Blockbuster Merger of Alstom and Siemens stuns CRRC

Siemens and Alstom deal ‘Best Industrial Logic’, form European Train Giant to Beat Chinese Competition. ‘Merger for financial and geo-footprint strength’, said Joe Kaeser, Chairman and CEO at Siemens SA, and Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Chairman and CEO at Alstom AG.

MUNICH/PARIS – German industrial group Siemens AG and French rival Alstom SA agreed to merge their rail operations, creating a European champion to better withstand the international advance of China’s state-owned CRRC Corp Ltd. This blockbuster merger stunned CRRC in a big way.

“I must say I‘m really glad to have won him over,” Kaeser said of Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge, who will lead the new business, helping to counter criticism that France is giving up control of another national industrial icon. “It was a remarkable cooperation between two, obviously competitive, units,” he added on a conference call with analysts, referring to the negotiation process. Siemens will own 50 percent plus a few shares of the joint venture, to be called Siemens Alstom, while Alstom will supply Henri Poupart-Lafarge as chief executive, helping to counter criticism that France is giving up control of another national industrial icon.

Europe’s main benchmarks climbed to a new ten-week high on Wednesday as deals remained front and centre, while a weaker euro also supported indexes which had dipped this summer as the strong currency dented earnings expectations. Merger and acquisition news stole the spotlight with Alstom shares rising to their highest level in more than six years after the French industrial group struck a deal to merge rail operations with Germany’s Siemens.

The new company, to be called Siemens Alstom, is a response to intensifying competition from China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation, the state-backed train maker that has been winning contracts in the United States and emerging markets where mass transit is a fast-growing business. The company’s success is emblematic of China’s increasing economic power, which, combined with a more isolationist American foreign policy, is forcing European leaders to violate old taboos in order to improve the functioning of the European Union and its economy.

Sources had told that Siemens was close to an agreement with train and plane group Bombardier but that talks were tough due to Bombardier’s weak finances and desire to control any joint venture. Kaeser however declined to comment on any talks with Bombardier but pointed to Alstom’s strong balance sheet. “Newco is going to be a very financially strong company,” he said.

The non-executive chairman will come from Siemens.

Siemens and Alstom’s decision to merge their rail operations is about business and not politics, according to the companies’ CEOs, despite the deal being framed as a response to China’s advancing dominance.

“The rationale is undoubtedly (to do with) business, it’s a unique opportunity to create a global leader and a European champion … in a dynamic market,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge said. He added the deal would create a “world leader” in the rail business.

“We’re combining our forces both in terms expertise … to create this new champion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said the deal would make the two companies more competitive and that the merger was a “compelling” deal.

In the wider economic environment, Kaeser said the deal made sense because “mobility will be one of the major beneficiaries of population growth in the world … So we have a very positive underlying scheme to make this a success.”

He welcomed the state approval of the deal, saying “we welcome that the governments on both sides have been very supportive, as have the unions by the way. Last but not least if you look at the share price in the last few days, it seems that we have almost all the stars – the stakeholders – aligned.”

Their comments come after it was announced on Tuesday that the German industrial group Siemens and its French competitor Alstom, will merge their rail operations in a bid to compete with China’s state-owned CRRC.

“The message of this merger is that the European spirit is alive,” Joe Kaeser, the chief executive of Siemens, said at a news conference in Paris on Wednesday. “That’s a powerful message in times that are marked by populism and nationalism and social and political divides.”

The announcement comes just days after a far right party won seats in the German Parliament for the first time since World War II. On Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called for “the rebuilding of a sovereign, united and democratic Europe” that would include stronger border controls but also a European budget large enough to help countries in economic trouble.

Competition from China has already been a factor in other big European mergers. Last week, the German steel giant ThyssenKrupp said it would merge its European steel operations into a joint venture with Tata Steel. And last year, Nokia of Finland acquired Alcatel-Lucent, a French maker of telecommunications equipment, in part to address intense competition from China’s Huawei.

Other sectors, like shipbuilding or semiconductors, could also be ripe for mergers.

Mr. Macron has made competition from China a central focus of his European policy drive. This year, he proposed Europe-wide scrutiny of any new major stakes by Chinese companies in European industrial jewels, but was met with resistance by small countries like Greece and Hungary, which are eager for new investment.

The French president and other European leaders have grown increasingly alarmed that the E.U. is ceding control of advanced technology to China. In a recent speech in Athens, Mr. Macron called for strengthening the bloc into a “power that can face the U.S. and China.”

Those concerns deepened after a state-owned Chinese chemical company, ChemChina, bought the Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta this summer for $43 billion. The Chinese state-backed shipping conglomerate Cosco recently took a majority stake in Greece’s Piraeus port to anchor China’s New Silk Road through Europe. Germany itself has been no stranger to takeover bids by Chinese state-backed firms.

Just weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany tightened rules to limit takeovers of German strategic assets, a move aimed at Beijing.

Chinese competition was a driving factor in Mr. Macron’s backing to seal a deal between Alstom and Siemens, despite outcries from political opponents in France that he was handing over a French icon to the Germans.

“The big story here is the French willingness to let this happen,” said Mikko Huotari, director of the international relations program at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “Alstom is one of the crown jewels of French industry.”

The Siemens-Alstom deal is in part a bid that being bigger may be a better way to counter China Railway Rolling Stock, known as CRRC, which has grown into the world’s largest and most competitive maker of railway equipment. The European company could yet grow further: Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, there had been speculation that Siemens could link up with Bombardier of Canada. On Wednesday, Mr. Kaeser of Siemens did not rule out that Bombardier could later become part of the combined company.

Still, with sales of over $33 billion last year and 180,000 employees worldwide, CRRC is bigger than the train businesses of Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier combined.

Last year, the Chinese company secured contracts to build 64 subway cars for the city of São Paulo, and sold more than 800 railway cars to Chicago for $1.3 billion, winning the deal by submitting a cheap bid with good technology.

“Of course CRRC is extremely strong, and has changed a little bit the picture of the market,” Henri Poupart-Lafarge, the chief executive of Alstom, told reporters Wednesday.

Mr. Poupart-Lafarge will be chief executive of the new company, which will have its headquarters in Paris. The Mobility Solutions unit of Siemens Alstom, which provides systems to control rail traffic and is more profitable than the unit that makes trains and streetcars, will be based in Berlin.

The new company will have annual revenue of €15.3 billion, an order backlog valued at €61.2 billion and more than 62,000 employees worldwide.

Alstom in particular is a symbol of national technological might for the French, with high-speed TGV trains racing across the countryside, and Eurostar trains connecting Paris to London in just over two hours through the Eurotunnel.

While populist parties such as the National Front are hostile to closer political ties in the European Union, they are less likely to oppose corporate mergers that protect European companies from foreign competition.

Pro-European political leaders like Mr. Macron have themselves not been averse to government intervention to protect jobs at home.

Despite pledges to be less protectionist than his predecessors, Mr. Macron has shown a willingness to involve the state in industrial policy by getting involved in big deals. Last month, he temporarily nationalized one of France’s biggest shipyards, STX France, to prevent it from being taken over by an Italian competitor.

As France’s economy minister, he pushed through a government plan last year to order €630 million worth of new TGV trains — most of which were not calibrated to run on faster tracks — from an Alstom factory in the eastern town of Belfort to prevent hundreds of jobs there from moving to another plant.

The Alstom deal with Siemens also reflects, however, a willingness to be flexible to protect broader French interests.

On Tuesday, the country’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said the French government welcomed the deal with Siemens, characterizing it as one that protected French jobs at Alstom.

The merged companies will be known as Siemens Alstom and will be led by Alstom’s current Chief Executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge. Siemens will designate six directors to the 11-member board of directors and will own a 50 percent share of the new company.

After more details of the deal were released on Wednesday, shares of Siemens were up 2 percent while Alstom shares were up 6.2 percent.

Kaeser said there was a lot of work to complete the deal and he said regulatory matters needed to be dealt with. “There is a lot to do, then we go after the synergies,” he said, which are estimated to amount to around 470 million euros ($551.8 million) annually and expected four years after the deal has closed.

As a result, Kaeser said there was bound to be redundancies as a result of the companies merging.

“Of course after the combination of businesses there will also be redundancies, there are two companies, two CEOs, two finance directors, two HR departments and you only need one. So of course there will be synergies relating to the combination of the businesses.”

The framework deal, which still has to be approved by Alstom shareholders as well as regulators, is a Franco-German industrial breakthrough for French President Emmanuel Macron but is a move that has riled opposition politicians.

Their worries centre on France losing control of its TGV high-speed train – a symbol of national pride that has highlighted French engineering skill – and possible job losses.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday that the French government welcomed the planned tie-up, which he said would protect French jobs.

The French state said it would not exercise an option to buy a 20 percent stake in Alstom from industrial group Bouygues SA.

The Siemens and Alstom transport businesses span the iconic French TGV and German ICE high-speed trains as well as signalling and rail technology. They have combined sales of 15.3 billion euros ($18 billion) and earnings before interest and tax of 1.2 billion euros.

“This Franco-German merger of equals sends a strong signal in many ways. We put the European idea to work and together with our friends at Alstom, we are creating a new European champion in the rail industry for the long term,” said Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser.

Alstom’s Poupart-Lafarge said: “Today is a key moment in Alstom’s history, confirming its position as the platform for the rail sector consolidation.”

Analysts at Deutsche Bank kept a “hold” rating on Alstom shares, saying extracting cost savings from the deal could be tricky.

“Politicians will also likely try to ensure some form of jobs protection in France (28 percent of Alstom’s workforce) and Germany (39 percent of Siemens’workforce), making cost synergies difficult to extract,” they wrote in a note. The deal leaves out in the cold Canadian transportation group Bombardier Inc, which also held talks with Siemens, sources have said, and which faces a separate battle this week to protect jobs in Quebec and Northern Ireland.

China’s CRRC, with annual revenue of about $35 billion, is bigger than Siemens Mobility, the rail and infrastructure division of the German conglomerate, Alstom and Bombardier Transportation combined. Previously focused on China, it has won projects in Britain and the Czech Republic in the past year, and is eyeing the United Kingdom’s High Speed 2 project, which will connect London with cities in the north of England.

Special Dividends

Siemens will receive newly issued shares in the combined company representing 50 percent of Alstom’s share capital and warrants allowing it eventually to acquire another 2 percent of Alstom shares.

However, the deal prevents Siemens from owning more than 50.5 percent of Alstom for four years after closing, and includes “certain governance and organizational and employment protections”, Siemens and Alstom said in their statement. The deal is unanimously supported by Alstom’s board, Siemens’ supervisory board and Alstom shareholder Bouygues, the companies said.

The French government acquired its option on the Bouygues stake in Alstom in 2014 as part of a deal that helped Alstom snub Siemens as a buyer for its energy business in favour of General Electric Co.

Macron was economy minister at the time.

The global headquarters, rolling stock business and stock-market listing of the new entity will be in Paris and the signalling and technology business in Berlin. The new company, with 62,300 employees, targets synergies of 470 million euros four years at the latest after closing of the deal, which is expected at the end of 2018. The companies said their operations were largely complementary, with Alstom present in growth markets in the Middle East and Africa, India, and Central and South America, while Siemens was strong in China, the United States and Russia.

Siemens CEO Kaeser said ahead of the signing of the memorandum of understanding he believed the scale of China’s CRRC left little room for regulators to oppose a deal. “It always depends, but the facts are that there is a dominant player,” he told Reuters in an interview in New York.

Siemens stands to gain control of Alstom’s main business, since all of Alstom’s divisions deal with the railways and transportation industries. Existing Alstom shareholders will be paid two special dividends: a control premium of 4 euros per share to be paid shortly after closing of the transaction and an extraordinary dividend of up to 4 euros per share to be paid out of the proceeds of Alstom’s put options for its General Electric joint venture, “subject to the cash position of Alstom” ($1 = 0.8484 euro).

While a combined entity Siemens AG and Alstom SA to create a new European champion, the deal has appeal for the German and French companies’ shareholders but governance, antitrust and cost-cutting, the merger will have control of only about 14 per cent of the €110-billion ($160-billion) rail-equipment market, the footprint will be bigger in parts of Europe.

So will Europe’s antitrust authorities block it? That depends. After the 2015 merger of two Chinese rolling-stock companies, the new entity CRRC Corp. dwarfs its international peers.

CRRC has won rail contracts as far afield as Chicago and Kenya, and China’s Belt and Road initiative will bring yet more international business its way.

The fear is that the Chinese company’s size plus access to cheap finance will let it crush rivals unless they bulk up, too. In absolute terms, CRRC spends seven times more on R&D than Alstom, Morgan Stanley notes.

But it isn’t unbeatable, at least not yet. International customers accounted for only 8 per cent of CRRC sales last year, when its railway-equipment sales declined. The Alstom and Siemens train businesses have performed quite well in the meantime, as rapid urbanization spurs demand for less-polluting mass transit.

So why risk a big cross-border merger? Unsurprisingly, Siemens isn’t wedded to its comparatively low margin rolling-stock business: The unit does lots of manufacturing in high-cost Germany, while rail companies regularly suffer delays and cost overruns on long projects. Chief executive Joe Kaeser has form in unlocking value via spinoffs and separate listings, so folding the business into Alstom is worth a shot.

The French company has a big and globally diverse order book, very little debt and is poised for a €2.5-billion cash injection related to the sale of its energy activities to General Electric Co.

A merger is appealing to Alstom, too. First, there’s the risk that Siemens could do a deal with Bombardier Inc. instead. Plus Siemens’s rail business is more profitable than Alstom’s because it sells more high-tech signalling and rail automation products. Siemens would contribute about 60 per cent of a combined group’s operating profit.

Alstom investors spy higher margins: The company has added almost €700-million of market value since Bloomberg reported the Siemens talks last week. A combined entity should spend proportionally less on R&D and will have a stronger hand in price negotiations with customers and suppliers – although regulators might not like that.

Yet, cutting production costs won’t be easy. Last year, Alstom had to row back on job cuts at a French plant amid government and trade union pressure. Besides, rail companies are building factories overseas to win international contracts, while customers tend to want bespoke trains to fit their country’s needs. This makes economies of scale difficult. Joining forces might also cause some customers to take their business elsewhere (so-called revenue dis-synergies).

Governance is a worry, too. While Siemens would probably own slightly more than half of the combined entity, according to Bloomberg News, Alstom’s CEO, Henri Poupart-Lafarge, will be in charge and the headquarters will be in France. The two companies haven’t always got on.

Still, a merger gives Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel a prized example of European business co-operation. So, if regulators can be persuaded, this Railbus will no doubt roll on regardless.

Bruised on two fronts with threats to Trains/Planes, Bombardier’s Rail loss is all about Geopolitics

Train-and-plane maker puts on a brave face as European giants Alstom and Siemens marry their rail businesses

Bombardier’s PR whizzes pulled the oldest trick in the book on Tuesday night, when they realized they had to say something, however bland, on the blockbuster merger of Alstom SA of France and the rail division of Germany’s Siemens AG, creating the world’s second-largest train maker. They made a virtue of a necessity.

Bombardier Transportation (BT), the company’s largely European rail business, was in fine shape, merci beaucoup, and was happy to go it alone while industry giants were forming around it. “While we will always explore strategic options that may create value, we do not need to merge with another major player to maintain our leadership position in the rail business,” the company said in a statement.

Never mind that BT, for years, has been trying to do a deal with either Alstom or Siemens while the big Chinese train makers, now merged into a giant called CRRC, opted to make world domination their business strategy.

As late as this week, some key Bombardier investors were convinced that BT and Siemens could surprise the market with a merger proposal, even though the rumours suggested an Alstom-Siemens union was more likely. BT was still thought to be in the running because, in the summer, it was widely reported that BT and Siemens were on the verge of forming two joint ventures, one to pool their rolling-stock manufacturing, the other for their signaling businesses.

Why the joint venture idea was scrapped isn’t known, but here’s a guess: It was more to do with European geopolitics than figuring out whether the offices with the best executive toilets would go to the Canadians or the Germans.

While Europe is outward-looking on trade – note the recent launch of the Canada-Europe free-trade agreement, known as CETA – it is decidedly inward-looking when it comes to building corporate champions. Putting a French and a German company together made patriotic sense; a Canadian and a German one far less so.

The European train business has always had nationalism in its DNA. Almost all of the biggest European countries had their own train-making businesses. Like the auto companies, they helped to revive Europe’s industrial base after the Second World War.

Trains required steel, which required steel mills. They required engineers, which required technical schools. They put a lot of semi-skilled and highly skilled people back to work after the war debris was swept away. Their workers were part of powerful unions.

Their trains became marks of national pride. To this day, the train à grande vitesse (TGV), the super-fast train that was developed in the 1970s by GEC Alsthom (now Alstom), is a high-profile symbol of modern France and its razzle-dazzle transportation technology.

When BT threatened in 2011 to close its Derby factory in England, which was once the world’s biggest train-making site, the British government went into spasms of grief and duly found a fat contract to keep it alive. In the 21st century, trains matter as much as ever – maybe more so – as European governments try to keep their waning tech and industrial sectors from wholesale exodus to Asia.

An outright foreign takeover of the Alstom or Siemens train-making business was always unthinkable. It became even more unthinkable when Emmanuel Macron was elected French President in the spring. More so than Germany’s Angela Merkel or Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, he is Mr. Europe and is calling for greater integration as he seeks to reinvent the stalled “European project.” Big European companies (read: Not American or Chinese) fit his style.

The rumours that Siemens and BT were on the verge of a joint-venture deal would not have been lost on Mr. Macron and his ministers. The political capital they threw at the union of Alstom and Siemens may have been enough to convince Siemens to ditch the Canadians, though, in truth, putting Siemens and BT together would have been a logistical pain because of the extensive overlap in Germany – whose factories and workers would go to the butcher’s block?

BT is running out of options in Europe, especially since it wants to be a buyer, not a seller; the cash flow and profits from the train side are needed to prop up the ailing aerospace division, so the bigger BT becomes, the better.

Creating a “European” champion, in other words, will be hard as long as Bombardier, through BT, is doing the buying. BT will eventually get its prize – it has to, if it wants to compete on a global scale with the Chinese – but that prize may not be a big European train company. In the meantime, it, with a little help from its PR guys, will pretend not to worry as giants form around it.

Bombardier Inc.’s turnaround plan is coming under threat from stepped-up challenges to the company’s rail business and its cutting-edge jetliner.

The Canadian manufacturer risks being jilted by Germany’s Siemens AG (ETR: SIE), which is now exploring a rail-equipment deal with Alstom SA (EPA: ALO) of France after months of talks with Bombardier. Separately, the U.S. government is set to decide this week whether tariffs should be imposed on Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft after a complaint by Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA).

The developments imperil chief executive officer Alain Bellemare’s two-year-old effort to reshape Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B), which has also relied on financial support from Quebec and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government. Losing out on a Siemens deal would weaken Bombardier’s rail unit, its biggest business, against a bulked-up industry leader from China. An adverse trade ruling in the U.S. would hamper demand for its priciest jetliner, the CSeries.

“It would be a loss for Bombardier if Alstom and Siemens come together because this would leave them in the cold,” said Karl Moore, a professor of management strategy at Montreal’s McGill University. “At the same time, you run the risk of the CSeries being shut out of the U.S. market until the issue of duties is settled, which will take some months.”

Bombardier tumbled 6.3 per cent to C$2.22 at the Friday close in Toronto, the biggest decline in more than three months. The widely traded B shares are at the lowest level since May.

Left at the altar

Alstom said Friday it’s in talks with Siemens about a possible combination of their rail businesses, adding that “no final decision has been made.” The confirmation came hours after the French government signaled it supports deeper corporate ties with Germany, suggesting a deal between Levallois-Perret, France-based Alstom and Munich-based Siemens would have political backing.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Siemens was negotiating with Alstom as well as Bombardier, giving the German company two options to pursue consolidation. While declining to comment specifically on its competitors, Bombardier said Friday it was weighing “multiple options” for its rail business — repeating a phrase Bellemare has used in the past.

Getting left at the altar “is a new risk” for Montreal-based Bombardier, said David Tyerman, an analyst at Cormark Securities in Toronto. “Bombardier is going to be the guy without a dance partner. If geopolitics come into play, you really don’t have anybody in your corner.”

The rail companies are looking to join forces to compete with industry leader CRRC Corp. of China, which was formed from a 2015 merger of the country’s two main regional train makers. The company controls about half the global market for rail cars and locomotives, Desjardins Capital Markets estimated in a report this year, compared with 12 per cent each for Bombardier and Siemens and about 11 per cent for Alstom.

Aided by its ability to finance entire projects, CRRC has won high-profile rail orders including transit contracts in U.S. cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Bombardier missed out on a $3.2-billion contract to provide subway cars in New York and has been plagued by delays on major projects such as streetcar deliveries to Toronto and subway cars for Montreal.

The train business bore the brunt of Bellemare’s plan, announced last October, which included 7,500 job cuts worldwide.

Boeing complaint

While Bombardier’s rail business contends with the uncertain outcome of deal talks, a threat to the jewel of its commercial aircraft business is also coming to a head. The U.S. Commerce Department will issue a preliminary ruling Tuesday on whether to impose countervailing duties on the CSeries, which Bombardier spent at least $6 billion to develop.

In a trade complaint, Boeing accused Bombardier of selling the single-aisle jetliner to Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) at less than fair value, while benefiting from unfair government subsidies in Canada. Earlier this year, the Canadian government pledged $372.5 million to Bombardier to finance two jet programs including the CSeries. Quebec invested $1 billion in the program last year for a 49.5-per-cent stake.

“The general expectation among the majority of watchers is that the ruling is very likely to go against them,” said Chris Murray, an AltaCorp Capital analyst in Toronto. “Either way, the whole thing could take a while.”

In June, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Boeing’s commercial jet business may have been harmed by Bombardier. In addition to the countervailing duties, Boeing is seeking anti-dumping duties of about 80 per cent. Bombardier says it complies with international trade regulations.

In the meantime, the trade dispute “will be an overhang for some time to come,” said Cam Doerksen, an analyst at National Bank Financial. “Until that’s settled it will be very hard for a U.S. airline to make a firm commitment to buy the plane.”

Sales drought

With the exception of a two-aircraft order from Air Tanzania in December, Bombardier hasn’t booked a major sale of CSeries jets since Delta committed to buying at least 75 of the planes in April 2016. Delta testified in favour of Bombardier at International Trade Commission hearings in May, saying that it never even considered Boeing models before placing its order with the Canadian planemaker.

The sales drought is likely to pressure Bombardier’s efforts to sell more planes outside the U.S. without resorting to aggressive discounting.

“Unfortunately, if there is a negative ruling Tuesday you are not going to sell any more CSeries in the U.S. market for a while,” said Ernie Arvai, a partner at aviation consultant AirInsight. “People will know internationally that you are desperate for orders. They will be expecting good deals.”

No bar on any Banks’ Cards for Payment; can use mAadhaar as ID Proof during Rail Travel: IRCTC

NEW DELHI: Amidst reports of IRCTC barring certain banks from using its payment gateway for debit card transactions, the railways’ tourism and catering arm issued a statement denying the reports.

The IRCTC has said options to pay through payment gateway using debit/credit card and internet banking are open for all banks.

“No debit or credit card of any bank has been restricted by the IRCTC for acceptance on any of the gateway,” it said.

Debit and credit cards of any Indian bank powered by Master or Visa, can be accepted in any of the seven gateways on the site, the statement clarified.

However, it said the IRCTC has provides a value-added service of direct integration to some banks which would allow speedy transactions and reconciliations.

“Since direct integration comes at an added cost to the IRCTC, these banks were asked to share a part of their transaction charges with IRCTC,” it said.

A senior official of the IRCTC said that it was not possible for it to bear cost of individual linkage to bank websites.

“IRCTC had asked banks to share the revenue earned from online tickets because of these value-added services but some banks refused,” he said.

The IRCTC has said that if banks are willing to give the facility of zero transaction charges on their debit cards to rail ticket customers then it will give them the facility of direct debit card integration also.

The statement has further said that banks should abide by the RBI guidelines regarding transaction charges on debit cards by charging only 0.25 per cent on transactions of up to Rs 1,000 and a maximum of 0.5 per cent on transactions of values between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000.

Now, You Can Use mAadhaar As Identity Proof During Rail Travel

A mobile-based application, mAadhaar, developed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will now serve as one of the prescribed identity proofs for rail travel purposes, the government said on Wednesday. “m-Aadhaar when shown by the passenger on his/her mobile after entering the password should be accepted as proof of identity for undertaking journey in any reserved class over Indian Railways,” according to a notification from the Ministry of Railways. The use of mAadhaar as an identity proof will be valid across any reserved class, it added.

mAadhaar carries demographic information like name, date of birth, gender and address of a person along with the photograph and is linked with the Aadhaar number. To use the mAadhaar or ‘mobile Aadhaar’ app, users need to register their mobile number with UIDAI. Once the process is complete, they can download their details on the app.

The app comes with a biometric lock and unlock feature to secure the personal data. Once a user enables the lock system, the app remains locked till the person chooses to either unlock it (which is temporary) or disable the locking system. It also has a “TOTP (Time-Based One-Time Password) generation” process which can be used instead of SMS-based OTP (one-time password).

Users can update their Aadhaar profile data too and registered mobile number is a must for using the app. In case your mobile number is not registered, visit the nearest Aadhaar Enrolment Centre or Mobile Update End Point. A QR code facility and password protected eKYC data are among the additional features provided in the app.

The mAadhaar app is currently available for Android users only.

Alstom shares surge on Siemens rail tie-up

PARIS: Shares in French manufacturing group Alstom surged on Wednesday after German engineering group Siemens and Alstom agreed to merge their rail operations.

Alstom shares were up 7 per cent in early trading, the top-performing stock on France’s SBF-120 index, touching their highest level since July 2011.

Siemens shares advanced 1.2 per cent.

“Alstom shareholders are to receive two extraordinary dividends totalling 8 euros. If successful, this deal should in our view create significant value for both parties,” Barclays analysts wrote in a research note.

Shares in French conglomerate Bouygues, which has a stake in Alstom, rose 2 per cent to be the top performer on France’s benchmark CAC-40 index.

Underground Corridors of Chennai Metro altered city’s ground water levels in certain localities: Study

CHENNAI: The metro rail might be a solution to the city’s burgeoning traffic problems, but the flagship mass transit system may have had an adverse impact on the groundwater levels.

A study conducted by Anna University has found that underground corridors of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) have altered the city’s topography and changed the groundwater levels in certain locations.

The study was conducted across nine locations where tunnels have been built. It found that levels of groundwater have gone down at Guindy, Saidapet, Aminjikarai, Thirumangalam and K K Nagar. In contrast, the levels have gone up at Tondiarpet, Vepery, Chepauk and Thousand Lights. The study showed that the groundwater volume, calculated using Geographical Information System, has dipped after the construction of tunnels.

Researchers say the change in the groundwater table levels may be due to the disturbances caused in the steepness or slope of the topography. The city, in general, has a flat topography with a gentle slope towards the east.

Professor G Ravikumar from the Centre for Water Resources, Anna University said the underground alignment permanently affected groundwater movement. With more underground lines planned for phase 2 of the project, it will continue to affect groundwater table levels and in the long run, the water supply. “When water moves down to the soil, it moves vertically and laterally. Now, we have created an artificial concrete opening in the soil which is affecting the flow of water,” he said.

The research was conducted based on data collected for a period of 20 years from 1995 to 2014 by Centre Groundwater Board and Institute of Water Studies, Chennai. The data was divided into two groups – 1995 to 2007, before metro rail construction, and from 2008 to 2014, after metro rail construction. In addition, eight observation wells at an average depth of 30ft close to the tunneling locations were identified and monitored for two years.

Researcher Lilly R from the department of civil engineering, who conducted the study, said the soil conditions in the locations where the tunnels were built were one of the reasons in the change in the groundwater table levels. “Across the stretch of Anna Salai, the soil strata is rocky while Anna Nagar has clay conditions,” she said.

CMRL uses an ‘earth pressure balance’ tunnel boring machine which applies pressure to hold up a portion of the soil near the surface. The soil contains most of the water although a small portion is present between rocks. As the machine moves forward, it places concrete panels against the soil which eventually forms the tunnel.

Lilly explained that at locations in and around Anna Nagar, the water table level had fallen as the tunneling machine held the clay soil by applying pressure, disrupted the flow and pushed the water down.

Below Anna Salai, a loose soil forms the top layer with rocky strata underneath. When tunnels were bored through the rocky strata, they pushed the water table up because the rocks applied pressure on the soil above.

As a result, the mean groundwater table level at Thirumangalam, which was at 12.94m in 2010 before the construction, fell to 13.82m in 2014 post construction of tunnels and stations. So is the condition in neighbouring Aminjikarai, where the levels that were at 7.96m in 2010 fell to 13.82m in 2014. In contrast, Tondiarpet has seen a rise in the groundwater table level from 5.12m in 2010 to 3.78m in 2014. The levels at Chepauk also went up from 7.08m in 2010 to 5.80m in 2014.

The study says though the mean rainfall calculated in the study area for a period before and after the metro rail construction has seen a reduction, it may not be the reason for the changes in the groundwater table as the rainfall variation is small.

But Chennai is not the only city with metro rail connectivity facing the problem. In 2008, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru conducted a study that revealed the metro rail project in the Karnataka capital would pull down the groundwater table by five metres to 10m in some areas while it was expected to rise by one metre in a few other localities.

However, experts say metro rail construction alone could not have changed the groundwater table levels in the city. Several other factors, including the amount of water extracted by people over the years, droughts in 2002 and 2012 and proliferation of buildings could also have played a part. “CMRL construction has definitely reduced aquifer stage. There is a tremendous amount of dewatering done during construction. But we cannot pin it to CMRL activity because no detailed study has been done. However, construction has played a role in the change in the groundwater flow direction because in some place there is groundwater recharge and in a few other places, there is a barrier,” said J Saravanan, consultant hydro-geologist, Rain Centre.

A CMRL official said fluctuation in groundwater table levels was expected. “During design stage we conduct ground investigations to get details on existing borewells and water table levels. But usually, we design in such a way that it does not affect the water table. Except while building underground stations, we do not do dewatering when building tunnels,” the official said.

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Pointless to evaluate Bullet Train in terms of its economic viability: says K Balakesari IRSME (Retd.)

In the din of the euphoria that has greeted the commencement of India’s first bullet train project, K. Balakesari’s voice of caution, balance and nuance is a welcome relief. Although he retired 16 years ago as Member (Staff) of the Railway Board, the premier executive body that charts the course of the Indian Railways, Balakesari’s 38-year tenure with the Railways—across the country and in various capacities—enables him to offer a perspective that balances the need for futuristic solutions to transportation problems with a pragmatism that takes into account India’s specific constraints.

