Jaitley may deny Railways’ Social Obligation Costs Relief demand in Budget 2017-18

Railways has been requesting the finance ministry to relieve it of its social obligation costs amounting to around Rs.1,600 crore annually

New Delhi: Indian Railways’ demand to be relieved of its social obligation costs may come a cropper when Union finance minister Arun Jaitley presents the annual budget on 1 February.

The cash-strapped railways has been requesting the finance ministry to relieve the national carrier of its social obligation costs such as discounted fares for senior citizens, sportspersons, cancer patients among others amounting to around Rs.1,600 crore annually.

“We are asking for social obligation costs to not be ours…Whether they (finance ministry) can do it in this budget or not is another issue,” said a senior railway ministry official requesting anonymity.

This will be the first time that the railway budget and the Union budget will be presented together after 92 years. Another person, who also didn’t wish to be identified, confirmed railways’ persistent demand on the social obligation costs front.

Indian Railways planning a capital expenditure of around Rs.1.3 trillion for the financial year 2017-18, the highest-ever capital outlay and is expecting a gross budgetary support of around Rs.55,000 crore from the finance ministry. It has also firmed up a medium-term plan of investing Rs.8.5 trillion by 2019-20.

Queries emailed to spokespersons of the ministries of railway and finance on Friday remained unanswered.

Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest railway system, depends heavily on freight revenue to subsidize passenger fares. It is facing an estimated 11% decline in freight revenue in 2016-17 financial year, from the previous fiscal, partly on account of India’s slower economic growth.

Railways which has been losing out its freight traffic to roads has a revenue target of Rs.1.84 trillion for the current financial year and expects the operating ratio—proportion of expenses to revenue— to be 92.

Dawood link in Kanpur Train tragedy noticed

NEW DELHI: For the past three days, intelligence agencies and Delhi Police’s Special Cell are trying to find a Delhi link to the Kanpur railway accident that killed 150 people in November 2016.

Three men — Zia-ul-Haq, Shoaib and Zubair — are being grilled at the cell’s headquarters at Lodhi Colony in south Delhi for the train accident that was supposedly orchestrated by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, sources told. The detained trio live in Jama Masjid area and work with travel agencies.

Police suspect that two of the men were involved in a conspiracy to blow up the railway tracks and cause mass casualties. They may be arrested late on Thursday.

Two handlers of the accused men have also been identified as Shamshul Hoda, who is based in Dubai, and Brij Kishore Giri, a gangster from Nepal. Hoda deals in fake currency and visas and has links with D Company and ISI. Incidentally, Haq, who was detained at Delhi, is Hoda’s nephew and works as a visa agent.

The agencies had acted on the interrogation report of three criminals — Umashankar Patel, Motilal Paswan and Mukesh Yadav — who were arrested in Motihari, Bihar on charges of killing a man Deepak and his uncle, Anil Ram.

Deepak and Anil Ram had placed a cooker bomb on the railway tracks in Ghorasahan of east Chamaparan, Bihar. The operation had failed as the bomb was detected by villagers and defused. This led to their handlers suspecting that the duo had betrayed them. The three men arrested by Motihari police were sent by Giri to kill them.

Paswan was the one who had made the explosive claim of being involved in the Kanpur accident. He said they were in touch with Hoda and Giri for funds and infrastructure to carry out the attack. They also confessed to having chopped off Deepak and Anil Ram’s head and sending photographs to Giri and Hoda as proof.

Giri, who received funds from Hoda, had allegedly given Rs 3 lakh to Patel, Paswan and Yadav for the task and promised flats, vehicles and help in producing a Bhojpuri movie. Giri and his two aides, Shambhu and Mujahir Ansari, was later arrested by Nepal Police after an encounter. Giri is in a critical condition as he was shot at least four times in the face-off.

Railways to replace Conventional Coaches with Modern LHB

The LHB coaches are equipped with modern technology to prevent capsizing of coaches

Capsizing of conventional coaches in three consecutive major train derailments since November last year has pushed the Railways to go for complete elimination of old-designed compartments at Integral Coach Factory (ICF) near Chennai and opt for modern Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) ones.

The LHB coaches are equipped with modern technology to prevent capsizing of coaches during the derailment.

Raipur DRM’s Mindless Act: Woman Clerk who refused to sing Duet with Boss gets Show Cause Notice, Transfer Order

RAIPUR: Not ready to sing duet songs with your boss in the Railways? Then, be prepared to face the music. A woman clerk in Bilaspur Railway Zone has been shunted out and a show cause notice has been slapped on her for refusing to sing few duet songs to be sung with General Manager during a get-together function.

While Railways argue that the women employee, appointed under ‘cultural quota’ cannot refuse to obey instructions, Railway employees unions are all set to raise the issue with National Women’s Commission.

The issue came to light after women senior clerk was issued a show cause notice, stating that “on January 15, during the final rehearsal for cultural program, you failed to obey instructions of DRM, Raipur, in connection with preparations of a few duet songs to sing with general manager during a get-together function organised on January 16.”

“During the said programme on January 16, when South East Central Railway (SECR) general manager expressed his desire to sing a particular song, you flatly refused to sing the duet song saying that you have not come with preparations to sing the song. You being an employee appointed under cultural quota cannot suppose to refuse to perform when clear instructions in advance were given by DRM, Raipur”, the notice read. The notice also said this showed her irresponsible attitude towards work and DRM has taken a serious view of the incident, adding that thus she has committed gross misconduct and failed to maintain absolute devotion towards her duty.

The notice says that the woman clerk concerned has “failed in maintaining the devotion to duty and she is supposed to do nothing unbecoming of a railway servant. Thus she has contravened the provisions of Rule 3 (ii) (iii) of Railway Servants (Conduct) rules 1966 and thereby rendered herself liable for disciplinary action under Railway Servants (Discipline and Service) Rules 1968 as amended from time to time.”

“Cultural Quota appointments were introduced in the State and Central Government Services so as to only promote and empower the individuals in the society with specific Skillsets in the Indian Culture and Traditions viz. Indian Classical Music (Carnatic and Hindustani forms), Indian Classical Dance (Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Odishi etc.) and various different other cultural forms as well. The individuals appointed so in the Government services doesn’t have to necessarily perform at the behest of any Railway Official to whom he/she reports, as those individuals are considered as national resources of importance and Government has acts to protect and safeguard them in all forms of empowerment – be it financial, employment, patronage, security and the dignity”.

Sources said the get-together function was organised in connection with the send-off of Bilaspur Zone general manager Satyendra Kumar, who is attaining superannuation by the end of this month.

In general, it is a standard practice that any individual in cultural activities has to practice specific subject or specific ask in advance only then the inner conformity of the performance gains in that particular individual.  Even in Cricket and other drama, sports, teaching etc. individuals practice well in advance so that they can perform well.  Otherwise their intuition does not permit them to perform those specifics.  Herein this case, Anjali Tiwari is not known as to what GM is going to sing.  And an instant instruction to perform an “unknown specific ask” prompted her to answer that she was unprepared for the same.  This is very general and common in any areas/subjects.  This DRM does not understand such basic things and gone overboard to issue SF-11 on the poor women employee.  And, it is to be noted that the performance aspects in cultural areas are subject to various criteria like advance practice, involvement, physical/emotional readiness, encouragement and the circumstances prevailing at that particular time of performance. An artist cannot perform even without a single criteria.

DRM/Raipur should have exhibited more magnanimity worth of his position instead of being more egoistic and emotional here in this case. He has much more to do on the Safety and Security aspects in Raipur Division instead of pulling feathers on the egg.  Zonal Administration should note the same in right earnest.

Meanwhile, a railway spokesman said in Bilaspur that the matter of issuing such a charge-sheet to women clerk concerned has come to the notice of general manager, who has promised to take appropriate steps to rectify it.

Surprisingly, a Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) Cadre officer holding the post of Divisional Railway Manager doesn’t even know the spelling of “CONFIDENTIAL” on SF-11 on which it was stated as “CONFIETNTIAL“, which has become a laughing stock among the key Railway circles. An other official in JAG cadre who doesn’t want to be quoted of his name on SECR HQ said “this speaks about his literary skills, emotional quotient and worthiness for his position for the post”.

No involvement of Maoists in Train Derailment: Odisha DGP

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Police today ruled out involvement of Maoists in the derailment of the Hirakhand Express in which the railways are suspecting sabotage.

“There is no indication of Maoist hand behind the derailment of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express,” Odisha DGP K B Singh told reporters after attending a review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here.

His remarks come in the backdrop of Railway sources suspecting tampering of the track as the area is known to be a Naxal-prone zone.

A senior officer engaged in anti-Maoist operation rejected the possibility of Naxal involvement in the accident.

“We totally reject any possibility of Maoist involvement in the derailment. Kuneru is not a Naxal-hit area,” the officer of the intelligence wing told PTI.

The derailment took place at around 11 PM yesterday near Kuneru station in when the train was on its way to Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur.

“There is no movement of red rebels near the accident site for the last five years. We are even planning to shift the force from the area as there is no report of Naxal movement since a long time,” the officer said.

Had Maoists been involved, they could have done it close to Parvathipuram area, he said and asked why should they come to a place where they have no base?

He said, “Yes, the place was Naxal hit about five years ago. But, now the area is totally free of such elements.”

The Railway Safety Commissioner under the Civil Aviation Ministry would probe the derailment, Anil Saxena, ADG, PR, Railways, said.

Non-maintenance of Tracks led to Mishap?

Kuneru (Vizianagaram): The railway network from K Singpur in Odisha to Parvathipuram in Andhra Pradesh appears to be no one’s child. This “loop line” is neglected and officials do not bother to maintain the railway track. It is feared that poor maintenance may have led to the derailment of Hirakhand Express train. The track was electrified about a year ago. But power supply has not yet been provided. Only diesel engines are used to haul the trains now. Waltair Divisional Railway Manager Chandralekha Mukherjee said, “Traction sub-station is not yet ready. Recently, two traction sub-stations were opened. But respective state governments have not provided power connection.”

Russian Railways suggests Noise Shields for Tracks near Residential Areas

With Russia’s help, India to increase train speed to 200 kmph

New Delhi: Russian Railways is helping India’s national transporter increase the speed of its passenger trains up to 200 km per hour.

Russian Railways is at present collaborating with Indian Railways on a 575-km stretch between Nagpur and Secunderabad and submitted a preliminary report last week.

To reach the desired speed limit, Russian Railways has proposed several technical and technological solutions, including reconstruction of railway alignment as well as treating the earth bed where there are speed restrictions.

Since Indian Railways doesn’t have coaches that can move with a speed of 200 km per hour, a new type of passenger cars needs to be approved as well.

It has, however, expressed concern over “a number of large bridges with speed limits” on this particular stretch and has recommended a detailed survey of all these structures on the basis of which measures for reconstruction/repair will be taken up.

It has also been pointed out that railroad switches, which enables trains to shift from one track to another, at stations on this stretch are not suitable for a speed of 200 km per hour and a different type of switch has been recommended.

A digital technological communication network for the entire section, instead of the existing radio communication, was also proposed.

A high-speed rail network will also require safety measures for pedestrians and motor vehicles at rail crossings. Keeping this in mind, overpasses, anti-collision and anti-ram barriers as well as automatic alarm systems have been suggested.

A protective fencing along the length of the rail track was mooted in order to prevent accidents with people and animals on the track.

The Russian Railways also suggested noise shields for tracks near residential areas.

A protocol for this project was signed between the railway ministries of the two countries in October last year.

The high-speed project will be jointly financed and the cost will be split equally between the two countries.

Currently, the fastest train in India is Gatimaan Express with top speed of 160 km per hour.

Hyderabad Metro Rail seeks Rs.250 Crore Loan for acquiring Metro Land

Hyderabad: With no funds to pay compensation to property owners for acquiring their land for the Metro rail project, the Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL) is seeking a loan of Rs 250 crore from banks. The Telangana government, which suffered revenue loss post-demonetisation, reportedly advised the HMRL to seek a loan from other financial institutions or banks.

