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Over 300 projects pending with railways, says NITI Aayog’s transport adviser

New Delhi: The Railways’ target of doubling of 12,000 km of existing corridors in the next five years, has been termed as “aggressive” by the transport advisor, who also said that more than 300 projects are still pending with it due to lack of resources and other constraints.

Transport Advisor in Niti Ayog, Manoj Singh said the track record of Railways has “not been very impressive” and multiple-gauging of 12,000 km of corridor will be challenging.

Pending projects in Railways. AFPPending projects in Railways. AFP

Pending projects in Railways. AFP

“12,000 kms of doubling in the next five years is very aggressive. They have not done it before. Railways has done only 3,500 kms in the past five years. So, against their historical record, it is aggressive. Also, in the sense of huge projects that they still have to complete,” he said.

Singh was speaking at an event during the ‘Urban Mobility India Expo 2015’ in New Delhi.

He said there are more than 300 projects that are pending with the Railways due to various reasons.

“Many projects have lacked behind schedule due to lack of resources. More than 300 projects including that of new line, doubling and gauge converging are pending,” he said.

Finding sufficient resources for projects and their timely execution are the two key challenges the railways has to deal with, he said.

“The resource requirement is mammoth. Around (Rs) 3 lakh crore is required for the pending projects. Another (Rs) 1 lakh crore is needed for the capacity expansion by doubling the corridors. So, total (Rs) 4 lakh crore is required, though Railway is confident of mobilizing it,” Singh said.

Singh said apart from the financial constraints, Railways has all the expertise to deliver the projects.

“There are a large number of Railway engineers working on major projects like the Konkan project, metro and the dedicated freight corridors. It has the technical expertise to deliver,” he said.

PTI

Allow private players, have independent regulator: Railway Panel

New Delhi: In series of far-reaching suggestions, a high-level panel has recommended entry of private players and setting up an independent regulator in the Indian Railways among other proposals in its report submitted to the government on Friday.

Set up to propose ways to revamp Railways, the Bibek Debroy Committee, formed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last September, also stressed on the need for the national carrier to hive off from operations like running schools and hospitals.

AFP ImageAFP Image

AFP Image

In its final report to the Railway Board, the Committee noted that if the roadmap suggested by it was implemented in next five years, there would be no need for a separate Railway Budget.

The panel headed by Niti Aayog member said it is not recommending privatisation of Railways by means of sale of equity but endorses private entry with the provision of an independent regulator.

For open access of other players, it has recommended separation of track construction operation, train operation and rolling stock production units under separate entities.

The over 300-page report said that private sector participation in Railways has been unsubstantial as compared to other sectors like roads, civil aviation and telecom.

The committee said one of the primary reasons is that a single organisation is dealing with policy making, operations and regulations.

Seeking to provide the private sector a level playing field, the report has recommended setting up of a Railway Regulatory Authority of India — a statutory, quasi-judicial, independent body with a separate budget.

The regulator will be mandated to fix freight rates, resolve disputes and set technical standards.

Pointing out the core role of the Indian Railways is to run trains, the report said operations like running schools and hospitals should be hived off.

It said Railway employees can be provided subsidy in sending their children to kendriya vidyalayas. It also recommended subsidies in private hospitals based on CGHS framework.

On the issue of Railway Protection Force, it said it too should be delinked from Railways’ principal task of running trains.

PTI

To ease tatkal pressure, Railways to divide AC and non-AC class booking

New Delhi: To ease pressure, Railways has decided to stagger booking of tatkal tickets by allowing reservations in AC class from 10 am to 11 am and non-AC class from 11 am.

The new tatkal booking schedule will come into effect in the next couple of days, a senior Railways official said.

IRCTC_ScreengrabIRCTC_ScreengrabThe Railways is also toying with the idea of giving refund on cancellation of confirmed tatkal tickets, the percentage of which would be calculated based on a time frame.

The public transporter has decided to rechristen premium trains as “Suvidha” trains with an overhaul in the fare structure, and cancellations and bookings facilities, Railway Board Member (Traffic) Ajay Shukla said.

Announcing the changes in timing of tatkal bookings for AC and non-AC classes, he said the measures were taken to ensure “fast service while booking online and reducing passenger rush at the counters”.

Talking to reporters, Sharma said the IRCTC website had recently registered three crore hits in a day, slowing the server in the process.

Besides, he said plans are afoot to refund a percentage of fare on cancellation of confirmed tatkal tickets, which is hitherto unavailable.

“We are considering to refund certain percentage. We will have a time frame and if a passenger cancels (a tatkal ticket) within the time frame, he will be refunded accordingly,” he said.

Refunds will also be available on cancellations of tickets of premium trains and such refunds would go “up to 50 per cent”, he said. At present, no such facility is available, making such services unpopular among a segment of the customers.

PTI

‘Clean My Coach’ app will help you get your train coach cleaned in 15 mins

Travelling through Indian railways is about to get much more hygienic.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The Railway ministry, in an attempt to keep up with Prime Minister’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ are launching a mobile application ‘Clean My Coach’, which will allow the passengers to message the cleaning staff to clean a particular coach while travelling, reports the Times of India.