Balakesari joined the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers in July 1963. While on the Railway Board he was also concurrently Chairman, Rail India Technical & Economic Services Ltd (RITES Ltd). Incidentally, Balakesari provided expert assistance to the Justice U.C. Banerji Committee (2004-06), which conducted an inquiry into the fire on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra in 2002.

Forty-three years ago, Balakesari, while with the Research Designs & Standards Organisation, ran a test train on the Tundla-Kanpur section to a maximum speed of 177 kilometres an hour on existing tracks. Recalling this thrilling experience, he said: “We ran slightly modified ICF-designed coaches on tracks for which we had permission for speeds up to 160 km/hr only.” To reach this acceleration, it took the train—a locomotive and two coaches—to travel a distance of 15-20 km. “Something went into our heads and we decided to go on and on,” he said.

Balakesari cautions against the shrill cries that everything is wrong with the Railways: “While there is no such thing as being perfectly safe, we have to appreciate that the Railways is not falling apart as some appear to suggest.” The bullet train, he says, is a project aimed at burnishing the image of the country, and therefore it is pointless to evaluate it in terms of its economic viability or its impact on the wider Indian rail system. Excerpts:

What do you think about the planned introduction of the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad in 2022? How important is the project given the state of the Indian Railways, especially in terms of priorities?

We need to keep in mind the fact that the bullet train project has been on the anvil for a long time. In fact, when I was in the Railways—as early as the turn of the millennium—there were discussions on such a project. Basically, it is a project to improve the image of the system. The idea was to leapfrog from what is 19th or 20th century to something futuristic. It is important to understand that the bullet train project has not been decided off the cuff.

Basically, the idea seems to be to project to the world that we are also capable of running something like this. It is also important to appreciate that any High Speed Rail [HSR] project is generally delinked from the conventional railway system—in terms of both management and finances. The HSR is not like running a Shatabdi [intercity express train]. In fact, HSR systems are more like airlines than conventional trains; they are competitors to airlines rather than the roadways. The experience overseas is that they attract users who wish to avoid the hassles associated with travelling by road. Indian Railways is probably only promoting the bullet train project; the managing entity will be something comparable to the case of the Delhi Metro.

But even if that is formally so, we have a situation in which the railway system is essentially in a state of decay. When tracks, coaches and wagons, signalling and almost every other aspect of the rail system is in need of urgent attention because of prolonged neglect, is this something the government ought to focus on?

I concede I have little direct experience with HSR systems. But I have [former] colleagues who have had direct, hands-on experience of 10-15 years and who have been actively associated with such projects in China and in Europe. Essentially, high-speed projects are about projecting an image, for various reasons—it could be political or even industrial. Interestingly, when the French TGV [Train à Grande Vitesse] was initially proposed by Georges Pompidou, it was rejected on financial grounds. Later, it was pursued and completed in the early 1980s.

The Japanese Shinkansen actually came about in the context of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, at which time Japan wanted it as a showpiece of its recovery after the Second World War. Although the Chinese had done a lot of spadework on such train systems earlier, it really got a push [in China] after the global financial crisis a decade ago. China went the whole hog on HSR, using it as a means of providing an economic stimulus. In fact, the Chinese HSR expansion in the last decade was perhaps the fastest implementation of a large-scale infrastructure project ever undertaken anywhere in the world. In six to seven years, they constructed about 15,000 km of high-speed track. So, every HSR, anywhere in the world, was not taken up as a result of strict evaluation of financial and economic criteria. It has always been based on some sort of a political decision that is aimed at furthering the image of a country or of the regime governing it. The message seems to be: “If you can do it, we can also have it”.

The second aspect of the Indian bullet train project is that it is being funded largely by the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA]. In a sense, it would be Japan Making in India.

But the financial terms are not so transparent…

I agree with that. Some have even asked: “Who knows what will happen after 50 years? None of us would be alive.”

But the point I am making is that the tendency to link the development of the conventional railways to HSR is not exactly correct because they are totally different. One is a running system; the other is a project that is separately funded and its finances are not going to impact on the finances of the Indian Railways. Definitely it would have an impact on the finances of the Indian government, but not directly on the Indian Railways.

There can always be the question that the Rs.98, 000 crore [needed for the] project can be better invested in the Indian Railways. But to tell you frankly, that is a political decision. The Prime Minister has added another aspect to this by insisting that it ought to be ready for the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, showing to the world that India has arrived in the bullet train age. This may mean nothing to an ordinary second class rail passenger, but the political masters have made their point! But the argument that the money could have been used for something else—improving the health indices or educational access, for example—is a never-ending one.

Questions of viability have been raised…

In every major country that has implemented HSR—barring perhaps the Paris-Lyon HSR—it has not been economically viable. Even the Paris-Lyon line took 17 years to break even [inclusive of infrastructure costs]. All the other HSR systems all over the world are, directly or indirectly, supported by their respective governments. To use the term “viable HSR” is thus an oxymoron.

The fascination with high speed has always been there. I do not think we will ever reach a stage where we will be able to say, “We have done all that is needed for the Indian Railways, so, now let us invest in HSR.” What I am saying is that we may disagree on the priorities, but the fact is that the HSR is a stand-alone project which in 99 per cent of the cases is a political decision. In this case, there are some locational advantages. It is located in the western region, an area in which the per capita income is relatively higher than the rest of the country. In the project area there are also fairly prosperous tier-2 cities like Surat, Vadodara and Anand. Moreover, the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is about 500 km, which is supposed to be ideal for HSR projects.

There is some international evidence, primarily from Japan and France, to show that HSR improved safety in rail systems and contributed to economic activity in the areas served by it. In both countries the ridership increased beyond what was initially expected. I think we will imbibe best-class world practices as we implement the project. A training centre is to be established in Vadodara and Indian railway personnel are to be trained; these are welcome. The arguments against the project can point to all the ills that plague the Indian Railways. You can ask, “Why are you wasting money on this when the common man is not interested in travelling at 300-400 km/hr?” You could say he or she would be happy to reach home safe and on time, with clean coaches and clean toilets. It is important to recognise that we cannot run very-high-speed trains on existing tracks because of the high traffic.

When a Rajdhani runs, even on a double line, quite a few goods trains have to be stopped. This is because of the speed differential between the Rajdhani and the other trains using the same tracks. It’s only logical that any further increase in the speed differential would impact the throughput even more. This is the reason why I have reservations about even introducing semi-high-speed trains on existing tracks. Earlier, even for speeds in excess of 140 km/hr, fencing alongside tracks was recommended to prevent ingress of humans or cattle, even after eliminating all level crossings. This is because many of these lines pass through thickly populated areas. The service is not like a suburban railway, although in Japan the Shinkansen has almost become part of the suburban system; in some cases, they are ferrying passengers from 200 km.

There has also been prolonged and gross underfunding for track replacement, acquisition of coaches and wagons, signalling and improvement of stations and passenger amenities. Moreover, these frail assets have been flogged over the last several years. Although the Railways’ main business and the bullet train project may theoretically be completely separate, there still remains the question: can we afford to neglect the whole—the much larger conventional railway operation—for a much smaller part—the bullet train project? Can we afford a Janus-faced posture in these circumstances?

What is required in terms of resources to keep the Indian Railways safe and economically viable is a matter about which there can be no argument. Every regime in the last few decades has claimed to have handled the Railways better than its predecessor did. You cannot have a situation in which you claim to be doing better but you want even more money.

About a decade ago, there was a jump in earnings simply because the Railways started flogging its assets without a care for the state of its assets—over tracks, wagons and other systems. I do not know what damage has been caused, but the extent of wear and tear needs to be assessed.

If, as you say, everything is in a run-down state, who should be saying this? Are the people running the Railways admitting this?

My point is basically this: get honest information before you decide what you need to do. The political masters are saying: the Railways is not doing outstandingly well, but doing okay, so I may as well implement this [bullet train] and get some publicity!

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How Siemens and Alstom Rail stack-up against the Competition

FRANKFURT: Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and Alstom (ALSO.PA) have agreed to merge their rail businesses, creating a bigger second player to China’s CRRC (601766.SS), with sales of 15.3 billion euros ($18 billion).

The move is the latest in a wave of rail industry consolidation in the past few years.

Below are details of previous deals, and how Siemens and Alstom stack up together and against the competition.

PREVIOUS DEALS:

2013- Siemens bought Britain’s Invensys Rail Group for 1.7 billion pounds ($2.3 billion). Siemens becomes global number 2.

2015 – Alstom bought the signaling unit of U.S. conglomerate General Electric (GE.N) for 700 million euros. Alstom is becomes global number 3.

2015 – China’s state-owned CNR and CSR merged to create CRRC, the world’s biggest manufacturer of rolling stock.

2015 – Japan’s Hitachi (9086.T) bought Ansaldo STS & Breda from Italy’s Finnmeccanica (LDOF.MI) for about 800 million euros. Hitachi Rail is now the world’s sixth-biggest rail company.

2016 – Switzerland’s Stadler Rail bought the Valencia-based Rail Vehicles from Germany’s Vossloh (VOSG.DE) for about 48 million euros. Stadler is now the world number 10.

2016 – U.S.-based Wabtec (WAB.N) bought a majority in French railway systems and services provider Faiveley (FVLEF.PK) in a deal that will total about $1.7 billion. Wabtec is now global number nine.

SIEMENS-ALSTOM COMBINATION:
  • ORDER BACKLOG – Siemens 26.4 billion euros; Alstom 34.8 billion; total 61.2 billion euros.
  • LAST FISCAL YEAR ORDERS – Siemens 8 billion euros; Alstom 10 billion; total 18 billion euros.
  • REVENUE – Siemens 8 billion euros; Alstom 7.3 billion; total 15.3 billion euros.
  • ADJUSTED EBIT – Siemens 800 million euros, margin 10.1 percent; Alstom 400 million euros, margin 5.8 percent; total 1.2 billion euros, margin 8 percent.
EMPLOYEES BY REGION:
  • EUROPE – Alstom 20,700; Siemens 22,700; total 43,400
  • AMERICAS – Alstom 5,200; Siemens 2,500; total 7,700
  • ASIA PACIFIC – Alstom 4,000; Siemens 3,500; total 7,500
  • MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA – Alstom 2,900; Siemens 800; total 3,700
  • WORLD – Siemens 29,500; Alstom 32,800; total 62,300

Why the Bullet Train makes sense for India

Questioning the bullet train in view of the investment needed in Indian Railways is similar to saying that India needed to invest in primary education rather than in IITs, says Shreekant Sambrani.

“It is kind of free,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail project (referred hereafter by its popular name, the bullet train), in its ground-breaking ceremony.

He was referring to its financing. Japan will provide Rs 88,000 crore (81 per cent) of the Rs 1.1 lakh crore cost as a 50-year loan at an annual interest of 0.1 per cent with a 15-year moratorium.

These exceptionally favourable terms have led to a debate, as have several other features of this venture.

Critics say that these parameters yield an unrealistic and overly optimistic internal rate of return for the bullet train.

Internal rate of return is one of the end results of discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis. This takes into account the time value of money for a multi-period project and is based on the reckoning of costs of opportunities forgone in choosing it.

A personal aside: The long-known DCF was introduced in the mid-1960s as part of the development economics curricula in universities. I was among the early students of this concept.

I taught it in postgraduate courses and executive-training programmes.

It was quite a novelty in the early 1970s and not very easy to get across. I have continued to use it extensively in my work.

Any undertaking providing benefits in the future involves sacrifice of some alternative use of the funds invested at present.

The investment is justified if the sum of the stream of future benefits is greater than the value of present opportunities foregone.

That sum needs to be discounted by an appropriate factor as it materialises not now but later, while the sacrifice is made at present.

For investments with limited commercial objectives, such as those of private firms, the factor is the interest earned on own funds or paid for borrowed money.

The discounting factor for projects with social benefits is based on weights the society attaches to present and future consumption.

A very poor society with low consumption levels will use a high discount rate, while a rich one would use a fairly low one.

On this logic, the negligible rate of interest is the correct discounting factor for both India and Japan.

There is little sacrifice involved in India, as Japan funds the project and since the loan is tied to it, investing the money on offer for other purposes is not possible.

For Japan, the cost of funds is extremely low; in fact, not too long ago, Japan had a virtually negative bank rate. It would also create substantial additional demand for Japanese goods and technology in a new market segment.

The logic of using very low, near-zero, rates of discount for projects of long gestation and duration must prevail even when relatively poor societies invest their own meagre resources in creating facilities to provide desirable outcomes.

Large irrigation and infrastructure projects are typical such instances.

Leaving aside controversies on their distributional impact, these activities sometimes take a decade or longer before starting to generate sizeable benefits.

Using prevailing interest rates as the discounting factor leads to a gross underestimation of the value the society would normally attach to the these outcomes.

Present values of benefits 20 and 25 years hence at a 10 per cent discount rate are 13 and 8 per cent of their nominal values respectively.

Conventional analysis is thus not quite relevant for investments which could be rightly termed as gifts that keep giving.

We borrow money to own our housing even if the equated monthly installment of repayment is higher than the present rent for equivalent accommodation.

China made enormous investments in power plants, dams and world-class road and rail networks starting in the mid 1970s.

The end result was its spectacular double-digit growth sustained over a long period and global economic dominance three and four decades later.

A relevant but much smaller Indian comparison is with the 1950s and 1960s decisions to establish Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).

Their feasibility could never have been established even without DCF given since they charged the students pittance as tuition.

Yet one could assert without fear of contradiction that the alumni of these institutions created the image of excellence of Indian technocrats abroad, leading also to substantial homeward remittances earlier and now venture investments.

Arguably, it was also the basis of the information technology revolution placing India in global limelight half a century later.

Although neither of these were planned as results of IITs, they would not have happened in the absence of IITs (disclaimer: the writer is an early alumnus of IIT Bombay).

Questioning the bullet train in view of the investment needed in Indian Railways is similar to saying that India needed to invest in primary education rather than in IITs.

The fact is India in either instance needed both the activities.

Much has been written recently about the direct and indirect benefits of the bullet train.

We must also remember that this is a classic case of supply creating its own demand.

The short point is that even the best estimates of future utilisation of such projects are often short of what really happens.

Modi first visited Japan in 2006 as chief minister of Gujarat. He got five minutes with Shinzo Abe, who was the Japanese premier then too. That was a purely formal call, without any agenda.

Modi also managed a ride in the Shinkansen train, including a visit to the driver’s cabin.

He told a bureaucrat accompanying him that he wanted to bring the bullet train to India. It has taken him a decade to do so.  Luckily, he did not attempt to follow DCF analysis in this interim!

Mumbai Suburban Rail network to get 100 New Services

MUMBAI: In a major ‘festive bonanza’ for Mumbaikars, the railways has decided to add 100 new train services to the financial capital’s train network from October 1.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will make the announcement on September 29 during his visit to his home state of Maharashtra, senior railway officials told PTI.

On October 1, the Western Railway will run 32 new services, while on October 2, the Central Railway will start 28 such services. Sixteen new services will be started on November 1.

By January 31, 2018, the national transporter aims to run 24 more services on the Central Railways. Thus, a total of 100 new services will be underway in the next four months — 68 on the Central Railway and 32 on the Western Railway, officials said.

During his last trip to Mumbai, the railway minister had promised that his ministry was working to augment suburban services with new trains.

Spread over 465 kilometres, the suburban railway in Mumbai is the oldest railway system in Asia. It operates 2,342 train services and carries more than 7.5 million commuters per day.

The Mumbai Suburban Railway system is operated by the Railways’ two zonal divisions of Western Railways and Central Railways.

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Indian Railways to rope in Japanese experts to avoid accidents, derailments

NEW DELHI: Amid rising incidents of derailments and accidents, the Indian Railways has decided to rope in Japanese experts to grapple with the situation.

A high-level team of experts from Japan comprising of representatives of Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism (MLIT), JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and railway operators visited India this week and discussed in detail the scope of cooperation between the two countries in the matter of Railway safety.

The Japanese team visited Indian Railway’s coach, wagon and locomotive maintenance facilities and also observed rail welding and track maintenance practices bring followed at present, a senior Railway official said on Wednesday.

MLIT had in response to the request from Indian Railways deputed a team of Japanese Railway experts to India to assess incidents of rail breakage and suggest measures to improve safety in train operations. The official said that the first meeting was held in January with Japanese Experts.

After this, a separate memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on Railway safety was signed on February between Ministry of Railways, Government of India and MLIT, Japan to cover area adequately.

The memorandum envisages cooperation in Rail Safety on area such as maintenance of Track (welding, rail inspection, track circuit etc.) and rolling stock maintenance.

Capacity development has been taken as a technical cooperation project under the MoC to develop Indian Railways’ capacity in respect of the above identified areas.

These areas have been incorporated in the terms of reference of the cooperation.

Japanese Railways is one of the oldest Rail system in the world. Japan is the pioneer in the High Speed Rail ‘Shinkansen’. Japanese Railways has an impeccable record with Safety. Ministry of Railways (GoI) had requested Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) for technical cooperation in Rail Safety.

The cooperation will facilitate exchange of information and visit of experts from both sides. A workshop is proposed to be organised in the first week of Nov’2017 in association with Japanese experts.

Snapping GE deal may cost Railways Rs.1300 Crore in Penalty

NEW DELHI: The government is keen to ensure that it reaches an accord with General Electric over the diesel locomotive project that the US conglomerate is setting up. Indian Railways faces a potential liability of Rs 1,300 crore if it terminates the contract with GE for making diesel engines at Marhowra in Bihar.

“We’re working with GE on the possibility that no party loses anything,” the official said. “Their officials have told us they’ll get back in some time.” While the railways doesn’t regard the penalty as a large amount relative to the savings it will make in the event of a fully electrified network, the government nevertheless expects to reach an accord with GE without resorting to termination. “As per the exit clause, we’ll have to pay Rs 1,300 crore to the company and we’ll also lose equity in the project,” a top railway official told. “It’s not a huge amount given that the savings on account of 100% electrification would be Rs 8,000 crore a year. However, we have no intention of terminating the project and have already offered GE to use the same facility to manufacture either electric locos among many other options.”

In case the railways decides to exit the project, the move would have to be cleared by the cabinet. The project involves an investment of Rs 1,300 crore by GE on 200 acres provided by the railways as its equity contribution, along with an infusion of Rs 100 crore. GE on Tuesday cautioned the railways that it would incur substantial costs in case it went forward with changes to the joint venture. The company also said foreign investment in India will take a hit if this happens. GE executives confirmed that the railways would be liable to pay Rs 1,300 crore. However, the company is yet to analyse the legalities and the liability could be higher in case of termination, they said.

Railways has a total fuel bill of Rs 25,000 crore, out of which Rs 16,000 crore is for diesel and the rest for the purchase of power. The diesel bill would come down by half with 100% electric traction. The prototype of the GE locomotive is to reach India on October 10 after which the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) will run tests on the unit. According to the terms of the agreement with GE, the railways will procure more engines after RDSO approval.

The railway ministry signed the contract to manufacture 1,000 diesel locomotives in Marhowra with GE in 2015. The company was offered an assured offtake worth Rs 14,600 crore over a period of 10 years. However, when Piyush Goyal took over as rail minister earlier this month, he declared his intention of having a 100% electrified rail network. The railways has said it won’t require any more diesel locomotives as the remaining 34,000 km of rail network will be electrified in the next four years. India has a 64,000 km rail network.

Study the rise in India-risk, examine options to mitigate this

Cancelling the $2.6 billion diesel locomotive contract with GE, should that happen, would be unfortunate given the questions it raises and the signals it sends. If, just two years ago, this very government thought it needed 1,000 diesel locomotives over a decade, and this is now considered unnecessary, it calls into question the type of planning being done. But if railway minister Piyush Goyal is convinced about his maths, that he will save around Rs 8,000 crore a year by full electrification, he is well within his rights to explore the option of cancelling orders for 1,000 diesel locomotives. His calculations, that the prime minister needs to independently ratify given the enormity of the decision being taken, have to include the feasibility of being able to achieve 90% electrification by 2021—from 45% right now—and factor in various scenarios that include different tax levels on diesel/electricity as well as the feasibility of using electric locomotives in all railway stretches, the need for back-up locomotives, etc. Assuming the maths adds up, it would be foolhardy to not recommend what Goyal is suggesting. After all, when there is a big technology change, both individuals and companies do scrap existing equipment/agreements and move on. In the power sector in India, right now, older PPAs that are very expensive are being sought to be scrapped and replaced with less expensive ones—one of the solutions being examined to lower Delhi’s power costs, for instance, revolves around scrapping some existing PPAs. Cancellation of agreements is a global phenomenon, so if the cancellation does happen, it is important not to portray the event as something that has never happened anywhere in the world before.

But in the final calculation, it is important to factor in the big rise in the India-risk as investors baulk at investing, especially given other unfriendly government policies that this newspaper has written about in sectors like telecom, pharmaceuticals, electricity and agriculture, among others. Once the cancellation takes place, both Indian and foreign investors will look for a higher reward-risk ratio before making new investments, and they will be extra-cautious in areas with a large government role; we are already seeing investor hesitation in the power sector where some electricity boards are trying to renegotiate PPAs signed just a few years ago. If, despite this, the government decides to go ahead and terminate the GE contract, it is critical that it pay all damages and not try to renege on these or negotiate to lower them. Normally, apart from the usual damages clauses that all agreements have, there is the option of going in for arbitration, whether locally or globally. India’s record here, however, is very poor—in the Cairn/Vodafone/Reliance cases, it has tried to delay proceedings several times and, in the DoCoMo case, it even argued against implementing the award even though that was against the Tatas and not the government. At the end of the exercise, India has to convince investors this is a one-off exercise, and that’s not going to be an easy task.

 

Vossloh unveils high-performance rail milling train

VOSSLOH unveiled its first high-performance rail milling train at an open day at its rail welding and storage plant in Hamburg on September 26. The train was developed in cooperation with MPL.

The three-car HPM1 train is designed to be self-propelled at the work site, but locomotive-hauled between sites, with a maximum line speed of 120km/h, to avoid the need to install multiple signalling systems.

The train is fitted with two 1400mm-diameter milling wheels which can mill at 1.6-2km/h. Vossloh says this is faster than other machines which mill at 0.7km/h. Up to 3mm of material can be removed in a single pass.

The cutting blades are housed in cassettes to speed up the processes of blade replacement, which takes around 10 minutes per cutting wheel.

300mm-diameter face-milling finishing wheels remove any residual waviness after the main rail milling has been completed. This avoids the need to use grinding stones for rail finishing. Metal chips are extracted from the site and stored in a bunker on the train.

The train is built to the W6A loading gauge and is powered by two C18 Caterpillar diesel engines which are certified to the stage 3b European emissions standard and prepared for stage 4.

Harsco’s Rail Division receives new international Orders totaling close to $25 Million

Harsco Corporation’s railway track maintenance division, Harsco Rail, announced today two orders for international delivery this year totalling close to $25 million.

The first order calls for the production of Harsco Rail’s precision rail grinding equipment for use in Saudi Arabia on the double-tracked 453 km (281 mile) high speed line being built between Mecca and Medina.  When completed, the rail line is projected to carry a maximum of as many as 166,000 passengers per day.  The Harsco-built machines will be used to maintain railhead contours for extended rail life and smoother operation, thus reducing fuel consumption, operating costs and noise.  Grinding also corrects possible surface damage that can potentially lead to rail fractures.  Harsco’s order also includes initial operator training as well as spare parts support.

Under the second order, Harsco Rail will provide two on-track measuring vehicles for the assessment of rail geometry and ballast profiling in the Republic of South Africa, working as an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) partner in support of Transnet Freight Rail, the heavy haul railway freight system within South Africa.  Harsco will be supplying the vehicles to Molamu Majories and Thari Joint Venture (MMTR), the contractor to Transnet.

Deliveries under both orders are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Harsco Rail is a global market leader for railway track maintenance and construction, with a broad range of high quality equipment, cutting-edge technology and support to major railroads worldwide.  To learn more, visit www.harscorail.com.

Harsco Corporation (NYSE:HSC) is a diversified industrial company providing a range of onsite services and engineered products to the global steel, energy and railway sectors.  Harsco’s common stock is a component of the S&P SmallCap 600 Index and the Russell 2000 Index.  Additional information can be found at www.harsco.com.

Investor Contact
David S. Martin
717.612.5628
damartin@harsco.com

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Kenneth D. Julian
717.730.3683
kjulian@harsco.com

Complete Una-Hamirpur Rail Line Survey within 6 months: Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur

SHIMLA: Hamirpur MP of BJP Anurag Thakur has asked the authorities to complete the detailed survey work of the 50 km broad gauge railway line in Himachal Pradesh between Una and Hamirpur within six months. He said that the rail connectivity is one of the key agenda on his list as it is an important aspect to boost the economy of the state. He also informed that he had held several meetings with the key stakeholders in the ministry to seek their support in expediting the projects.

Thakur said, “The rail connectivity will act as a catalyst and would improve trade and business opportunities and also give a boost to the tourism industry. This will help the state to grow.” He further added that once the rail link starts functioning, it will help the locals to commute.

The tender notice for the project has already been issued.

According to Thakur, the Union government has started the process of geological mapping and final location surveying in six months. He also said that other proposed project includes the Amb-Andaura to Daulatpur Chowk (16 km) rail section. In June 2016, the initial survey for Una-Hamirpur railway link was completed in a record time. In the budget presented on February 1 this year, the construction of this 50 km railway line to be constructed at a cost of Rs 2,850 crore was also approved.

“In a span of six months, the central government has issued a tender for the detailed survey and also gave the estimation of the rail link,” he said.

MP also said that he is making continuous efforts to enhance the connectivity in the state and this can be gauged from the fact that in the union budget 2017-18 close to Rs 400 crore were sanctioned for the railway construction.

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Govt approves transfer of airport-land to Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation

The government on Wednesday okayed transfer of 1,899 sq metres of land owned by Airports Authority of India to Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation.

LUCKNOW: The government on Wednesday okayed transfer of 1,899 sq metres of land owned by Airports Authority of India at Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport to Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC).

The first phase of the rapid transport system was launched earlier this month when the 8.5 km “priority corridor” of the total 22-km-long stretch became operational.

The AAI land will be used by LMRC for construction of an entrance to one of its metro stations near the airport, according to a press statement by the ministry of civil aviation.

The second phase of Lucknow metro project is the 11-km- long East-West corridor, stretching from the Charbagh railway station to Vasantkunj. The corridor will have 12 stations.

Reliance Infra to participate in India’s Bullet Train project

MUMBAI: Infrastructure major Reliance Infrastructure on Tuesday said it will participate in the “very ambitious” Rs 1 lakh crore bullet train project of the Indian Railways.

“We are deeply engaged and involved with a number of Japanese companies through JVs (joint ventures) and we will participate in this very ambitious Rs 1 lakh crore project,” Reliance Infrastructure’s Chairman Anil D. Ambani said while addressing the company’s shareholders at the 88th annual general meeting (AGM).

According to Ambani, the company is focusing on the EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) segment.

“In Mumbai, we are short-listed as bidder for Bandra-Versova Sea Link, coastal road project, and we also have LoIs (letter of intent) for metro orders,” Ambani said.

“Besides, we have also qualified for the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway project. We will go through the process and compete.”

Ambani further said that government is expected to shortly award contract for manufacture of six submarines worth Rs 50,000 crore.

“With the acquisition of Pipavav, we are one of the only two companies in India strategically positioned to participate in government of India’s strategic partnership programme to build submarines. For the first time in India, private sector company will be actually building a submarine,”

“We believe very strongly that Defence is a sunrise sector. 90 per cent of country’s defence requirements are imported.”

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Alstom and Siemens to create ‘European Rail Champion’

France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens are to merge their rail operations. The deal is expected to help the firms compete with China’s state-backed operator CRRC.

The tie-up of the two engineering giants will create “a new European champion in the rail industry”, Siemens president Joe Kaeser said.

Siemens makes the inter-city ICE trains that run on German long-distance routes, while Alstom makes the French equivalent, the TGV.

The new group, called Siemens Alstom, will be led by Alstom chief executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge.

In a joint statement, the firms said their businesses were “largely complementary” and the merger would enable customers to benefit from a “larger geographic footprint”.

The deal is expected to help the firms compete with China’s state-backed operator CRRC.

“The global marketplace has changed significantly over the last few years. A dominant player in Asia has changed global market dynamics and digitalisation will impact the future of mobility,” Mr Kaeser said.

Alstom currently has a presence in markets in the Middle East and Africa, India, and Middle and South America, while Siemens is in China, United States and Russia.

The group headquarters will be in the Paris area, with half of the shares in the new entity owned by Siemens.

The French government, which owns about 20% of Alstom, will shed its stake as part of the deal.

The firms said the deal had already been approved by both their boards.

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GM/SCR inspects Vijayawada, Mangalagiri & Guntur Railway Stations

VIJAYAWADA/GUNTUR: Vinod Kuamr Yadav, General Manager, South Central Railway conducted inspection of Vijayawada, Mangalagiri and Guntur Railway stations today i.e., 26th September, 2017. He undertook an intensive check of Vijayawada Railway station covering the entire station premises, platforms, reservation complex and also inspected the Cell Kitchen and checked the cleanliness and quality of food served to passengers. He was accompanied by R. Dhananjayalu, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Vijayawada Division and other Officials of Vijayawada Division.

Later, the General Manger conducted a window trail inspection along with Ms. V.G. Bhooma, Divisional Railway Manager, Guntur Division from Vijayawada to Guntur section and reviewed the safety aspects of the entire section. The General Manager conducted a detailed inspection of Mangalagiri Railway Station and discussed o­n plans for further development and to provide best possible passenger amenities at the station.

Vinod Kumar Yadav conducted a review meeting with all branch heads of the departments in DRM’s Conference hall and discussed on maintenance of track, signal failures, LED lighting and Solar Power setup in the stations and office premises. Further, he instructed the officials to address the employee’s grievances on priority basis. The General Manager unveils the book Vision 2040 and book on Staff Grievance before the meeting. He planted saplings in the Divisional Office premises towards developing a green environment and instructed the officials to give priority in maintaining the cleanliness in the stations and trains. He inspected the Railway Colony in Nallapadu and checked the cleanliness and facilities provided in the staff quarters.

The General Manager inspected the Guntur Railway station and interacted with local representatives and received representations. Venugopal Reddy, Hon’ble MLA, Guntur met the General Manager and discussed the developmental plans in his area. Vinod Kumar Yadav interacted with media at Mangalagiri and Guntur Railway stations and briefed about developmental plans and passenger amenities to be provided at these stations.

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Pune Railway Division to conduct Track Surveillance trials with 2 Drones to keep eye on tracks, stations

Railways will watch out for derailments, accidents, illegal track crossing, passengers’ stunts, track maintenance, encroachments and more.