Sources in the state government confirmed that the HMRL is in talks with Andhra Bank for the loan of Rs 250 crore including interest during construction. “The government will stand guarantee for the loans while HMRL will repay the amount in 10 years with a three year moratorium,” a senior official of municipal administration and urban development department said.

The state government earmarked only Rs 200 crore in the current year’s budget (2016-17), while it Rs 500 crore was sought for property acquisitions, shifting of utilities and also for providing other facilities at metro rail stations such as street furniture and pavements. Of the allocated budget, the government has so far released only Rs 100 crore.

The metro rail authority has been facing a financial crisis for the past one year due to lack of sufficient funds. HMRL is under pressure to acquire land and hand this over to L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Limited for completion of the project.

Municipal Administration minister KT Rama Rao recently announced that metro rail project would be completed by the end of next year. The state government has proposed the opening of the Miyapur-SR Nagar and Nagole-Begumpet stretches by June 2 this year on the Telangana Formation Day.

Of a total of 3,000 properties, excluding Old City properties, the HMRL has acquired almost all except 120 to 130 properties.

“Of the remaining properties, about 100 need to be taken over on Sultan Bazar stretch. The process is under-way. The HMR promised to pay about Rs 1,00,000 per square yard to those losing land. Unless the stretch is clear, L&T cannot complete JBS to Falaknuma stretch up to Osmania Medical College,” an official source said.

HMRL officials admit that land acquisition has become dearer after the new Land Acquisition Act 2013 came into force. In one example, it has to cough up Rs 1.72 crore for taking over 176 sq yards land belonging to Wakf Board near Musheerabad.

HMRL managing director NVS Reddy said the state government would complete the project as early as possible. “Miyapur to SR Nagar, a 12-km stretch, will be ready very soon while Nagole-Begumpet stretch works are progressing well, a rail over bridge at Oliphant Bridge near Secunderabad railway station is the main hurdle. The government will take decision on opening of first metro stretches,” he said.

Digital push hits Railway Revenues

New Delhi: The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), which handles online ticket bookings, is suffering a loss of about Rs 60 crore per month, following the government’s move to push digital transaction.

“The non-charging of service charge and insurance premium have had a disastrous effect on our revenues. We are suffering a loss of about Rs 55-60 crore per month because of the discontinuation of service charge and insurance premium payment. We have asked the railway ministry to compensate for the losses,” A.K. Manocha, chairman of the IRCTC, told.

The government had waived the service charge on tickets booked through the IRCTC website or app, to incentivise cashless transactions.

On November 23, the railway ministry had announced that service charge on the online booking would be discontinued till December 31 to promote digital payments under the demonetisation drive. The waiver was later extended till March 31, 2017.

The subsidiary of the Indian Railways charges Rs 20 on online booking of sleeper and second-class tickets, and Rs 40 for AC classes. The IRCTC earned Rs 551.49 crore as service charge in 2015-16.

The service charge on ticket is in no way connected to card payment, but is a fee for the services provided by the IRCTC.

The charge, approved by the Railway Board, is levied by the IRCTC to maintain its infrastructure and to bear the cost of the facility that it provides.

At present, the e-ticketing system caters to over 10 lakh passengers daily (comprising 58 per cent of total reserved passengers).

To encourage online booking, the Indian Railways had last month waived the insurance premium for passengers, a senior ministry official said.

The facility, which was announced in the railway budget of 2016-17, allows a passenger to get an insurance cover of up to Rs 10 lakh on booking a ticket through the IRCTC’s portal by paying a premium of 92 paise.

Manocha said, “There has been a surge in digital booking since demonetisation and this is further putting pressure on our revenues. We have sought compensation for the losses and a mechanism to address the issue as we think that the waiver would be extended beyond March.”

A Railway Board official said, “We have taken up the issue with the finance ministry as service charge is a major source of revenue for the IRCTC and it should be compensated for revenue loss.”

The revenue of the IRCTC witnessed a 31 per cent jump to about Rs 1,500 crore in 2015-16. Net profit rose 20 per cent to Rs 130 crore from Rs 108 crore in 2014-15. Ticket sales grew 9 per cent to 19.94 crore in the last fiscal. The IRCTC has to share 50 per cent of its total revenue from service charge with the Indian Railways as fees.

Stringent Action against Guilty in Hirakhand Express Mishap: Suresh Prabhu

Bhubaneswar: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today said “stringent action” will be taken against those found responsible for the derailment of Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express today which has killed at least 39 people.

“The cause of the accident will be probed. It is an unfortunate incident. Stringent action will be taken against those found responsible,” Prabhu told reporters after meeting the injured passengers from the train at Rayagada district headquarters hospital.

“Those responsible for the derailment will not be spared. Stringent action will be taken against those who played with the lives of so many people,” he said.

Prabhu, who was accompanied by Railway Board chairman A K Mittal and other senior officials, also visited the accident site near Kuneru railway station in Andhra Pradesh bodering Odisha.

Senior Railway officials said efforts are on to clear and restore the affected tracks at the earliest to ensure normal traffic on the route.

“Men and machinery are working on a war footing to remove the derailed bogies and set the track fit. Normal train services are likely to be resumed on the route by early tomorrow morning,” they said.

Meanwhile, Odisha Chief Secretary A P Padhi along with DGP K B Singh and Health Secretary P K Meherda met the injured passengers admitted at Rayagada government hospital.

While 19 seriously injured passengers are under treatment at Rayagada, 13 others have suffered minor injury. Twelve passengers have been rushed to a hospital in Parvathipuram, while nine seriously injured ones have been admitted at the Vishakhapatanam hospital.

“The state government has provided all support to the Railways in the rescue operation. The Railways has its own procedure for investigation into such type of accidents. It is a sad incident where 39 people have died and over 100 others were injured,” Padhi said.

Most of the bodies have been identified and handed over to their families, he said adding Odisha government is committed to ensure proper treatment for injured passengers.

Derailments rise but Safety Reports gather Dust

Parliamentary panel pulls up Railways for lack of urgency on track renewal, safety measures

New Delhi: The Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) is yet to submit the preliminary finding report of the Patna-bound Indore-Rajendranagar Express derailment that took place two months back in November in which at least 146 people lost their lives.

A Railway Ministry official said the CRS, under administrative control of the Civil Aviation Ministry, hasn’t submitted its report yet as the sabotage angle is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The delay in submitting the report assumes significance as yet another derailment on Saturday of the Hirakhand Express in Andhra Pradesh has claimed the lives of 39 persons with over 50 injured.

No action yet

The Railways was recently rapped by a Parliamentary panel for failing to establish the causes behind rising derailment cases this year.

According to a Railway Board official, there were 68 derailments till December 2016, compared to 65 in the previous year — a six-year high. Derailments happen due to fault in either railway tracks or the rolling stock.

The Standing Committee on Railways in its recent ‘Safety and Security in Railways’ report said the Railways has failed in maintaining safety standards of the rail tracks. “…track forms the backbone of the rail transportation system and therefore, needs to be maintained in a safe and fit condition. However, in the instant case there seems to be total failure in regard to maintaining the safety standards of their tracks,” the Standing Committee had said in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on December 14.

It said that ideally 4,500 kilometres of the rail tracks should have been renewed annually out of the total track length of 1,14,907 kms. However, out of 5,000 km track length due for renewal at present, only 2,700 km track was targeted to be renewed by the Railways.

Human error unchecked

The Standing Committee also criticised the Railways for failing to address the human error involved in rail accidents. Around 70 % of the rail accidents in 2015-16 occurred due to the fault of railway staff such as poor maintenance, non-adherence to safety rules and adopting short-cuts, according to official reports.

“Looking at the huge number of rail accidents due to lapse of the railway staff, the Committee derive that the (Railway) Ministry have failed to assess the root cause of continuous and possibly repeated lapses by railway staff and therefore have failed completely to curb such accidents,” the Committee said.

Track Restoration works in full swing near Accident site

Visakhapatnam: Track restoration work is in full swing at Kuneru Railway Station in Komarada mandal, where Hirakhand Express from Junagarh Road to Bhubaneswar derailed at 11.10 p.m. on Saturday.

On Sunday, there was a continuous flow of curious onlookers from neighbouring Odisha and Komarada mandals, posing a tough time for the railway police. However, damaged compartments were being shifted with the help of cranes.

Among the visitors were Visakhapatnam MP K. Haribabu, former Railway Minister Bhakta Charan Das, AP State Rural Development Minister Kimidi Mrunalini, Parvathipuram MLA B. Chiranjeevulu, MLC D. Jagadeeswara Rao, and District Collector Vivek Yadav.

Mr. Haribabu said that the government would order a third party inquiry into the issue to ensure transparency as officials detected a deep cut crack on the track.

Such an inquiry would able to ascertain whether it was a sabotage or not.

Incidentally, the crack was detected very close to the Kuneru railway outer cabin.

DRM Chandralekha Mukherjee also visited the scene.

According to on-duty station master of Kuneru Railway Station D. Krishna Rao, the train was speeding at 70 kmph on the main track while a goods train was stationed on the loop track. Mr. Rao said that he heard a loud noise and cries of passengers at the level-crossing gate at 11.10 p.m. on Saturday.

1.42 Lakh Rail Safety Staff Posts vacant across India

HYDERABAD: The derailment of the Hirakhand Express comes in close succession to at least four similar train mishaps across the country in the recent past. Weeks ago, a goods train derailed at Wihirgaon station on Kazipet-Balharshah section of South Central Railway, leading to a major disruption of train movement on the important “trunk route”.

While authorities get down to checking the possibility of Saturday’s train mishap — the fifth in the last six months — being the result of sabotage, the number of vacancies for safety officers shows a clear case of neglect and apathy.

In the East Coast Railway sector, where the accident occurred, there is a 24% vacancy in safety official roles, as per records of East Coast Railway.

Meanwhile, 1.42 lakh posts for safety staff remain unfilled across India, which, experts say, is a major concern and clear case of official apathy.

“The pressure on crucial safety staff has remained very high over the years and this has also been pointed out in various internal reports over the years. Not only are there huge vacancies but the existing staff work under sub-standard conditions. While higher-ups in the ministry might be awaiting the assistance of technology before filling vacant posts, the automated anti-collision device tested previously does not seem very promising. The posts need to be filled up immediately,” pointed out a retired senior official from SCR.

As against a sanctioned strength of 6,398 engineering staff posts, there are only 4,827 filled; the remaining 1,571 are vacant in the East Coast Railway. Again, 67 posts in security, 93 in signal and telecom, and 613 in electrical local running are vacant as per details from the Railway Board. “With such high vacancies in critical posts, mishaps are bound to happen. Engineering staff, signalling staff, and even loco pilots are frequently working 20- 24 hours straight due to vacant positions. Even SCR zone has over 10,000 vacancies in safety staff,” said K Shivakumar, divisional secretary, SCR Mazdoor Union.

Political parties slam Railway Ministry after Hirakhand Express tragedy

BHUBANESWAR: Political parties and passengers on Sunday slammed the Centre over poor railway safety measures following Saturday’s fatal train derailment near Kenuru station in Andhra Pradesh near Odisha border that killed at least 36 passengers. The Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express rammed into a stationary goods train on the parallel track after derailment.

“We squarely blame the railway ministry for the tragedy, though we deeply mourn the deaths of passengers. The Centre dreams of launching bullet trains and boasts of initiating modernisation measures in railways. But the ministry has all along neglected the safety of passengers. Over 400 people died in train mishaps in the country within a year,” ruling BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb said. BJD said the party will demand the Centre to give more emphasis on passenger safety in the ensuing budget.