According to the Business Insider, the service which will be rolled out for long distance trains will allow the passengers to lodge complains via a mobile phone or online and it will be attended within fifteen minutes.

According to the official website, a passenger will able to file a complain by entering his/her PNR number. One can also send a request by a SMS. The message will be forwarded to the cleaner present in the particular train directly. The Railway Administration will also simultaneously receive an intimation of such requests for follow up.

So far the cleaning services are available for a few selected trains only.

Indian Railways launches solar powered coach, to draw up solar policy

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China to enhance cooperation in Diamond Quadilateral, new railway university

New Delhi: India and China on Friday agreed to enhance cooperation in the rail sector as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang chalked out an action plan for progress on various projects, including for raising train speeds to up to 160-kmph on existing routes.

Training for handling heavy haul operations and assistance in the setting up of a railway university, too, were in the focus during discussions between the two leaders in Chinese capital Beijing, rail officials said in New Delhi.

PM Modi and Premier Li. PTI

PM Modi and Premier Li. PTI

Railways had identified nine routes, including Delhi-Agra and Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore, for running trains at an increased speed of 160-kmph. Railways is keen to raise train speeds on the existing lines with an upgrade of the signalling system and strengthening of tracks.

China will also be conducting a feasibility study for running trains at 300-kmph between Delhi and Nagpur, part of the proposed Delhi-Chennai Diamond Quadrilateral corridor project.

The Delhi-Nagpur route is being taken up as part of the first phase of the Delhi-Chennai corridor. A Chinese team has already made a visit and the preliminary report is expected in six months, said a senior railway ministry official.

The proposed Diamond Quadrilateral project aims to reduce travel time between the metros through a high-speed train network, including between Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Chennai-Kolkata, Kolkata-Delhi and Mumbai-Kolkata. The project is likely to cost Rs 2 lakh crore.

Japan is involved in the 534-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor project, estimated to cost Rs 63,180 crore. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is currently conducting a feasibility study for this project.

China has also agreed to impart training to Indian Railways on heavy haul operations. Heavy haul transportation is essential for the railways’ ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor project.

Apart from train operations, Chinese expertise will also be roped in for the setting up of a railway university in the country.

“Railway Staff College at Baroda will be upgraded to a full-fledged Railway Univeristy with China’s help,” the official said.

According to the action plan, China will cooperate on the redevelopment of the Bhubaneswar and Baiyappanahalli stations as railways has proposals to revamp some selected stations to turn them into world-class stations.

PTI

Run ‘em like its 1975: PM Modi’s rap sends Railways turning to Emergency for tips on punctuality

While his antecedents have little to do with the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been accused of attempting to imitate Indira Gandhi more than once in the past and his latest criticism of the Indian Railways’ punctuality  has reportedly resulted in the ministry looking at records from during the Emergency between 1975-77 when trains were said to have operated on time.

The Prime Minister has reportedly ‘sought an explanation’ from Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu after getting complaints from many quarters about the punctuality of trains. The Prime Minister’s Officer reportedly also realised that many of these complaints pointed out how trains ran on schedule during the Emergency.

CNN-IBN reported that complaints received by the PMO were being forwarded on a daily basis and last week the PMO reportedly called the Railway Minister and asked him to look at how trains ran on time in 1975-77. As a result, railway officials are reportedly dusting off files from that period to draw lessons on how trains ran on time.

AFP imageAFP image

AFP image

And while there was some skepticism about whether trains did actually run on time during the Emergency, a railway official told the Indian Express that trains were far more punctual than they are presently.

“Old records show trains did maintain punctuality of upwards of 90 per cent back then,” a Railway Ministry official told the newspaper.

But then this wouldn’t be the first time that the Prime Minister has turned to the Congress icon for inspiration.

As this piece points out, there were many similarities in the manner in which Modi campaigned for the 2014 election which resulted in a landslide victory. He rose above the party to reach out to masses, he travelled even to states where the BJP didn’t really have a presence, wore regional headgear including a hornbill hat and coined simple slogans for the campaign trail that connected with his audience. In fact his ‘ab ki baar Modi sarkar’ slogan was seen as being the only political slogan that deserved to be on the same page as Indira Gandhi’s famous ‘garibi hatao’ slogan.

The piece also noted that “Like the former Congress prime minister, Modi trusts very few people. Authoritarian and insecure in equal measure, Modi’s ruthless streak has ensured that after a decade of ruling Gujarat his writ is unchallenged.”

Firstpost’s Sandip Roy had also noted that the most notable feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure has been the direct copying from Gandhi’s playbook on the complete domination of the party:

“It is striking how quickly, whether consciously or unconsciously, Modi looks set to acquire some of Mrs G’s most distinctive traits–her authoritarianism, her attempt to develop a personality cult both of which ultimately proved disastrous, and her role in systematically destroying her own party in order to consolidate her hold on power . Someone has rightly described him as “Mrs G in trousers minus her cosmopolitanism.”