PUNE: As safety while using the Indian Railways becomes a matter of raging debate, it appears that the local division of this transport authority has decided to a rather futuristic remedial measure.

Now, two new drone cameras will be deployed soon to keep a hawk’s eye watch on railway tracks and stations in Pune railway division — also incidentally making it the first division in the country to use such a vigilance system.

Recent incidents of derailment and other railway accidents have sparked this decision, and the first trial runs for these cameras will take place next week.

Speaking to media about the initiative, Pune Divisional Railway Manager B K Dadabhoy said, “Train operations, maintenance of tracks, vigilance against untoward incidents and various other initiatives are being carried out round the clock by the railways. When accidents occur on the tracks, our Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel and officials do take some time to reach the spot and verify matters. Often, there are cases of passengers protesting on the tracks, rail rokos and more — all in all, human vigilance has its limitations. So, we decided that drone cameras will aid us immeasurably when it comes to keeping an eye on railway tracks, Pune railway station and other areas under the division.”

Dadabhoy added, “Initially, we will buy just two drones at an approximate budget of Rs 40 lakh. They will be highquality machines to record videos and take pictures at a certain distance above ground level. It will help us get realtime videos and photos if incidents like derailment, accidents, illegal track crossing, passengers’ stunts (especially on Pune–Lonavala local train routes), track maintenance work, law and order situations and encroachments on railway property take place. Next week, we will conduct trial runs for the drone cameras, keeping one at Pune railway station and the other at Miraj railway station to cover nearby areas.”

In October 2016, the Maharashtra Express train derailed at Pune railway station during its night trip; several incidents of youths carrying out stunts have also been observed on Pune- Lonavala locals. While the RPF takes continual action against miscreants and trespassers, they can cover only a limited area.

Meanwhile, commuters have welcomed the drone project. Prashant Sharma, a daily passenger to and from Lonavala, shared, “In the last 20 years, I have witnessed a number of accidents on this route, mostly when passengers are hit by stones thrown from the outside. There have also been issues of trains getting stuck along the route due to technical or other occasions — if this happens at a lonely spot now, the drones will help capture the exact location and help officials reach hapless passengers in case of any emergency.”

Initially, we will buy just two drones for around Rs 40 lakh. Next week, we will conduct trial runs, keeping one at Pune railway station and the other at Miraj railway station to cover nearby areas.

GE warns Centre of risk in altering $2.6-billion Railway Deal

The new Railway Minister’s decision for 100% electrification raises a question mark over the future of a $2.6-billion contract awarded to GE.

NEW DELHI: It took eight long years for the Indian Railways to make a mark in public-private partnership sphere, when it awarded two marque contracts for manufacturing locomotives to GE Transportation and Alstom in 2015.  Two years later, the Railways are wondering whether they need the $2.6-billion diesel locomotive contract placed with General Electric (GE), while continuing with electric locomotive contract with Alstom at Madhepura.

In a blow to PM’s pro-industry image, US giant General Electric on Tuesday said any move by the Indian Railways to wind up the company’s Marhowra diesel locomotive factory in Bihar would “undermine the government’s signature Make in India initiative and will put future foreign investment at risk”. “If railways moves forward with changes to the joint venture, they will undermine one of the most promising infrastructure projects in the country and put future foreign investment at risk. This will also undermine the government’s signature Make in India initiative,” the company said in response to a questionnaire.

India could also be on the hook for “substantial fees associated with this project”, the company stated.

The proposal to wind up the project was mooted in a review meeting held by Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on September 7 since the railways plans to become fully electrified. The $2.6-billion deal for supplying diesel locomotives and setting up a locomotive factory was the largest foreign direct investment in the history of railways and also the largest deal in the 100-year-history of GE in India.

In case the government decides to scrap the project, it would be liable to pay GE damages that would include compensating investment made by the company. “The company has placed supply order of about $1 billion with its suppliers who would raise claims on GE which in turn would seek that from the government,” said an official who did not want to be quoted.  The company further added that an alteration of the contract will have serious impact on job creation and skills development and cause “the government to incur substantial costs”.  It, however, said, “We expect the partnership to move forward and the company continues to fully execute towards the plan.” Though in a meeting with Goyal last week, the idea of converting the diesel plant to electric was discussed. GE does not manufacture electric locomotives. “Moreover, GE got the project through a bidding process and the cost of an electric and diesel plant may differ,” a railway official said.

The bid was allotted to GE on November 9, 2015. Other than the GE, US-based Electromotive Diesel (EMD) and two Chinese firms were also in race to bag the Marhowra project. “We are on track and actively fulfilling our contract with Indian Railways to develop and supply 1,000 fuel-efficient diesel-electric Evolution Series locomotives,” GE said. GE said two locomotives have been built and tested and the first locomotive has been shipped and will arrive in India on October 10.  The project was expected to create a robust supply chain ecosystem in India, constituting 60 new local suppliers and 10 global suppliers to achieve over 70 per cent localisation.

The company had already hired 1,000 roles in the factory and maintenance shed and 5,000 jobs created and sustained in the supplier network.

China’s domestic Highspeed Rail lines continue to expand at an exponential pace

It has been recently reported that China’s high-speed railway technology has reached new heights. The high-speed link between Beijing and Shanghai has just got faster thanks to the introduction of the China Standardized EMU, otherwise known as the patented Fuxing class of trains. The maximum speed on this vital connection has been raised from 300 to 350 kilometers per hour, reducing the journey time to a little over four hours.

China’s domestic high-speed rail lines continue to expand at an exponential pace. The network is already the world’s biggest, with at least 22,000 kilometers of track already in place, and more being rapidly added. Despite some problems, as was only to be expected with such an enormous initiative, the Chinese high-speed rail project is efficient, safe, affordable, and popular with domestic passengers.

Railway construction by Chinese companies has also moved overseas in recent years, although up to now this has generally been of the conventional rather than high-speed variety. High-speed connections are hugely expensive, and so many countries, particularly those with low population densities, are reluctant to take a plunge into debt to fund them.

In Africa, China has completed conventional rail links in Angola, Algeria, Kenya and Sudan, and also between Djibouti and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Chinese rail companies are also working on railways in Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, with some of these links being cross-border.

Outside Africa, however, the progress of overseas railway construction projects has not thus far been so rapid. There is a range of factors involved, with the wariness to allow Chinese companies into domestic and regional economies being the main one.

In Europe, for instance, the proposed Belgrade (Serbia) to Budapest (Hungary) link, which was to have been built by Chinese companies and potentially also extended through Skopje in Macedonia to Athens in Greece, was delayed by an EU decision to investigate the bidding process through which the tender was awarded. In essence, Brussels claimed that the award of the contract contravenes EU fair competition laws. This meant that a connection which would have enabled the relatively impoverished Balkan region to improve its integration with the rest of Europe was on hold due to European suspicions about Chinese motives and business practices. The construction of the project will start in November.

In Turkey, a high-speed connection between Ankara and Istanbul was built by Chinese rail companies. The project was completed in 2014. However, this is the only Chinese high-speed railway successfully completed outside China so far.

On the other hand, the project for a new high-speed link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia is now open to bids and Chinese companies are involved. Only time will tell if this proves to be the stepping stone toward the rollout of Chinese high-speed rail technology across Asia.

In Indonesia, there is intense competition between China and Japan to win contracts to build new railways. Each has won one contract to connect the capital Jakarta with outlying cities, but neither project has yet been completed.

In India, Japan was recently awarded a contract to build the nation’s first high-speed rail link between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. This represents an escalation of what could unfortunately be termed Asia’s high-speed rail wars.

The Indian government appears to see China as a threat, and is therefore unwilling to engage either with the Belt and Road initiative or with investment from Chinese companies. It therefore remains to be seen how India will react to the proposed link between Tibet and Nepal through the Himalayas, which is now in the planning stages. This connection could continue into India, but that would depend on the trust shown by Indians, which thus far seems to be lacking.

Yet, as researchers Dragan Pavlicevic and Agatha Kratz have pointed out in an article in the high-impact scientific journal Pacific Review, it is unnecessary to view China’s overseas high-speed railway construction as a threat. China’s high-speed rail diplomacy, they argue, in no way represents a security threat to the countries involved.

Instead, the extension of Chinese rail projects internationally should be viewed as an opportunity for all parties to enhance connectivity and trade. Indeed, as Pavlicevic and Kratz note, it is clear that Japanese companies have only become involved in building high-speed railways around Asia as a result of Chinese companies having the vision to put such projects on the agenda in the first place. This is despite the fact that Japan has had high-speed rail technology for far longer than China.

As high-speed rail becomes an accepted and desirable transportation technology worldwide, and an increasing number of nations decide to introduce high-speed links, the expertise and cost competitiveness of Chinese companies in the marketplace is going to give them an advantage, and is also likely to showcase the advantages of cooperating with China in this and other fields.

Ultimately, China’s initiative in placing high-speed rail diplomacy at the heart of the Belt and Road initiative to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and East Africa is likely one day to be seen as a significant step forward in international transportation infrastructure, and not just for China’s interests, but for those of the world.

New GM of North Western Railway underlines timely maintenance of Railways infrastructure

JAIPUR: Emphasizing the need for safety of passengers, T P Singh who took charge as the new General Manager, North Western Railway (NWR), on Tuesday said that he will ensure periodic maintenance of all large infrastructure. The GM also underlined the need for appreciating innovation in safety, maintenance and engineering and their implementation.

Singh is a 1980 batch officer of Indian Railways Mechanical Engineering Services who had earlier served in many capacities including Divisional Railway Manager (DRM). Prior to his appointment at NWR, Singh was serving in East Central Railway (ECR) as GM.

After marathon rounds of meetings with his officers, Singh sat for a candid interaction with the media persons at the NWR headquarters.

“For the safety of our passengers I think the first and foremost thing is boosting the morale and motivation level of the staff,” Singh added while felicitating two loco pilots(train drivers) and a gate man with a cash award of Rs 5000 and appreciation letter.

Aiming at improving the operational safety of the trains, he said, “We are also planning to connect every trolley and patrol team who are responsible for checking the tracks on regular basis with the global positioning system (GPS) in coming months. This will enable the nearby station to upkeep the tracks properly to avert accidents. Not only that the gangman too would be connected with GPS.”

Talking about the welfare of the employees, he said, “We are coming up with an online system where the railway employees residing in various railway colonies in our various divisions would be able to register complains relating to housing, drinking water problems, telephone connection problems and others.”

Indian Railways makes it Mandatory for Kiosks to display Books on Indian Values and Morals

Multi Purpose Stalls must display and sell books pertaining to Indian tradition, culture, values, morals and history

NEW DELHI: In a commercial circular dated September 5, the Railway Board instructed all general managers to ensure that such books are found in railway stalls under the new Multi Purpose Stall (MPS) Policy.

“Zonal railways shall ensure that all MPS must display and sell books pertaining to Indian tradition, culture, values, morals and history,” the circular, a copy of which is with PTI, stated. All miscellaneous, curio stalls, bookstalls, chemist stalls will now come under the multi-purpose stalls, it said.

The policy supersedes the Bookstall Policy of 2004 which mandated that stalls will keep books on varied subjects like literature, history, children’s literature, fiction, travel, light reading, art, culture, current affairs, professional interests, national integration, etc. in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The MPS Policy was drafted after it was felt that there was a need to have a single outlet at platforms from where passengers can purchase non-catering items required during travel.

The stalls will also sell artefacts and items of local and regional importance, proprietary article depot items, drinking water, over-the-counter medicines and non-pharmacy items like dry milk powder, the circular said.

The policy also states that it will be mandatory for all such stalls to display and sell prominently the zonal railway timetable as well as the ‘Trains at a Glance’ publication and any other official publications of the railways.

Retailers, individuals, self-help groups can apply for a licence to run these stalls. The allotment will be done after a tendering process, the policy states.

The new policy has also made it mandatory for such stalls to have a point of sale or swipe machine for acceptance of credit and debit cards from all customers without charging any additional transaction charge for any sale above Rs 100. For amounts below Rs 100, payments through e-wallet would be acceptable, the policy said.

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Sao Jose de Areal villagers block railway team from demarcating land

MARGAO: Agitated villagers of Sao Jose de Areal today once again sent back the Indian Railways team that had come to demarcate the area proposed to be acquired from the village for double tracking of the South Western Railway.

Even as angry villagers in one voice objected to the proposal ZP member Moreno Rebello suggested that another meeting be held with representatives of the affected villagers, panch representatives, the collector and railways officials to thrash out the matter.

It may be recalled that the inspection was scheduled to be held earlier on 15th September when the Railways officials did not turn up due to an emergency meeting in Mangalore. Subsequently when they came to the village on 18th September the villagers did not allow them to do any work and sent them away.

At a meeting convened by South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar on 19th September, it was decided to carry out a joint inspection where the land would be demarcated.

Accordingly four engineers along with two consultants of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd along with one representative of the Project Management Consultancy arrived at Sao Jose de Areal at around 10:30 am to demarcate the land proposed to be acquired.

However, angry locals numbering around 100 refused to let them do any work. They argued that their ancestral houses were vibrating with the movement of trains on one track and feared that they would crumble if two tracks are permitted.

The villagers kept questioning the RVNL officials to comment on something that the South Western Railways Regional Manager Arun Jain at the meeting on 19th September had stated that the railways were not looking at double tracking beyond Majorda “at the moment”.

Even though the villagers were assured that the work will not start if the villagers are opposed to it, the villagers pointed out that the Collector’s office was compelling them to sign on blank forms without mentioning anything.

After much discussion, ZP member Moreno Rebello’s suggestion to have another meeting with the collector, affected villagers and railways officials was accepted.

However, Moreno cautioned that if the matter was not resolved amicably, the government may as well acquire the land forcibly and people may not even get the compensation that they were looking for.

Sarpanch Perris D’Costa along with eight panchas was present for the inspection. Freddy Travasso led the discussions on behalf of the villagers and asserted that they were totally opposed to the project and there was no scope for any compromise.

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Kolkata Metro Rail to run night-long services during Durga Puja

KOLKATA: The Metro Railways in the city will run special night-long services during the Durga Puja days from Saptami to Navami to cope with the expected rush of pandal hoppers.

The Metro Railway will run 224 services each day between 1.40 pm and 4.00 am from September 27 to September 29, a spokesperson for the railway said here today.

On Vijaya Dashami, which is on September 30, the city’s underground railway will run services from 1.40 pm to 10.00 pm, Metro spokesperson Indrani Banerjee said.

The Metro Railway system that traverses from Noapara in the north to Kavi Subhash in the southern outskirts of the metropolis, a distance of 24 km, is already facing a huge rush of revellers who made the most of the last weekend when many well-known puja pandals had been opened to viewers in different parts of the city.

With parking of vehicles posing to be a problem near several puja pandals, many people choose the Metro for easy and faster transit.

“The Metro Railway has decided to put in service only airconditioned rakes as far as possible in order to ensure a comfortable journey for the revellers,” Banerjee said.

Extra security personnel have been posted at all stations and special security arrangements have been made at important stations like Kalighat, Dum Dum, Shyambazar, Jatin Das Park and Rabindra Sarobar.

In order to ensure fast movement of passengers at entry and exit points, the Metro authorities have decided to dispense paper tickets to passengers instead of tokens.

“This step has been taken in view of many passengers during this period being first time travellers, may find it difficult to use tokens, thus leading to long queues at entry and exit points,” Banerjee said.

Metro general manager Vishwesh Chaubey visited Dum Dum and Kalighat stations yesterday and reviewed arrangements for the Puja services.

Kanyakumari Rail Users demand diversion of long distance trains through TN

KANYAKUMARI: The Kanyakumari District Railway Users’ Association (KDRUA) has appealed to the railway minister and Southern Railway authorities to divert few long distance trains from and to Kanyakumari that now pass through Kerala and re-enter Coimbatore, to be run fully inside Tamil Nadu so that it benefits a large section of people in the southern districts.

Secretary of the association, P Edward Jeni said they have been giving representations to the minister and railway authorities for at least three years, whenever they received information that new trains would be plying from other parts of the country to Kanyakumari through Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam in Kerala. “But, we have not received a proper reply for our representations over the years,” he rued.

The association pointed out that Kanyakumari and nearby districts would benefit if more trains connecting other states ply through Tirunelveli and Madurai as it would help them get easier access to Chennai. “The route through Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam is 150km longer, and takes three to four hours more for passengers from Kanyakumari,” he said.

The KDRUA demanded that train no. 12659/60 Nagercoil – Shalimar Gurudev Weekly Express, train no. 22620/22619 Tirunelveli – Bilaspur Express and train no. 15905/15906 Kanyakumari – Dibrugarh Vivek Weekly Express should be diverted through Madurai and Tirunelveli. “Moreover, the Bilaspur train reaches Tirunelveli at a very inconvenient time,” he said.

Jeni said they have taken up the issue again as they came to know about a proposal to make the Bilaspur train as a bi-weekly. “Since the railways have turned a deaf ear to our pleas we are planning to move the high court the next time the railways announces long distance trains to Nagercoil, Kanyakumari or Tirunelveli through Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam via Coimbatore,” he said.

Opposition to extend/Introduce any Trivandrum bound trains via Erode, Coimbatore, Ernakulam to Nagercoil/Kanniyakumari

The passengers of Kanniyakumari district have been demanding more trains to Northern parts of India via Tirunelveli, Madurai. The Madurai route will be the shortest path for our people to travel to northern regions of India, except via the Konkan Railway (Mangalore, Goa).

The Kanniyakumari district is the southern most district of Tamil Nadu with a population of more than 18 lakhs.  The Association says that politically the district is constituted in the state of Tamil Nadu, whereas, as per the Railway administration, the district is governed by the Southern Railways, Trivandrum Division in Kerala. The members of the Association argue that the state capital is not Trivandrum (which is 70 KM) but Chennai (which is 750 KM).  Kanyakumari District politically belongs to Tamil Nadu and hence the Association urge more trains for the district, operating via Madurai and other Tamil Nadu cities/towns.

However, it was brought to the notice of the Railway administration and media by the Association that there have been instances of some long distant trains being provided to us via Trivandrum, Ernakulam, Coimbatore, rather than via Tirunelveli, Madurai. In 2002, Nagercoil-Shalimar 12659/60 Gurudev weekly express was introduced via Trivandrum inspite of having a shortest route via Madurai. Also 2010 Tirunelveli–Bilaspur 22620/29 train was introduced. Recently in 2011, Kanniyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek weekly express 15905/06 was introduced via Trivandrum, instead our request a train to Guwahati/Dibrugarh via Madurai, Chennai.  This above said trains are not requested by any people or people representatives, they claim. These trains come here only for maintenance purpose and it is useful only for Kerala people.

If the above said three trains run via. Madurai, the region would have got three weekly service to the state capital Chennai and also 13 districts of Tamil Nadu will be benefited by having direct connectivity to Bilaspur, Dibrugarh, Shalimar and enroute places.

The route via Trivandrum, Ernakulam, Coimbatore is circuitous by 150 KMs, and it incurs an additional travelling time of 3-4 hours. Passengers are forced to travel this longest route which consumes more time and instead of this the shortest route mentation above can be considered.  Now also they claim to hear that the railways planning to introduce trains in circuitous route via. Kerala from Nagercoil/Kanniyakuamri/Tirunelveli.

The Association request Railways not to further introduce or extend Trivandrum bound trains via Coimbatore, Ernakulam to Nagercoil/Kanniyakumari. Long distant trains, except for the ones bound via Konkan Railway may please be introduced via Madurai. They say that they will have no alternative other than to move to legally, if further long distant trains (except Konkan Railway) are introduced via Trivandrum, Coimbatore.

Alstom and Siemens Rail Deal runs into French political concerns

MUNICH/PARIS: French politicians voiced concerns on Tuesday that a planned multibillion dollar merger of the rail assets of Alstom and Siemens could give the German company the upper hand.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the French company plans to pay shareholders a special dividend if the deal does go through.

Siemens is expected to opt for a deal with Alstom rather an alternative with Canada’s Bombardier, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Siemens Mobility is set to be merged into Alstom, in which Siemens would hold 50 percent plus one share, while the chief executive would be Alstom’s current boss Henri-Poupart Lafarge.

The likely transaction has political ramifications, since the French state owns around 20 percent of Alstom.

A special dividend would even out the value of Siemens and Alstom, which has too much cash on its balance sheet, to smooth the intended 50-50 joint venture, one of the sources said.

“Will there be a special dividend? Yes,” said the second person.

Siemens and Alstom are strong in high-speed intercity trains with their ICE and TGV models.

Siemens is also the leader in signalling technology, while Bombardier – whose transportation headquarters are in Berlin – is stronger in commuter and light-rail trains.

Siemens stands to gain control of Alstom’s main business, since all of Alstom’s divisions deal with the railways and transportation industries.

SIGNS OF BACKLASH

Several politicians and French trade union activists expressed concerns over France losing control of its TGV high-speed train – a symbol of national pride that has highlighted French engineering skill – and over possible job losses.

Shares in Alstom, which had rallied in recent sessions on anticipation of a deal, slipped 0.25 percent while Siemens shares were broadly flat.

“The problem is that at the end of the day, it would likely be a Siemens company, although we still need clarification on the capital structure,” said Prime Partners fund manager Francois Savary, whose firm holds Siemens shares.

French right-wing politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan criticised the likely deal on Tuesday as being more favourable to Germany than France, as did far-right politician Nicolas Bay, the National Front’s secretary general.

“The Franco-German partnership must not result in the eradication of French industry!” Bay said on Twitter.

Eric Woerth, a member of the right-wing Republicans’ party, voiced similar views on his Twitter account.

“Is this now the end of Alstom? Will TGV become German? Why does the government accept such an imbalance?”, he tweeted.

A tie-up between the two – aimed at creating a European champion in the railway sector similar to Airbus in aviation – would represent a reconciliation of sorts between Siemens and Alstom.

Alstom snubbed the German company in 2014 to sell its energy division to General Electric in a deal that also saw Paris take a 20 percent stake in Alstom, under a temporary agreement with construction group Bouygues.

Major train and rail technology groups active in Europe have been looking at combining their businesses as larger Chinese state-backed rival CRRC embarks on a global expansion drive.

In July, Alstom reported higher first quarter sales and it maintained its financial outlook.

Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas said a deal should benefit Alstom as growth could be restricted as a standalone company.

“We suggest that, if they participate, value creation would be limited for Siemens but material for Alstom,” said Exane BNP Paribas analysts, who raised their rating on Alstom to “neutral” from “underweight”.

“Aside from the M&A (mergers and acquisition) angle, we believe that commercially, this year will be relatively muted for Alstom. With no large contracts in sight, pressure on free cash flow should intensify due to lack of down payments received,” added the Exane BNP Paribas team.

Indian Railways wave red flag to stop child traffickers in transit

Campaigners say India’s train stations have become transit points for traffickers, who lure poor children to cities with the promise of good jobs

SALEM: On platform number one at the Salem train station in south India, a colourful booth stands out amid the chaos of passengers, porters and vendors.

It is a children’s help desk, one of two set up on a pilot basis in India by the charity Railway Children. Here staff are mapping the journeys of thousands of vulnerable children, who have been trafficked, are lost or are runaways.

From the brightly painted booth, officials track the nearly 200 trains that travel daily through Salem junction in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, looking for children at risk on the rail network – the traffickers’ preferred mode of transport.

Campaigners say India’s train stations have become transit points for traffickers, who lure children to cities with the promise of good jobs, but sell them into slavery as domestic workers, to work in small manufacturing units, farming or pushed into sexual slavery in brothels.

“If you travel 45 minutes from Salem junction, you will be in industrial hubs that thrive on child labour or cross a state border into a region with a different local language and culture,” said Valavan Vasantha Siddartha of Railway Children.

“If the journey of trafficked and vulnerable children is not stopped at the stations, the children will simply disappear once they reach their destinations.”

The two 24 hour help desks set up in collaboration with Indian Railways identify children at risk and provide them with shelter and work on reuniting them with their families.

More than 9,000 children in India were reported to have been trafficked in 2016, a 27 percent rise from the previous year, according to government data.

A large number of unaccompanied and trafficked children travel on train across India and many use platforms as shelter or working as hawkers or ragpickers, campaigners said.

“Our officials come across them all the time, travelling ticketless or abandoned on trains and at platforms,” A S Vijuvin, senior railway officer at the Salem station told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Between 2014 and August 2017, the Railway Protection Force rescued 28,057 children including 1,502 trafficked children from stations, according to a statement released on Monday.

On an average, at least 25 children are rescued every day from trains and railway premises, the statement said.

RESCUED

Since the help desk was opened at Salem station in March, 431 children have been rescued, a quarter from northern India.

“Many of the children we rescue were heading for the poultry farms in Namakkal, spinning mills in Erode or truck workshops along the highways,” Siddartha said.

“Since we set up the booth, we have noticed that many are travelling on trains that arrive past midnight, when the surveillance is lower.”

Campaigners estimate there is a vulnerable child entering a railway station every five minutes. Girls are particularly vulnerable and often taken off by traffickers within hours of arriving.

The Salem booth, and a similar one in Darbhanga station in eastern state of Bihar, are connected to shelters run near the station.

“Some come to have a bath or just sit in a clean space. We have counsellors at hand and the idea is to eventually help these children,” said Siddartha of Railway Children. “In many cases we reunite them with their families.”

The Indian government has in the past launched campaigns on India’s vast railway network, while a periodic police drive, “Operation Smile”, screens children in shelters, train and bus stations, and on the streets to find the missing.

Indian Railways has now extended these initiatives to cover 82 stations across the world’s fourth-largest railway network.

Ticket checkers, catering staff and policemen travelling on trains are taught to look for signs of trafficking and be on alert for children in large groups, the body language of the adults accompanying them and dubious documents.

“We are constantly relooking at the process because we realise that traffickers are two steps ahead,” Vijuvin said.

“When big stations are covered, they disembark two stops ahead, at the smaller ones. We hope to slowly link every station with these protocols.”

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to jointly procure 5000 Tonnes of Rails

Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) and Uzbekistan Railways (UTY) have signed a cooperative agreement to jointly purchase 5000 tonnes of rails by the end of this year from ARBZ, Kazakhstan, as well as a long-term contract with the supplier to procure 13,500 tonnes of high-quality rail annually for high-speed lines up to 2020.

The president of Kazakhstan, Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the president of Uzbekistan, Mr Shavkat Mirziyoyev, signed the strategic cooperative agreement between the two railways during the Kazakh-Uzbek Business Forum held in Tashkent on September 16.

The document aims to achieve further long-term cooperation in order to increase the competitiveness of international transport routes passing through the two countries.

The total value of the contracts is estimated at more than $US 320m.

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Bullet Train project reignites debate on land for ‘public purpose’

MUMBAI: Plans for India’s first bullet train, a $17-billion-dollar project, have sparked a debate on the definition of “public purpose” for land acquisitions which have become increasingly contentious.

The 500-km- (310-mile-) long high-speed rail link promises to cut travel time between the financial hub of Mumbai and the industrial city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state by more than half to under three hours.

The project, inaugurated earlier this month, will need about 825 hectares (2,000 acres) of land. The government has said it will complete the line by 2022, even as farmers along the proposed route held protests against giving up their land.

They may have little say in the matter, as the state has a legal right to take private property for public purposes.

But analysts say the definition of what constitutes public purpose needs revisiting, even for infrastructure projects.

“When projects – airports, private colleges, bullet trains – benefit only a small percentage of the population, some debate over public purpose needs to be had, for moral if not legal reasons,” said Aseem Shrivastava, an environmental economist.

“When the state is brokering land deals, should only the state decide what is public purpose?”

Conflicts have increased in India as land is sought for industrial use and development projects.

A law passed in 2013 was meant to protect the rights of farmers, ensuring consensus over land acquisitions, rehabilitation for those displaced, and adequate compensation.

But several states have diluted these provisions to speed up acquisitions.

Over the years, the state has extended public purpose from public schools, railways and highways to also include private hospitals and educational institutions, factories and Special Economic Zones.

Officials say these are key to accelerate economic growth and generate jobs that benefit the community.

But land rights experts say defining such projects as public purpose leaves vulnerable people with little judicial recourse.

“To say that jobs are created by setting up a factory, and that therefore it is public purpose, is a facetious argument,” Shrivastava told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In a rare victory for campaigners, the Supreme Court last year ruled that land purchased by West Bengal state for a Tata Motors factory could not be deemed to have been acquired for a “public purpose” and must be returned to farmers.

In an analysis of all land acquisition cases decided by the Supreme Court from 1950, the top court invalidated the government’s view of public purpose in less than 1 percent of cases, according to think tank Centre for Policy Research.

“We have a virtual laundry list of what makes up public purpose now,” said Namita Wahi, director of the centre’s Land Rights Initiative. “This permissive interpretation is very problematic.”

MRVC mulls leasing trains instead of buy to reduce CAPEX, ease-out process of repayments

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) is exploring the possibility of getting suburban locals on lease, instead of buying them, under the third phase of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-III).

The move is aimed at reducing capital investment and easing the process of repayments.

Mumbai’s railway infrastructure’s planning and execution body has decided to appoint a consultant to study how feasible the idea is and discuss the operational, financial and regulatory aspects involved.

“We want to study if it is possible to lease suburban trains, how such a plan can be implemented in Mumbai and what procedures need to be adopted for leasing rolling stock,” Prabhat Sahay, Chairman and Managing Director, MRVC.

He added that leasing rolling stock — any vehicles that move on a railway — could save a lot of initial capital investment and the earnings from the initiative would help them make payments.

The Indian Railways has taken rolling stock on lease from the Indian Railway Finance Corporation.

The state government and Indian Railways have undertaken the MUTP-III to improve suburban connectivity in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The estimated cost of the project is Rs10,950 crore, of which suburban locals are expected to cost Rs3,491 crore.

MRVC planned to get 47 air-conditioned 12-coach locals as part of this project.

Under MUTP-I and MUTP-II, the MRVC bought non-air-conditioned locals from the Chennai-based Integrated Coach Factory, fitted with electric systems from Siemens and Bombardier.

The cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has also decided to take buses on lease.

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College Students from Bangalore offer IoT-based solution for unmanned Railway crossings

The team from CMR Institute of Technology, Bengaluru, aims to reduce railway accidents through IOT

BENGALURU: At a time when train accidents are becoming frequent, six students from CMR Institute of Technology, Bengaluru, have suggested a cost-effective way to the Indian Railways to eliminate accidents at unmanned level crossings.

The project – an Internet of Things-based (IoT) multi-tier system – is currently under the railway ministry’s consideration. The system is based on three types of sensors and was presented at the Smart India Hackathon 2017, organized by the central government in April.