Opposition Congress was equally vocal. “Rise in train accidents in the country is a major cause for concern. The Centre should accord top priority to railway safety,” tweeted Congress state president Prasad Harichandan. Harichandan said the ex-gratia compensation should be enhanced to Rs.10 lakh for dead, Rs 2 lakh for critically injured and Rs1 lakh for injured, respectively.

Senior Congress MLA and leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra said the railways should not just sit quiet by suspending a few officers for the tragedy. “To appease the common public, the ministry always orders a probe by commissioner of railway safety. But nobody knows about the findings of the previous inquiry reports. People of the country have the right to know about the exact cause of accidents and remedies undertaken by the railways to avoid recurrence of the accidents,” Mishra said.

Passengers, who were jittery after the tragedy, expressed their anger on Indian Railways for the spurt in accidents. Many people vented their ire via social media. “We need safe rail travels than luxury. The railways should improve signalling systems and regularly inspect tracks. Introduction of more number of trains and better connectivity is as necessary as strengthening safety mechanisms,” said Rahul Agarwal, a businessman.

It was often seen, negligence by railways had led to a series of accidents in Odisha in the past. Railway sources said over 70 persons died in separate train accidents in the state in the past eight years. While the Hirakhand tragedy is the worst accident reported so far in Odisha, at least 16 passengers were killed on February 13, 2009 when 13 bogies of the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express from Howrah derailed while changing tracks in Jajpur district.

On September 29, 2016, Bhubaneswar-Bhadrak DMU rammed into a stationery goods train at Kathajodi station in Cuttack, causing deaths of two GRP officials and leaving many others injured. On September 1, 2011, a fatal collision between two goods trains in Keonjhar district killed five loco pilots of the two freight trains.

Ranikhet Express derailment: ISI’s role under Scanner

JAISALMER: 10 coaches of Ranikhet Express derailed near Thayat Hamira railway station, 16 km from Jaisalmer. Railway chief safety officer and expert engineers have started an investigation into the incident.

The involvement of ISI in the accident is being investigated, as it has been witnessed that the three ghastly train accidents near Kanpur involving deaths of more than 160 passengers within just 45 days span is due to the involvement of ISI and Pakistani agencies to derail the process of nation in all the possible ways. It is to be mentioned that a large number of ISI sleepers and agents are present not only Jaisalmer but across the country now, and their role cannot be ruled out that easily.

Meanwhile, the incident has cut off Jaisalmer from the rest of the country. Railway has cancelled around a dozen trains coming from Bikaner, Jodhpur, Delhi and Jaipur to Jaisalmer. Work is on at war-footing to repair the tracks. By Sunday, the the traffic is expected to normalise.

Arrival of Palace on Wheels in Jaisalmer on Sunday is also doubtful. Ranikhet Express that went from Jaisalmer to Kath Godam on Friday at 11.15pm got derailed between Jaisalmer and Thayat Hamira station. All passengers are safe. On getting information, administration, police and rail way officers reached the spot.

BSF DIG Amit Lodha, who was also travelling in the train, said that around 11.15 pm on Friday near Hamira village, the train stopped suddenly and there was sand inside the train. Passengers got down the train and found that it had derailed. Due to sand, any major accident was averted as the train after derailing got buried in sand and did not overturn.

On getting information, district collector Matadeen Sharma, SP Gaurav Yadav and others reached the spot.

Officers faced a lot of problem in reaching the spot as there is no road leading to the spot. Officers took care of the passengers and made arrangements to send them back to Jaisalmer through cars and jeeps.Ambulances were also pressed into service.

Guard Kewal Chand said that the train was moving approximately at a speed at 100 kmph. When it began jolting, the driver realised that there was some problem and applied emergency brakes. As a result, 10 coaches of the 24-coach train got derailed.

Jodhpur division spokesperson Gopal Sharma said the work to repair the tracks was going on at war-footing.The relief accidental train rea ched at 9am on Saturday and started removing the coaches by crane.

He said at present Jaisalmer is cut off from rail connectivity. Around one dozen trains to Jaisalmer have been cancelled and traffic is expected to resume by Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Jodhpur Divisional Railway Manager Rahul Goyal has ordered an investigation into the accident. Officers have reached the spot and a videography of the spot is being done, especially the tracks which broke into pieces. He said that the role ISI cannot be ruled out. Possibility of the track breaking due to cold is also there. We are investigating the incident from all angles.

Security forces on high alert

According to a tweet from the ministry of railways, the ministry has directed to investigate the case from all angles in view of the recent subversive activities. Railway security forces have been kept on high alert. Citizens are also requested to report any suspicious activity.

At least 40 killed, dozens injured after train derails near Kuneru in Visakhapatanam Division of ECOR

Officials Say at Least 40 Killed, and over 50 injured after Train derails on the East Coast India. Sabotage angle not ruled out..

Kuneru (KNRT), Visakhapatnam Division/ECOR: Two general coaches and four sleeper bogies of Bhubaneswar-bound Train No.18448 Jagadalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express derailed at Kuneru railway station between Rayagada-Vizianagram section of Waltair Division of East Coast Railway (about 30 km from Rayagada) in the Vizianagaram district on Saturday midnight. According to reports, at least 40 persons are feared dead and over 50 are injured as the train jumped the rails. Meanwhile, special relief van and medical teams have rushed to the spot to take up relief operations. Senior railway officials led by Divisional Railway Manager Chandralekha Mukherjee, left for the spot immediately to supervise the relief operations.

Chief Public Relations Officer of East Cost Railway JP Mishra said the incident took place around 11 PM when the train was going to Bhubaneswar. He said, four accident relief vans have been sent to the accident site. He said, the reason behind the incident is yet to be ascertained. Meanwhile, Railway Ministry sources have told that the element of sabotage has not been ruled out yet.

The number of casualties are likely to go up as the train was running at high speed while crossing Kuneru station where it had no stoppage. The injured have been shifted to hospitals at Parbatipuram and Rayagada. A team of doctors have reached the accident site. Vijayanagaram and Rayagada District Administration are taking active part in rescue operations. Several trains on Vijayanagaram and Rayagada routes have been diverted.

These are Rayagada 06856-223400, 06856-223500, 09439741181, 09439741071 and 07681878777. Help line nos at Vizianagaram are 08922-221202 and 08922-221206.

Indian Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena on Sunday said, that any unusual activity or tampering with the railway tracks leading to the derailment of the Hirakhand Express, will be investigated, and also informed that a unit of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been sent on the spot for rescue operation.

“Total 54 people have been injured, those with minor injuries have been sent after first aid. Efforts are on for rescue. One unit of National Disaster Response Force has reached the spot. The Up and down line between Vijayanagaram-Singhpur has been affected. The cause will be investigated from all angles. If there was any unusual activity, or tampering with track, it will be probed. Commissioner Railway Safety (Civil Aviation Ministry) will enquire into Hirakhand Express derailment and he will inspect site,” Saxena told.

Saxena further said their main aim is to make the people reach their destinations, adding that the unaffected portion of the train has been taken to Raigoda, from where it has been diverted to Bhubaneswar.

“Water containers, biscuits and teas are being supplied to the people. They can also talk to their families through phones which are made them available,” he added.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announces profound grief; announces Rs 2 lakh for kin of deceased towards immediate relief

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday while expressing deep shock and grief, announced rupees two lakh as compensation for the kin of deceased in the horrific Hirakhand express derailment in Andhra Pradesh last night, which claimed the lives of 40 people.

He also announced 25,000 rupees for the injured and 50,000 rupees for the seriously injured. At least 40 people were killed and more than 50 injured when coaches of Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express derailed near Kuneru station in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh last night.

Prabhu, along with Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal, is rushing to the derailment site in Andhra.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is personally monitoring situation. He has directed senior officials to reach site and ensure prompt rescue and relief operations. Railway has issued helpline numbers.

Meanwhile, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik expresses grief over the tragic death Of 30 Passengers.

Commissioner, Railway Safety Of Civil Aviation Ministry To Probe Into Hirakhand Express Derailment, Says Anil Saxena, ADG, PR, Railway

Train Cancelled /  Diverted Due to Derailment of Hirakhand Express

Meanwhile, South Central Railway announced cancellation/route-diversion of certain trains in view of the derailment of Train No. 18448 Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express at Kuneru between Rayagada-Vizianagram section of Waltair Division, East Coast Railway, the following more train is cancelled / diverted as detailed below:-

Trains Cancelled/Partially Cancelled on 22nd January, 2017

  • Train No.18518 Visakhapatnam- Korba Express Scheduled to depart Visakhapatnam On01.17 is Cancelled.
  • Train No. 18309 Sambalpur-H.S.Nanded Nagavali Express scheduled to depart Sambalpur on 22nd January, 2017 is cancelled.
  • Train No. 12651 Madurai-H.Nizamuddin Tamilnadu Sampartk Kranti Express scheduled to depart Madurai on 22nd January, 2017 is cancelled.
  • Train No. 17615 Kacheguda-Madurai Weekly Express departed Kacheguda on 21st January, 2017 will be short terminated at Dindigul station.
  • Train No. 57271 Vijayawada – Rayagada Passenger departed Vijayawada on 21st January, 2017 will be short terminated at Visakhapatnam station.

Train Diverted

  • Train No. 13352 Alleppey-Dhanbad scheduled which left Alleppey on 21.01.17 is diverted to run via Vizianagaram, Palasa, Angul, Sambalpur.
  • Train No. 18310 H.S.Nanded-Sambalpur Nagavali Express departed H.S.Nanded on 21st January, 2017 is diverted via Khurda Road and Angul stations.
  • Train No. 12375 Chennai Central – Asansol Superfast Express departed Chennai Central on 21st January, 2017 is diverted via Khurda Road, Angul and Jharsuguda stations.
  • Train No. 18637 Hatia-Yesvantpur Express departed Hatia on 21st January, 2017 is diverted via Titlagarh, Raipur, Nagpur and Balharshah stations.
  • Train No. 13351 Dhanbad-Alappuzha Express departed Dhanbad on 21st January, 2017 is diverted via Titlagarh, Raipur, Nagpur and Balharshah stations.

‘Lucky enough to be alive’: Train survivors recall brush with death

Survivors of the Hirakhand Express mishap on Sunday recounted their horrific experience when the trains nine bogies and the engine jumped off the track near Kuneru in Andhra Pradesh.

“It was horrific and frightening. I was among the lucky ones to have escaped narrowly after the mishap that struck late last night,” said Ranjan Mohanty, a Baripada college
principal.

Mohanty, who was returning in the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express train after attending the wedding ceremony of a relative, said he was sleeping and woke up with a sudden jerk and deafening sound to find himself on the floor.

While the derailment claimed at least 39 lives, the passengers, Mohanty said, travelling in his coach escaped with minor injuries and fractures.

However, the adjacent S-9 coach was perhaps one of the worst affected, Mohanty said, adding he was among the survivors who were sent by a special train to Bhubaneswar via Sambalpur from where he would proceed to Baripada.

Similar was the experience of Prakash Sahu, a youth who failed to figure out as to what exactly had happened when a loud bang woke him up from deep sleep and he was flung from the berth.

Sahu said he along with some fellow passengers managed to move out of the coach with much difficulty and to comprehend what had happened.

“We are lucky enough to be alive though our belongings, mobile phones and other articles were lost,” he said.

For little girl Sai Suchitra, who suffered injuries and was taken to Rayagada hospital, it was a nightmare.

Suchitra said she was travelling with her mother and other family members when the train derailed. She was extremely worried about her mother and others as there was no information available about them immediately.

Bhagban Majhi, a youth who left with a fractured limb after the mishap, said it was pitch dark and he could only hear screams of injured passengers and wailing relatives who lost their dear ones.

It took some time for the rescue teams to reach the mishap site.

Another youth who travelled by the special train to Bhubaneswar via Sambalpur after the derailment said there was panic among the passengers and the whole area was filled with cries of accident victims.