There’s no doubt about who’s in charge, who’s taking every decision and who’s holding every string in the government. All ministers and leaders are constantly updating the Prime Minister who in turn is constantly monitoring their performance.

The Prime Minister may have done away with the sense of occasion that marks Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, replacing it with functions marking the death of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel instead, but he has shown that he isn’t averse to picking the best practices of the Congress icon. Even if they took place during one of the darkest periods of India’s history since independence.

Indian Railways to connect all Northeastern state capitals by 2020

Silchar (Assam): The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), which is building rail infrastructure in the region, has targeted to connect all its eight state capitals by 2020, a senior official has said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“We will connect all the state capitals of the eight northeastern states by railway link within 2020,” NFR general manager (construction) Rakesh Kumar Singh told reporters in Silchar.

He said: “Mizoram capital Aizawl and Manipur capital Imphal would be connected by railway network by 2018 and 2019 respectively. The capitals of the remaining states would be linked by 2020 and the works are on to achieve the target.”

Tripura’s capital Agartala already connected by railway networks, even though line between Assam’s Silchar-Agartala is meter gauge.

Agartala came up on the country’s rail map in 2008. Currently, northeastern states have around 2,700 km railway line comprising meter gauge and broad gauge (BG) lines, officials said.

Singh, who was leading a 45-member NFR team, arrived in Silchar railway station from Guwahati on Sunday afternoon with the first nine-bogie railway trial inspection train, which left for Guwahati on Monday.

On Friday, the team said it successfully carried out trial run of a diesel engine from Lumding to Silchar on the newly-converted broad gauge (BG) line. The regular train service on the new BG line would be conducted from April after the clearance of Railway Safety Commissioner.

The total length of Lumding-Silchar BG line is 220 km and it consists of 17 tunnels (with longest one being 3.235 km long), 79 major bridges, 340 minor bridges, 28 railway stations and four halt stations.

The NFR general manager (construction) said now the Silchar-Agartala railway track would be converted from meter gauge to BG by March next year.

The foundation of the much-delayed gauge conversion project — Lumding to Silchar and Silchar to Agartala — was laid by the then prime minister HD Deve Gowda in Silchar in 1996.

In 2004, then prime minister Manmohan Singh declared the project a national one.

The railways faced severe criticism for the delay in completing the Rs 5,185-crore project that is considered to be a lifeline for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, during his budget speech in the parliament on 26 February, said the Indian Railways was committed to provide rail connectivity to all the northeastern states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 29 November, 2014 flagged off a train between Meghalaya’s Mendipathar and Guwahati, a distance of 131 km, and laid the foundation stone for a 51.38 km-long new broad gauge railway line between Bhairabi and Sairang in Mizoram.

On 20 February, Modi flag off the first weekly air-conditioned express train service between Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar.

IANS

All-India helpline to e-catering: How Rail Budget 2015 will make life easier for passengers

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Rail Budget 2015: Why senior citizens have good reason to cheer Suresh Prabhu

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Rail Budget: Dear Suresh Prabhu, big ideas fine but take care of these small needs first

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It was an emergency sir: Man uses kitchen at railway station as toilet

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Railways eyes RFID tags for wagons, coaches and locomotives

New Delhi: Railways is likely to propose the use of radio-frequency identification tags in its upcoming budget for tracking and tracing of wagons, coaches and locomotives even as the public transporter looks to leverage information technology in a big way to improve services.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Rail Budget 2015-16 is expected to propose extensive use of IT systems in everything from the management of rolling stock to the development of Apps for passengers and provision for Wi-Fi on rail premises.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has given directions for leveraging the use of IT in railway functioning and the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices in wagons, coaches and locomotives is a step in that direction, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Prabhu will propose that RFID devices be used for freight maintenance management, locomotive management, coach maintenance management and fuel management systems so as to ensure more effective and transparent functioning.

Using RFID devices, it will be easier for Railways to know the exact position of wagons, locomotives and coaches and also the fuel position. Currently, such data is maintained manually, which leaves room for inaccuracy.

There will be a progressive shift from periodic maintenance to predictive maintenance of rolling stock by leveraging IT, the official added.

With the introduction of RFID, the issue of shortage of wagons, locomotives and coaches is expected to be addressed in a more transparent and expeditious manner, the official said.

IT will also be used for enhancing the security of railway passengers, particularly women. Provision of CCTV cameras in ladies’ coaches and development of an app for improving the security of women passengers are also likely to be announced.

Digitised land mapping is also expected to be part of the Budget proposal. Creation of a land bank and commercial utilisation of vacant land is the motive behind going for digitised land mapping, the official said.

While New Delhi station has already become Wi-Fi-equipped, Prabhu is keen to extend the facility at other major stations.

The twin proposals for e-procurement and e-payment are also to be made specifically to promote e-governance in railways, he said.

PTI