“We have given an alternative idea of eliminating unmanned railway crossings across India. It’s an automated IoT-based multi-tier system based on sensors. This will buttress the security system of the railways and remove human errors,” explained Ishaan Abhinav, a third-year student and member of team Gamma, which came up with the model.

The model operates on three sensors – radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensor, pressure sensor and optical sensor – to be placed at different points from the crossing. The pressure and optical sensors are triggered by the weight and appearance of trains, respectively.

As soon as the train passes through the RFID sensor located 2.7km from the crossing, an alarm and light system will be activated to signal road users to stop. As the train approaches the pressure sensor – to be placed at 1.75km from the crossing – it’s time for the gates to close. By the time the train reaches the optical sensor, placed 1.5km from the crossing, the gates will shut automatically.

“The project doesn’t end here. It is often seen that when barricades come down, many walker try to cross the track by slipping underneath. To prevent this, we have added barbed wires to the barricades,” said Malvika Vinay, another team member and a third-year engineering student.

The project was readied in two-and-a-half weeks by the team whose members include Madhusoodhanan K M, Adhitya Niranjan, Misha P and Rainy Jain. The students from computer science and mechanical engineering streams were mentored by Sudhir Routray, Sharmila K P and Rahul Nyamangoudar.

“We went till the final round of the hackathon. The PM addressed us and spoke about the problems faced by the Railways,” said Madhusoodanan.

Said professor Sharmila, head of the department for telecommunication: “It’s a low-budget solution for railways as these sensors don’t require much power or battery to run till about four to five years. We are now making changes in the project as suggested by the Ministry of Railways.”

Indian Railways to eliminate unmanned level crossings within a year

In a bid to reduce the accidents, the Railway Ministry on Sunday has decided to take measures to eliminate all unmanned level crossings in the country within a year.

A decision was taken in this regard after Union Minister of Railways and Coal Piyush Goyal reviewed the performance of Southern Railway and ICF at a meeting held here.

During the meeting, the Minister also asked his department authorities to ensure that Indian Railways provide the best service with speed and safety.

Southern railway sources here said that the earlier target was to eliminate unmanned level crossings in three years, but by using the transformative mantra of “Speed, Skill and Scale”, this target has to be completed within one year now.

The Railway Minister said steps were taken to conserve electricity through large scale implementation of LED lighting facilities at railway stations, railway premises including railway quarters under UJALA programme of the union government.

Similarly, he said railway officials should take measures in water conservation, plastic disposal as a part of Green India mission of government.

Potential Siemens-Alstom Rail merger could derail Indian Railways bid

As one of three final bidders, Stadler could lose time and money if the Siemens-Alstom merger results in annulation of the bidding process

Plans to merge the rail businesses of Siemens and Alstom could jeopardise a bid to build 5,000 electric coaches for Indian Railways, as the two companies belong to rival consortiums. Another bidder, Swiss firm Stadler Rail, also stands to lose.

On Friday, Alstom confirmed that it is in talks with Siemens over a potential merger of rail businesses. While the decision to join forces may be intended to challenge the global expansion of state-backed Chinese firm CRRC, it is the state-owned Indian Railways that will be immediately affected.

Siemens and Alstom belong to rival consortiums bidding for one of the largest Indian rail contracts opened to foreign firms, at almost CHF2.97 billion ($3.06 billion). The winner will enter a joint venture with Indian Railways to build and supply 5,000 “state-of-the-art” electric coaches over a ten-year period. The coaches will be manufactured at a purpose-built rail coach factory in the eastern Indian town of Kanchrapara in West Bengal state.

If and when Siemens and Alstom merge, it could result in the entire bid being annulled and Indian Railways re-starting the tender from scratch.

“We’ll see when it happens as nothing is official yet. There are clauses in the bid document on mergers and acquisitions,” an official from the Indian Ministry of Railways who wished to remain anonymous, told swissinfo.ch on Monday.

The bid document clearly states that changes in the consortium will not be permitted if the new member is an “Applicant/Member/Associate of any other Consortium bidding for this Project”.

“We are aware of the situation but do not want to speculate at this stage,” said a spokesperson from Siemens. Alstom was also contacted but has yet to respond.

Swiss loss

It is not just Siemens and Alstom that stand to lose from a potential annulment of the Indian bid. Swiss firm Stadler Rail has also qualified for the final stage of the bid. The Kanchrapara rail coach factory is an important part of the company’s expansion into India, which allowed 100% foreign direct investment in rail projects, such as high-speed trains and freight corridors, from 2014 onwards.

Rivals GE and Alstom have already grabbed a slice of the pie, winning a $2.6 billion contract to build 1,000 diesel engines and a $3 billion contract to build 800 electric engines respectively in 2015.

Stadler refused to comment on the impact of the Siemens-Alstom merger on its chances of winning the Kanchrapara bid as it was “an ongoing procedure”.

Steel Shortage: Centre directs SAIL to meet 1.14 MT Supply Target in 2017-18 to Indian Railways

NEW DELHI: The Steel Ministry has criticised state-run Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) for its failure to supply rails to Indian Railways.

Country’s mammoth state railways, hit by a spate of accidents, is trying to modernise its ageing tracks, but steel shortages have stymied progress. The steel ministry has asked SAIL, the only supplier of rails to Indian Railways, to make sure it meets its target of 1.14 million tonnes of supplies in 2017-18.

“It is once again reiterated that the ongoing track renewal and capacity augmentation programme of railways is an important national project and the supply of rail by SAIL is a very critical component for the success of this project,” the letter, dated 19 September and addressed to SAIL chairman P.K. Singh, said.

Stung by a string of accidents on the world’s fourth-biggest rail network, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi recently named a new minister for the railways, which is grappling with chronic under-investment and overcrowding.

Earlier it was reported that the upgrade for the country’s accident-prone network was at risk because of rail shortages from SAIL. Between April and August, SAIL could supply only 70% of its monthly targets set for Indian Railways, the letter said.

For 2017-18, SAIL has committed to providing only 1.14 million tonnes, against a requirement for 1.46 million tonnes. For the remaining 300,000 tonnes, Indian Railways is likely to float a tender in the next two to three months, said a railways official familiar with the plan.

Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, which has for years tried to bag a rail supply contract, will bid for the tender, a senior company official said. SAIL, which has posted losses for nine straight quarters, is targeting capacity additions of 2 million tonnes a year thanks to a new mill in eastern India.

Fourth Partner Energy to work on 10 MW Solar Projects for Railways

HYDERABAD: Fourth Partner Energy, a distributed solar company and a full service renewable energy service company (Resco), expects to close this year with a turnover of ₹250-300 crore, and take it up to over ₹1,000 crore by 2020.

The company said in a statement it will implement about 10 MW of rooftop projects for the Railways in Varanasi, Jabalpur and Gorakhpur.

Fourth Partner Energy commenced operations in 2010 with offices in Hyderabad and Pune and now has a presence in 10 cities. The company completed over 1,350 installations across 22 States, and has installed over 50 MW. It is currently sitting on an order book of over 50 MW.

Saif Dhorajiwala, founder partner and Executive Director, said in the statement: “As a full services player with complete in-house capabilities, Fourth Partner Energy is ideally positioned in this high potential market to continue its growth momentum. It has partnered with several large marquee customers.”

The company’s clientele includes Ferrero India, Vizag Smart City, Navodaya University, Schneider Electric and Symbiosis University. It has also bagged orders from Solar Energy Corporation of India, as part of a 500 MW tender, wherein various Central government establishments in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Rajasthan will be electrified.

Fourth Partner, backed by Infuse Ventures, Chennai Angels, ADB, Oiko Credit and RBL Bank, plans to achieve 1 GW of distributed solar assets under management by 2022.

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18-Coach Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani to run at 150 kmph, Cover 1377 Kms in less than 13 Hrs 30 Mins

NEW DELHI: As a Diwali gift to its passengers, the Indian Railways is planning to run a faster Rajdhani Express on the Delhi-Mumbai line that will cover the distance of 1,377 kms in less than 13 hours and 30 minutes.

The 18 Linke Hofmann Busch (LBH) coaches train will run at the maximum speed of 150 kmph. The train will originate from Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi and terminate at Bandra/Mumbai Central. The train would have a stoppage of 8-10 minutes at Ratlam fir operational purposes only — for change if crew and watering of trains.

The train would run at the maximum speed of 150 kmph between Hazrat Nizamuddin and Mathura and at 130 kmph from Mathura to Bandra/Mumbai Central. The 18 LBH coaches will comprise of an FAC (fuel adjustment component), 3 ACCW, 1 pantry car, 2 power cars and 11 ACCNs.

All the formalities are scheduled to be completed by October 15. The trial would be done in the last week of September

This will be the third Rajdhani on the route. Presently, the route is served by two Rajdhani Express trains– the August Kranti Rajdhani and the Mumbai Central-New Delhi Rajdhani. While the August Kranti Rajdhani takes around 17 hours 05 minutes, the Mumbai Central-New Delhi Rajdhani train takes around 15 hours 35 minutes.

The Mumbai Rajdhani has a sanctioned speed of 130 kmph. But due to numerous curves and speed restrictions on the route, its average speed comes down to about 89 kmph.

Railway line connecting India, Nepal to become functional from Next Year

NEW DELHI/KHATMANDU: After remaining non-functional for the last three years the Janakpur-Jayanagar Railway line connecting Nepal and India is expected to become functional by 2018.It is the only railway line that once used to link India with Nepal but after 2014 its service got discontinued.

However, now both the neighboring countries are making an attempt to revive this railway service.”Talking about the progress, we are inching towards the completion. It will come under operation from the Biwaha Panchami,” Mukesh Kumar Yadav, Site Supervisor of the Janakpur- Jayanagar Railway told.

“The task of ground work has been completed, the work of the culvert is almost complete and the bridge is also in its final stage of completion,” he added.

The project will be completed in three phases and is estimated to cost 5.48 billion Indian rupees, mostly aided by the Indian Government.

“It is a matter of happiness for us, it will be good for the people as they come here and go there. People from there (India) comes here and people from here go there (India). It would be good for the people in the Janakpur, the poor ones,” Mithilesh Yadav a local residing near the railway construction site said.

As the train service over the countries got stalled from 2014 the trade through this point was shifted to other border point and with the revival of the rail way the economy of the place is expected to rise along with the slash in the time consumption for the travelling to capital Kathmandu.

The railway line which will have its track expanded to Bardibas of Mahottari district, will reduce the time duration to reach the place by less than an hour.

The Nayak Infrastructure of Assam, India has been awarded with the contract to lay down the 24 km track between the Irarwa (India) to Kaipleshwor of Janakpur.

Likewise, the Raman Construction of Janakpur is constructing the 25km segment between Kapileshwor and Bijalpur of Mahottari.

No sops or Tax Concessions on Freight Movement in FY18: Sources

NEW DELHI: There are unlikely to be any sops or tax concessions this year as far as railway freight movement is concerned, sources told.

Instead, Indian Railways has planned to increase freight targets. Sources told the RailNews correspondent, that the ministry has already started meeting with major cement, steel and iron ore companies to help push up their targets.

The sources also said that these companies have assured the railway ministry that they would look to provide increased demand for freight going forward. The steel companies to have done this include JSW Steel and SAIL.

The ministry has also reportedly asked companies to increase their targets. Steel companies have been asked to push their targets to 300 million tonnes from the current 255 million tonnes.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who is also the Coal Minister, has asked Coal India to increase their freight loading targets.

Reforms in last 3 years boosted Railway loading, earnings: Mohammed Jamshed, Member-Traffic

Infusion of capital to the tune of Rs 8.56 lakh cr has already been tied up for the Railways during 2015-19

In the past year, the Indian Railways has undertaken various tariff reforms, including a reduction in freight rates to improve freight traffic. These reforms have paid rich dividends in terms of growth in freight loading and earnings during the current financial year. Mohammed Jamshed, Member Traffic of Railway Board, talks to media about the reformative measures that the Railways has taken recently to improve traffic.

Could you specify some of the tariff and other reforms and what has been their impact on revenue and traffic growth this financial year?

We have recently decided to provide freight concessions for double stack containers, liberalised automatic freight rebate scheme in empty flow directions, rationalised distance slabs above 1,500 km and up to 3,500 km, withdrawn port congestion charges, offered short-lead concessions and discount for loading of bagged consignment in open and flat wagons, concessional station-to-station rates, rationalised classification of commodities, and permitted all rail routes in place of rail-cum-sea routes, among other things.

These freight tariff rationalisation schemes have yielded significant results in terms of freight loading and earning during April-August 2017 as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The automatic freight rebate scheme in empty flow direction introduced in January 2017 has resulted in 665 per cent increase in loading and 870 per cent increase in earning.

The withdrawal of dual freight policy for export iron ore in May 2016 has resulted in 19 per cent increase in loading and nine per cent increase in earning. The revised policy of station-to-station rates has yielded more than Rs 60 crore in additional revenue in this period. Under the long-term tariff contract (LTTC) policy unveiled in July 2017, significant freight rebate based on incremental growth in revenue and on the total volume of traffic are offered for long-term loading commitment for a period of three to five years. Already, nine agreements have been signed with cement and steel companies under this policy and six more agreements are under finalisation.

In which areas have these measures resulted in a significant jump in loading for the Indian Railways?

Various initiatives taken over the past three years have helped in not only reversing the trend of falling loading and net tonne km (NTKMs) but have also facilitated high growth rates in some commodities. During the period between April and August 2017, incremental loading of almost 22 million tonnes (4.8 per cent growth over the past year) has been achieved, while the NTKMs have grown by four per cent. Double-digit growth rates have been achieved in originating loading for steel (22.3 per cent), iron ore (22.8 per cent), cement (12.6 per cent), container (12.3 per cent), and other segments (10.6 per cent). The trend in the month of September is also positive and we expect to achieve four to five million tones incremental loading in this month.

With the growth in traffic, what are the major plans for augmenting railway capacity?

The Indian Railways has been grappling with capacity constraints due to years of underinvestment. These acute capacity constraints have adversely impacted both passenger and freight business. Recognising the need for capacity augmentation to regain market share, we have accorded priority to significantly improving capacity on the existing high-density networks, gauge conversions, doubling, tripling, and electrification.

Infusion of capital to the tune of Rs 8.56 lakh crore has already been tied up for the Indian Railways during 2015-19. Out of this amount, Rs 2 lakh crore will be used in network decongestion, Rs 1 lakh crore in station development and logistics parks, Rs  1 lakh crore in rolling stock, Rs 1.27 lakh crore in safety, and Rs 0.65 lakh crore in high-speed rail. The Plan Expenditure has already been increased from Rs 57,000 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 94,000 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 1.11 lakh crore in 2016-17. In 2017-18, we have further stepped up the capital expenditure to Rs 1.31 lakh crore with the focus remaining on the most remunerative capacity expansion works.

The Railways is targeting massive capacity augmentation by way of two dedicated freight corridors (DFCs) by 2019 and is planning three new DFCs. In addition, enhanced rolling stock procurement is also planned by the Railways through public sector units as well as the private sector.

Terminals have been an area of concern. What has been done to promote private freight terminals and capacity of existing terminals?

As a conscious strategy, the Indian Railways has decided to encourage private investment in terminals and sidings to bring about improvement in freight terminals. The liberalised siding policy was issued in August 2016. The policy is targeted towards making the process of setting up of private siding industry-friendly, minimising delays by fixing timelines, ensuring transparency and objectivity, and sharing of costs and burdens.

The PFT policy was revised in 2015, making it more attractive and industry-friendly, and 103 proposals have been received for development of PFTs at different locations. Out of these, 49 PFTs have been commissioned and are functioning with an investment of approximately Rs 1,200 crore. In principle approval has been given by the zonal railways for 40 proposals and the remaining proposals are under examination.

How is the coal sector doing? Are you looking at higher coal loading from Coal India (CIL)? Would this play a significant role in taking care of the shortfall in loading of imported coal?

The demand for coal during 2017-18 has been much more buoyant than what it was in the past two years. Apart from imported coal, where there has been a decline over the past year, loading from all other sources has shown growth during April-August 2017. Loading from CIL sources has been around 215 rakes per day during this period, against 209 rakes per day in the corresponding period last year.

We are maintaining very close coordination with CIL in order to maximise loading. The loading for the first five months by CIL has been impacted due to heavy rains. This has resulted in the loading by CIL being at the level of 215 rakes per day. The ministry of coal has directed CIL to load 250 rakes per day in the balance part of the financial year. Given the high demand for coal from various sectors and the action plan of the coal ministry to improve coal dispatches in the coming months, I would expect CIL loading to be higher than 250 rakes per day in the last six months of 2017-18.

Balance Safety and Punctuality in Train Operations: GM/SCR said

SECUNDERABAD: South Central Railway General Manager Vinod Kumar Yadav advised the officials to balance safety and punctuality in train operations to get passenger satisfaction.

He conducted a detailed review meeting on Safety and Punctuality today at Rail Nilayam in Secunderabad along with Principal Heads of Departments. The Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) of all six Divisions i.e., Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Guntakal, Guntur and Nanded participated through video conference.

The General Manager said that railways can render better services when a perfect balance of safety and punctuality is attained. Speaking on the safety he said that, it is always better to be prepared for any unexpected situations especially in monsoon season. He advised the officials to conduct all safety inspections in a meaningful manner and all officers should take care of asset maintenance. Asset maintenance is crucial for hassle free train operations, he added.

Vinod Kumar Yadav stressed on utmost priority towards maintaining the highest level of safety in train movement, specifically in relation to maintenance of track. He also cautioned that extra attention be given to vulnerable locations and unsafe procedures in train operations. He informed that the Minister of Railways is very particular about the steps being taken by the Zones on maintenance of cleanliness in trains and stations. He called upon the officials to show the ability and prove that Zone achieves best in terms of passenger satisfaction.

Additional General Manager John Thomas and other senior officials were also present during the meeting.

Passenger Safety, Modernisation of Railways top priorities: Piyush Goyal

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told in an interview that passenger safety will be his first priority. The railways is also focusing on non-fare revenue options to boost earnings and improve its operating ratio. The high-speed corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will transform the economy of the entire region, the minister said, adding that private operators may be roped in. He declined to comment on reports about exiting the diesel locomotive factory project being set up in a joint venture with General Electric in Bihar but said that he’s very keen on electrifying the entire rail network to save costs significantly. Edited excerpts:

What are your first impressions after taking over as Railway Minister?

Piyush Goyal: I’ve been in office just for 17-18 days. I’m studying the rail sector and the framework of our functioning. I haven’t yet finalised all my plans for the railways. I would like to see our rail network becoming modern and safer as soon as possible. I’m fortunate that my first official programme as rail minister was the launch of the high-speed train network with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad. We’ll do everything to implement his vision for the railways

What are the benefits of high-speed train network?

Piyush Goyal: With the high-speed train corridor, we’re planning to bring in a completely transformative Japanese Shinkansen technology. Ideally, this technology should have come to India 50 years ago. It operates trains at speeds of over 320 km per hour. The Japanese high-speed system has the best safety record. Japan is funding this project. The corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai would transform the economy of the entire region.

Will the corridor be extended to other cities?

Piyush Goyal: We’re looking at various other sectors and options to introduce high-speed trains. As we work out the viability and financing of other such projects, the government is looking at rapidly scaling up the high-speed train network in the country. Also, we want to bring in competition in the sector and engage with more countries.

Does that mean that you’ll also have private operators to run high-speed trains in India?

Piyush Goyal: Yes, it’s an exciting proposition. Through this we can generate competition and provide the best value to customers. Having a public-private partnership in this area would be beneficial. Right now we’re studying the railway framework and its working and how we can expand the existing capacity and realise more rail lines.

What’s being done to ensure safety of passengers?

Piyush Goyal: We have an aspirational goal of having an accident-free network, which was set by my predecessor Suresh Prabhu. All rail employees are working towards it. In my second or third day in office, I took a review of train safety and it was decided that we’re going to eliminate all unmanned level crossings. Currently, 35% accidents happen because of unmanned level crossings. I’ve told officials that in 12 months we’ll eliminate all level crossings. So that by Ganesh Chaturthi next year, we shouldn’t have a single unmanned crossing in the country.

We’ve decided to have safer LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches. I’ve told the officials to use all available tracks and stock for track renewal—there’s a huge backlog. Where tracks are needed for safety, we’ll first complete that work and only when the requirements of safety related works are fulfilled, we’ll go place more orders.

Has any budget been earmarked for safety-related work?

Piyush Goyal: We’re still studying it. But I can assure you that we’ll invest as much as possible so that any dearth of funds doesn’t come in the way of safety works.

What’s being done on station upgrade and private Investment?

Piyush Goyal: On September 20, I held discussions with at least 150 stakeholders, including real estate companies, who were constrained by the process that was being followed.

To start with, we’re doing away with the cumbersome bidding process. I want to do away with the Swiss challenge method and have a single bidding process.

Then, to make investment in station redevelopment projects more viable, I’ve decided to extend the lease period for concessionaires to 99 years from the current 45 years. Also, we’ll have some revenue-sharing agreement with them.

Is there any plan to give infrastructure status to station redevelopment?

Piyush Goyal: I’m yet to discuss it with the finance minister but I’m hopeful that it could happen.

How many stations are you targeting for redevelopment?

Piyush Goyal: Currently, we’re doing 23 stations—that’s the priority-—but I would love to do 300 stations.

Is Railways exiting diesel locomotive factory being set up with General Electric in Marhowra in Bihar?

Piyush Goyal: I don’t want to comment on media reports. But I am very keen that we should electrify the entire rail network. We have sufficient electricity in India. Currently, we’re importing diesel worth Rs 16,000 crore. By having a 100% electrified network, I’ll be able to save Rs 8,000-10,000 crore every year.

What plans do you have to increase rail revenue?

Piyush Goyal: We’ll be focusing on the non-fare revenue. There are options such as getting more revenue through advertising, how we can utilise our assets such as coaches and platforms to get revenue.

Revenue has taken a hit because of decline in loading of coal. Currently, 45% of total freight revenue comes from coal transportation. You’re also the coal minister. What is being done to contain the revenue loss?

Piyush Goyal: Revenue generation through a department of the government is not the purpose. Through rationalising coal linkages, we’ve saved thousands of crores for consumers.

We’ve reduced the cost for discoms. We’ll do whatever is in the national interest. We’re working on various ways to improve our freight loading.

The operating ratio of Railways has been hovering at 95%, which signals that the national transporter is stressed. How do you intend to lower this?

Piyush Goyal: Non-fare revenue will help us improve our operating ratio as we’ll get additional earnings. We’ll improve the efficiency by improving the utilisation of same assets. We can also do it by bringing down the journey time of trains, especially freight trains. We plan to bring down our fuel bill. We are also studying how we can make our existing assets sweat more. We are looking at all these options to have a healthy operating ratio.

Railways to cut travel-time of over 500 Trains; here is all you need to know

In order to increase the average speed of the existing trains to bring down the journey time, the travel time of more than 500 long-distance trains by up to 120 minutes have been cut down by the Indian Railways.

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways has started an exercise to cut down running time of over 500 long-distance trains by up to 120 minutes. The new travel timetable is to be effective December. A detailed plan is ready and will be incorporated in the ‘Trains at a Glance’ timetable to be released November 30, Railway Ministry officials have told.

Through a mix of measures that are being collectively called “innovative timetabling”, popular trains are set to knock off minutes stretching up to over an hour-and-half coupled with increased speed, following one of the major decisions taken by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal earlier this month.

Around 50 ordinary mail/express trains will get upgraded to “superfast” services after completion of an internal audit of running time of around 700 trains. The exercise started two weeks ago following Goyal’s directive. Incidentally, increasing the average speed of existing trains to bring down journey time is one measure which the Prime Minister’s Office has been pursuing with the Railways for the last three years.

The overall upgrade affects trains to and from almost all states across India. For example, the popular Hyderabad-Tirupati Express, running 733 km over 14 hours, will now take 100 minutes less. The Bhopal-Jodhpur Express will reach 95 minutes early. The 2,330-km journey on the Guwahati-Indore Special will be 115 minutes shorter. The Ghazipur-Bandra Terminus Express will complete its 1929-km journey 95 minutes earlier. As it turned out during the exercise, the longer the journey, the higher the scope for time-reduction.

Hundreds of long halts allotted to over 700 popular trains will be shortened by varying minutes. Several halts, where footfalls and ticket sales have been found to be next to nil, are being shed. In long distance trains, the time for engine reversal, which currently takes 30-55 minutes, has been brought down to around 20 minutes or less, as per the plan on paper.

In a number of sections, infrastructure upgrades in the last three years — like automatic signalling, emergence of a third line, etc — have raised maximum permissible speeds. The speed of trains in these sections have been recalibrated in the new plan. Similarly, there exist trains whose maximum speed has been kept on the lower side because they have been running on the older variety of rolling stock. It was found that several of these trains now run with modern Linke-Hofmann-Busch coaches that allow 130 kmph top speed. This has been rectified in the charting.

Across the network, thousands of temporary speed restrictions have been identified – these had been granted in the past over and above the norm of six minutes per 100 km. In the new timetable, most are being brought down to meet the norm, getting rid of excess delays. Many permanent speed restrictions are being reviewed.

Govt. may open Railway Lines to Private Players

NEW DELHI: The Union government is open to the idea of giving operations of railway lines to private players for enhancing competition, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said in an interview.

“It’s an exciting proposition. We will be able to generate competition in the process and improve customer satisfaction,” Mr. Goyal told on board the Mahanama Express train, launched between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s old constituency in Vadodara and his present one in Varanasi on Friday, ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections.

Mr. Goyal, who took charge of the Railway Ministry on September 4 after Suresh Prabhu resigned following a string of derailments, said he was studying various models for attracting more private players.

Claiming that he was willing to spend unlimited funds on safety, he said clearing the backlog for track renewal would be the focus, and a zero accident rate would be an aspiration.

“In my working, there is no budget for safety. Whatever (fund) is required we will spend,” Mr. Goyal said.

He said the government was engaging with other countries to “rapidly scale up” the bullet train project.

Mr. Goyal is also re-tuning policy to attract private companies for modernising railway stations.

To begin with, the Railways have decided to do away with the ‘Swiss Challenge’ model of awarding railway stations to private players and taken a slew of measures to lease out at least 100 stations.

The steps include increasing the lease tenure from 45 years to 99 years, allowing private players to sub-lease stations for increasing their investment value and mortgaging assets to allow banks to give low-cost funds, he said.

“We had a meeting with over 150 stakeholders (recently). All were interested in being a part of this journey of station redevelopment and land redevelopment but were constrained by the process being followed,” Mr. Goyal said.

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IRCTC Clarifies On Payment Via Credit Cards, Debit Cards: 5 Things To Know

The railway ministry was clarifying on media reports which said IRCTC had barred certain banks from using its payment gateway for debit card transactions.

IRCTC or Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is accepting payments via cards from all banks. This was said by the Ministry of Railways in a post on microblogging site Twitter. IRCTC is an arm of the Indian Railways. The railway ministry said: “No debit or credit card of any bank has been restricted by the IRCTC for acceptance on any of the gateway… Debit/Credit cards of all banks are accepted on any payment gateway. No truth in news of having blocked any card of any bank.” The ministry was clarifying on media reports which said IRCTC had barred certain banks from using its payment gateway for debit card transactions.

Here are five things to know about IRCTC

The railway ministry said that it had not imposed any restrictions and debit/credit cards of all Indian banks were accepted.

“To use any Debit/Credit Card on Payment page, select ‘Payment Gateway/Credit/Debit Cards’ and use any Payment Gateway,” IRCTC said on its website – irctc.co.in.

IRCTC or Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation also said it has provided seven payment gateways for accepting domestic debit and credit cards and direct integration to some banks as value added service to for the convenience of its passengers.

In a circular issued on Friday, the Railways also said that direct integration with banks has additional costs. IRCTC had earlier asked banks to share a part of the transaction charge with the Railways but later on forfeited its share of the transaction charge and asked banks to pass on the benefits to the customer.

IRCTC has seven gateways to accept digital payments. These are ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citi Bank, Axis Bank, Paytm, PayU and ITZ Cash. Payment gateway of American Express Bank is integrated for Amex Card and of Kotak Bank for accepting Rupay Cards. IRCTC also accepts international Debit/Credit cards through the payment gateway of M/s Atom, IRCTC said.

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Smart Governance for Railways with cutting-edge Cloud Tech

HYDERABAD: Over the coming days, logging on to the South Central Railways’ website to get the train schedule or any other information will be a better experience.

Railway authorities are formulating an action plan in sync with the `rail cloud’ policy drawn up by the railway board. RailTel Corporation, an enterprise under the central government, is implementing the proposed technology , which will reduce the burden on railway coffers by optimizing the server management under the zone.

According to the sources, railway authorities are running the existing IT applications through several servers and this leads to an inflation of cost in the IT segment. The railway website will be better maintained and people will be updated with all latest information that will cut down on the hassle of turning up at railway offices with a query.

“Once all the departments are integrated through the cloud computing technology , the cost of maintaining IT applications will come down. In cloud, server resources constantly go up or down, given the number of users who have logged on to the system.This will ensure a better experience,” said a senior official, whose name is being withheld as per the railway policy.

The railway board asked the heads of all zones to send their views on the new policy by September 25 if they want any change in it.

Following the draft of the policy being sent to the general managers of all zones, director of all centralized training institutes and chief managing director of RailTel Corporation of India, Gurugram, the railways are going to install cloud computing for ICT applications.

“The exception of the policy shall be in rare circumstance when an alternative ICT deployment strategy is essentially required for railways,” the policy draft stated.

Migration of data and applications will enhance the availability of information.

“The existing applications will be migrated to the cloud through proper mapping. The new system will be equipped with the safety measures laid down by the government recently . The performance of rail cloud will be assessed through service level agreements.

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Siemens to merge rail operations with French rival Alstom

Siemens and Alstom agree to merge their rail businesses in a deal that brings together former arch-rivals from Germany and France to create a European transportation giant.

Munich/Paris: Siemens AG and Alstom SA agreed to merge their rail businesses in a deal that brings together former arch-rivals from Germany and France to create a European transportation giant aimed at countering competition from China.

Siemens will transfer its business making train and transit cars and signalling equipment to Alstom in exchange for a 50% stake in the enlarged company, according to a joint statement. The renamed Siemens Alstom, with sales of about €15.3 billion ($18 billion), will remain based in the Paris area. Alstom chief executive officer (CEO) Henri Poupart-Lafarge will keep his position and the chairman will be named by Siemens.

“We need to strengthen our ability to compete,” Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said in a video about the tie up, which the companies call a merger of equals. “A dominant player in Asia has changed global market dynamics.”

The combination will give the German company control of an icon of French industry that developed the high-speed TGV trains that zip across the countryside at upwards of 300 kilometers an hour (186 miles per hour).