“After we moved out of our coach, we could see the devastating effect of the derailment. Bodies could be seen in the severely mangled coaches,” he said, adding that passengers of unaffected bogies also tried to help those trapped in derailed coaches but darkness was a major hurdle before rescue teams arrived at the scene.

Among the survivors was a couple travelling to Bhubaneswar from Bhawanipatna to attend a marriage function.

Sanjay and his wife Jhili were about to sleep after dinner when there was loud sound and the bogie jolted violently and luggage of passengers fell scattered all around.

Those unhurt in the mishap made efforts to pull out the children and women, said Sanjay.

Railways deploy special buses for stranded passengers

With train movement paralysed between Rayagada and Vizianagaram, the Railways on Sunday deployed 13 special buses to transport stranded passengers to places such as Brahmapur and Bhawanipatna of Odisha, a railway spokesman said.

One passenger special train with 13 coaches carrying the stranded passengers of 18448 Jagdalpur-Jungarah Road-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express was run from Kuneru to Bhubaneswar via Rayagada-Titilagarh-Sambalpur-Angul.

The spokesman told The Hindu that nearly 600 passengers were shifted in the special passenger train and special buses.

Following the derailment of the train, the East Coast Railway announced cancellation of seven trains. Seven more trains were short terminated and 10 diverted.

President okays Change in Rules for Rail Budget merger

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has approved changes in government rules to allow merger of rail budget with the central budget.

The Department of Economic Affairs has been entrusted with the work relating to preparation of central budget including rail budget, as per a recent order issued by Cabinet Secretariat.

Earlier, the department was looking after the preparation of budget other than the railway.

The President has given nod to amend Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 in this regard and the department will now prepare both the budgets.

The Union Cabinet had in September last year approved certain landmark budgetary reforms relating to the merger of railway budget with the general budget from 2017-18 onwards.

The presentation of separate railway budget started in 1924, and has continued after independence as a convention rather than under Constitutional provisions.

The Cabinet had also given nod for advancement of the date of budget presentation from the last day of February. The government will present the Union budget 2017-18 on February 1.

North Central Railway working on pilot project to avert train accidents

Allahabad: In order to overcome the problem of rail fractures during winters to prevent train accidents, North Central Railways is working on a pilot project at Bamrauli station under Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Allahabad.

“At present patrol-man is able to cover only 1 km of rail line for checking rail fractures. However, line rail monitoring system would locate the fracture in a span of 25 km,” GM Arun Kumar Saxena said.

The system would help in reducing accidents as rail fractures would be found earlier, he said, adding he carried out an inspection from Rundhi station to Mathura junction to check for security, punctuality and passenger amenities.

The work of the fourth line between Rundhi and Palwal would be completed by March end, he said.

“Fourth line, when completed, would not only reduce traffic congestion but would pave way for separate corridor for Kota as well as for Jhansi,” Saxena said.

He said third line between Mathura and Jhansi has been given a green signal and funds have also been made available for Rail Vikas Nigam Limited.

He said two lifts and an escalator have been introduced. Wi-fi facility has been launched at Mathura junction station and remodelling of the yard there is in progress.

“The efforts are on to connect platform 7 and 8 side of the area of the yard with the main yard,” he concluded.

He also took note of the suggestion that Chapra Express and Jaipur Express between Lucknow and Mathura junction should be run on different days instead of the same day as it would also boost revenue.

“Since it falls in other railways, a suggestion for changing timing and days of the aforesaid trains would be sent to the GM concerned,” he said.

DRM Agra Prabhas Kumar said technical knowledge is being given to employees for the new system.

“Gyan Sagar has been introduced for uplifting knowledge of technical and non-technical staff,” he said.

New rail line connecting Poonch on anvil

Jammu: In a recent development, the Northern Railway has taken up the survey for a new railway line to connect the border district of Poonch with rest of the country in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Abdul Haq said, adding that efforts are currently on for connecting Poonch through a railway line. On this score, the Northern Railway has taken up the survey regarding construction of new BG lines from Jammu to Poonch via Akhnoor and Rajouri. The Minister said that the state government has taken up the matter with the Union Railway Minister and also pursued the case with the ministry concerned for expediting the process of survey and starting the work as early as possible, he said.

Railway Minister assures Rail connectivity upto Sikkim’s Capital Gangatok

Gangtok: Railway connectivity would soon be approved upto the capital city of Gangtok in addition to the 45km long railway link from Sevoke to the town of Rangpo, assured the Union Minister for Railways , Government of India – Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu while interacting with the Sikkimese people on “Good Governance” at Chintan Bhawan, here in the state capital today.

The interaction meeting was also chaired by the Member of Parliament-Shri. P.D Rai, the Chief Secretary of Sikkim-Shri A.K Shrivastava, General Manager of the North East Frontier Railways- Shri H.K Jaggi and the Secretary of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce.

The Union Minister, while speaking to the gathering appreciated the prepossessing beauty of the State of Sikkim and highlighted that this can be greatly tapped to give further impetus to the rapid progress of the State of Sikkim. He mentioned that improved rail connectivity to the State of Sikkim will greatly benefit the State and its people.

He also lauded the organic status of the State and asserted that the railway connectivity to upto Gangtok and further advanced to the international rail links of Asia would be a colossal factor in taking the organic harvest & produce of Sikkim to the booming economies of Asia .

While speaking on the North East Region , the Union Minister stated that the region has the potential to be the next growth story through the overall development of the tourist infrastructure.

He accented that the good governance of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is reflected in the fact that the Prime Minister has decided to shift focus on the development of the North East with dedication and expedition to transform the North East for the people of the North East.

In conclusion, he solicited feedback and suggestions from the stakeholders for improving the connectivity and services.

M.P, Shri P.D Rai, Chief Secretary of Sikkim and the Secretary, Chamber of Commerce also addressed the meeting wherein they collectively highlighted the problems faced by the Sikkimese people in terms of railway connectivity while soliciting a favourable response from the central government .

On the occasion an Achievement Report of the Northern Frontier Railways in the North East ( 2014-2016) which is reflective of the good governance in the region was also released by the Minister.

The interactive meeting saw discussions on the topic of Good Governance by the Minister with the media, members of the Chamber of Commerce , prominent citizens, students and stake holders.

The Union Minister is on a five day visit to the States of Sikkim and West Bengal as a part of regular commitment to the region for sustainable development.

Customers can cancel Rail Tickets booked through Point-of-Sale Machines

New Delhi: The Railway Ministry today spelt out the procedure for cancelling tickets booked through Point of Sale (PoS) machines as it prepares to install 10,000 of them across ticket reservation counters in a bid to encourage cashless transactions following demonetisation.

In case of tickets booked through SBI PoS machines at a reservation counter, a customer can approach a counter and cancel his ticket. He doesn’t need to swipe his card again for cancellation as the refund will be credited directly to his or her bank account within 7 days, according to a statement issued by the Railway Ministry.

Where a customer has booked his ticket through a non-SBI PoS the customer needs to swipe his credit or debit card at the PoS machine at the time of cancellation. The refund amount will then be credited to his or her account.

However, at a location where there is no PoS a Ticket Deposit Receipt (TDR) will be issued to affect the refund. In a situation where a customer has booked an e-ticket through a PoS IRCTC customer care will have to coordinate the refund.

Railways to set aside ₹1 Lakh Crore for crucial Railway Safety Upgrades following Spate of Accidents: Report

New Delhi: Following a string of deadly rail mishaps, the government is considering putting aside ₹1 lakh crores in a special fund dedicated to critical safety upgrades. The fund, Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, will be used to renew aging rail infrastructure such as rail tracks, signalling systems and bridges in the next five years. The first tranche for investment from the fund will be ₹20,000 crore. The investment is part of Finance Ministry’s ₹55,000 crores in budgetary support to Indian Railways for 2017-18. This year the Railways Ministry won’t present a separate budget, ending decades of a colonial era practice. It annual budget exercise will be combined with the union financial budget. India needs an urgent upgrade of its railway network that dates back to the colonial era and is aging badly. In November, at least 142 passengers were killed in a train mishap caused by a derailment in Uttar Pradesh of the Indore-Patna Express.

Indian Railways to set up $5 Billion Development Fund

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways has circulated a draft cabinet note for setting up a dedicated $5 billion Railways of India Development Fund (RIDF).

The fund will to be anchored by the World Bank and will serve as an institutional mechanism for the national transporter to arrange fund from the market for its investments. According to a top railway official, the fund will be managed independently by a non-government entity.

“It will support commercially viable investment in railway sector in India over the period of next seven years,” the official said, requesting anonymity. Railways expects to construct high traction projects such as various freight corridors, warehouses, last mile connectivity for ports and electrification of various routes using this fund.

Several rounds of consultations have already been held with various international pension funds including some big Canadian names to gauge market response.

“Market sounding exercise has been carried out and has received positive response from both domestic and international investors,” the official added. As per the details of the draft note, the railways would raise 20% of $5 billion on its own. It will work on the commercial principles of project-based funding rather than sovereign based borrowing being undertaken for Indian Railways.

“Projects which can give early returns such as freight lines and electrification projects would be funded by the RIDF. Currently, because of the burden of high wages and pension bills, cost overruns of incomplete projects and increasing operational cost due to losses in passenger segment, there are hardly any funds left to undertake new projects which are profitable on standalone basis,” the official said.

For the current financial year, railways expects to have a high operating ratio of 94%. Operating ratio shows how much of revenue goes into meeting expense. Lower the ratio better it is for the railways.

The national transporter hopes to set up this fund by the end of the first quarter of the next financial year.

For the next financial year, Indian Railways has sought Rs 60,000 crore as gross budgetary support from the finance ministry and has drawn a capacity expansion plan of Rs 1.35 lakh crore.

It’s a sensible move. For vital transport infrastructure like the Indian Railways, we do need to leverage funds from multilateral sources. But in parallel, rail marketing needs to be thoroughly overhauled and revamped. The railways cannot chug along fine with 40% of freight revenue accruing from haulage of mostly unbeneficiated coal. Besides, we need independent oversight on rail tariffs. Also speedily required is competition in railway services, to improve quality and provide better value for railway customers and commuters.

Prabhu signs $5-lakh pact with UNESCO for Darjeeling railways

UNESCO to draw up plan to preserve Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Prabhu also thanked the people of the Darjeeling Hills for being an integral part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Eco-system and their efforts in preserving and conserving it.

Guwahati: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is all set to receive a major conservation boost with the Indian Railways on Friday signing a fund-in-trust agreement worth $5,33,332 to enable UNESCO develop a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) and a framework for an effective management system for it. Signing the agreement in Darjeeling, union railway minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu described it as a historic moment and said Indian Railway was committed do everything possible to perverse the priceless heritage of the DHR that was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999.

Indian Railways signed a Fund in Trust (FIT) agreement with the UNESCO on Friday for development of a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) at Darjeeling in presence of the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and a senior regional representative of the UNESCO in charge of India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The FIT is aimed at preparing a conservation guideline for the century-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) source said here. As per the FIT the UNESCO has been tasked to draw up a CCMP for the DHR.
“Conservation of heritage starts at the hearts and minds of people and Indian Railway would do everything possible to conserve railway heritage,” Prabhu said after singing the FIT with UNESCO and lauded the people of Darjeeling for their contribution towards preserving DHR eco-system.

The Railway already transferred Rs 3.21 crore to the UNESCO to formulate the conservation plan and the FIT signed on Friday amounted to formal launching of the CCMP. The UNESCO with its expertise is expected to draw up a comprehensive plan for preservation of the DHR within two years.

The UNESCO had accorded the heritage tag to the DHR in 1999.

In the CCMP, apart from identifying the core, buffer and heritage areas, UNESCO would create an inventory of DHR assets, come up with guidelines on how to maintain the old heritage structure and document craftsmen associated with the DHR.

