR 3,388 crores, the zone had achieved a 12.9% growth compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, he said.

With a focus on passenger safety, the zone had constructed 48 subways to eliminate 50 level crossings, till December 2013, he said.

The zone had taken up the initiative of inducting eco-friendly bio-toilets, provision of quality linen through state-of-the art mechanised laundries, and mechanised cleaning of stations/coaches across the zone, he said.

Board of Directors approve Kochi Metro extention till Tripunithura

i8ermpes1370Triupunittura (TRTR), Kochi:  Kochi Metro Railway Ltd board of directors, which met on Monday has decided to extend the metro rail service till Tripunithura. For this the railways will have to incur an additional expense of Rs 323 crore, DMRC chairman Sudheer Krishna said at a press conference after the meeting.

As per the original plans, the metro was supposed to extend the rail line till Pettah. The director board’s new decision came after it took into consideration a report submitted by an agency called RIGHTS. “A decision has also been taken on availing of loan from a French company. For this, an agreement will be signed on February 8,” informed the directors.