President Emmanuel Macron’s government backed the deal after receiving assurances on jobs, and it comes just days after German chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected on a platform of closer European ties. Capping years of speculation in the industry about the need for consolidation, the tie up could mirror the emergence of European planemaker Airbus in the 1970s that went on to become the biggest competitor to Boeing Co.

Paris listing

Shareholders in Alstom will receive two special dividends, one of €4 a share and the other of up to €4 a share. One is to compensate them for giving up control of the company, and the other to be paid from the proceeds of Alstom’s put options for joint ventures it has with General Electric Co.

The companies expect annual synergies of €470 million and Alstom will have to pay a €140 million break up fee if it decides to cancel the transaction. They are aiming to close the deal by the end of 2018. The new entity will have an order backlog of €61.2 billion.

Alstom shares have surged 29% this year, giving the company a market value of €7.4 billion. Siemens, which also makes products including power-generation and health-care equipment, is down 0.2% for a value of €99.1 billion.

The new company will remain listed on the Paris stock exchange, while Siemens’s mobility solutions business will have headquarters in Berlin, and rolling stock in the Paris area. Jochen Eickholt, head of Siemens Mobility, will assume an “important responsibility” in the merged company, the companies said.

Bitter rivalry

Siemens Alstom, which will have about 62,000 employees, will become the second-largest maker of rail cars and locomotives after China’s CRRC Corp. Years of bitter rivalry between the European companies created animosity in the past so a deal between them was unexpected until last week, when Bloomberg reported talks. These came alongside the German company’s negotiations to join forces with Canadian competitor Bombardier Inc. through two joint ventures.

The tie up between the European rivals will effectively leave Montreal-based Bombardier out in the cold, and represent a new hurdle for its turnaround plans. While cross-border German-French deals remain relatively rare, PSA Group this year acquired the European operations of General Motors Co. which includes the German brand Opel.

It was Siemens that first approached Alstom about combining, with talks starting several months ago, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified, adding that French and German government officials discussed the possibility as early as May.

The French government said it won’t exercise an option in October to acquire the 20% stake in Alstom that it borrowed from Bouygues SA. The construction company has pledged to hold on to its shares until the transaction is approved by shareholders, or until July 2018 at the latest, the companies said.

The French state backed the deal based on commitments made by Siemens, including a pledge to not lift its stake in Alstom above 50.5% for four years after closing. The German company will get warrants allowing it to acquire Alstom shares representing two percentage points of its share capital that can be exercised at the earliest four years after the deal is completed.

Bad blood

In combining with Alstom, Siemens is rekindling part of an offer it made in 2014 during a takeover battle with General Electric Co. for Alstom’s energy assets. Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, working with two Japanese companies, unsuccessfully proposed an asset swap for the French company’s turbines business in exchange for its own ailing train operations.

At the time, Siemens’s plan envisioned merging the companies’ train operations andas a bonus thrown in at the eleventh hour—creating a rail-signalling joint venture that would have been controlled by the German company. In the end, GE won the tussle and sold its rail signalling business to the French company, which has been focused on trains ever since.

The battle for Alstom created bad blood between Kaeser and his former French counterpart, Patrick Kron, with the two executives still trading barbs a year later.

Now, the companies’ tie up comes after Chinese dominance of the train market has solidified. CRRC controls about half of the rail car and locomotive market, while Siemens and Bombardier each have about 12% and Alstom around 11%, according to Desjardins Capital Markets. The Chinese company was formed in 2015 in a merger of the country’s two main regional train manufacturers and it has won rail orders in US cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

‘Sticking Points’

Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier have long collaborated on contracts so some operations may have to be untangled. Alstom and Bombardier won a €3.3 billion contract to supply double-decker cars to the Belgian national railway through 2021 and are working together on trains for the Paris region’s commuter network and Montreal’s subway system.

“Sticking points” to the deal could be getting antitrust approval, which has always been cited as a concern by Alstom’s CEO Poupart-Lafarge, according to James Stettler, an analyst at Barclays in London. There will also be “some painful discussions with the respective governments and unions as to where capacity is taken out,” he said.

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Can’t blame Railways for Stolen Luggage unless Booked: NCDRC

NEW DELHI: The apex consumer commission has refused to grant relief to a woman who lost her suitcase while travelling in a train, saying the Railways is not responsible unless the luggage was booked and a receipt was issued.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) set aside the lower foras’ orders asking Railways to compensate the woman, a West Bengal resident, for the alleged theft onboard Lokmanya Tilak Shalimar Express train in 2011.

The NCDRC set aside Chhattisgarh state commission’s order that had upheld a district forum’s decision asking it to pay Rs 1.30 lakh to the passenger for the loss of luggage.

The apex consumer commission agreed to the contention of the Railways that as per Section 100 of the Railway Act, 1989, it shall not be responsible for the loss, destruction, damage, or non-delivery of any luggage, unless a railway servant has booked the luggage and given a receipt.

“We do not find any deficiency in service on the part of the Railway officials. The order passed by both the fora below clearly perverse in the eyes of law and, thus, are set aside,” a Bench headed by Presiding Member B C Gupta said.

The commission said no negligence was attributable to any specific employee. “No booking was made with the Railways and hence, the provisions of Section 100 of the Railways Act, are applicable in the matter,” it added.

According to the complaint, Mamta Agrawal was travelling in the train on September 5, 2011, with a suitcase containing articles worth Rs.3 lakh consisting of three gold chains, two diamond rings and a simple ring along with Rs 15,000 cash and clothes of children. It alleged that when the train arrived near Rourkela, some miscreants stole her luggage.

The Railways, however, contended that since the passenger was carrying the baggage with her without booking it, she herself was responsible.

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Visakhapatnam City railway station goes 100% Cashless with DigiPay

‘DigiPay’ services launched at booking counters, stalls

VISAKHAPATNAM: Divisional Railway Manager Mukul Saran Mathur has declared Visakhapatnam railway station as 100 % Digital Payment Enabled (Digi Pay) station and launched the services at the station to promote cashless transaction.

The launch of Digi Pay stations would encourage cashless transactions, the vision of Union government of ‘Digital India-Digital Railways’. Passengers can make transactions in the stations through Point of Sale (PoS) machines arranged at railway counters and e-wallets at all the stalls at the railway station.

Visakhapatnam Railway Station is a major railway station in East Coast Railway (ECoR), which handles 118 trains and receives over 60,000 footfalls a day, and more than 80,000 a day during festive seasons, generating revenue of more than ₹30 lakh a day.

Mr. Mathur said Digi Pay services were provided at the general ticket booking counters, reservation complex, water vending machines, cloak rooms, coffee, tea stalls, ATMs, parking, parcel office, book stalls, fruit juice stalls, pay and use toilets and at other points on the station premises.

Help desks

State Bank of India has also provided help desks and information booths for promotion of digital transaction among rail users. He appealed to people and rail users to use this facility for hassle-free journeys and to make dream of a Digital India- Digital Rail into a reality.

Inspection

After the official launch of the Digi-Rail campaign DRM along with branch officials inspected various stalls and railway counters to check the usage and working of digi pay services.

During this campaign, appreciation certificates will be given to the digi pay customers along with paper caps to encourage the users.

A signature campaign on ‘digital rail’ was also organised on this occasion where the participants appreciated the efforts by Waltair Division towards cashless transactions, according to Divisional Commercial Manager G. Suneel Kumar.

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Azerbaijan, Iran agree on funding for Rasht-Astara Railway construction

A multi-million dollar project on Rasht-Astara railway route, a part of the International North-South Transportation Corridor, is expected to be launched this year.

The construction of the section of Resht-Astara will cost Iran $1.1 billion. Azerbaijan will provide Iran with a loan of 500 million euros to complete the construction of the railway section.

The two countries, within the International North-South Transport Corridor [a multi-model route to link India and the Middle East to the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe], are making efforts to connect their railways through the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara route, connecting Iran’s northern city of Astara to its namesake in the Azerbaijan.

Nourollah Beiranvand, the deputy for planning and investment at Iran Railways, told Trend that Azerbaijan agreed to allocate this fund.

“Taking into account the mutual benefit of the Rest-Astara railway for the two countries, the Azerbaijani government agreed to finance the project,” Beiranvand said.

He denied the recent rumors that Baku will fully finance the construction of the Resht-Astara, saying that half of the required amount will be provided by Azerbaijan, and other half by Iran.

“The financing will be carried out in the form of a loan. The invested amount will be later deducted from the income of the project,” he said.

Beiranvand also touched upon the construction of the Astara railway station and said that Azerbaijan agreed to invest in the construction of the station and cargo terminals.

Azerbaijan earlier agreed to provide 60 million euros for developing railway facilities in Iranian city of Astara.

“Approximately half of this amount is projected to be used to finance the construction of a 1.4-kilometer railway in Astara, as well as the station building,” Beiranvand said.

The remaining half will be spent on the construction of four terminals, according the official.

This rail road link is important as it will significantly facilitate and expedite exchange of good and trade amongst Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

The agreement signed between Azerbaijan Railways and Iran Railways envisages that Azerbaijan rents the railway line for a period of 15 years, and terminals for 25 years.

The transport corridor “North-South” is designed to connect Northern Europe with South-East Asia, including the unification of the railways of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia. At the first stage, along the corridor, it is planned to transport five million tons of cargo per year, increasing later to more than 10 million tons of cargo.

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Bibek Debroy may take over as PM’s Economic Advisor

Debroy is expected to have a role and responsibility similar to the erstwhile chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council

NEW DELHI: Noted economist and NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy is expected to assume a wider role in the government. One of the options being considered is to appoint him as the economic advisor to the Prime Minister.

Debroy, who has been instrumental in bringing a transformational change in the Indian Railways during his stint as member of the Aayog, is expected to have a role and responsibility similar to the erstwhile chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC). The previous PMEAC was headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan, before it was wound up after the NDA government took charge.

Government officials indicated a move to shift Debroy to the new position was in the offing, but did not say when the actual shift would take place. Debroy didn’t respond to queries sent to him till the time of going to press.

It was based on the Debroy Committee’s recommendations that the central government abolished the British-era legacy of a separate Railway Budget and merged it with the General Budget and embarked on a path of changing the fiscal year from April-March to January-December.

The Debroy committee on restructuring of Indian Railways recommended liberalisation of the railways to attract private sector participation for project execution and setting up an independent regulator to promote competition. Debroy has also been a long-time proponent of pruning departments in large states to 30 in order to enable better coordination, governance and efficiency. In a blog published on the NITI Aayog website, the economist said that unless departments were pruned, schemes and laws, orders and regulations could not be pruned either.

Educated at Presidency College (Calcutta), Delhi School of Economics and Trinity College (Cambridge), Debroy began his career as a teacher at his alma mater, the Presidency College, and later at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (Pune), Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (Delhi), and National Council of Applied Economic Research (Delhi). He has served as a consultant to the Department of Economic Affairs under the finance ministry.

Meanwhile, the finance ministry on Thursday dismissed speculations on the resignation of Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian. “CEA will continue. Reports regarding resignation are not correct,” the finance ministry said. Sources said Subramanian might be given an extension. But, this couldn’t be independently verified.

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Alstom Madhepura Electric Locomotive plan on track

At a time when diesel locomotive factory project of General Electric at Marhowra in Bihar has been scrapped, Alstom of France is steadily moving ahead.

MADHEPURA: At a time when there are clouds over the future of General Electric’s diesel locomotive factory project at Marhowra in Bihar, another foreign multinational investor, Alstom of France, is moving ahead with its electric locomotive project.

It was in November 2015 that the railways had awarded contracts to GE and Alstom, to set up diesel and electric locomotive factories at Marhowra and Madhepura (also in Bihar), respectively. Together, these were expected to attract Rs 40,000 crore investment to the state.

A proposal to end the Marhowra project was mooted at a review meeting of the new railways minister, Piyush Goyal on September 7, citing the increased focus on electrification.

On Thursday, Alstom said the first two rail car body shells for the proposed facility had come to Haldia port. It would arrive at the Madhepura facility next week. These first two (of five) car body shells are from Belfort, France, each weighing 19 tonnes.The third shell is due to leave from France by the end of this month and would reach India by end-November.

Belfort is the site for Alstom’s Centre of Excellence for design and production of locomotives (the company made its first e-loco in 1926). Once assembled here, they’d take the form of Alstom’s PRIMA T8 range.

Jean-Francois Beaudoin, the company’s senior vice-president for the Asia-Pacific, said: “The next stage is the assembly…these e-locos consume up to 50 per cent less fuel than conventional shunting locomotives.” Named ‘WAG12’, these 12,000 Hp locos would be capable of hauling up to 9,000 tonnes of weight and run at 120 km an hour.

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Siemens to pick Alstom or Bombardier for Rail Talks within days

MUNICH: Siemens is in talks to merge its rail business with that of either Alstom or Bombardier and will pick a preferred partner within days for further negotiations; said a spokesperson.

Rail mergers have become a trend over the last few years as global companies seek to contain costs and Western ones struggle with competition from China’s state-backed CRRC.

The three main rivals to CRRC – Bombardier, Siemens and Alstom – have talked to each other about combining their businesses in various arrangements over the past years.

Sources told in July that Bombardier and Siemens were in the final stages of talks to combine their rail operations.

Under an alternative scenario involving Alstom, Siemens would transfer its rail operations to the French group and become a majority shareholder of Alstom, the source told on Thursday.

However, a person close to Alstom said that by engaging with the French group Siemens was trying to get leverage in its discussions with Bombardier.

“Bombardier is still the more likely outcome and easier to get done,” he said.

Alstom, while initially fine to stay on the sidelines of the ongoing consolidation, has since decided to at least assess its options including a deal with Siemens, the person added.

Siemens and Alstom were engaged in a bitter fight in 2014, when Siemens tried to muscle in on General Electric’s 12.4 billion euro acquisition of Alstom’s power business.

Ever since, people close to the companies have described relations as strained.

Shares in Alstom climbed as much as 2.6 percent on news of the talks, first reported by Bloomberg earlier on Thursday. Siemens was up 0.8 percent at 116.90 euros.

Siemens declined to comment and officials at Bombardier Transportation in Berlin were not immediately available for comment. An Alstom spokesman said he had no immediate comment.

Last month, Siemens and Bombardier were on the brink of sealing a deal to create two separate joint ventures for their signalling and rolling-stock divisions, but the talks hit last minute snags, sources said at the time.

According to the blueprint of that deal, Bombardier would take just over a 50 percent stake in the joint rolling stock operations, one source said. Siemens would take roughly an 80 percent stake in a joint venture in higher-margin signalling technology.

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Railways offers GE option to make Electric Locomotives

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways has offered General Electric an option to manufacture electric locomotives at its upcoming factory in Marhowrah in Bihar instead of diesel engines since it no longer envisages requirement for diesel engines.

The government on Thursday told GE at a meeting of railways minister Piyush Goyal with the top brass of the American conglomerate that the railways will not require diesel locomotives in the future since it is switching fully to electric traction.

However, the government doesn’t want GE to lose any investment and so it has offered several options to the company, a senior railways ministry official said. These include manufacturing electric engines, locomotive maintenance shed or any other related facility, with the railways offering an assured contract, he said. “We don’t want to hamper the investment environment in the country. We have offered GE various options. They will work with our officials to find out the right solution. Even if they want to manufacture electric locos with some other company in a joint venture, they will be welcome to do so,” the official said.

In 2015, the railways had awarded the contract to GE to set up the factory on railways’ land. The railways would have procured 1,000 engines worth Rs 14,600 crore in 10 years from the company. The railways was offering 200 acres land as its equity in the project, which was touted as the biggest foreign direct investment in India’s rail sector.

Railways stands to save at least Rs 50,000 crore in fuel bill in the next 10 years if it runs only electric trains on its entire network, along with cutting its carbon footprint. The railways has already signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture electric locomotives in Madhepura in Bihar. “We will procure from Alstom as per our commitment. Since we will have a 100 per cent electrified network in a few years, the demand for electric locos will also go up. Those additional engines can be procured from GE. They won’t lose any money,” the official said.

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Analysts says “Indian Railways exiting the Diesel Locomotive contract surprising”

Indian Railways’ reported move to reconsider the Marhowra diesel locomotive project, awarded to General Electric (GE) in 2015, may not spell good for the transporter, which is hinging on private investments to fund its projects, according to analysts.

Indian Railways’ reported move to reconsider the Marhowra diesel locomotive project, awarded to General Electric (GE) in 2015, may not spell good for the transporter, which is hinging on private investments to fund its projects, according to analysts. The Indian Express on Monday reported the railways is looking to wind up or exit the contract as it plans to electrify all routes. The transporter plans electrification of 24,400 km of routes by 2020-21 in a phased manner of which 4,000 km are to be electrified in 2017-18. However, according to a Railway Board member who did not want to be identified, railway minister Piyush Goyal has asked officials to double the target for the current year to 8,000 km and electrify all routes at the earliest.

Though GE confirmed to a television channel that it is implementing the plant, Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said the issue will be studied in depth and no final decision has been taken. According to an analyst with one of the Big Four consulting firms, the news of the railways thinking of exiting the diesel locomotive contract looks a little surprising. “This will have an impact on the IR’s image as it was a global tender. It is not a good sign for the long term at time when private investment is low,” said the analyst. A former Railway Board member, however, added that every such contract has an exit clause for the parties concerned and, if at all the railways abandons the contract, it will cost the transporter. The former member added that there must be very strong reasons to quit such a project.

After almost a decade-long delay, the railways had awarded the Marhowra and Madhepura (electric locomotive factory to Alstom) projects with a foreign direct investment amounting to Rs.40,000 crore. In both cases, railways has assured initial offtake. For the Marhowra project, the Indian Railways had assured offtake of 1,000 units over a period of 11 years at a basic cost of Rs.14,656 crore and the electric locomotive project was assured offtake of 800 units at a basic cost of Rs.19,904 crore. The diesel locomotives are to be of 4,500 HP and 6,000 HP and the electric locomotives of 12,000 HP. The former railway board member said the railways will have to see how it will plus the deficit of locomotives in case it plans to phase out diesel locomotives. As per the newspaper report cited earlier, the railways may also stop fresh investment in rehabilitation of diesel locomotives.

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China restores 350 kmph Commercial Bullet Train

To ply between Beijing and Shanghai; maximum speed restored after it was reduced to 300 kmph following the July 2011 disaster that killed 40 people.

China on Thursday restored the maximum speed of bullet trains on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway line to 350 kilometres per hour, making it the fastest commercially run train, six years after it reduced the speed due to a fatal accident.

The speed was reduced to 300 kilometres per hour following the deadly accident in July 2011 that killed 40 people.

A Fuxing bullet train departed from Beijing South Railway Station at 9:00 a.m. for Shanghai. The speed hike will cut the 1,318 km journey to 4 hours 28 minutes, cutting the train time by nearly an hour.

China started to run its first 350-kilometres per hour high speed train between Beijing and Tianjin in August 2008 and opened at least three more such high-speed lines nationwide in the following years.

But it has reduced the speed to 250 kilometres per hour to 300 kilometres per hour after the accident in July 2011. Forty people were killed and over 190 injured when two high-speed trains travelling on the Yongtaiwen railway line collided on a viaduct in the suburbs of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

The Fuxing trains were unveiled in June and are capable of top speeds of 400 kilometres per hour, state-run Xinhua news agency reported earlier.

On July 27, the Fuxing trains were tested for safety and reliability at maximum speed.

Seven trips a day

From September 21, these trains will make seven round trips each day.

The trains are entirely designed and manufactured in China, led by the China Railway Corporation. China holds complete intellectual property rights on the trains.

China has the world’s longest high-speed rail network of over 22,000 kilometers, about 60 per cent of the world’s total, the report said.

About one-third of China’s high-speed railways were designed to allow trains to run at a speed of 350 kilometres per hour, according to He Huawu of the China Academy of Engineering.

China is lobbying with India to build a high-speed train in the New Delhi-Chennai sector for which it is conducting a feasibility study.

Japan grabbed the India’s first contract to build the high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad for which the foundation stone was laid recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

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Rail works stalled over GST to take the fast track in next 6 months

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Works, including track renewal, doubling, construction of bridges and embankments, on the railway network in the State which were hit by railway contractors’ strike against the high Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates will return to the fast track only after six months.

Though the nationwide strike called by the Southern Railway Contractors’ Organisation (SRCO) and Indian Railway Infrastructure Providers Association (IRIPA), a body representing contractors working on infrastructure projects with Indian Railways has been called off, normality will be restored only by December as all ongoing and tendered works were stalled and the labourers went home.

“Though the works resumed in other States from September 2, the Bakrid-Onam season in the State delayed the commencement of works here. Urgent works on railway tracks and trains have commenced. But, normalcy and pace will be restored only in the next three months,” Alex Perumalil, SRCO president, said.

Urgent works

The urgent works on the railway network had been given priority taking into account the safety of the commuters and the trains. The other works like doubling of railway track and track renewal have commenced, Mr. Perumalil said.

The 100-odd railway contractors are up in arms against the increased tax liability on ongoing projects awarded to them before July 1 this year and under various stages of execution. The contractors are demanding more money for the contracts due to increased tax liability following the introduction of GST.

The contractors are demanding that the enhanced liability on account of GST be either borne by Railways or the contracts be closed without financial implications on either side. In Kerala alone, the contractors are executing ₹600-700 crore works awarded to them in Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad divisions before July 1.

The stir was suspended after Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani wrote to the Union Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa seeking concurrence on neutralisation on the impact of GST in the works awarded before July 1. A three-member committee of Executive Directors also favoured neutralisation. Though the contractors have resumed work, they are adopting a cautious approach as the Finance Ministry is yet to take a call.

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PayU partners with IRCTC, lends online payment services to users

NEW DELHI: Payment gateway provider PayU on Monday announced its collaborations with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to provide users a safe and secure option to pay for rail tickets booked via the IRCTC website.

PayU will now be available as a payment option under the Multiple Payment Services or MPS option on the IRCTC website at the payment stage of booking an e-ticket. Clicking on this option will enable users to make a safe and secure transaction via various payment options like internet banking, debit/credit card and e-wallet.

“Our payment gateway operates around 80 percent of the e-commerce business in India today, and this collaboration with IRCTC is aligned with our vision to simplify the payment experience for the growing digital savvy consumers as well as the merchants. Undoubtedly, this is a very large and prestigious mandate for us. IRCTC’s biggest strength, its traffic, combined with the success rate of our payment gateway, which is the best in the industry today, is a great match and has a huge potential to enhance the digital transactions landscape and contribute towards making India a cashless/less cash economy,” said Rahul Kothari, Enterprise Business Head, PayU India.

BHEL eyes rail track electrification orders

BHEL Chairman Atul Sobti writes to Ashwani Lohani, the newly- appointed chairman of the Railway Board entrusting the ‘Maharatna’ with electrifying 1,000km of tracks initially

NEW DELHI: State-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), India’s largest power equipment maker, is eyeing a major role in the Indian Railways’ track electrification programme to tide over the uncertainties of the Indian power sector.

As part of this strategy, BHEL Chairman and Managing Director Atul Sobti has written to Ashwani Lohani, the newly- appointed Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) to entrust the Maharatna with electrifying 1,000km of tracks initially.

This follows BHEL’s strategy to pivot from the power sector to transportation as the national carrier plans to electrify 24,000km of rail tracks. The railways track electrification drive stems from its need to reduce dependence on imported fuel and rationalize the cost of energy.

According to the 1 September communication, Sobti wrote, “I understand that Indian Railways is focusing on adoption of energy efficiency measures to reduce its energy cost and greenhouse gas emission. Towards this, electrification of railway tracks has been accorded top priority with a target to electrify tracks of about 22,000km by 2021, and about 4,000km is being targeted in the current fiscal year itself.”

In January, former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had unveiled a plan to save Rs.41,000 crore over 10 years through an integrated energy management system. It was named Indian Railways’ Mission 41k initiative wherein 24,000km of rail track electrification was planned over the next five years by doubling the annual rate of electrification from 2,000km to 4,000km.

“I am confident that with the active support of Indian Railways, we shall be able to meet the electrification targets as envisaged by you in the action plan,” Sobti went on to add.

This comes in the backdrop of BHEL eyeing a major role in the marque Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail project, popularly called bullet train, ranging from manufacturing coaches and civil construction work to laying down rail links.

During the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week it was announced that a joint venture (JV) between BHEL and Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) will manufacture rolling stock for the bullet train project.

Experts believe that the public sector unit will have to build in-house capabilities.

“BHEL needs to build in-house focused capabilities. While tying up with a technical partner will help them secure government contracts, they will have to compete with focused and efficient businesses,” said Kaustav Mukherjee, senior partner and managing director of consulting firm BCG India.

“I think BHEL’s interest in railway track electrification builds on their growing interest in this sector. However, I must emphasize that they are entering a new area from their core power business,” said Amit Sinha, partner at consulting firm Bain and Co. Sinha, who leads its industrial goods and services practice at Bain, added “BHEL should be aggressive in building or acquiring the capabilities and technology needed to be successful in the new venture.”

BHEL’s reaching out to the national carrier comes at a time when power sector orders have dried up.

Given that India’s current installed capacity and projects under construction are expected to meet the country’s electricity demand till 2026, BHEL is left with little choice.

A BHEL spokesperson in an emailed response said, “Yes, we have written to them. Discussions are yet to be initiated on the subject.”

“We are examining their proposal,” a railway ministry spokesperson added.

BHEL’s order inflow has become a cause for concern despite its order book of Rs1 trillion. New orders for the first quarter this year amounted to Rs.1,800 crore, down 41% on a year-on-year basis. This is putting pressure on BHEL’s manufacturing capacity of 20,000MW per annum with a limited order inflow.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to flag-off Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express from Varanasi

VARANASI: The Indian Railways is starting a new train from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Vadodara in his home state Gujarat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express on Friday, when he visits Varanasi on a two-day tour.

Railways minister Piyush Goyal will be present in Vadodara that day while junior railway minister Manoj Sinha is expected to be present in Surat, senior railway officials said on Tuesday. This is India’s third Mahamana Express.

On its maiden journey, the train will run from Vadodara (Gujarat) to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) after the PM will launch it using a remote control, they said.

The Modi government had unveiled the first rake of the Mahamana Express as part of Railways’ Model Rake Project in 2016.

1. ‘Mahamana Express’ is named after former Hindu Mahasabha president Madan Mohan Malviya, also addressed as ‘Mahamana’.

2. Make in India initiative: The Mahamana Express comes with plush interiors. The coaches for the train had been designed by Vadodara-based firm Hindustan Fibre Glass. The model rakes that have been developed are a “refurbished and re-adapted” version of seven types of coaches which have been in use by Indian Railways for the past 10-12 years.

3. Weekly train: Like the other two sister-trains, Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express is a weekly train that will run from Varanasi every Friday at 6.15am and from Vadodara every Wednesday.

4. Train halt points: Mahamana Express will cover 1,531-km journey between the two cities in 27 hours 30 minutes at an average speed of 55.7 km/hr. It has stops at Bharuch and Surat in Gujarat; Amalner and Bhusawal in Maharashtra; Itarsi, Jabalpur, Katni and Satna in Madhya Pradesh; and Chheoki in Uttar Pradesh.

5. Plush design: Some other special features of the Mahamana Express include modular panels, ergonomically designed ladders for climbing to the upper berths, aesthetically appealing toilet modules with big mirror, platform washbasin, controlled discharged water tap, odour control system, exhaust fan, LED lights and dustbin inside the toilets. The train has LED lighting across the coaches, special berth indicators-cum-night-light in reserved coaches to assist passengers boarding train at night.

6. Train coaches: This train will have 18 coaches – one AC 1st class, two 2nd class AC, eight sleeper, four general, one pantry car and two guard brake vans. There is no AC-3 tier coach in the train.

7. Fire extinguisher: Necessary facilities like fire extinguisher in all coaches, electrically operated chimney in pantry car and stainless steel panelling in luggage compartment have also been provided in the train.

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Alstom delivers first Locomotive bodyshell to India

India gets first high-power electric locomotive for freight trains from France. The Indian Railways inked a contract with the French company to manufacture 800 such train engines over the next 11 years.
Arrival of the shell of 12000 HP loco from Alstom France and its unloading at Haldia.

KOLKATA: The first bodyshell of 12000 HP loco for the fleet of 800 WAG12 twin-section electric locomotives which Alstom is to supply to Indian Railways was unloaded at Haldia in the Port of Kolkata on September 20, ready for delivery to the factory at Madhepura where the fleet will be assembled.

This first-of-its-kind high-power electric locomotive will be used to haul freight trains at twice the existing speed by next year.

In November 2015 the Ministry of Railways selected Alstom for a contract to supply the electric locomotives from a factory to be built by a joint venture of the manufacturer and Indian Railways (26%). Deliveries are scheduled for 2018-28.

This is the first major FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) project in the rail sector.

The contract allows for the first five locomotives to be imported, but the remaining 795 are to be manufactured locally in support of the government’s Make in India campaign.

The first such locomotive, estimated to cost about Rs 30 crore, will be assembled with components brought in from Alstom’s factories in France and will have its trial run by February next year.

The 9 MW locomotives with a maximum speed of 120 km/h will be a development of Alstom’s Prima family that includes locomotives supplied to Kazakhstan, with modifications to suit Indian requirements. They will be equipped with ABB transformers and Knorr-Bremse braking systems.

Indian Railways intends to use the locomotives to haul 6 000 tonne trains at 100 km/h on the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, and on other routes to raise the average speed of heavy freight trains from between 25 and 30 km/h to between 50 and 60 km/h.

The contract allows for the first five locomotives to be imported, but the remaining 795 are to be manufactured locally in support of the government’s Make in India campaign.

The total contract is worth above three billion euro. This project includes the set-up of a plant at Madhepura (Bihar state) and two maintenance depots at Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh state)and Nagpur (Maharashtra state). The delivery of the locomotives will spread between 2018 and 2028.

The locomotive will run at a speed up to 120 km/h.

The Railways is currently using 6,000HP locomotives for freight services. The increase in speed would also result in improving line capacity in the rail network, a railway official said.

As per schedule, 35 locomotives would be rolled out from the factory by 2020, 60 in 2021, followed by 100 every year till the target of 800 is completed.

Separately, GE Transportation has a similar deal to supply diesel locomotives for Indian Railways.

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Railways set to double Lease Tenure for station upgrades

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways is set to more than double the lease tenure under the station redevelopment programme—raising it to 99 years from 45—in an effort to make the scheme more attractive for investors whose response has so far been only lukewarm.

A top Railway Board official told ET that the decision was taken in a recent meeting called by railway minister Piyush Goyal to review measures aimed at securing private investment in the cash-strapped national carrier.