The DHR had started operation way back in 1881. It now has 13 steam locomotives aged over a century and six diesel engines. Last year, a UNESCO team had visited the DHR to conduct a preliminary survey. The total annual expenditure incurred by the Railway to run the DHR is Rs 15 crore and sources said that for the first time since Independence, the DHR was looking at breaking even, a NFR source informed.

While the CCMP for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway had actually commenced in April, 2016, once successful, it would be replicated in Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka Shimla Railway too. While Nilgiri Mountain Railway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Kalka Shimla Railway was given the same status in 2008. The three together are called Unesco’s ‘Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site.’ “This Fund-In-Trust agreement is the first step towards realising the CCMP, and aims at assisting the Ministry of Railways in enhancing the conservation and management of the Mountain Railways of India,” Northeast Frontier Railway CPRO PJ Sharma informed. An effective management system would in turn serve as the master document for formulating projects towards future interventions in respect to heritage matters of DHR and the other two mountain railways, he added.

With several stake-holders operating in the area, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been severely affected by rampant construction along the line and in coming up of urban settlements, lack of inventory of historic buildings that have been already demolished, renovated, restored or reconstructed has also added to its problems. “Lack of a management plan for the World Heritage property and an undefined buffer zone along the length of it has also severely threatened the future of the World Heritage property. There is lack of meaningful collaboration and clear governance arrangements to deal with regional issues affecting the DHR with special regard to the World Heritage property and buffer zone management,” CPRO Sharma said. The CCMP, once completed and implemented, is expected to remove the existing anomalies and ensure proper conservation of all the three heritage railways, he added.

 

Indian Railways advances on the proposals of linking neighbouring countries with Rail Networks

Darjeeling: The Centre is mulling linking neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal through the railways. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced the plan in Darjeeling at a programme where an agreement was signed between the Indian Railways and UNESCO.

This was announced here today by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu at a programme where an agreement was signed between the Indian Railways and UNESCO. “We have neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. We have a very cordial relationship with them. We want to increase railway connectivity with these countries. We are trying to develop it,” Prabhu told reporters.

“If a circuit can be made connecting these neighbouring countries, it will increase interaction, tourism, trade, employment and connectivity,” he added. Prabhu said work was on to connect all the eight state capitals of the north-east, so that the tourism potential of the region gets a boost. Horticulture, floriculture, handicraft of the region would get a bigger market after the state capitals are connected with the rest of the country, the railway minister said, adding that he would visit Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the next two days. Prabhu said investments of Rs 3-3.5 lakh crore would be made in the railways while the amount had been Rs 35,000-40,000 crore a year earlier. This will bring development in the functioning of the railways, he added.

Railways to float Rs.8000 Crore Tenders for Transmission Network

The railway tenders for transmission links comes in the backdrop of it buying electricity directly from suppliers of its choice rather than state electricity boards. Four transmission links will be set up through the PPP route, and two by Indian Railways, as part of a strategy to reduce electricity bills

NEW DELHI: As part of a strategy to reduce its electricity bills, Indian Railways plans to award tenders worth around Rs.8,000 crore to set up a dedicated electricity transmission network.

The national transporter, which announced a Rs.41,000 crore cost-saving exercise earlier this week, will award six tenders. Four transmission links will be set up through the public-private partnership route, and two by Indian Railways itself.

The transmission play by India’s largest electricity consumer comes in the backdrop of Indian Railways buying electricity directly from suppliers of its choice rather than state electricity boards (SEBs). It also has a 1,000-megawatt captive power plant at Nabinagar, Bihar.

“We plan to set up a country-wide electricity transmission network,” said a railway ministry official on condition of anonymity.

For starters, these transmission links will be between Mughal Sarai-Howrah; Delhi-Chennai; Delhi-Mumbai; Mumbai-Howrah; Chennai-Mumbai; and Chennai-Howrah.

Indian Railways has been buying electricity directly from suppliers after being allowed to do so by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), India’s apex power sector regulator (Bihar and West Bengal have challenged the CERC’s order in the appellate tribunal for electricity). However, it is still dependent on state transmission networks to transmit electricity.

“Major international railway networks have their own electricity transmission network. This is primarily driven by the need for reliability and the unique electricity load requirement for railways. The need gets much more pressing given our growing focus on improving the speed of trains,” said the rail ministry official cited above.

Indian Railways needs a so-called shifting load as a locomotive moves from one point to the other.

An increase in speed will help the carrier reduce congestion on its networks, which in turn will help improve its revenue from freight and passenger traffic.

Ashwani Kapoor, Member-Traction, Railway Board, confirmed the development and said the railways had moved the first tender for a transmission link between Mughal Sarai and Howrah.

In 2014-15, the total energy cost of Indian Railways was Rs.31,220 crore. This included expenditure of Rs.10,436 crore towards electric traction, which carries about two thirds of the total freight, and about 50% of passenger traffic and Rs2,199 crore for non-traction usage such as manufacturing units, workshops and station areas.

“The bids will be awarded on the framework already developed and adopted by Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. Each tender will have an order value of around Rs.500-1,000 crore and will have a two-stage bid process comprising a qualification stage and a price-bid stage,” said the rail ministry official.

Experts say a dedicated transmission system will allow Indian Railways more flexibility and independence in its electricity load management.

“For railways it will make sense. Electricity is a big spend. But while this will help the railways, it also showcases the failure of implementation of open access policy in the right spirit,” said Abhishek Poddar, partner and Head-Energy and Process Industries, AT Kearney India.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday unveiled a plan to save Rs.41,000 crore over 10 years through an integrated energy management system. According to Indian Railways’ Mission 41k initiative, the national carrier will electrify 24,000km of rail tracks over the next five years by doubling the annual rate of electrification from 2,000km to 4,000km in the next two years.

Talgo trains to hit tracks on Lease basis

Indian Railways planning to operate Talgo trains on lease

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways is working on a lease agreement to operate the light-weight, energy efficient Spanish Talgo trains on short routes such as Delhi-Amritsar, Delhi-Lucknow, Bengaluru-Chennai or Mumbai-Ahmedabad on a profit-sharing basis.

While finance minister Arun Jaitley is expected to announce the plan in his upcoming budget speech, the specifics are likely to be formalised by February-end, when Talgo CEO Jose Maria Oriol visits India, sources said.

The Talgo plan fits in with the NDA government’s intent to ramp up average speeds of Mail and Express trains from the existing 65 kmph to 100 kmph.

Talgo trains have articulated bogies, light-weight shells with all aluminium coaches and a design that allows natural tilting of coaches, enabling it to negotiate curves at high speed.

While Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains are able to achieve a top speed of 160 kmph, their average speed is much lower on account of their heavier wheel and axle load. Talgo coaches weigh 17 tonnes against the 51 tonnes of conventional Indian coaches. The load per passenger is estimated to be approximately four times lesser in a Talgo.

Talgo being the world’s only company manufacturing such coaches, it is difficult for the Indian Railways to go in for a formal contract, but “a lease agreement could work”, an official said.

In a three-phased trial conducted last year, Talgo trains clocked a top speed of 180 kmph on the Mathura-Palwal route and covered the Delhi-Mumbai distance in 11 hours 48 minutes.

“It has now been proven that the Indian Railways can use the Talgo trains to reduce transit time by 25% without investing on infrastructure,” said Subrata Nath, company director for India and Asia Pacific.

NIA asks Home Ministry to transfer Kanpur train tragedy case

NIA to probe recovery of IED near railway track in Bihar’s Ghosaran. Man claims knowledge of Republic Day plot to sabotage Indian Railways tracks

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) demanding that the case surrounding the Kanpur train tragedy be handed over to it for further probe.

The Delhi Police had earlier this month picked up two people from Bihar in connection with the train derailment, which took place in Kanpur on November 21 last year. The Bihar Police has claimed that derailment was planned and funded by anti-India elements based in Dubai.

So far, three have been arrested for planting a bomb on railway tracks in the state on October 1, 2016.

The Home Ministry had on Wednesday sent a two-member NIA team to Motihari for investigation into the Bihar Police’s claims that the derailment of Indore-Patna Express was carried out at by a Nepal gang that has links with Pakistani intelligence agency ISI.

The claims were reportedly based on disclosures by three arrested men.

Investigative agencies are also currently interrogating a man who claims to have been trained to sabotage railway tracks with the aim of causing train accidents on January 26.  A man who is currently being interrogated by several investigative agencies, claims to have knowledge of plans to sabotage railway tracks between Patna and Allahabad with the goal of causing train accidents. The informant, a resident of Jonpur in Uttar Pradesh, claims he was trained and promised money to carry out the sabotage.

WHAT THE INFORMANT HAS CLAIMED
  1. A man named Suresh, whose surname the informant does not know, trained the informant and his friends, Sujit and Shankar, in taking out keys and joints from railway tracks. This would cause the tracks to break and lead to accidents when trains passed over the sabotaged sections.
  2. Suresh was to pay the trio Rs 70,000 to 80,000 each for doing this work.
  3. Tempted by the offer of hard cash, the informant underwent the training in Varanasi where he says he met two men named Vinod and Santosh.
  4. Vinod and Santosh had carried out a similar operation of damaging the railway tracks near the Kanpur railway station for which Suresh had paid them 70,000 rupees. (Editor’s note: It’s not yet clear if this claim is related to the November 20 Patna derailment that claimed over 140 lives.)
  5. The informant ran away after two days of training and after realizing the dangerous extent of Suresh’s plans.

HOW THE INFORMANT’S CLAIMS CAME TO LIGHT

From Varanasi, the information came to Mumbai where he narrated his tale to the station master at the Dadar railway station. The official, the informant says, only made a note of the his claims and informed counterparts in Varanasi. It’s not known what happened of this communication.

The informant then went to Mumbai’s Kurla area in search of job. Once there, he informed a local BJP worker and railway passenger activist Subhash Gupta about Suresh’s plans. It was Gupta who took the informant to the Railway Protection Force. The RPF recorded the informant’s statement, following which several other agencies joined the probe.

“We have written to the home ministry seeking transfer of probe into the Ghorasahan incident. We will look into all claims made by the accused,” said NIA official in their annual briefing.

The Nepal police is also helping the Indian agencies in the probe as three more associates of the arrested trio have been nabbed there in a twin murder case.

CCI imposes Penalty on Bidders for Cartelisation in Tenders of Indian Railways

NEW DELHI: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed penalties on three firms for bid rigging of tenders floated by Indian Railways for procurement of Brushless DC fans in the year 2013.

A final order has been passed by CCI in a case taken up suo moto under Section 19 of the Competition Act, 2002 (‘the Act’) based on the information received from Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi.

CCI has held that the firms had shared the market by way of allocation of tenders of Indian Railways for Brushless DC fans amongst themselves under an agreement/ arrangement and indulged in bid rigging/ collusive bidding in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(c) and 3(3)(d) read with Section 3(1) of the Act. The anti-competitive conduct of the firms has been established based on exchange of rates to be quoted in upcoming tenders amongst the errant firms, numerous calls amongst the key persons of these firms before and during the period of the tenders and admission by one of the firms which confirmed and revealed the existence and modus operandi of the cartel.

Accordingly, a penalty of Rs. 2.09 crores, Rs. 62.37 lakhs and Rs. 20.01 lakhs and was imposed on the firms M/s Western Electric and Trading Company, M/s Pyramid Electronics and M/s R. Kanwar Electricals respectively in terms of proviso to Section 27 (b) of the Act. While imposing penalty, Commission took into consideration all the relevant factors including the duration of the cartel, volume of the tender affected by the cartel and value thereof and decided to impose penalty on M/s Pyramid Electronics and M/s Western Electric and Trading Company calculated at 1.0 time of their profit respectively in the year 2012-13 and on M/s R. Kanwar Electricals at the rate of 3 percent of its turnover for the year 2012-13.