“The long contract period will make it lucrative for private players to invest in small stations as well,” the official said, requesting anonymity. “Investors will also be allowed to commercially utilise space on the platforms.”

The railways is offering up to 400 stations to private entities in, what it has called, the biggest station redevelopment programme in the world. The scheme envisages a minimum investment of Rs 1 lakh crore.

Under the scheme, companies winning the bids will have to modernise the stations and provide world-class passenger amenities, for which they will, in return, get the ancillary land on lease for 99 years. The companies can build malls, hotels and other commercial complexes on the land to recover their investment.

It is also working on a plan to secure the infrastructure project status for station redevelopment, which will enable the developers get easy and economical loans from banks.

The stations will be awarded under the Swiss challenge method, where a proposal is invited online and rivals can offer counter-bids. The method cuts the long-drawn tendering process currently used by the railways.

An expert committee will accept the best proposal and the original proposer will get an opportunity to match it.

A senior railway official said the 99-year lease offer will make it the longest tenure for any public-private partnership project in the country.

“In the rail ministry’s consultations with stakeholders, several big infrastructure companies were willing to invest in stations in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru,” this official said. “However, there were no takers for small stations.”

The railways is also planning to bring in a revenue sharing agreement with the concessionaire, where the latter will have to share some revenue with the railways every year.

Railways to post Station Directors at 75 major Railway Stations

The officers will be chosen from across different operational services of Railways after due screening, scrutiny and integrity.

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways has decided to post station directors at 75 major (A1 category) railway stations. These officials will be young officers from Group A railway services who’ll be posted as station directors immediately after completion of their training.

“Station Directors will ensure that the stations function as Excellence Centers for the customers with the additional objective to ensure vigilant and sensitive customer service and also superior commercial sense,” as senior Railway Board official said.

They will also monitor the safety and repair works on stations and the nearby blocks. All staff at railway station including the station manager and superintendents will report to the director.

“They will also be actively involved in the process of raising revenue from non-fare box like the commercial advertisement at that station,” the official said.

The decision to post young officers as station directors was taken by rail minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday.

The officers will be chosen from across different operational services of Railways after due screening and scrutiny. Also, they would be given Special Orientation Training focussing on coordination and public dealing..

Some of the A1 Category Stations are New Delhi, Dehradun, Howrah, CST Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Mughalsarai, Agra Cantt, New Jalpaiguri, Jodhpur, Kharagpur, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai central, Bangalore City, Hyderabad among others.

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Cabinet clears PLB equivalent to 78 days Wages; move to cost Centre Rs.2,245 Crore

Railways Announces Special Trains, Employee Bonus for Festive Season. Cabinet Approves Rs 2,245 Crore Bonus for Railway Employees to Ensure Safety Records.

NEW DELHI: With the festive season ahead, the Cabinet on Wednesday announced productivity-linked bonus (PLB) equivalent to 78 days’ wages for the Indian Railways’ 12.3 lakh non-gazetted employees. The gesture will cost the transporter Rs 2,245 crore. The Cabinet also approved transfer of three India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) hotels to the respective state governments for a total consideration of about Rs 25 crore. Among other decisions, it approved a revamped Khelo India programme to create an ecosystem for budding sportspersons at a cost of Rs 1,756 crore for three years until 2019-20. To motivate the workers of the railways, the bonus to the transporter’s staff will be released before the Dussehra holiday, beginning later this month. The decision comes at a time when the railways’ finances are in doldrums and it is going through a tough period due to multiple derailments mostly due to human errors. The wage calculation ceiling prescribed for payment of PLB is Rs 7,000 per month. “The maximum amount payable per eligible railway employee is Rs 17,951 for 78 days,” the government said in a statement.

However, the bonus will not be given to the staff of the Railway Protection Special Force and Railway Protection Force. The national transporter employs more than 13 lakh people. After taking over as the railway minister, Piyush Goyal has outlined safety as top-most priority for the railways network. As part of the disinvestment policy, the government has decided to transfer Hotel Jaipur Ashok and Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel in Mysore to the governments of Rajasthan and Karnataka, respectively. It has also decided to disinvest ITDC’s 51% equity in Donyi Polo Ashok, Itanagar, in favour of Arunachal Pradesh, finance minister Arun Jaitley said. The Khelo India initiative, which focussed on infrastructure development till now, will look to ensure all-round growth in its revamped form, sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said. To promote children from schools to Olympics, the government will offer sports scholarships to 1,000 most talented young athletes each year, who would received an annual funding of Rs.5 lakh for eight consecutive years. It will also promote 20 universities and a massive physical fitness drive to cover 20 crore children in the age group of 10-18.

The Cabinet also approved increase of cost norms for supplementary nutrition provided in anganwadis and in the scheme for adolescent girls. The government will invest an additional Rs 12,000 crore for the nutrition of pregnant and lactating women, children in the age group of 0-6 years, and out of school adolescent girls in next three years. The Cabinet also approved rationalisation of 17 government printing presses by merging them into five units for increasing efficiency and quality. Under the approval, 468 acres of land belonging to the units that are to be merged will be handed over to the land & development office of the ministry of urban development.

A1 railway stations to get ‘young’ directors To encourage the youth and bring in fresh ideas, the Indian Railways will appoint young officers as station directors at prominent railway stations. As per a railway statement on Wednesday, they will be chosen from across different operational services after screening and scrutiny, and will be trained through special orientation training to sharpen coordination and public dealing skills. The railway ministry has created the post of station directors at 75 A1 category stations. These directors will be helped by a cross-functional team in order to improve traffic facility and passenger amenities. They will also be actively involved in the process of raising revenue from non fare box.

Piyush Goyal is the 8th Railway Minister in past ten years and the third in a little more than three years of the current government’s regime.

Suffering from poor infrastructure, the railways is currently witnessing derailments on a regular basis, besides a slowdown in loadings and drop in number of passengers making short journeys. However, the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation general secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra said the bonus is expected to motivate employees to improve the financial position of the public transporter.

Whether the productivity linked bonus will improve the Railways’ safety record needs to be seen. Suresh Prabhu had initiated some changes, such as replacing old coaches with newer, safer ones and hiring more trackmen to manually patrol the tracks. However, many maladies, such as trackmen serving as domestic help in the houses of senior Railway officers, still persist.

While, Railway Ministers, in the past, have offered sops to their electorate in the form of new trains, these bonanzas meant that routine maintenance and track renewal – an essential part of safety – was compromised upon. While Prabhu had ordered the replacement of old ICF Coaches with newer LHB Coaches, experts believe it will take anywhere between 25-40 years for them to be totally replaced.

The pace of modernisation and reforms within the railways will be another major challenge. The Bibek Debroy Committee, E Sreedharan Committee, Anil Kakodkar Committee and Sam Pitroda Committee have suggested sweeping changes in the Indian Railways. For the new minister, the speedy implementation of these reforms will be key to really improve safety and reliability of the Indian Railways.

Collision Avoidance System Market Foreseen to Grow exponentially over 2016–2026

Increasing number of severe accidents had elevated the need of a system to avoid collisions. The collision avoidance system is helpful to avoid imminent collisions amongst objects such as automobiles, aircrafts, railways, marine and others. The increasing application of collision avoidance system in construction and mining industries are boosting the global collision avoidance system market.  Based upon its applications there are various collision avoidance system such as airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS), traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), ground proximity warning system (GPWS), obstacle collision avoidance system.

Collision avoidance system works on the principle of avoiding the collision by warning the operator of the threat or by taking an autonomous avoidance movement. The automobile giants such as Fusion, General Motors and Ford Explorer are having a pre-collision system installed in their cars. These pre-collision system uses radar to detect the approaching obstacles and alerts the drivers accordingly, or even the system will brake the vehicle. Currently the global collision avoidance system market is in billions and is anticipated to witness a modest CAGR growth in the forecasted period.

Portable Collision Avoidance System (PCAS),Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS),FLARM, Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS).,Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS),Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS),On the basis of Product Type, the collision avoidance system market can be segmented as follows:

Collision Avoidance System Market: Segmentation. Drivers and Restraints, Region Wise Outlook, Key Players:

The expensive nature of collision avoidance system restricts its usage in the middle level and lower level segment vehicles. In some cases the collision avoidance system only warns the drivers and does not perform any autonomous avoidance movement, and ignorance of drivers might lead to the collision. The above factors can slowdown the global collision avoidance system market.

Automotive industry is having the largest share in the global collision avoidance market and due to the increasing concern of travellers and vehicle safety the global collision avoidance system market is anticipated to boost in the forecasted period. Further, stringent government regulations, and lower insurance premium of vehicles with collision avoidance system is driving the global collision avoidance system market. Increased awareness amongst governments of different regions is leading to the installation of collision avoidance system in railways, aircrafts and submarines, resulting in the growth of global collision avoidance system market.

Increasing number of severe accidents had elevated the need of a system to avoid collisions. The collision avoidance system is helpful to avoid imminent collisions amongst objects such as automobiles, aircrafts, railways, marine and others. The increasing application of collision avoidance system in construction and mining industries are boosting the global collision avoidance system market.  Based upon its applications there are various collision avoidance system such as airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS), traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), ground proximity warning system (GPWS), obstacle collision avoidance system. Collision avoidance system works on the principle of avoiding the collision by warning the operator of the threat or by taking an autonomous avoidance movement. The automobile giants such as Fusion, General Motors and Ford Explorer are having a pre-collision system installed in their cars. These pre-collision system uses radar to detect the approaching obstacles and alerts the drivers accordingly, or even the system will brake the vehicle. Currently the global collision avoidance system market is in billions and is anticipated to witness a modest CAGR growth in the forecasted period.

Synthetic Vision, Obstacle Collision Avoidance System. On the basis of Functionality, the collision avoidance system market can be segmented as follows: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC),Blind Spot Detection (BSD),Forward Collision Warning (FCW),Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS).On the basis of Applications, the collision avoidance system market can be segmented as follows: Automotive, Marine, Aerospace, Railways, Others (Construction and Mining).

The global collision avoidance system market can be divided into seven regions, namely North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan and Middle East and Africa .Europe is the leader in terms of market share in global collision avoidance system market owing to the flourishing automotive sector in this region. Also in this region there are stringent government regulations for installing some basic systems such as tire pressure monitoring system in automotive and ACAS system in aircrafts for seating capacity above a specific number. North America is another significant contributor in global collision avoidance system market due to its increasing construction, railways and mining sectors.

Asia Pacific is anticipated to be a potential market in the global collision avoidance system market in near future. India and China are the countries that would witness a decent growth in the construction and mining, automotive sectors. Latin America and Japan are at a nascent stage in the global collision avoidance system market. Middle East and Africa are anticipated to have a slowdown collision avoidance system market in the forecasted period.

Some of the key players in global collision avoidance system market are as follows: Delphi Automotive LLP,Robert Bosch GmbH, DENSO CORPORATION, Autoliv Inc, Becker Mining Systems AG, Wabtec Corporation, Siemens AG, Rockwell Collins, ALSTOM, GENERAL ELECTRIC,Honeywell International Inc, Saab AB.

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Alstom appoints Julien Naudy as General Director for EKZ JV in Astana

ASTANA: Alstom has appointed Julien Naudy as General Director for EKZ JV, based in Astana, Kazakhstan. Julien was previously Industrial Director at EKZ.

Julien Naudy started with Alstom more than 11 years ago and has an extensive experience across the rail industry and other industry sectors. He first worked as Workshop Manager in Villeurbanne where he was in charge of the traction modules ‘Agate’ assembly during 2 years. Then he moved to La Rochelle and worked in Supply Chain and Industrial departments during 2 years to support the development of the AGV and RGV production lines. Next 2 years he leaded the fitting production line of trams of La Rochelle. Before moving to Kazakhstan, Julien was responsible for the construction of a new plant for tramways based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

Up until now Julien has been Project Operational Manager and Industrial Director for EKZ and has been involved in the general development of EKZ since 2014. Julien has contributed to the implementation and the optimization of assembly locomotives lines and transformers assembly workshop, he has secured the operational customer satisfaction.

“I am incredibly excited to take the lead of EKZ, which addresses huge national needs and contributes to the country’s rail industry revitalization. We are growing fast and planning to expand our activities at EKZ, such as start of the assembling passenger locomotives early 2018 and production of onboard transformers. Additionally EKZ will deliver the first export freight locomotive to Azerbaijan and will increase its localization level. Alstom is a global player and brings its innovative technologies to Kazakhstan to develop railway industry in the region. I am extremely delighted to be leading us into this new period. ” said Julien Naudy, General Director for EKZ JV.

EKZ employs 420 people and is working on supplying and maintaining the Prima electric locomotives ordered by KTZ for 2020. Today, 44 KZ8A freight locomotives and 20 KZ4AT passenger locomotives are already in commercial operation on Kazakhstan’s rail lines. In 2015, Alstom and EKZ were awarded by Azerbaijan Railways a contract to deliver 50 locomotives to Azerbaijan.

“This is a perfect time for Julien Naudy to become General Director of EKZ JV and I am sure that his deep knowledge of railways industry will take Alstom and EKZ to a new level[i].” [/i]said Bernard Peille, Alstom Managing Director for South CIS Cluster.

Alstom is present in Kazakhstan with more than 600 people, two Joint Ventures and two plants, one in Astana for locomotives manufacturing and maintenance; and KazElectroPrivod in Almaty for the production of point machines. Alstom is the only manufacturer of electric locomotives and point machines in the Central Asian and Caucasian region and a major contributor to the revitalisation of its rail industry and the development of its economy.

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SWR’s RPF Team averts Train Mishap while on track-patrol duty, mishap averted

BANGALORE: During track patrol duty to prevent theft of passenger belonging offences on 19.09.2017, Shri R.S. Sundo, constable of Railway Protection Special Force; Shri Chandramani, constable of Railway Protection Special Force and Shri Thirumalesha, Head Constable of Bengaluru Cantonment, noticed Rail fracture near Bengaluru Cantonment Railway Station at about 08:50 hrs. at KM 352/400-500 between Bengaluru Cantonment and KSR Bengaluru.  Immediately, the information was disseminated to all concerned officials for taking necessary action.

Inspector of Railway Protection Force, Bengaluru Cantonment along with Senior Section Engineer, Permanent Way and Station Master of Bengaluru Cantonment rushed to the spot.

In the meantime T.No.56507, Marikuppam-KSR Bengaluru Passenger had arrived at Bengaluru Cantonment station. The train was detained at Bengaluru Cantonment for 36 minutes and departed from the station at 09:26 hours after restoration/clearance from the Engineering Department.

The timely action taken by the RPF patrolling party averted a mishap. A.K.Gupta, General Manager of South Western Railway announced Rs.5000/- cash award to these RPF staff for their commendable work.

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Stop Train Mishap, get out-of-turn Promotion: Piyush Goyal to Railway Staff

Terming the recent train accidents as ‘unfortunate’, Goyal called upon the railway staff to work diligently

BANGALORE: In the wake of a series of recent train accidents in the country, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has suggested out-of-turn promotions for those railway employees who take timely action to avert mishaps.

Speaking at a review meeting with senior officials of the South Western Railway, he asserted that such schemes will boost the morale of the staff.

Terming the recent train accidents as “unfortunate”, Goyal called upon the railway staff to work diligently for ensuring complete safety in running trains, a release by the South Western Railway said.

“The minister suggested various schemes such as granting out-of-turn promotion for the staff who take timely action to avert accidents. He said such schemes will go a longway in boosting the morale of the staff,” it said.

The Railway Minister emphasised that safety shall be given top most priority and track renewal works be taken up expeditiously.

He also asked the Railways to develop an action plan for eliminating unmanned level crossing gates in a year’s time, instead of 2019-20 as planned earlier.

Railways to introduce new, faster Rajdhani train on Mumbai-Delhi route

MUMBAI: The railways is planning to introduce a brand new and faster Rajdhani Express on the Mumbai-Delhi line, the third Rajdhani train on the route, in the next few months, senior officials said.

The new train, likely to be launched by the Diwali this year, will cover the distance between Bandra (in Mumbai) to Nizamuddin station (in Delhi) in 13 hours, officials said.

Presently, the route is served by two Rajdhani Express trains — the August Kranti Rajdhani and the Mumbai Central-New Delhi Rajdhani.

Both of them take more than 15 hours to cover the distance between the national capital and the financial capital of the country.

While the August Kranti Rajdhani takes around 17 hours 05 minutes to travel a distance of 1,377 km at an average speed of 80 kmph, the Mumbai Central-New Delhi (or just Mumbai Rajdhani, as it is often called) train takes around 15 hours 35 minutes, at an average speed of 89 kmph, to travel 1386 km.

Neither of the two halts at Bandra.

“The trial run (for the new train) will start in a couple of days. We are using the existing 24-coach Mumbai Rajdhani with two engines to see if we can make the journey shorter by a few hours. We are using Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches,” said a senior official.

Alternatively, sources indicate, the railways could introduce the new Rajdhani with 14 coaches and one engine to ramp up the speed, and then determine which of the two is the better option.

LHB coaches are of a superior design that reduces the chance of derailment and mitigates the possibility of grievous injury or death in case of accidents. These coaches have anti-climbing features and provision of superior braking.

The Mumbai Rajdhani as of now has a sanctioned speed of 130 kmph. However, because of the numerous curves and speed restrictions on the route, its average speed comes down to about 89 kmph.

The railways is hoping to increase it to 90-95 kmph, sources said.

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Piyush Goyal bats for switching over to Electric Vehicles

MUMBAI: The Union Minister of Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal, has said that India would have to ‘leapfrog into electric vehicle age.’

Speaking at the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IAAC) Annual Convention in Mumbai, the minister said that “it (electric vehicles) is something that’s in the interest of the people of India,” further asking “till when we are going to have our personal interest or corporate interest over country’s interest.”

Goyal’s comments come days after the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, said that the carmakers producing vehicles that run on traditional fuel, need to go for an alternative source of energy.

Goyal, terming the switch over to electric vehicles as a ‘game changer’, urged, “We don’t have to continue to be indifferent and after 30 years, when the world has already become efficient, then India wakes up and starts planning for efficiency.”

The government aims to have an all-EV (Electric Vehicles) fleet on Indian roads by 2030 and has thereby, recently announced that the cabinet note on the EVs is ready.

Even as the car ownership across the country is set to grow, the vehicular pollution is on the rise in several Indian cities.

Besides pollution, cars running on traditional petrol and diesel cause huge dent into India’s oil import bill, which was pegged at Rs. 4.7 lakh crore in 2016-17, that’s the 3 per cent of the GDP.

The EVs, besides checking pollution, are expected to ease off the burden of oil import.

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Maintain all Assets in Perfect Condition to ensure Safety: GM,SCR

SECUNDERABAD: Vinod Kumar Yadav, General Manager, South Central Railway stressed upon according top priority to ensure safety by perfect maintenance of the assets and plan in advance to make them fit to ensure safety. He conducted detailed review meeting on Safety and Punctuality today i.e., 15th September, 2017 at Rail Nilayam, Secunderabad along with Principal Heads of Departments. The Senior Divisional Operations Managers (Sr.DOMs) of all six Divisions i.e., Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Guntakal, Guntur and Nanded attended the meeting.

Vinod Kumar Yadav, held a review of all the safety aspects on the zone including the bottle necks in train operations. He advised the officials to meticulously plan the track maintenance works coordinating with other departments over the zone.  Vinod Kumar Yadav instructed the officials to sensitize the safety staff on regular basis by conducting the safety seminars, habit of reading safety literature on regular basis etc. He advised the staff to follow speed restrictions and called for immediate remedial measures to arrest any such failures. Vinod Kumar Yadav reviewed the Monsoon readiness drill including patrolling, monitoring of water levels of tanks etc., and instructed them to concentrate on vulnerable locations. Speaking on the Punctuality Vinod Kumar Yadav stated that the punctuality also should be accorded priority.

Speaking on the staff welfare measures, Vinod Kumar Yadav advised the officials to change organization working culture to create tension free atmosphere, so that the staff can work in quite atmosphere to increase the output and perfection.

K.V.Siva Prasad, Principal Chief Engineer; N. Madhusudana Rao, Chief Operations Manager; Arjun Mundiya, Chief Mechanical Engineer; V.M.Srivastava, Chief Signal & Telecommunications Engineer; A.A.Phadke, Chief Electrical Engineerwere amongst the officials present.

Railways to run 4,000 Special Trains this Festive Season: Manoj Sinha

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways would run 4,000 special trains for the upcoming festival season, minister of state, railways, Manoj Sinha said here on Tuesday.

“In the next 40 days, we will celebrate the Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali and Chhath. So, we are introducing additional trains to facilitate holiday travelling between October 15 and October 30,” he said.

Last year, the railways had run 3,800 special trains during the festival season.

Sinha said the ministry was also considering cancelling the leave of all the staff to deal with the holiday rush.

“The railways will run special trains from different places to popular destinations and also add additional coaches to the existing trains. For Chhath, special services will be introduced from Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad to eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” he added.

The railways said some of the special trains would be run from the sub-stations in big cities.

For example, it said, some of the trains from Delhi to the eastern states would originate from Anand Vihar.

Sinha said the ministry had planned a range of facilities for the passengers during the festive season such as pandals at major stations, clean toilets etc.

He added that it had also been decided to stop selling platform tickets in case there was a massive rush.

Additional reservation windows would also be opened, the MoS said.

“Extra security teams will be deployed at the stations to keep a check on the illegal agents and vendors,” he added.

Last year, the railways had registered 1,654 cases during the festive season and taken disciplinary action against 693 of its staffers.

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CRS submits Preliminary Report on Derailment Accident of Train No.18477 Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express

NEW DELHI: Shailesh Kumar Pathak, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Northern Circle, held a statutory inquiry into the accident of Derailment of train no.18477 Puri- Haridwar Utkal Express at km.101/3-4 between Khatauli-Mansurpur stations of Delhi Saharanpur section, Broad Guage, Single Line, Electrified section of Delhi Division of Northern Railway on 19.08.2017. As a result of the accident, 22 persons were killed, 40 persons were grievously injured and 66 persons sustained simple injuries.

According to provisional findings of the Commissioner appended with his preliminary report, the accident occurred due to “Failure of Railway Staff”.

These findings are under the consideration of the Government. This press release is based on the information made available by the Office of Commission of Railway Safety, Northern Circle, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India.

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Railways to Stop pasting Reservation Charts on Coaches

Indian Railways will put an end to pasting reservation charts on reserved coaches of all trains originating from selected stations, on an experimental basis for a duration of three months.

NEW DELHI: Remember rushing to reserved coaches on platforms to check if the lengthy lists on the outside of the bogie bore your berth details on a long distance journey?

But you have to that on a few selected routes, at least for the next three months!

Before you ask us why, let us put it out there – This is the Indian Railway Ministry’s bid to save paper!

The Railways will put an end to pasting reservation charts on reserved coaches of all trains originating from selected stations, on an experimental basis for a duration of three months.

The selected stations include New Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Mumbai Central, Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Chennai Central, Howrah, and Sealdah.

The Ministry issued a circular to Railway Zones to spread the word and necessary instructions to everyone concerned.

Only after strict monitoring and honest feedback for two months, will the Ministry make the final decision on scaling up the move.

The inspiration behind the move is the green initiative by South Western Railways’ Bengaluru Division (SBC). Starting November 8, 2016, SBC discontinued pasting charts on reserved coaches of all trains from Bengaluru City and Yeshwantpur Railway Stations. The move helped save over Rs 60 lakh spent on paper.

The decision was based not only due to availability of other options to confirm berth details, but also save substantial money to the national exchequer, reported the Railways spokesperson.

Tejas loses its shine for passengers, demand dips

In the routing checking of the seat availability for the coming days, it was found there are at least 675-700 available seats in AC coaches and 30-35 in the executive AC coach, right till December.

In May, the Central Railway authorities were excited about launching the premier Mumbai-Goa Tejas Express in the hope that it would be their gravy train, but the country’s first semi-high speed train seems to have quickly run out of steam. It has been running empty for days now, at what should be a peak time, and hasn’t seen many reservations even for the year-end months.

Almost 90 per cent of seats in the 13-coach train, which has two power cars and an engine, were vacant for its past many runs, CR sources said. “During monsoons, trains are less crowded. But it is surprising that even in the months of October to December, full of festivals, the train hasn’t seen many bookings,” said a CR official on condition of anonymity. Besides, now is the time when Konkan region is said to be scenic and receive visitors, he said.

When randomly checked seat availability for the coming days, we found there are at least 675-700 available seats in AC coaches and 30-35 in the executive AC coach, right till December. An executive-class coach in Tejas has 42 seats while each AC coach has 65 seats.

CR officials, concerned about the drop in demand, complained that when quality services are provided at a slightly steeper cost, people shun them. “It feels futile to improve the condition of services, accessories and food quality inside premier trains,” an official said.

In the month that Tejas Express was flagged off by former railway minister Suresh Prabhu, the train was running to capacity each way. But then, in June, demand from Mumbaikars heading for Goa dropped to 67 per cent, and further to 23 per cent in July, before picking up, at about 55 per cent, in August.

Railway officials claim that demand during monsoon is normally low, be it railways or airways, but in this case, even the festive months of November and December haven’t seen holiday-goers line up for bookings.

Built in the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, the train is capable of running at 200 kmph, but usually runs at 160-180 kmph due to track constraints.

CSMT-Karmali Tejas Express: Reservations

May 24-31: 100 per cent
June: 66.57 per cent
July: 23.15 per cent
August: 55.08 per cent

Karmali-CSMT

May: 100 per cent
June: 69.47 per cent
July: 24.74 per cent
Aug: 33.9 per cent

Features :

– Touchless water taps, soap dispenser, marble finish anti-graffiti coat, hand dryers
– Vinyl-wrapped exteriors, secured gangways to reduce sound levels, dirt, water ingress
– Electro-pneumatic air brakes, fire and smoke suppression system
– CCTV cameras, GPS based public address system
– Call bell integrated with berth reading light, digital destination boards
– TV with touch control
– Local cuisine and celebrity-chef menu

Rationalising Train Schedules may be the Best Choice for Railways under the current constraints to ensure Safety

Within three days of taking over as the new railway minister, Piyush Goyal had to grapple with three derailments, that too in a span of 12 hours. Frequent rail accidents and causalities have eroded the public perception of train travel being safe, and unlike his predecessor Suresh Prabhu, Goel has about one and half years to achieve whatever is expected of him. Given the run-up to general elections 2019, the expectation from the railway minister is to make train travel safe, no more and no less.

This is not to say that Goel should abandon the visionary transformation initiatives of Prabhu, such as the establishment of non-fare box directorate, mobility directorate, world class station development through public private partnership, establishment of Rail Transport University, halting the production of ICF coaches once for all, retrofitting the existing ICF coaches with the safety features of LHB coaches to reduce fatalities during accidents, Mission Raftar for Delhi–Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes, Talgo trains, to name a few. He should take these initiatives forward to its logical conclusion.

But it would take more time to fructify and outcomes could be seen only during 2019-24 or beyond, So, the immediate task before Goel is to bring back public confidence in safe train travel. But is he going to ensure that?

A daunting task

The Modi government in 2014 inherited a dilapidated railway infrastructure from the previous governments and it would take even two decades to fix it completely. But, after being in power for three years, blaming the previous regimes for the sorry state affairs of Indian Railways (IR) cannot hold water with the electorate. In fact, what causes accidents and how they should be reduced have been elaborated in various reports, papers and articles. From this, one can conclude that there are at least two dimensions to accidents and fatalities. The first dimension is to avoid accidents altogether.

In the discussion note on Fund Deployment Framework for Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK), it was estimated that IR requires ₹1.54 lakh crore to carry out inter-departmental safety works, whereas RRSK funding provides ₹20,000 crore per year, which includes the budgetary support of ₹5,000 crore. At this rate, IR would take at least eight years to complete the inter-departmental safety works. Even if the entire ₹1.54 lakh crore is made available, the safety works cannot be completed in a year.

Reducing pain

The second dimension to safety is to reduce the casualties and injuries, once the accident has occurred. In November 2016, IR decided to stop manufacturing ICF coaches, which tends to raise casualities and injuries, by 2017.

However, the issue is much larger. About 50,000 passenger coaches of IR are ICF coaches, which constituted more than 95 per cent of the total coaches in IR. The Railways also made plans to retrofit all the ICF coaches with the safety provisions of LHB coaches.

However, the retrofitting would take years. Safe train travel and reduced casualties cannot wait till both these safety concerns are addressed by IR.

The maximum number of trains that can be run in a section depends on line capacity, the efficiency of signalling system, the speed of trains in that block.

However, about 65 per cent of the total railway network has been accommodating trains beyond their capacity. As a result, the maintenance staff does not get even two to three hours of uninterrupted window every day to carry out the maintenance work.

As a stop-gap arrangement, the NITI Aayog asked the Railways to redesign the time table in a manner that at least two to three hours of uninterrupted time is available for the maintenance staff to carry out safety checks for every block.

This includes combining few trains, increasing coaches or wagons and rationalising stops across all trains. However, a deeper understanding of how rail infrastructure is utilised by passenger and freight trains and how patronage for diverse types of passenger trains has been changing over the years would help here. It would throw light on how to rationalise the train time table.

Passenger trains (both ordinary trains and non-ordinary trains) and freight trains load rail infrastructure to the extent of about 67 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. IR ply about 2,800 non-ordinary trains (Express/Mail) with an average speed of about 56 kmph, which includes premium trains such as Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

Most of the Mail/Express trains include overnight travel as they are meant for medium to long distance travel. In addition, IR ply about 2500 ordinary trains, which are essentially day trains of short to medium distance with an average speed of about 35 kmph.

An ordinary problem

The analysis of rail travel data shows that share of ordinary trains in passenger transport measured in Passenger Kilometer (PKM) decreased from 37.50 per cent in 2005-06 to 26.20 per cent in 2015-16. The North Central Railway and East Central Railway covering UP and Bihar witnessed a decline of 22.5 per cent and 18.5 per cent respectively in ordinary train travel between 2012-13 and 2015-16.

Given their average slow speed due to so many stoppages, ordinary trains load the rail network more than the passenger transport they carry.

The railway lines connecting Delhi and Howrah passing through the states of UP and Bihar are the most congested sections of IR. A substantial reduction in number of ordinary trains either by reducing the frequency or phasing out ordinary trains in this route would ease congestion. This would give an uninterrupted window between dawn to dusk for the maintenance staff. The same logic should be applied to other congested routes of IR in other zones.

The new railway minister does not have too many options to improve the safety of rail travel, given the time and fund constraints. Rationalising the schedule of ordinary trains on war footing may be the best choice for Goel under the current constraints to ensure safe train travel.

Indian Railways to get Rs.6,000 crore loan from Japan for 200 Electric Locomotives for Freight Corridor

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) says it will extend a Rs.6,000 crore loan to India for procuring 200 electric locomotives for Western Dedicated Freight Corridor.

NEW DELHI: Japanese government’s official lending arm Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on Friday said it will extend a Rs6,000 crore loan to India for procuring 200 electric locomotives for Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC).

“Japan International Cooperation Agency signed an agreement with the government of India to provide official development assistance (ODA) loan of 108,456 million Japanese yen (approximately Rs6,000 crores) for procurement of 200 electric locomotives for the WDFC Project,” JICA said in a statement.

“The ODA loan’s conditions are very concessional, i.e. JPY LIBOR + 10 basis points interest rate (Japanese yen London inter-bank offered rate + 0.1%) for project activities and 30 years of repayment period (including 10 years of grace period),” according to the statement.

JICA is currently supporting the construction of civil and track works, electrification, including signalling and telecommunication system for WDFC between Delhi and Mumbai.

JICA-assisted WDFC project aims to cope with the increase of freight transport demand in India, thereby promoting comprehensive regional economic development along the freight corridor, JICA said. Inter-modal logistic handling systems are expected to improve and modernise through WDFC.

The new locomotives together with the dedicated railways, will enhance current freight capacity, catering increase in container traffic between the international container ports on the western coast and inland demand areas, it said.

The loan will also support the construction of a depot at Rewari, Haryana, for maintenance of the locomotives. The supplier of the locomotives is also expected to provide transfer of technology for indigenisation.

The ODA loan agreement was signed between Takema Sakamoto, chief representative, JICA India office and S Selvakumar, joint secretary, department of economic affairs, ministry of finance.

Speaking on the occasion, Sakamoto said, “JICA is fully committed towards the construction and completion of this initial logistical infrastructure of the DMIC (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor). The DFC project will enhance freight capacity, making it a revolution for the industrial corridor”.

“JICA will continue to play an important role in the development of WDFC and will provide necessary assistance in the near future as well,” he added.

The ministry of railways would be responsible for procurement and maintenance of these electric locomotives, while Dedicated Freight Corridor Corp. of India Ltd (DFCCIL) would be responsible for operating them, the statement said.

JICA has so far extended concessional ODA loans of ¥443 billion (approximately Rs26,000 crore) for development of the western DFC project in India.

The project will focus on constructing about 1,500 kms track of the western corridor between Delhi and Mumbai, connecting major cities in the Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana, as well as introducing new electric locomotives capable of high-speed, high-capacity transportation.

Indian Railways to start its biggest Track Renewal Exercise

AHMEDABAD: Indian Railways will undertake its largest track renewal exercise in the next three months to reduce train derailments. New railway minister Piyush Goyal has asked the Railway Board to identify stretches where tracks have either completed their lifespan or carry heavy traffic and change them all within the stipulated timeline.

The national transporter is expected to renew almost 2,000 km of track by the end of this calendar year, officials said. Goyal has instructed the board to use the available rails for renewals. However, the target for the current financial year for laying of new rails will remain the same and the railways will place fresh orders for tracks. “The minister is of the view that we should get safety in place first and then focus on laying fresh routes or doubling and tripling of lines.

The track renewals would have to be completed by December,” a top rail official said. “However, it doesn’t mean that we won’t meet the target of laying 3,000 km of new track routes. That would be completed as well. This would be a challenge for the zonal railways — to complete both things in record time.”

Goyal has also told the board that he’s not looking at raising passenger fares or levying any kind of safety cess on rail tickets to raise more resources for maintenance, the officials said. Instead, the focus is on weeding out inefficiency and raising revenue through non-fare avenues.

The minister has also instructed the timely completion of the 3,300 km long dedicated freight corridors by 2019. The corridors will reduce traffic on the existing rail network, giving the railways more resources for better maintenance of rail routes.

India has been hit by several rail accidents in the past few months. At least 200 people have died in 340 small and big accident since 2014.

Eye on Electrification, Indian Railways looks at winding up Bihar diesel project

The Railway Board is also working on a plan to immediately halt the rehabilitation of diesel locomotives, and ensure that no new investments are made on infrastructure to maintain stocks.

NEW DELHI: Given that electrification is the roadmap for the future, the Railways is considering the possibility of exiting or winding up the Marhowra diesel locomotive factory being set up in Bihar’s Saran in partnership with General Electric, two years after the project was awarded.

This possibility was discussed during a review meeting of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal with members of the Railway Board on September 7, according to internal communications issued a day later.

The reason for the proposed move is that diesel will no longer be used by the Railways, which is expeditiously implementing the near-total electrification of its network with the aim of moving to a cheaper and cleaner source of energy.

Following the discussions, the Railway Board is required to move the matter on files “on top priority”, according to the communications. However, any move to exit or wind up the project would require a formal mandate from the Union Cabinet

When contacted, Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Railway Board, told “All aspects of the matter are being examined right now. It is too early to comment on the modalities.”

When asked to comment on the proposal to exit the project, a GE spokesperson responded with an emailed statement on behalf of the company. “We are on track and actively fulfilling our contract with Indian Railways to develop and supply 1,000 fuel-efficient diesel-electric Evolution Series locomotives, bringing modern rail infrastructure and new high-skills jobs to the country. Two locomotives have been built and tested. The first locomotive has been shipped and will arrive in India on October 10 for IREE (International Railway Equipment Exhibition),” it said.

“The construction of our Brilliant Factory in Marhaura, Bihar and maintenance shed in Roza, UP are well underway and expected to be completed on time. The project creates a robust supply chain ecosystem in India, constituting 60 new local suppliers and 10 global suppliers to achieve over 70% localisation. Roughly 1,000 direct and indirect roles have been hired to support these efforts in the region,” it said.

Railways officials said that all pros and cons will be taken into consideration, keeping in mind the interests of all stakeholders, before a final decision is taken.

The Railway Board is also working on a plan to immediately halt the rehabilitation of diesel locomotives, and ensure that no new investments are made on infrastructure to maintain stocks.
The decision to go for all-electric traction was taken during the tenure of Goyal’s predecessor Suresh Prabhu last year, and formalised earlier this year, sources said. Goyal took charge of the ministry following the Cabinet reshuffle early this month.

The Railways had awarded contracts for the Madhepura electric and Marhowra diesel locomotive factories in Bihar to Alstom and GE, respectively, in 2015, in a function attended by a number of Union ministers, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who described the twin projects as a “win-win situation” for all stakeholders.

The Marhowra and Madhepura projects were billed as the biggest FDI in the rail sector, together representing around Rs 40,000 crore of investment, according to statements issued by the government.

For both factories, the Railways has committed an assured offtake — in other words, a commitment that it would consume the supplies. But the latest line of thinking within the ministry is that there will be no need for new high-horsepower diesel locomotives, and that the current stock would hold good for the next two to three decades.

Officials said that work on the Marhowra project is proceeding on schedule. According to the timeline, the construction of the main shed was to be completed this year, they said.

“Over 67 acres of land were given by Railways to the project. Work is on in full swing. The contract has a complicated exit clause whose financial implication will now be worked out,” said an official.

The twin projects were former railway minister Lalu Prasad’s “gift” to Bihar, and announced in his Rail Budget speech a decade ago. The latest move may turn out to be a contentious one because the BJP is now part of the JD(U)-led government in Bihar, and the Opposition, led by RJD, can be expected to protest the loss of an industrial project of this size.

“These factories would have led to the substantial development of ancillary manufacturing units, generation of direct and indirect employment, and substantial development in the region,” said an official, referring to an official briefing on the project two years ago.

The previous UPA government had put both projects in cold storage because the assured offtake model was deemed controversial, and linked to possible loss to the exchequer.

The Marhowra project was expected to manufacture and supply modern diesel electric locomotives of 4,500 HP and 6,000 HP — in combination, they could operate as 9,000 HP and 12,000 HP multiple units. Madhepura, on the other hand, would manufacture and supply modern electric locomotives of 12,000 HP.

Under the agreements, 1,000 diesel locomotives were to be manufactured over 11 years at a basic cost of Rs 14,656 crore, and 800 electric units over the same period at a basic cost of Rs 19,904 crore.

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Railways cuts down sleeping hours for passengers by an hour

NEW DELHI: The Railways is trying to put an end to those tiresome quarrels that break out due to oversleeping passengers on the middle and lower berths by reducing official sleeping hours.

According to a circular issued by the railway board, the passengers in the reserved coaches can only sleep between 10 pm and 6 am to allow others to sit on the seats for the rest of the time.

Until the circular was issued, the existing permissible time for sleeping was between 9 pm and 6 am.

“Sleeping accommodation between 2200 hours and 0600 hours and sitting accommodation for the rest of the period is provided for the passengers in the reserved coaches having sleeping accommodation,” said the circular, dated August 31.

The circular, however, makes an exception for certain passengers.

“Passengers are, however, requested to cooperate with the sick, persons with disability, and pregnant ladies in case they want to sleep beyond permissible limits,” it says.

The new provision replaces paragraph 652 in the Indian Railways Commercial Manual, Volume I, which provides for sleeping accommodation between 9 pm and 6 am.

“We had received feedback from officials regarding issues between passengers over sleeping arrangements. We already have a rule in place. However, we wanted to clarify it and ensure it is followed,” said ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena.

This provision is applicable to all reserved coaches with sleeping accommodation, he said.

Another railway official said the sleeping time was reduced by an hour because there were times when passengers went to sleep as soon as they boarded the train — day or night — leaving the co-travellers on the upper and middle berths high and dry.

Conversely, officials said problems also arise when passengers on the middle berths refuse to get up so that those on the lower berths could sit comfortably.

“It is a regular bone of contention among passengers. Once, there was a passenger on the lower berth who slept all through the journey from Kolkata to Delhi, while the man on the upper berth had to remain there and others on the middle berth sat perched in one corner of the lower berth through the trip.

“All through the journey, they kept taking digs at the sleeping man and even poking him. This happens all the time on trains,” said Sachin Singh, a businessman, who travels frequently between Delhi and Kolkata for meetings.

Officials said that the problem is more acute for side berths. The circular has clarified that a person booked on side upper berth will not have any claim of seat on the lower berth between 10 pm and 6 am.

Ministry officials said the new directive will help Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) to resolve such disputes on board by preventing anyone from taking catnaps beyond the permissible time.

SCR plan to eliminate all Unmanned Level Crossings within One Year: says GM/SCR

SECUNDERABAD: Vinod Kumar Yadav, General Manager, South Central Railway instructed the officials to eliminate all Un Manned Level Crossing (UMLCs) Gates by next year. He conducted a detailed review meeting on Safety and Punctuality today i.e., 18th September, 2017 at Rail Nilayam, Secunderabad along with Principal Heads of Departments. The Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) of all six Divisions i.e., Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Guntakal, Guntur and Nanded participated through video conference.

Vinod Kumar Yadav informed that the Hon’ble Minister of Railways complimented the Zone regarding eliminations of level crossings which is increasing the responsibility of the Zone. The General Manager instructed that Employee Charter should be implemented properly in all Divisions and genuine grievances by the employees should be sorted out immediately. Speaking on the welfare activities of the women employees the General Manager instructed the DRMs to give priority on their grievances. He also instructed the officials to make an action plan to provide all stations and offices with LED lighting by the end of this financial year.

The General Manager speaking on the safety, instructed the officials to intensify field level checks, track maintenance works and address the problems on top priority. He reviewed the all unsafe working activities on the Zone and advised the officials to take preventive measures to arrest any such incidents. Vinod Kumar Yadav reviewed the Monsoon readiness drill including patrolling, monitoring of water levels of tanks etc., and instructed them to concentrate on vulnerable locations.

John Thomas, Additional General Manager; K.V.Siva Prasad, Principal Chief Engineer; N. Madhusudhana Rao, Principal Chief Operations Manager; Arjun Mundiya, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer; Smt. Padmini Radhakrishnan,  Principal Financial Advisor; M.G.Sekharam, Principal Chief Commercial Manager; Vinay Mohan Shrivastava, Principal Chief Signal & Telecommunications Engineer; Vijay Agrawal, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction); D.K.Singh, Chief Safety Officer; P.K.Sangewar, Principal Chief Material Manager; N.V. Ramana Reddy, Principal Chief Personnel Officer; Dr. K.H.K.Dora, Principal Chief Medical Director were also present during the meeting.

Saudi Arabia to Seek Bidders for 1,000-Mile Red Sea-Gulf Railway

New Saudi Railway Expected To Reduce Dependence On Crude Oil

Saudi Arabia plans to seek bidders for the construction of a 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) railroad linking the Red Sea with the Persian Gulf as early as the end of this year, signaling the go ahead for a long-delayed project seen as vital to reducing the economy’s dependence on oil.

Saudi Arabia has been planning the 1,000-mile Red Sea-Persian Gulf link—Land Bridge—since 2008, but tabled it after Saudi Arabia and private companies failed to initially agree on the financial terms of a deal.

The Saudis are now “moving ahead to implement the project” after Saudi Railway saw an encouraging response from the private sector to an invitation for expressions of interest, Al Malik told

The so-called Land Bridge line will shave around three days off the current five-day journey time for shipping seaborne freight around the Saudi coast, while improving links to Riyadh, and Jeddah, the nation’s two biggest cities.

Contract tenders will be issued at the end of 2017 or early in 2018 following an encouraging response to an invitation for expressions of interest, Saudi Railway Co. Chief Executive Officer Bashar Al Malik said in an interview.

Saudi Arabia first awarded contracts for a privately funded coast-to-coast line in 2008 in an effort to accelerate the transit of goods around a country a fifth the size of the U.S., but put the project on hold after financial terms couldn’t be agreed. It’s now “moving ahead to implement the project” after an encouraging response from the private sector, Al Malik said.

The cost of the Land Bridge line will depend on the exact route chosen and the location of the Red Sea terminus, with bidding for contracts likely to include local and international engineering companies and financial institutions, according to Al Malik, who has been CEO of Saudi Railway since March.

Heavy transport of minerals, oil, and petrochemicals is the largest source of income among Saudi Railway’s service lines, according to the company website. SAR expects to boost in the future its minerals and oils freight services to cover minerals, petroleum products, and petrochemicals via agreements signed with companies such as Aramco, SABIC, and Sadara

Diversification Drive

Saudi Arabia allocated 52 billion riyals ($14 billion) to infrastructure and transportation this year, up from 38 billion riyals in 2016, according to the Ministry of Finance’s 2017 budget report. The investment is aimed at advancing moves to wean the Arab world’s biggest economy off oil as part of the Vision 2030 plan led by the heir to the Saudi throne, Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Railway is separately targeting increased freight shipments on the country’s Northern Line, including minerals transported for Saudi Arabian Mining Co., also known as Maaden. Phosphate volumes should rise to 5 million tons this year from 4.4 million in 2016, while bauxite carriage may improve to 4 million tons from 3.3 million, Al Malik said.

The railway company is evaluating its ability to boost capacity as Maaden and its partners Mosaic Co. and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. expand production at Waad al-Shamal in the far north of the country, he said.

Saudi Railway is also looking at expanding rail links to better serve energy giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco. which has bulk plants in Tabuk, Turaif and the Al Jouf region close to the Jordanian border for the distribution of gasoline, diesel fuel and other liquid products.

Other opportunities for increased freight haulage center on agricultural production in the Busaita area of Al Jouf which hasn’t yet utilized rail infrastructure, Al Malik said. The zone has some of Saudi Arabia’s largest farms, including Al Jouf Agricultural Development Co.’s 60,000 hectares of wheat, barley, maize and other crops.

 

India’s High-speed Rail project to bring a sea change in the Speed and Safety of Rail Travel

On 14 September, the foundation stone was laid for the first high-speed rail (HSR) project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The project is big in terms of size and scale with an estimated cost of $17-18 b, out of which 81 per cent is funded by Japan through a soft loan. It involves the creation of 508 kms of standard gauge rail line, with an elevated corridor of 405 kms, 21 kms of an undersea line and around 5 kms of mountain tunnels.

It is an engineering behemoth that could catalyse the Indian engineering skills. Indian industry hopes this project would open new opportunities for its own development and offer new business in such areas as construction, supply and manufacture of parts, materials and so on. The Railways and Indian companies engaged in the railways, logistics and communication fields have acquired new capabilities. There is now evidence of their ability to partner Japanese hi-tech companies in the MAHSR project. It would be pertinent that Japanese industry explore collaboration possibilities early on so that the criticism against the project does not snowball.

This is in continuation of the financial support pledged by Japan on 12 December 2015, committing about 85% of the total cost of the project as loan with an interest rate of 0.1% and a moratorium of 15 years and repayment period of 50 years. In this backdrop, the question of the tax payers’ money wasted for the bullet train project does not hold water.

Given the track record of accidents in Indian Railways (IR), a pertinent question is whether IR will be able to operate HSR at a maximum speed of 320 kilometres per hour (kmph) without accidents, whereas our conventional trains operate at a maximum speed of 160 kmph or less. First, the guided transportation systems such as air and rail are generally safer than the unguided transportation system like road. A guided transport system is assigned a clear right of way, unlike the unguided transportation system, and thereby provide safer transport. The guided transport system is steered and controlled by very few who are well-trained in operating these modes and when they make mistakes do accidents usually occur. That is why in India and all over the world, air and rail have remained safer transport modes compared to road.

The important question then is if rail is a guided transport system, why are accidents happening regularly. Although rail carries about 10% of the passenger traffic against about 88% by road and 35% of freight traffic against about 65% by road, even after taking these frequent rail accidents into consideration, the number of accidents by rail is relatively low compared to road. However, it was reported that between 2011-12 and 2016-17, 50% of the accidents occurred due to derailments and 40% occurred due to collisions at level crossings and 10% due to other reasons. It is now well established that the conventional rail system suffers from overloading of tracks and the maintenance staff do not even get 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time for the upkeep of rail infrastructure. The non-availability of time to maintain tracks has been resulting in derailments in IR. In the case of HSR, the trains normally run between 06.00 hours and 23.30 hours and the time window between 00.00 hours and 05.00 hours is exclusively allotted to maintenance work. With no seclusion for railway lines and thousands of manned and unmanned level crossings at road junctions, the right of way of conventional rail network is very much restricted in practice. The HSR between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is to be constructed on an elevated corridor for the most part and underground in some urban areas. So, the right of way for HSR will be absolute and leave no scope for collision with any other transport mode; hence HSR will be much safer.

IR inherited the archaic railway system of the 19th century. Its efforts in the upgrade of conventional rail have just been incremental as all the changes had to be carried out in the rail system which is under operations. Although IR has improved its signalling system enormously, it still uses a spatial signalling system, whereas developed countries have adopted in-cab signalling and automatic train stop systems. The spatial signalling system is prone to human error and reduces the throughput of the rail network as only one train in one direction can run in a block (of, say, 15km). The in-cab signalling and automatic train stop systems which are employed in HSR are relatively insulated from human errors. Further trains can also run even with a headway of 3-4 minutes with no scope for collision. As a result, HSR provides at least five times the running capacity as that of conventional rail. HSR is a two-line system (one for each direction) with no crossings or minimal crossings between the lines. Hence the question of collision of trains coming in the opposite directions also does not arise in HSR.

When most of the developed countries moved towards train sets, due to legacy issues, IR has been manufacturing ICF (at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai) coaches. Although ICF coaches kill and maim passengers enormously when accidents occur compared to the German technology-based LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches, IR did not stop manufacturing ICF coaches till Suresh Prabhu, the then railway minister, passed an order in November 2016. Prabhu’s order to stop manufacturing ICF coaches and retrofit the safety features of LHB coaches in ICF coaches was aimed at ensuring reduced fatalities and injuries in accidents. In HSR, train sets are used, which are much safer than LHB coaches.

Even if conventional rail is given a perfect right of way by fencing and removing all the level crossings with ROB/RUB (road over-bridges/under-bridges), to acquire speeds like that of HSR, the conventional rail lines should be aligned in straight line. To achieve this, the entire anatomy of the rail network would have to be changed. Upgrading tracks, signalling system or coaches of conventional rail to the level of HSR is akin to replacing every module of a personal computer from the 1980s with the latest modules of a laptop. Apart from serious compatibility issues, the upgraded PC will never be as compact, sleek, portable or give the same quality of service as a latest laptop. HSR is a wonderful opportunity for IR to move multiple levels in technology in one go and thereby bring a sea change in the speed and safety of rail travel and create a new benchmark for quality of service.

It costs about Rs1 trillion for constructing 500km of HSR system, averaging to Rs2 billion per kilometre. Even Metro rail systems cost about Rs3-4 billion per kilometre. Any modern rail system with state-of-the-art features would cost much more than the archaic conventional rail system. The cost of HSR is not just for the construction of tracks but for building HSR stations, high-end rolling stock and signalling system, maintenance depots and workshops, training of personnel, etc. Peevish remarks questioning the wisdom of India going for HSR when we are unable to run conventional train services properly are detrimental to efforts to modernize rail transport, which is long overdue.

Bangladesh Railways inks pact with Indonesian rolling stock supplier PT Inka for 200 Coaches

DHAKA: Bangladesh Railways (BR) signed a Taka 5.79bn ($US 71m) contract with Indonesian rolling stock supplier PT Inka in Dhaka on September 14 for 200 metre-gauge coaches.

Delivery of the stainless-steel-bodied air-conditioned coaches will begin within 20 months and the final vehicles will arrive in Bangladesh within 33 months.

The order is being funded by the Bangladeshi government and the Asian Development Bank.

In April BR awarded PT Inka a contract to supply 50 metre-gauge coaches.

PT Inka has already supplied 100 metre-gauge and 50 broad-gauge coaches to BR under a contract signed in April 2016.

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CRB holds Meeting with General Managers of Indian Railways

Chairman of the Railway Board has made it clear to the ministry officials that ‘VIP culture’ must be stopped to bring about a substantial change in the system

NEW DELHI: The new boss of Indian Railways, Ashwani Lohani, has taken the unconventional route to discipline its workforce in order to improve functioning of the railway ministry. Lohani, the chairman of the Railway Board (CRB), has made it clear to the ministry officials that ‘VIP culture’ must be stopped to bring about a substantial change in the system. There will now be a strict prohibition on accepting gifts for all railway officers and they have also been told to give up unnecessary protocols.

Ashwani Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board (CRB), New Delhi stressed on according top priority to Safety on Indian Railways. He was addressing a high level performance review meeting of General Managers (GMs) of all the Zonal Railways including Production units on the aspect of Safety, Punctuality, Loading and Works in progress today i.e., 16th September, 2017 from Railway Board, New through video conference.

Interacting with the General Managers, Ashwani Lohani stated that Safety is the prime concern for Indian Railways in the changing times. He advised the General Managers and other senior officials to interact more with the field and monitor the implementation of rules formulated for the improvement of systems for ensuring safety. He emphasized on Cleanliness at the stations, trains and work places also. He instructed on focus to be given to elimination of Unmanned Level Crossings, provision of Gate Mitras, Construction of Limited Height Subways to eliminate Level Crossings as per the target fixed. He also stressed upon welfare of the workforce to achieve optimum productivity in train operations.

Further, he instructed to focus on the Cleanliness Drive being taken up Nationwide “Swachhta hi Sewa” which commenced on 15th September, 2017 and will continue upto 2nd October, 2017 which will be observed Swachh Bharat Diwas.

Vinod Kumar Yadav, General Manager, SCR appraised on the Safety Performance of the Zone. He stated that Zone is focusing on track maintenance and elimination of all the 268 UMLCs which are presently manned by Gate Mithras. He informed that the asset reliability on the Zone has been significantly improved and Cleanliness has been accorded top priority. The Zone has initiated several Staff Welfare measures to resolve grievances of the employees.

An Employees’ Charter has been prepared and being implemented at Headquarters and Divisions to facilitate employee needs. SCR bagged several awards and Green Co Certificates for Workshops and Service Buildings for green initiatives.

John Thomas, Additional General Manager; Shri K.V.Siva Prasad, Principal Chief Engineer; Shri Arjun Mundiya, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer; Smt. Padmini Radhakrishnan, Principal Financial Advisor; Shri M.G.Sekharam, Principal Chief Commercial Manager; Shri Vinay Mohan Shrivastava, Principal Chief Signal & Telecommunications Engineer; Shri Vijay Agrawal, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction); Shri S.K.Agarwal, Chief Electrical General Engineer; Shri D.K.Singh, Chief Safety Officer; Shri P.K.Sangewar, Principal Chief Material Manager; Shri N.V. Ramana Reddy, Principal Chief Personnel Officer; Dr. K.H.K.Dora, Principal Chief Medical Director; Shri Sanjay Sankrityayan, Chief Security Commissioner were also present during the meeting.

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BHEL shares surge over 10% on Rolling Stock order win for Bullet Train

BHEL and Kawasaki Heavy Industries will collaborate to make rolling stock for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed bullet train project, said Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. BHEL stock touched a high of Rs145.80 a share and gained as much as 10.1%, its maximum advance since 7 September 2016

MUMBAI: Shares of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) on Thursday surged over 10%, its biggest gains in one year, on reports that the company will make rolling stock for bullet trains. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone of India’s first bullet train project, a high-speed rail link to Mumbai, in Ahmedabad earlier on Thursday.

The stock touched a high of Rs145.80 a share and gained as much as 10.1%, its maximum advance since 7 September 2016. At 11.11am, BHEL was trading at Rs.143.75 on the BSE, up 8.5% from its previous close. The stock gained for the fourth session and rose 15% in this period. Year to date, it has gained nearly 20%.

“Bharat Heavy and Kawasaki Heavy Industries to collaborate for making rolling stock for bullet train project,” quoted Abe in Ahmedabad.

The 534-km Rs1 trillion high-speed rail project that will operate trains with average speeds of 200-250kmph will be a game-changer in terms of inter-urban connectivity and establish India as a market for such technologies. The bullet train, which has a capacity to accommodate 750 people, is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities from seven to three hours.

BHEL shares closed Rs.4.85, or 3.66%, higher at Rs.137.40, while Sensex rose by 56 points, or 0.17%, to close at 32,242.

On June 29, 2017 the state-owned BHEL had entered into a technology collaboration agreement with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, (KHI), Japan for the manufacture of stainless steel coaches for metros.

KHI is a manufacturer of heavy equipment and its rolling stock company has supplied EMU trainsets to various countries like the US, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, alongside Japan, the statement said. KHI is also the manufacturer and supplier of the Shinkansen High Speed Bullet Trains, proposed to be introduced in India on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor. The pact will enable BHEL to produce stainless steel coaches indigenously, it added.

The Technology Collaboration Agreement covers establishing a state-of-the-art design, engineering and manufacturing facilities at BHEL, India using Japanese technology, a company statement said.

The pact will also entitle BHEL for all technology advances and upgrades. BHEL has been supplying the Indian Railways both electric and diesel locomotives, EMUs, and propulsion system sets and drives for the same. Kolkata Metro, the first metro project in India, is equipped with BHEL made propulsion system.

Meanwhile, in past four trading sessions, the stock rallied 14% after the BHEL has fixed September 30, 2017 as the record date for the purpose of issuance of bonus shares of the company in the ratio of 1 (One) new equity bonus share Rs 2 each for every 2 (Two) existing equity shares of Rs 2 each.

Indian Railways’ Freight Loading up 5% in April-Aug 2017

Coal accounts for 48% of the Railways traffic and 44% of its earnings profile. The demand for rakes from the domestic coal sector is way below the projected targets. However Rail freight, container volumes indicate significant rebound in trade in August: reports PhillipCapital India

KOLKATA: The Railways has seen nearly 5 per cent year-on-year increase in freight loading for the first five months of this fiscal (April to August) riding on growing volumes of cement, steel and iron ore traffic.

Steel cargo increased by 22.27 per cent to 22.62 million tonnes (mt) during April-August 2017 over the same period last year.

Iron ore loading saw a near 13 per cent y-o-y increase to 59.23 mt, while cement cargo grew by 12.60 per cent to 47.53 mt. Loading of foodgrains and containers has also gone up. The improved showing, however, came despite a 0.3 per cent drop in coal cargo to 215.86 mt, owing to reduced imports.

No growth in coal

Coal accounts for 48 per cent of the Railways traffic and 44 per cent of its earnings profile. According to Bajwa, while the loading of imported coal dropped, domestic coal loading increased. The demand for rakes from the domestic coal sector, however, is way below the projected targets. As against 238 rakes a day, Coal India Ltd is loading only 214 rakes a day, he said. “We hope the coal loading numbers will improve and we will be able to achieve the set target of 555 million tonnes this fiscal,” Bajwa told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the ‘mjunction’ organised coal markets conference. Fertiliser was the other major category that saw around four per cent decline in traffic, during this period, to 20.29 mt due to “less imports.”

The Railways invests nearly ₹131,000 crore to ramp up rolling stock (wagons), expanding track capacity through line doubling and improving the signalling system. According to Bajwa, by the end of 2018-19, the rolling stock (wagon) availability will increase by 10 per cent.

Container volumes at major ports increased 8.4% in August over a year ago, indicating a significant recovery in trade

Container volumes at major ports (in terms of 20-foot equivalent units) increased 8.4% in August over a year ago, indicating a significant recovery in trade. Due to the initial disruption caused by the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), container traffic growth had slowed to around 2-5% in the earlier two months. Encouragingly, volumes at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s largest container port, remained strong, clocking a growth of 9.1%, data compiled by PhillipCapital (India) Pvt. Ltd shows.

The Indian Railways freight traffic data also indicates a rebound in trade, though it is helped by a favourable base. Traffic in terms of originating tonnes expanded 7.7% last month, the fastest growth so far this fiscal year. The export-import (Exim) container traffic in terms of tonnage is up 19.5%. Domestic container traffic is up 16%, which is a positive surprise.

An analyst with a domestic broking firm says the data indicates continued market share gains by the railways. The recent rise in diesel prices may have helped tilt the cost curve in favour of the railways.

Nevertheless, these numbers should bode well for the national carrier and container train operators. Traffic not only gained momentum in August but growth so far this fiscal is also better than the year-ago period. Compared to 4.3% growth a year ago, container volume at major ports is up 6.4% so far this fiscal. Similarly, total rail freight volume is up 4.9% so far this fiscal, compared to a 1.4% drop in the year ago. Growth in container traffic on the Indian Railways is also significantly better than for the year-ago period.

India’s Bullet Train project to obtain the most Modern Technologies; to up the Innovation in Transportation

While European countries like Germany and Italy had been researching and experimenting on high speed rail network since as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, it was Japan which made the breakthrough in this race for the fastest rail technology with innovation.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid down the ceremonial first stone of India’s first high-speed rail line at the Athletic Stadium near the Sabarmati Railway Station in Gujarat, it showcased India’s entry from the smoke-billowing ‘chhuk-chhuk’ train, started under the British Raj some 164 years ago, to the league of those nations equipped with a high-speed ultra-modern rail network. Not only that, it is a back-to-back answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. A bullet train on Indian soil, under the government’s ambitious plan to modernise rail infrastructure after decades of underinvestment, is a proud moment as it indicates that Indian Railways would be obtaining the most modern technologies matching that of the developed countries.