Additionally, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, penalty was also imposed on persons-in charge of the three firms i.e., Shri Sandeep Goyal of M/s Pyramid Electronics, Shri Ashish Jain of M/s R. Kanwar Electricals and Shri Ramesh Parchani of M/s Western Electric and Trading Company at the rate of 10 percent of the average of their income for the last three preceding  financial years.

CCI had received an application under Section 46 of the Act read with Regulation 5 of the Competition Commission of India (Lesser Penalty) Regulations, 2009 from M/s Pyramid Electronics. This application was received when the investigation in the matter was in progress and the report from the DG was pending.

Considering the co-operation extended by M/s Pyramid Electronics in conjunction with the value addition provided by it in establishing the existence of cartel and the stage at which it had approached CCI, it was granted 75 percent reduction in the penalty than would otherwise have been imposed, had it not cooperated with the Commission. Accordingly, the penalty imposed on M/s Pyramid Electronics was reduced to Rs. 15.59 lakhs and penalty imposed on Shri Sandeep Goyal was reduced to Rs. 11,648 only.

Agartala-Udaipur Railway Line to be Inaugurated on Jan 24

Railway Minister-Tripura CM to inaugurate new rail line. Suresh Prabhu says that this new Rail line would not only strengthen the trade and commerce between India and Bangladesh, but also uplift the economy of people on both the sides.

AGARTALA: The Railway Minister and the Tripura Chief Minister will jointly inaugurate a new railway line beyond the state capital Agartala — up to the state’s southern temple city Udaipur — on January 24, an official said here on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar met Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday in New Delhi and discussed the expansion of railway lines in the northeastern state.

“The Railway Minister told the Tripura Chief Minister that they would jointly inaugurate the 44.76-km new railway line up to Udaipur (district headquarters of Gomati district) from state capital Agartala on January 24,” a Tripura government release said.

Prabhu also assured Sarkar that the Agartala-Udaipur railway track, which is being extended up to Sabroom, the southernmost town of the state near Bangladesh, would be completed by 2019.

Sabroom is just 75 kms from the Chittagong international sea port in Bangladesh.

 “The railway station at Sabroom border town would be made of international standard, as this would be a new gateway for the northeastern states of India,” the release said.

“Prabhu, with regard to the Tripura government’s long pending demand to set up a railway division in the state, told Sarkar that it would not be a tangible benefit, rather it would only add to administrative costs to set up a new railway division.

“A nodal officer of the Railway Board would be appointed in Tripura soon to coordinate with the state government to expedite the ongoing works of the railways,” it added.

Meanwhile, according to Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Engineer Harpal Singh, the NFR has invested over Rs 1,000 crore to extend the 44.76-km railway line up to Udaipur, southern Tripura’s main commercial city.

“We have completed laying of railway tracks up to Udaipur before schedule of March 2017,” Singh told IANS over phone from Guwahati.

He said: “The railway line would be extended up to South Tripura’s district headquarters Belonia by this year-end or early next year. By March 2019, southern Tripura’s last border town Sabroom would be connected by railway network.”

The government has been extending railway line up to Sabroom to ferry goods using Bangladesh’s international Chittagong sea port, which is barely 75 km from Sabroom.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: “After the Indian Railways extends its rail line up to Sabroom, it would be very easy to connect with the Chittagong international sea port in southeast Bangladesh.”

“After extending the railway line to Sabroom, Tripura and the entire northeast India would be linked with southeast Asia very easily,” Sarkar told IANS.

The extension of the erstwhile metre-gauge track up to Agartala brought Tripura’s capital city on India’s rail map in October 2008. Subsequently, the metre-gauge track was converted into broad-gauge track.

Meanwhile, the NFR has already undertaken work to lay a 15-km rail track to connect Agartala with Bangladesh’s Akhaura railway station, an important rail junction there.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Bangladesh’s Rail Minister Majibul Haque jointly laid the foundation stone here on July 31 last year for Agartala-Akhaura railway project.

Centre plans Airport Model for Secunderabad Railway station

Revamp Sec’bad rail station’s surroundings too; asks Commuters. Indian Railways ropes in private firms to modernise 23 other stations across the country.

SECUNDERABAD: The Indian Railways has decided to redevelop and modernise 23 stations across the country and is set to rope in private companies for the job. The 143-year-old Secunderabad railway station is among 23 other stations that have been shortlisted by the Centre to be modernised with the help of private players. As part of the planned facelift, authorities hope to transform the station and recreate an airport-like ambiance complete with swank restaurants and shopping complexes.

The Secunderabad station is among the ‘core stations’ connecting the north and south of the country as well as the south to the east. It caters to 1.6 lakh passengers daily.

“A blueprint of development plan is being prepared by SCR authorities currently . Once the blueprint is ready, it will be sent to the Ministry of Railways for approval,” said M Umashankar Kumar, chief public relations officer, South Central Railway. The 23 core stations will be developed at a cost of around Rs 4,000 crore, while the overall cost of building facilities in and around the stations is expected to be around Rs 25,000 crore.

The Boston Consulting Group, which conducted feasibility studies for 55 stations, found 23 including the Secunderabad station requiring an overhaul. Among the other stations that will be revamped are the Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada stations. Apart from modernising the Secunderabad station, private developers who will be roped in will also get the rights to develop surplus land near the station.

A core station in the South Central Railway zone, the iconic Secunderabad station is scheduled to undergo a major upgrade to gain an airport-like ambience with shopping arcades and restaurants. Even as the Centre has cleared the modernisation plans for the 143-year-old station, commuters are readying their wish list.

The station has been included in the list of 23 stations across the country which will be ‘overhauled’ by private players at a total investment of Rs 4,000 crore. The zonal authorities will chart a blueprint of the new layout soon, but passengers are hoping that the station surroundings will also get a new look.

High on their list of expectations is a clutter-free approach road to the major junction. “It took me exactly 15 minutes to reach the approach road to the station from Punjagutta. But navigating the road outside the station cost me 15-20 minutes. Also, the entrance to platform 1 is a picture of chaos unlike platform 10. This needs to be changed,” said Jayanth Reddy, a passenger.

Passengers also want more parking space and waiting rooms at the station. “If the station is being improved, I would suggest having reclining chairs in waiting rooms. Currently, there is limited space in the retiring rooms,” said Poojitha Rao, another railway passenger.

The station had already seen some development over the last few years under the Centre’s World Class station plan.

The authorities had built escalators on majority of the platforms, built lifts and set up electronic display boards, surveillance cameras and drinking water kiosks. Facilities such as restaurants, book stalls, waiting halls, cloak rooms, inquiry counters and foot bridges were already in place. What the redevelopment failed to fix was the levels of noise pollution on the platforms. “The noise pollution is quite high because of the constant announcements and also the sheer number of passengers and vendors. I would really like a more relaxed ambience. Also the occasional beggar seen at the station should be removed,” said Lasya N, a techie.

The land can be used for building hotels and other facilities. The lease will be for 45 years as per the plan.

The stations that will be redeveloped and modernised are — Kanpur Central, Allahabad, Lokmanya Tilak, Pune, Thane, Visakhapatnam, Horah, Kamakhya, Faridabad, Jammu Tawi, Udaipur City, Secunderabad, Vijaywada, Ranchi, Chennai Central, Kozhikide, Yesvantpur, Bangalore Cantt, Bhopal, Mumbai Central, Bandra Terminus, Borivali and Indore.

According to reports, work on the first private sector-driven redevelopment programme will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Habibganj station near Bhopal next week.

Bansal Construction have been awarded the contact to redevelop Habibganj station at Rs 400 crore. While Rs 100 crore will be spent for redeveloping the main station, the remaining amount will be utilised for creating secondary facilities.

The financial model for programme has been worked out in a way that the government doesn’t incur any expenditure as the developer will be rebuilding the stations and maintaining it for 15 years. In return, the developer will be granted 45 years’ leasing rights for the commercial properties developed at these stations.

Contracts for redeveloping Faridabad, which falls in the National Capital Region, and at least two station in Delhi (Anand Vihar and Bijwasan) are expected to be finalised by March this year.

The Prime Minister had earlier this month said that his government ‘is focused on development of railways shedding earlier practices wherein the ministry was used as a bargaining tool by the main ruling party to distribute trophies to its allies’.

He had recently laid the foundation stone for redevelopment of Gandhinagar railway station, which will get a face-lift at a cost of Rs 250 crore and will have a 300-room five star hotel built atop.

 

Railways to share up ‘backbone’ of Revenue source, set to ink MOUs to boost Freight Traffic

Come April next year, the Indian Railways will start entering into a clutch of ‘transportation guarantee agreements’, or memorandums of understanding, to improve its faltering freight segment, the backbone of the railways’ revenue.

NEW DELHI: Come April next year, the Indian Railways will start entering into a clutch of ‘transportation guarantee agreements’, or memorandums of understanding, to improve its faltering freight segment, the backbone of the railways’ revenue.

“Many industries such as cement, iron ore and steel have already shown interest which will give me guarantee of a certain traffic for, say, 5-10 years, and the railways will give them a guarantee to provide adequate number of wagons throughout the year as per their requirement,” said a ministry of railway requesting not to be named.

There will be traffic guarantee clause in the agreements wherein there will be a certain penalty component for both parties in case they fail on their commitment, added the official.

The national carrier has been losing traffic to both airlines and roads with its traffic receipts for the April-December 2016 period, falling 2.53% compared with same period a year-ago. While the passenger revenue target for the period was missed by 9.14%, the freight target witnessed a shortfall of 10.98%

The transporter saw its traffic receipts in April-December 2016 go down 2.53% from the Rs 1.22 lakh crore achieved during the year-ago period. In the passenger revenue segment (which accounts for about a third of the total traffic earnings), the carrier missed the target by 9.14% and in the profitable goods category the shortfall was 10.98%. The freight suffered mostly because of a tepid loading of coal and cement in the current financial year.

The railways is expecting that once these agreements are in place and the dedicated freight corridors — both eastern and western — are in place by December 2019, a combination of the two will boost freight earnings.

“We will be able to carry four times the number of containers transported now through the corridors which will 1.5-km long and double stacked, instead of 750 m and single stack now,” said the official, adding that the quicker and heavier rakes will offer competitive rates in lesser time compared to roads. “The per unit cost will come down drastically,” the official added.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu in the 2016-17 Budget had announced that the railways will enter into long-term contracts with customers which will be beneficial for both. On the one hand, the railways will get an assured traffic and on the other, customers will benefit from low long-term tariff.

IR has already undertaken various measures to improve its freight movement and revenue numbers, including withdrawal of port congestion and busy season charges, tariff liberalisation of empty rake direction and introduction of dwarf containers, among others.

Railways plans Rs.1.3 Trillion Capital Expenditure in FY 2017-18

Indian Railways is seeking more money despite being able to spend only 54% of its planned capital expenditure during the current fiscal
New Delhi: In its highest-ever capital expenditure, the Railway Ministry is planning a capital outlay of about Rs 1.3 lakh crore and expecting a gross budgetary support of Rs 55,000 crore (GBS) for the fiscal year 2017-18. Railways CAPEX plan of around Rs.1.3 Trillion for the FY 2017-18 – the highest-ever capital outlay with a gross budgetary support (GBS) of around Rs.55,000 crore from the finance ministry is something could be seen as seeking more fund despite being able to spend only 54% of its planned CAPEX during the current fiscal.
“The railway ministry has sought a GBS of Rs.60,000 crore from the Union budget and we are hopeful to get around Rs.55,000 crore which is an increase of approximately 20%,” a senior railway board official said on condition of anonymity.
The gross budgetary support for railways was around Rs.45,000 crore for the current fiscal year.
The railways has pegged a capital expenditure of Rs.1.3 trillion and discussions are on with the finance ministry, the official added.
Indian Railways is seeking more money despite being to able to spend only 54% of its planned capital expenditure during the current fiscal.
“There are three months to go and it would be too early to comment on expenditure,” said another railway board official who did not wish to be named, adding that railways will try its best to catch up.
With the merger of railway budget and the Union budget, the railway ministry and industry is hopeful that finance ministry would increase budgetary support to boost growth in the infrastructure sector.
According to a 7 October PhillipCapital report, Indian Railways will need about $53 billion to execute pending projects and network decongestion orders over FY17-FY20. “If the railways gets the desired gross budgetary support and is able to raise the required external funds to incur Rs.1.35 lakh crore outlay, there would be significant growth opportunities for companies catering to the railways segment,” said Alok Deora, an analyst with IIFL Wealth Management Ltd.
Edelweiss Capital in a report had said in the next 10 years, investments in railways will far outstrip those in national highways.
“We believe rail revolution will usher monumental changes in India. For EPC (engineering, construction, procurement) companies, it will open up an entire new segment for orders.
For companies in capital goods, power, ports, cement, logistics and metals/mining space, this will spell better volumes and cost reduction,” Edelweiss analyst Parvez Akhtar Qazi wrote in a 11 January report.
The increased orders from railways is likely to benefit several engineering and construction companies.
Foreign firms such as Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, KEC International Ltd, Crompton Greaves Ltd, Siemens India, Timken India, Kalpataru Power Transmission Ltd, Titagarh Wagons Ltd, Texmaco Rail and Engineering Ltd and others stand to benefit.
Several global companies like Hyperloop Technologies Inc., Spain’s Talgo SA, Germany’s Siemens AG and Knorr Bremse AG, are already trying to woo Indian policymakers with their transport technologies.

Kanpur Train Tragedy is a Terror Plot: clarifies Bihar Police

PATNA: ISI plotted big attacks on vulnerable Indian Railways. Bihar police zero in on Pakistan’s ISI hand behind Kanpur train tragedy to target railways and cause huge damage and loss of lives. The investigation revealed that the suspects have the support from ISI with financial backing from a Dubai-based businessman.

The railways have been a target of terror groups several times in the past. A recent investigation conducted by the Bihar Police and Interpol now got a thorough clue that the accident was a sabotage that was a plan to blow up a train in East Champaran or cause derailment of a speeding train by damaging the tracks.

Bihar police on Tuesday claimed to have unearthed a suspected ISI link to target the railways with arrest of three persons in East Champaran district of the state. The report emerged after the arrest of three persons suspected of planting an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on a railway track near Ghorasahan railway station+ in October last year.

Police claimed the trio had confessed to having worked for a Nepalese contact suspected to be connected to Pakistan’s ISI to target the railways. The bomb was defused after alert villagers spotted it and called the cops in.

This investigation is very crucial as it could give more clues to investigators probing into mystery train accidents. There have been over 11 train accidents in 2016. While the cause of the accident has been ascertained in most cases, the one at Kanpur in November 2016 in which 150 lost their lives continues to be a mystery. We do not want to add a conspiracy theory to the accident, but since a terror link is identified in the wake of the revelations made by the Delhi police, the investigation had a clue now; an official associated with the Railways informed.

During interrogation, police claimed that “the accused were given Rs 3 lakh by a Nepali citizen allegedly connected with the ISI for planting a bomb to blow the railway track at Ghorasahan in East Champaran district in October 1 last year to cause an accident. A probe is currently underway to find their links with the Kanpur train accident,” SP Jitendra Rana told.

The police also claimed that they will interrogate the trio to ascertain if the gang had any role in train accidents in Kanpur that claimed the lives of at least 140 people and injured many others, on November 20, 2016.

While the three accused were arrested from East Champaran district, three others have been nabbed at Tailaya in Nepal for targeting railways on behalf of suspected terror elements in this country, Rana added. Security agencies have been informed about the confession made by the three men, who are “professional criminals” allegedly involved in more than a dozen criminal cases.

They’re being further interrogated for more details to determine if the they had any role in train accidents in Kanpur and elsewhere. At least 150 people were killed and over 100 injured when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Pukhrayan in Kanpur Dehat district in November 2016.

Initial reports overlooked terror angle and investigated rail fracture due to expansion of the track in summer and contraction in winter as the likely cause of the mishap which now proved to be wrong.

Rana said the anti-terrorism squad and other security agencies have been informed about the confession made by the three men who are being interrogated for more details to ascertain if the gang had any role in train accidents in Kanpur and elsewhere. 150 people were killed in the derailment of Indore-Patna Express at Kanpur Dehat in November last year.

East Champaran is a district bordering Nepal and Indian Mujahideen chief Yasin Bhatkal was arrested from Raxaul in the district in August 2013.

Railways vulnerable to terror:

In this context, one must go back to the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. 180 people died in that deadly blast which ripped through the trains in Mumbai in a span of 11 minutes. While this was the biggest terror attack on the Indian railways, there have been several other incidents on a smaller scale. In 2016, there was a mystery bomber who sought to send out a message to the security establishment. The Panipat-Ambala passenger train was attacked twice in 2016. While the first incident occurred in January, the second one was in May. In both incidents a low intensity bomb was planted in one of the bogeys. The blast was a minor one, but it went on to reveal how poor the security was in the Indian railways.

Terror groups would look to target the railways for a variety of reasons. First, the railway stations are crowded and this makes the impact extremely high. Second, the security is very low and this makes the railways a potential target. In the past as well, the naxalites have meddled with the railway tracks to cause train accident. It is practically impossible to man the entire railway line which spreads of several lakhs of kilometres. The Chennai train blast of 2014 is also a classic example of how lax security is. The members of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India had boarded the train in Bengaluru with explosives and timed it to go off at the Chennai railway station.

One person died in that incident. The SIMI members assembled the bomb in the wash room of the train. This means that they passed through every possible security check, if any, undetected.

Many in the police force do not prefer being posted in the Railway Protection Force. They feel that it is a punishment posting or the challenge in the job is not good enough. There have also been complaints that members of this force are not professional investigators and this has also caused a lot of problems. The biggest problem is the lack of personnel in the force which have led to complaints of over load of work. In addition to incidents in railway stations, the Railway Protection Force also has the task of manning and protecting the assets of the railways.

2281 MT High Speed Diesel sent to Bangladesh from Numaligarh Refinery

Guwahati: A railway rake containing 2,281 Metric Tonne of High Speed Diesel (HSD) has been dispatched from Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s Marketing Terminal in Siliguri to Parbatipur Depot of Bangladesh Petroleum.

The consignment containing 42 wagons will travel over 516 kms (253 km in India and 263 km in Bangladesh) on the existing railway line via Rangapani, Singabad, Rohanpur to reach Parbatipur in Bangladesh, a NRL press release said.

Capital Expenditure: Less than a Quarter remaining, target only half way through

The total expenditure incurred in the 24 main plan heads that signify actual asset creation in Railways during a particular year, the expenditure, so far, is just about Rs 600 crore more than last year’s figures. The target of capex being Rs 1.17 lakh crore, around Rs 23,000 crore more than last year’s actual capital expenditure achieved, will eventually include around Rs 18,000 crore worth of works done by partnership ventures.

New Delhi: Despite assured funding, Indian Railways is struggling to spend the money towards infrastructure as it lags behind in speed of capital expenditure (capex), with less than three months to go before the financial year closes and just a month before the Budget.

Unable to execute works in the required speed, it could spend only around 50 per cent of the assured funds allocated under various major plan heads by December 2016. This is a couple of per cent less than last year for major plan heads.

The total expenditure incurred in the 24 main plan heads that signify actual asset creation in Railways during a particular year, the expenditure, so far, is just about Rs 600 crore more than last year’s figures.

Moreover, its proactiveness in taking loan from the LIC of India to fund high-returns works is not matched by the rate at which it is actually able to utilise the borrowed money as only 24 per cent of Extra Budgetary Resources (Institutional Financing)- or about Rs 5,000 crore out of the budgeted Rs 20,985 crore has been spent so far, signifying a lack of appetite for the borrowed funds.

In doubling of lines, funded majorly by borrowed (assured) money, and which does not involve acquiring of land since almost all doubling works happen on land owned by Railways, the utilisation of money is a dismal Rs 4,547 crore or around 20 per cent of the allocated Rs 25,000 crore, records show.

The target of capex being Rs 1.17 lakh crore, around Rs 23,000 crore more than last year’s actual capital expenditure achieved, will eventually include around Rs 18,000 crore worth of works done by partnership ventures.

Sources said delay in finalisation of high-value tenders across Indian Railways is one of the reasons behind the slothness. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu in one of his major policy decisions two years ago had delegated all the minister’s powers in matters of tenders in favour of Railway Board members, zonal general managers and downwards.

What this means is that in the next three months, there will be ample scope for fund managers in Railways to book expenditure in the name of advances for works to be done next financial year to get as close to the target as possible even though the worth of actual assets created this year will be much less.

For those who have been at the helm of affairs, these are telltale signs.

“I don’t know how they will meet the targets at this rate. This means that despite the delegation of powers down the ranks, the organisation is unable to come together to perform,” said Sanjoy Mookerjee, who retired as financial commissioner last year.

By December, the total capex in major plan heads has been Rs 50,823 crore, excluding the expenditure on account of partnership entities.

This is almost as good as the figures achieved last year, which means despite an increased budget to spend, the transporter’s ability to spend remains more or less the same.

For next financial year, Railways has got Rs 48,000 as Gross Budgetary Support. It’s pace of spending money under capital fund, so far, has been just about 58 per cent or around Rs 19,334 crore.

In matters of safety, the funds related to works on level crossings and such infrastructure saw utilisation of between 51 and 57 per cent by December.

Prabhu, sources said, has insisted that the Budget targets be met no matter what.

As per officials in zonal railways and construction organizations, there is a propensity to show expenditure in the books in order to achieve the never-before figure of capital expenditure.

Pace of spending is the real indicator of how much work Railways is able to get done in a given period.

Unlike other ministries, Railways has the advantage that all the implementing agencies for expenditure, like construction organisations, PSUs, and zonal railways are either directly or indirectly controlled by the Railway Board.

“This means there is something seriously wrong. Most probably managerial follow ups are not happening as effectively as they should for a large capex target as this one. The implementing agencies are not executing work in the required pace,” said Arunendra Kumar, former chairman, Railway Board.

An extra Rs 10,780 crore that Railways got last year after much bargaining and haggling with the finance ministry as safety fund, has also seen sub-optimal utilisation at around Rs 5,809 crore or around 53 per cent.

In fact in the three main works concerning new lines, doubling and gauge conversion, the total expenditure so far has been just about Rs 600 crore more than last year.

According to Subodh Jain, former Railway Board Member (Engineering), the capital expenditure figures this year show lack of intention.

Two years ago, Prabhu had announced in Budget that Railways would eventually go the way of awarding Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contracts. As is the global norm, these contacts are given in large value works wherein one big player does everything from producing the detailed engineering design of the project, procurement of materials and the actual construction. The nature of execution and management in EPC contracts is believed to produce results faster with less hassle in terms of overseeing of work.

“If they wanted to do EPC contracts, they would have done so but they just do not have the intention, that’s my opinion. How fast can the same horse continue to run? Singly beating the horse to run faster would hardly produce results,” Jain said.

Railways’ pace of capex has always been a matter of contention. Two years ago, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wrote a letter to Prabhu expressing concern on the delay in spending money and getting works done. In fact, the finance ministry had also slashed its Gross Budgetary Support citing same reason. This time around, when it is the last cycle of independent budgeting exercise for Railways, the slowness in spending could weaken the transporter’s case before the finance ministry in negotiations for more funds.

After being rapped by the PMO and the finance ministry in 2015, Railways had struggled to eventually reach the highest ever capex figure of Rs 93,794.84 crore in 2015-16.

After 3 derailments in less than 2 months, Railways ropes in International Experts to fix Kanpur-Lucknow stretch

New Delhi: After three derailments within less than two months, the Indian Railways has roped in international experts to fix its Kanpur-Lucknow stretch.

The Indian Railways has roped in international experts to fix its Kanpur-Lucknow stretch that has witnessed a clutch of train wrecks, even as police hinted on Tuesday that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI may have instigated a November crash that claimed more than 150 lives.

Initial investigations have found damaged tracks that led to three derailments in less than two months in the same section. A six-member team of experts from South Korea began probing the incidents on Tuesday and will inspect the spot on Wednesday.

Last week, Japanese experts had conducted a similar inspection of the site where the Indore-Patna express train went off the rails on November 20. Railway experts from Italy will meet Indian Railways officials next month while the railway ministry is also in talks with French experts to carry out a probe.

“The South Korean delegation met top railway ministry officials where they were briefed about the facts related to the accident. Korean experts will carry out ultrasonic flaw detection test on the Kanpur-Lucknow section on Wednesday,” a senior railway ministry official told.

India’s extensive rail network runs 12,000 trains a day and the full-length track could circle the globe over one and a half times. More than 23 million passengers travel on it every day on journeys that extend from one end of the country to another. But the network has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year, including in train derailments and collisions.

While initial probe by the railways have hinted sabotage, experts are also examining if the derailments were caused due to track fracture. The railway ministry has already sought a CBI inquiry into the crashes after an internal probe report said the fishplate was missing from the tracks at the site of the November 20 derailment.

“During track-patrolling, trackmen Sanjeev Kumar and Ramraj found 50 elastic rail clips and three pairs of fishplates removed from the railway track between Kalyanpur and Mandhana railway stations of Farrukhabad-Kanpur Anwarganj section. Many cuts by a hacksaw were also found on the track,” the report said.

The country recorded 27,581 railway deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, with most victims falling from, or being struck by, moving trains.

Railway ministry will allocate Rs 2,000 crore for track maintenance and safety in the upcoming budget. An official said the railways plans to procure ultrasonic-flaw detection machines for minute scanning of the tracks. The machine, being used in countries such as Japan, Spain and China, employs ultrasonic waves to detect if there is any fracture or physical obstruction on the tracks.

The Indian Railways spends over Rs.55,000 crore annually on safety, but its share on track maintenance has been abysmally low. Sources said the organisation allocated merely Rs.60 crore for safety of tracks in 2012-13 and Rs 287 crore in the next fiscal year. In 2014-15, no money was earmarked for this purpose.

However, the Narendra Modi government increased the expenditure on track safety to Rs 1,200 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 1,508 crore in 2016-17. The railways has nearly 1.3 lakh kilometres of tracks across the country.

Railway Minister unveils 10-year Energy Plan for Railways to save Rs.41000 Crore

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday said the transporter will change its energy consumption mix which will result in savings of R41,000 crore in the next decade as energy costs. Suresh Prabhu says that as part of Mission 41k, Railway Electrification can reduce dependence on imported fuel and rationalize energy cost

New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday unveiled a plan to save Rs.41,000 crore over 10 years through an integrated energy management system.

According to Indian Railways’ Mission 41k initiative, the national carrier will electrify 24,000km of rail tracks over the next five years by doubling the annual rate of electrification from 2,000km to 4,000km in the next two years.

To achieve this target, the railways plans to follow the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) model of awarding contracts for railway electrification projects. It also plans to mechanize the execution through self-propelled wiring trains among other initiatives.

Prabhu said switching from diesel to electric can help railways in a big way. Through electrification, railways can reduce dependence on imported fuel and rationalize the cost of energy. He added that the 10-year plan, which started in 2015 on a pilot basis, will continue till 2025 and has already started yielding results.

“Railways has already saved Rs.300 crore during 2015-16 and Rs.1,000 crore till November 2016. We hope this year the savings would be around Rs.1,800 crore through energy management,” said a railway ministry official, requesting anonymity.

Apart from electrification of tracks, the other initiatives under Mission 41k are change in the carrier’s energy mix by using more green energy through 1,000 megawatt (MW) solar and 200MW wind plants, installation of LED lights and bulbs across all railway stations, trains and offices.

“If consumption of only one class of fuel grows, it will lead to skewed development of the energy mix,” said B. Ashok, chairman of Indian Oil Corp., the country’s largest oil marketing company.

During 2014-15, the total energy cost of Indian Railways was Rs.31,220 crore. This included expenditure of Rs.10,436 crore towards electric traction which carries about two thirds of the total freight and about 50% of passenger traffic; Rs.18,586 crore towards diesel traction which carries the balance one-third of freight and about 50% of passenger traffic and Rs.2,198 crore towards supply of electrical energy to various offices, workshops and railway stations, etc.

The move comes as railways projects a six-fold increase in its passenger and freight traffic by 2030. The passenger and freight traffic on the railways in India is expected to grow from 3.64 trillion passenger kilometers and 961 billion tonne kilometres respectively in 2005 to 19.4 trillion passenger kilometres and 6.68 trillion tonne kilometres, respectively by 2030.

Korean team visits Rura Railway station to Investigate cause of Sealdah-Ajmer express accident

KANPUR: An expert team from South Korea visited the Rura railway station on Tuesday to investigate the cause of derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer express which had occurred on December 28 last year, leaving 62 passengers injured. The team which comprised of six experts, first inspected the accident spot and also did videography of the site and the mangled remains of the coaches. They even took measurement of the broken tracks and closely observed the signal system at the railway station.

The team, after collecting the evidences, also spoke to the railway officials and staff including section engineers and tried gathering more details into the accident. The sources also stated that this expert team may also visit Pukhrayan in Kanpur Dehat where Indore-Rajendra Nagar Patna express had derailed on November 20 last year, killing 152 passengers and leaving 300 passengers injured. It had turned out to be one of the deadliest train accidents in the past five years.

The railways termed the investigation by the Korean team as ‘audit by third party’.

Though the cause of the accident would be concluded by the Korean team later, sources stated that the track fracture could be the reason for the Sealdah-Ajmer express to derail. A team of IIT-Kanpur experts which had visited Rura soon after the derailment incident had concluded that the track fracture was the most probable reason for Sealdah-Ajmer express to derail.

Chief Public Relations Officer, North Central Railway, Bijay Kumar said that the Korean team had come to Rura railway station to carry out audit of the accident site, tracks and the mangled remains of the coaches. This expert team had been sent by the Railway ministry and they would be submitting their report with the ministry after completing their investigation, he added. “This was ‘audit by third party’ which the railways get done to know about lapses if any.”

Train no. 12987 Sealdah-Ajmer Express went off the tracks between Rura and Metha railway stations, about 50kms from Kanpur. During the accident, 15 coaches of the train derailed and left more than 60 people injured.

Delhi to Meerut in 60 minutes by Rapid Rail Transit corridor

New Delhi: The Board of National Capital Region Transport Corporation has cleared the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Rapid Rail Transit Corridor (RRTC) that will enable travel at the rate of 160 kmh. The 92km-long corridor, with a capital investment of Rs 21,902 crore, will bring down travel time between Delhi and Meerut to 60 minutes by a normal train. 
 
The project was conceived more than 10 years ago and is a segment of a larger plan to connect important towns in the NCR region with Delhi through a high speed based commuter transit system. The entire corridor is expected to be completed by 2024. 
 
The corridor will originate at the Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal and pass through Delhi, Ghaziabad and Meerut regions before terminating at Modipuram. Of the 92.05 km-long stretch, 60.354km will be on an elevated viaduct, 30.245km will be underground, while 1.451km will be at grade for connections to two depots, one each at Duhai and Modipuram. In Delhi and Meerut the RRTC will be underground, including the stretch where the line will cross the Yamuna. The section running along the median of the  Delhi-Meerut highway will be elevated. The line will have 17 stations. 
 
Sources said that the Delhi-Meerut RRTC is expected to carry about 7.91 lakh passengers in 2024, 9.20 lakh in 2031 and 11.40 lakh passengers by 2041. The peak hour peak day traffic has been estimated at 18,224 in 2024, 22,215 in 2031 and 26,462 in 2041. 
 
This corridor will be de signed for a maximum speed of 180 kmh with an operating speed of 160 kmh. The coaches will have a 2×2 seating system, like in aircraft. Each train will have one business class coach, beside 11 others,” said a source. “On completion of this corridor, travel time between Delhi and Meerut will come down to 48 minutes by express trains and 60 minutes by normal trains,” he added. 
 
As per the project report, the 38.05km Sahibabad-Meerut south section, including the Duhai depot, is likely to commence revenue operations in January 2023, the 16.60km Sarai Kale Khan-Sahibabad in January 2024 and the remaining 37.40km Meerut South-Modipuram in July 2024. 

Land Scouting on for new Suburban Train tracks in Chennai

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu is identifying land to create separate rail tracks for suburban services in Chennai and adjoining districts but it awaits the nod for the new draft policy guidelines of the Railways.

Transport Department secretary Chandrakant Kamble told that land is being identified but refused to comment further saying it was a policy matter.

The Railways has urged State governments to take up independent rail-based suburban projects under Metro Acts in line with National Urban Transport Policy. For, running suburban services on existing tracks adversely affected the capacity of freight and long distance trains. Hence, the need for exclusive tracks for suburban services.

The Railways has sought comments from the State on the new draft policy mailed on December 6. Since the State had failed to provide a concrete reply, the Railways has extended the deadline to January 24, 2017.

The idea is to create integrated suburban systems by launching new investments with the participation of the State government and ensure cost neutrality on operations. As such, Railways has mooted the idea of special purpose vehicle with equal equity participation from the state government as well.

However, the hitch is that the State government has to bear complete cost of land, leasing of railway land and resettlement and rehabilitation by either providing interest free subordinate debt to the Special Purpose Vehicle or from its sources. It is this provision that is proving to be a sticking point.

“The State government is not inclined to give the land free of cost. We are in touch with them and remain hopeful the issue will be sorted out soon,” said Vashista Johri, General Manager, Southern Railways.

5 Mumbai Railway Stations to be Modernised by Private Players

NEW DELHI: The iconic Howrah station in Kolkata along with Mumbai Central and Chennai Central stations are among 23 identified for redevelopment by the private sector as the railways finally gets down to modernising the British-era facilities.

The maximum number of projects are expected to be in Mumbai where apart from Mumbai Central, Bandra, Borivli, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla and Thane-which was the terminus for the first ever train in the country–are on the list.

The first private sector-driven redevelopment plan at Habibganj (near Bhopal) is expected to be flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon, paving the way for the other projects. Sources said Bansal Construction, which will redevelop the station, has tied up for the funding which involves Rs 100 crore for redevelopment of the station and around Rs 300 crore for creation of other facilities. In addition, contracts for redevelopment of at least two stations in Delhi – Anand Vihar and Bijwasan – are expected to be finalised by March, sources told. Faridabad in the National Capital Region is also on the list for redevelopment.

While the government had cleared a plan to redevelop 44 stations last January , not much progress has taken place on the ground with the development of Gandhinagar having been kicked off earlier this month. But the development is not driven by the private sector and is instead through a special purpose vehicle with equity from the railways and the Gujarat government. With the railways moving slowly on getting private players, the state and the central government stepped in.

But now, officers said, things have been firmed up with the Boston Consulting Group conducting feasibility study for 55 stations and 23 are ready for award.

Sources said the cost of redevelopment is expected to be around Rs 4,000 crore and the government will earn at least Rs 4,000 crore as upfront fee from developers. Apart from modernising the railway station, the developer will also get the rights to develop surplus land near the station, including building of hotels and other facilities. The lease will be for 45 years. The overall investment is estimated to be around Rs 25,000 crore, a source said.

The idea is to get some of the stations up and running by the end of 2018 or early 2019. Indian Railways Station Development Corporation, a railways PSU, has been mandated to redevelop Surat, Chandigarh and Mohali stations.