EFFICIENT, FAST, ACCIDENT-FREE

The ultra-efficient Shinkansen train network connects cities along the length and breadth of the country. Till 2011, it also had the highest ridership annually before giving up the title to its rival China.

The trains, which run every three minute, attain the maximum speed of 320km. They are operated by companies of the Japanese Railways Group and are known for their punctuality and safety record. Sample this: crew members of the Shinkansen trains are asked to give an explanation if the train arrives a minute late to its destination.

The network boasts of zero accident fatalities in its 53-year-journey, although Japan is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes. A Google search about Shinkansen accidents streams an incident of self immolation in the train and a minor derailment due to earthquake.

The system has become synonymous with efficiency. A video on YouTube titled ‘The 7-Minute Miracle Of Japanese Train System’ was shared widely on social media websites. The clip showed crew members respectfully bowing as a Shinkansen entering the station, waiting for passengers to disembark and swiftly cleaning every car of the super speed train in seven minutes.

COSTLY, BUT ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY

An undated report of the Japan Railway & Transport Review said the Shinkansen project has tried to minimise noise pollution because it passes through high population density areas. Compared to other means of transport, the Shinkansen hardly emits any carbon dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and other harmful gases. “If the Tokaido Shinkansen had not been constructed, about 15,000 tons more CO2 would have been emitted in 1985. This corresponds to the annual amount of CO2 emitted by industry in and around Tokyo,” it read.

The fares for Shinkansen were, however, costly. Former member of the railway board, RC Acharya, wrote in an article for HT in 2015 that a Shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Kyoto (514 km) costs Rs 7,700. It isn’t surprising too that the estimate fares for the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train is estimated to range between Rs.3,000 – Rs.5,000.

This new High-Speed Rail (HSR) line which would run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, cutting the travel time down from eight hours to two or three hours for a 508-kilometers’distance is aimed to become a part of ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, its scheduled completion date has been moved up by one year to August 15, 2022. The total cost of this project had been approximated at 17 billion USD, of which Japan would provide a friendly loan for over 80 per cent of the value.

The Japanese government would charge interest at 0.1 per cent, over a 50-year repayment cycle along with a grace period of 15 years. Japan would also provide the HSR technology making India a potential developer of it. With an aim to unleash the unexploited potential of Asia’s two largest democracies, India and Japan had formed a ‘special strategic and global partnership’ in 2011. And, incidentally this Mumbai–Ahmedabad Shinkansen line has come within months after the announcement of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, which is a joint effort by both Japan and India to strengthen transportation infrastructure and development across Asia and Africa.

As China and Japan are the global giants competing for contracts to build new HSR lines and supply the rolling stock all over Asia and even in Europe, Beijing may also be eyeing the other two HSR projects in India waiting in the wings, including the proposals to construct HSR lines from Delhi to Nagpur and Delhi to Chennai. However, another reason for preferring Japan over China is that Japan does not have a history of accidents on their bullet train network. On the other hand, there remain many unanswered questions regarding the timely completion of the Mumbai–Ahmedabad Shinkansen line project. Maintaining a balance in providing better connectivity while managing costs due to the demands of the land, may escalate to become a big source of worry for the authorities. The government might face a hard time explaining even the fares – which is expected to be higher than the flight tickets between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

With train tickets costlier than flight tickets, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project would have to cater to at least 1.5 crore passengers a year to earn enough and repay the loans with interest on time. Acquiring 825 hectares of land for this project would be the toughest task as it covers more than 163 villages in eight districts of Gujarat and 44 villages in three districts of Maharashtra, affecting as many as 2,761 families. Besides, the safety issues for bullet trains will also be a matter of concern as it would be running at 320 kmph. Not to forget, Narendra Modi is a Prime Minister who is gradually gaining accolades for his particular brand of big stick politics – aimed to push his country into a full rebuild. Asserting that India is willing to jump on the ride to see where it goes, he said that this ambitious project would bring pace to development in the country and no country can grow if they don’t dream big. “It is a new India which has to fly high. To grow one needs to expand his dreams and decide his strengths that would be required to achieve that,” the Prime Minister said in his address at Sabarmati Ashram.

Only time can spell out the success of the much-hyped Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, but right now, it seems that India is aiming to become a high-speed rail powerhouse, resulting in a proper upgradation of its 164-year-old conventional transportation system on the tracks. And, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line is the first step towards this ambition.

How the Railway systems around the world raced to get their fastest trains

The quest for the fastest possible rail network had been on the agenda of countries across the world throughout the twentieth century. The concept of high speed train is used to designate any railway system that has a speed above 250 kph. While European countries like Germany and Italy had been researching and experimenting on high speed rail network since as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, it was Japan which made the breakthrough in this race for the fastest rail technology.

Japan’s headway in high speed rail technology was soon followed by France, Germany, Spain United Kingdom, United States, China, Italy, Korea and Taiwan. “This transformation of ground transportation infrastructure has become the symbol of modernity in many countries, and, from the financial perspective, high speed rail lines have become the most important projects in those countries where this innovation has been implemented,” write economists Daniel Albalate and Germa Bel in their work on the economics and politics of high speed railways.

While the government of these countries have often justified the technology in terms of commercial gains to be made and environmental benefits, they have also come under criticism regarding the economic and social burden the fast train projects might lead to. Whatever be the highs and lows of high speed rail technology, its association with modernity has made the idea of ‘fast trains’ a near necessity for any country desiring to be labeled as ‘developed’.

On Thursday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, inaugurated the first high speed rail service in India, or what is popularly called the bullet train, the Indian rail industry took a leap in the direction of modern locomotives. Here is a look at few other countries who have been ahead in this race.

JAPAN

In the period following the end of the Second World War, Japan made several astounding economic gains as it benefited from Cold War politics. A product of this economic boom and the necessity of the post-war demographic situation in Japan led the country to discover high speed locomotive technology. Subsequently, the country made a breakthrough in high speed railways in 1964 with the Shinkansen or the bullet train network. At its inception, the network extended from Tokyo to Osaka. Over time it has extended to cover 2,764.6 km, linking most of the major cities in the country.

The bullet train technology inaugurated by India and Japan in Ahmedabad on Thursday rests on the same technology that made Japan the first country to successfully introduce high speed railways.

UNITED KINGDOM

On January 10, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation of the British government announced the building of a high-speed railway line between London and Birmingham, with an extension to Manchester and Leeds. Despite criticism against the project regarding the high costs it would accrue, the British government maintained that the benefits to be gained from the rail network would be much higher than the costs. The project has come under strong criticism from organisations like the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute. The media too has been critical of the project. In 2011 an article on the high speed rail project published in the weekly publication, The Economist, came out with the title “The great train robbery”.

The British government, however, had been consistent in their confidence on the project. A report on the rail network presented by the government to the Parliament stated that “the Government believes strongly that the time has come to act with the same boldness as our Victorian predecessors”.

UNITED STATES

While research and tests for high speed rail in the United States had been ongoing since the early decades of the 20th century, one of the first substantial projects date back to the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. Despite being one of the first countries to introduce high speed rail networks, it could barely spread with the same agility. A more recent development in the process has been the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in 1991. The Act mandated the Federal Railroad Administration to identify five corridors for high speed rail network. Over time the number of such corridors identified have increased.

In April 2009, the Obama administration presented a blueprint for a national network of high speed passenger rail lines. “The purpose of the plan, as the president stated is to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil, and foster livable urban and rural communities,” wrote Albalate and Bel. While the cost of the network has come under heavy criticism, a major point in support of the railways made by the government is that of environmental benefits to be made, particularly those related to energy efficiency and cutting down of air pollution.

EUROPEAN UNION

The first high speed rail line arrived in Europe in 1981 with the Train Grande Vitesse line between Paris and Lyon. The process of opening high speed rails in Europe accelerated in the late 1980s with lines opening in Germany and Spain and later in Italy. The development of high speed rail network in European countries depended on a variety of factors including the specific socio-economic and territorial needs of the states, the condition of the rail companies and the strategies adopted by the individual governments.

While high speed rail network developed at a fast pace in almost all European countries, the French and the German models gained an upper hand over all others. Developed in the 1980s and 90s, the two models became a source of inspiration for most other European countries who wished to develop fast trains strategy, this was particularly the case for Italy and Spain.

In the early 1990s, the European Union launched an ambitious plan for an integrated European high-speed network. One of the first steps taken by the Union in the process of railway reorganisation was the liberalisation of the rail economy. As of 1994, nine projects were selected for building high speed rail lines. With the enlargement of the European Union, however, the number of projects also increased over time.

MEMU Coach Maintenance Unit to come up at Godhni near Nagpur

NAGPUR: In a big boost to development and employment in the region, Godhni, near Nagpur, under Central Railway will soon get a mega depot to maintain Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) coaches.

Nagpur, which is centrally located, is among three cities, after Jaipur in Rajasthan and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, where such depots will be set up. “The Railway Board has already given a green signal to set up the unit in Godhni, where huge railway land is available,” said Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Brijesh Kumar Gupta.

Gupta said Railways have invited financial bids worth over Rs.20,000 crore for manufacturing around 5,000 MEMU coaches at the Kanchrapara rail factory in West Bengal. “The modern and well equipped depot at Godhni will maintain at least 750 MEMU coaches. Earlier, there was a plan to set up the project at Bhusawal but Railway Board decided to go for Nagpur,” said Gupta.

The DRM said it will be a joint venture project and entire tendering process is being handled by the Railway Board. As per the policy decision, there are plans to reduce passenger trains and pitch in MEMU trains. at some locations

“These coaches will be equipped with modern facilities like automatic doors, forced ventilation, bio-toilets, regenerative braking, and better interior design. The stainless steel coaches will run faster than the existing coaches,” said Gupta.

Central Railway sources said that in June last year, railways had sought requests for qualification (RFQ) for manufacturing 5,000 modern EMU/MEMU coaches over the next 10 years in a joint venture model.

The RFQ got good response as Bombardier (Canada), Siemens Consortium (Germany), Alstom (France), CRRC Corporation Consortium (China), Stadler (Switzerland), Medha Consortium (India) and BHEL, an Indian PSU, qualified for financial bidding. Railways will have a 26% stake in the joint venture project.

Sources said last month a section of officials from Siemens and its consultant visited Godhni. They visited the proposed site, a kilometre away from Godhni railway station. The Siemens officials also conducted a soil survey. “Though modalities are still being worked out, the project is likely to be set up over 1 lakh sq feet area,” they said.

Though MEMUs have been deployed across all railway divisions, Nagpur and its suburbs, which are growing manifold, have still been deprived of these fast trains. With the setting up of Godhni depot, Nagpur will now get MEMU trains.

Sources said there were 4-5 services operated from Nagpur to places like Bhusawal, Amravati, Amla, Itarsi, and Kazipet, which could be run using MEMUs. Those coaches could then be utilized to clear waiting list of passengers in other mail/express trains.

Railway officials said EMU/MEMU is the most successful and cost-effective option with adoption of few more technologies to match the transport challenge of suburban network all around metropolitan cities. They are popular trains for suburban travel. This configuration of the train is popular not only among commuters but also as a feeder train to main line trains.

Highways & transport minister Nitin Gadkari had proposed MEMUs for Nagpur in 2012. However, after he became minister, the proposal was sent again to the Railway Board. State power minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule too had last year pushed for a local train for daily commuters between Kanhan-Kamptee-Butibori.

Weekly Special Trains/Temporary Augmentations/Partial Cancellations/Stoppage of Train Services on various routes

Trains short-originated due to Floods and Breaches on ECR, Trains on CR rescheduled due to Late Running of Trains

I. Due to heavy floods and breaches in Samastipur division of East Central Railway, the following trains are Short originated as detailed below:-

Change of Originating Station:

1)    Train no. 07006 Raxaul-Hyderabad Special Trains scheduled to depart Raxaul at 01.30 hrs on 17th September, 2017 will depart from Darbhanga instead of Raxaul.

2)    Train no. 07092 Raxaul-Secunderabad Special Train scheduled to depart Raxaul at 01.30 hrs on 15th September, 2017 will depart from Barauni instead of Raxaul.

­­­­IIDue to late running of trains in Central Railway, the following trains are rescheduled on 14.09.2017.

Trains Rescheduled:

1)        Train No.11028 Chennai Central–Mumbai CSMT Mail scheduled to depart Chennai Central at 23:55 hrs on 14th   September, 2017 is rescheduled to depart at 05.00 hrs on 15th September,2017 due to late running of its pairing train.

2)        Train No. 11014 Coimbatore–Lokamanya Tilak Terminal Express scheduled to depart Coimbatore at 08:55 hrs on 14th  September, 2017 is rescheduled to depart at 11.45 hrs on the same day due to late running of its pairing train.

Weekly Special Trains between Yesvantpur–Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra

In order to clear extra rush of passengers, 8 suvidha weekly special trains between Yesvantpur–Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra will be run as detailed below:

Accordingly, Train No. 82651 Yesvantpur-Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Suvidha Weekly Special Train will depart Yesvantpur at 11:30 hrs on 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th October, 2017 (Saturdays), arrive/depart Secunderabad at 04:00 / 04:10 hrs on the next day and arrive Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra at 20:25 hrs on Mondays.

In the return direction, Train No.82652 Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra-Yesvantpur Suvidha Weekly Special Train will depart Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra at 05:40 hrs on 10th, 17th, 24th & 31st October, 2017 (Tuesdays), arrive/depart Secunderabad at 19:25 / 19:35 hrs on the next day and arrive Yesvantpur at 15:00 hrs on Thursdays.

Enroute these special trains will also stop at Tumakuru, Arsikere, Chikjajur, Chitradurga, Ballari, Guntakal, Mantralayam Rd, Raichur, Yadgir, Kazipet, Balharshah, Nagpur, Habibgunj, Jhansi, New Delhi, Ambala, Ludhiana and Jammu Tawi stations in both the directions.

Special Trains between Thiruvanantapuram and Howrah

In order to clear extra rush of passengers, two special fare trains will be run between Thiruvanantapuram-Howrah as detailed below:

Accordingly, Train No. 06515 Thiruvanantapuram–Howrah special fare train will depart Thiruvanantapuram at 12:40 hrs on 17th September, 2017 (Sunday ) and arrive Howrah at 10:55 hrs on Tuesday.

In return direction, Train No. 06516 Howrah–Thiruvanantapuram special fare train will depart Howrah at 01:05 hrs on 21st September, 2017 (Thursday) and arrive Thiruvanantapuram at 22:35 hrs on Friday.

Enroute, these special trains stop at Chennai Central and Visakhapatnam stations.

These trains will have AC II Tier, AC III Tier, Sleeper Class and General Second Class Coaches.

Restoration of KSR Bengaluru – New Tinsukia Jn Superfast Express
  1. Train No. 22501, KSR Bengaluru-New Tinsukia Jn. Superfast Express Journey commencing on 19th September, 2017 is restored.

Cancellation of Trains

  1. Train No. 06531/06532, Bengaluru Cantt.-Howrah Jn.-Bengaluru Cantt. Superfast AC Express Special on special fare leaving Bengaluru Cantt. on 14th September, 2017 and Howrah Jn. on 18th September, 2017 is cancelled.
  2. Train No. 11014 Coimbatore-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express Journey commencing on 15th September, 2017 from Coimbatore is cancelled for want of rake.
Due to delay in restoration work in flood affected sections over North Frontier Railway up to 25.09.2017, the following trains are cancelled:
  1. Train No. 12552, Kamakhya-Yesvantpur AC Superfast Express Journey commencing on 20th September, 2017 from Kamakhya is cancelled.
  2. Train No. 12551, Yesvantpur-Kamakhya AC Superfast Express Journey commencing on 23rd September, 2017 from Yesvantpur is cancelled.
  3. Train No. 12509, Bengaluru Cantt.-Guwahati Express Journey commencing on 20th, to 22nd September, 2017 from Bengaluru Cantt. is cancelled.
Running of Yesvantpur-Belagavi-Yesvantpur Special Train on Special Fare

Railways has decided to run Train No. 06581/06582 Yesvantpur-Belagavi-Yesvantpur Special Train on special fare to clear extra rush during Dasara festival and long week-end.

Train No. 06581, Yesvantpur-Belagavi Special Train on special fare departs Yesvantpur at 20:15 hrs. on 28th September, 2017 (Thursday) and reaches Belagavi at 08:10 hrs. on next day.   Enroute, the train arrives/departs Tumakuru at 21:20/21:22 Hrs., Arsikere at 23:10/23:15 Hrs.,  Birur at 23:57/23.59 Hrs.,  on  Friday arrives/departs Davangere at 02:20/02:22 Hrs., Harihar at 02:43/02:45 Hrs., Haveri at 03:50/03:52 Hrs., Hubballi at 05:00/05:15 Hrs., Dharwad at 05:50/05:52 Hrs., Londa at 07:05/07:08 Hrs.

Train No. 06582, Belagavi-Yesvantpur Special Train on special fare departs Belagavi at 19:10 hrs. on 02nd October, 2017 (Monday) and reaches Yesvantpur at 06:20 hrs. on next day.   Enroute, the train arrives/departs Londa at 20:00/20:02 Hrs. Dharwad at 21:38/21:40 Hrs., Hubballi at 22:15/22:25 Hrs., Haveri at 23:45/23:47 Hrs., on  Tuesday arrives/departs Harihar at 00:30/00:32 Hrs., Davangere at 00:55/00:57 Hrs., Birur at 02:08/02.10 Hrs.,  Arsikere at 03:05/03:10 Hrs.,  Tumakuru at 04:43/04:45 Hrs.

The Train Composition will have 22 coaches comprising of Two AC 3-tier Coaches, Eighteen Second Class Sleeper Coaches and Two Luggage cum Break-van.

Train No. 02502 Howrah-KSR Bengaluru City superfast special fare train will depart Howrah at 01:05 hrs on 17th September, 2017 (Sunday) and arrive KSR Bengaluru City at 11:50 hrs on the next day.

Enroute, this special train will stop at Khargpur, Balasore, Cuttack, Bhabaneswar, Khurda Rd, Berhampur, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada, Ongole, Nellore, Perambur, Katpadi, Jolarpettai, Krishnarajapuram and Bengaluru Cantt stations.

This train consists of AC II Tier, AC III Tier, Sleeper Class and General Second Class coaches

56 Special Trains between various destinations on South Central Railway

In order to clear extra rush of passengers, 56 Special trains will run between Visakhapatnam–Secunderabad, Visakhapatnam–Tirupati, Kacheguda–Kakinada Port and Kacheguda- Krishnarajapuram as per the following schedule:-

Visakhapatnam-Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam Weekly Special Trains (18 services):

Train No.08501 Visakhapatnam-Secunderabad Weekly Special Train will depart Visakhapatnam at 23:00 hrs on 03rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st October, 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th November, 2017 (Tuesdays) and arrive Secunderabad at 12:00 hrs on the next day.

In the return direction, Train No.08502 Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam Weekly Special Train will depart Secunderabad at 16:30 hrs on 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th October, 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th November, 2017 (Wednesdays) and arrive Visakhapatnam at 04:50 hrs on the next day.

Enroute, these Weekly Special trains will stop at Duvvada, Anakapalli, Tuni, Samalkot, Rajahmundry, Tadepalligudem, Eluru, Vijayawada, Khammam, Warangal and Kazipet stations in both directions.

These Special trains will consist of AC II Tier,  AC III Tier,  Sleeper Class and General Second Class coaches.

Visakhapatnam-Tirupati-Visakhapatnam Weekly Special Trains (18 services):

Train No.08573 Visakhapatnam-Tirupati Weekly Special Train will depart Visakhapatnam at 22:55 hrs on  2nd,9th,16th,23rd, 30th October, 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th November, 2017 (Mondays) and arrive Tirupati at 13:25 hrs on the next day.

In the return direction, Train No.08574 Tirupati-Visakhapatnam Weekly Special Train will depart Tirupati at 15:30 hrs on 03rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st October, 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th November, 2017  (Tuesdays) and arrive Visakhapatnam at 06:50 hrs on the next day.

Enroute, these Weekly Special trains will stop at Duvvada, Ankapalli, Samalkot, Rajahmundry, Eluru, Vijayawada, New Guntur, Tenali, Ongole, Nellore, Gudur, Sri Kalahasti and Renigunta stations in both directions.

These Special trains will consist of AC II Tier, AC III Tier, Sleeper Class and General Second Class Coaches.

Kacheguda-Kakinada Port-Kacheguda Special Trains (10 services):

Train No. 07425 Kacheguda-Kakinada Port Special Train will depart Kacheguda at 18:45 hrs on 29th September, 6th, 13th, 20th and  27th October, 2017 (Fridays) and arrive Kakinada Port at 06:00 hrs on the next day.

In the return direction, Train No. 07426 Kakinada Port-Kacheguda Special Train will depart Kakinada Port at 17:50 hrs on 30th September, 7th, 14th, 21st and  28th October, 2017 (Saturdays) and arrive Kacheguda at 05:10 hrs on the next day.

Enroute, these special trains will stop at Malkajgiri, Cherlapalli, Nalgonda, Miryalaguda, Piduguralla, Sattenapalli, Guntur, Vijayawada, Eluru, Tadepalligudem, Rajahmundry, Samalkot and Kakinada Town stations in both the directions.

These special trains will have AC II Tier, AC III Tier, Sleeper Class and General Second Class Coaches.

Kacheguda-Krishnarajapuram-Kacheguda Special Trains (10 services):

Train No. 07603 Kacheguda-Krishnarajapuram Special Train will depart Kacheguda at 18:00 hrs on 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th October, 2017 (Sundays) and arrive Krishnarajapuram at 06:00 hrs on the next day.

In the return direction, Train No. 07604 Krishnarajapuram-Kacheguda Special Train will depart Krishnarajapuram at 15.25 hrs on 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th October, 2017 (Mondays) and arrive Kacheguda at 06.55 hrs on the next day.

Enroute, these special trains will stop at Jadcherla, Mahabubnagar, Gadwal, Kurnool Town, Dhone, Gooty, Anantapur, Dharmavaram, Satya Sai Prashanthi Nilayam, Penukonda, Hindupur and Yelahanka stations in both the directions.

These special trains will have AC II Tier, AC III Tier, Sleeper Class and  General Second Class Coaches.

Special Train between Sirsa-Nokha on North Western Railway

The North Western Railway will run a special train between Haryana’s Sirsa and Rajasthan’s Nokha on September 18 for the pilgrims visiting Guru Jambheshwar Maharaj MukamDham fair in the desert state, an official said.

Mukam Dham is the worship place for Bishnoi community.

Ajay Gautam, traffic incharge of the railway, said the Sirsa-Nokha-Sirsa special train number 04782 will depart from Sirsa on September 18 at 6 pm and will reach Nokha railway station at 4 am the next day.

Similarly, train number 04781 will depart from Nokha at 6 pm on September 20 to reach Sirsa at 3.20 am the next day, he said.

The train will have stoppages at Ding, Bhattu, Adampur, Jakhod Khera, Hisar, Chirod, Siwani, Jhumpa, Sadalpur, Churu, Ratangarh, Bikaner and Nokha railway stations.

This special train will have 13 boggies, he said.

Siemens bags contract to supply 30 Vectron Electric Locomotives to full-service leasing Co., Mitsui Rail Capital Europe

A contract to supply full-service leasing company Mitsui Rail Capital Europe with 30 Vectron electric locomotives was announced by Siemens on September 14.

The order includes 10 multisystem locomotives rated at 6·4 MW for cross-border operation in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and 20 DC locomotives rated at 5·2 MW for use in Italy. Both versions will be equipped with national train control systems, and the Vectron MS locomotives will also be fitted with ETCS.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in January 2018, and there is an option for a further 20 locomotives.

‘With this new order, our Vectron fleet will grow to a total of 111 locomotives’, said MRCE Chief Executive Junichi Kondo. ‘Our customers throughout Europe value the reliability and flexibility of the Siemens locomotive.’

‘With its fleet of DC, AC and MS locomotives, MRCE can now offer all electric versions of the Vectron’, added Jochen Eickholt, CEO of Siemens’ Mobility Division.

Bhubaneswar Railway Station to get iconic heritage look

BHUBANESWAR: The state government and the East Coast Railway (ECoR) on Thursday discussed the proposed draft for a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which they will sign very soon to redesign and redevelop the city railway station.

The multimodal hub project will come up on the railway station and its circulating area. It will have an iconic seven-storeyed building at the entrance of the station. Besides, it will have state-of-the-art amenities, commercial complexes, parking, rainwater harvesting system, firefighting facility with pump rooms, well maintained internal roads and attractive green landscape.

The Bhubaneswar development authority (BDA) will supervise the station development work. As the station comes under the smart city district, the work will be integrated in the smart city project. Budget amount for the redevelopment work will be increased beyond Rs 60 crore which was estimated earlier, said a senior BDA official.

“It is a joint project of the Railways and the state government. The multi-storeyed building will be used by both the government agencies. We will use some floors for operational purpose and the state will take the rest for their use. But the state government will develop the building,” said Brijmohan Agarwal, Divisional Railway Manager.

The state government has authorized the BDA to prepare design of the hub. Design will be prepared through a noted agency. “We have floated tender for preparation of the design of the multi modal hub. We hope the final design will come by February next year,” said Krishan Kumar, vice chairman of the BDA.

Manoj Kumar Mishra, commissioner of rail coordination and special secretary, said they have discussed the draft MoU prepared by the railway in the presence of chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi. “We agreed with 99 per cent of the draft proposal and some small issues related to execution and monitoring were resolved,” he added.

The earlier design was put on hold. Even the project’s executive agency, Works department, has been changed. Sources said the existing building with passenger reservation system (PRS) and booking counter will be demolished for the project. Even PRS and booking counter have been shifted to a temporary building near RMS office in the circulating area of the station in November last year.

India’s Prime Minister Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe jointly launch India’s 1st Bullet Train project

AHMEDABAD: The foundation stone-laying ceremony at the Sabarmati Railway Station jointly by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe official commenced with a grand reception today. The two leaders have been together in all the informal settings for the bullet train function.

Japan PM Shinzo Abe speaking at the launch of the bullet train project, starts his address with a “Namaskar”.

“I’m grateful that Japan got the opportunity to build the first Bullet Train in India. It’s a historic day, a beginning of new chapter. I am extremely happy. Two years ago a decision was taken for this project. India and Japan are key partners,” Abe says.

He speaks about how Japan decided to start a high-speed rail and how the project changed Japan in various ways. More than 100 Japanese engineers are in India for success of this high speed railway project.

He ends his speech saying, “I wish that when I come here next I come with PM Modi in a Shinkansen (Bullet Train).” He ends his speech with a Jai India, Jai Japan.

The two leaders are at the venue where the Bhoomi Puja is being conducted to lay the foundation stone of the project which is expected to be completed by 2022 at an estimated cost of Rs 1.10 lakh crore. The train would cover the distance of over 500 km in around two hours. Japan has extended a soft loan for the ambitious project conceptualised by PM Modi.

Railway minister Piyush Goyal and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis at the venue. Fadnavis says he is proud that India’s first bullet train will connect Mumbai with Ahmedabad. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said Prime Minister Modi wants the Bullet Train to start a year ahead of schedule – on 15 August 2022 – when India completes 75 years of independence.

Of the 508-km stretch, 92 per cent of the route will be elevated, six per cent through a tunnel and the rest on the ground. The high speed train will pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under sea.

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India moves towards Highspeed Rail systems – Foundation Stone for Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project today

‘The bullet train can be Modi’s legacy’ says Analysts. With the laying of foundation for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and MoU-signing ceremony attracting investments of around Rs.5 Lakh Crore, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are set to have an eventful Thursday.

AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, who arrived in India on Wednesday, will together launch the work for India’s first bullet train, which will connect Mumbai to Ahmedabad on Thursday in Ahmedabad. The project is likely to change the way people undertake the 508 km long journey between the two major cities.

The two leaders will hold the 12th Indo-Japan annual Summit meeting at Gandhinagar followed by the exchange of agreements. An India-Japan business plenary meeting will be held after that.

With the participation of more than 100 Japanese corporates and envoys, the Gujarat government is viewing the annual meet as a modified version of ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit’. There are at least four Japanese corporate giants which are going to make an investments of Rs 1 lakh crore each.

The bullet train is expected to reduce the travelling time between the cities up to less than half, from the current six and a half hours (by train) to about two hours fifty minutes.  Many traders who frequently make trips between the two cities feel that this will be a boon for conducting their business and don’t mind spending Rs.3,000 for a one-way ticket during their weekly trips.

The rolling stock (carriages) of the ‘Tokaido Shinkansen’ series bullet trains has an impeccable safety record of 50 years with no case of derailment in Japan. Ironically, this launch comes at a time when the Indian Railways is being jolted time and again with cases of derailments across country due to antiquated rail system built over 160 years. Just this month, the railways saw five mishaps in a span of 24 hours.

In 1964, just before the Tokyo Olympics, Japan launched its first bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka. Fifty-three years later, in 2017, India’s Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will inaugurate India’s first bullet train project. The 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad Rail Project will be built at an estimated cost of Rs 110,000 crore (Rs 1.1 trillion). Japan will lend Rs 88,000 crore (Rs 880 billion) to this project at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent, which has to repaid in 50 years, with a 15-year grace period.

The Indian Railways has a huge problem with safety and maintenance. But this challenge also is an opportunity. It is an inflection point for the railways, where the railways can peter out from a public sector undertaking with huge State patronage, where express trains run at 70km/hour and passenger trains at 35km/hour, to a modern economic and technological power house. One way of looking at this issue is that we can be incremental – on speed, maintenance and passenger friendliness. The other way is to take a quantum leap. A country like India cannot do away with passenger trains, but a country like India, at her current state of development, cannot shy away from bullet trains either. If you want to take a quantum leap, there will be risks and this is a risk worth taking.

Amit Shah, a diamond trader based in Charni Road said that he often carries products worth lakhs of rupees while travelling and the option of commuting in a bullet train will give him the much needed sense of security. He said, “I have heard that a one-way ticket might cost us around Rs.3,000 and our diamond merchant community will be more than happy to pay that amount as we will reach Surat in the same time it takes to go there by a flight.”

However, on the other hand railway officials are happy with the choice of rolling stock because of its safety track record since it was launched in Japan in 1964. A railway official said, “the technology in the Tokaido Shinkansen series is a tested one, the train has not seen even one derailment in the last 50 years. This is a very big plus for us as the recent spate of derailments have damaged the railway’s image to a great extent.”

One of the reasons behind this clean record is probably the fact that not just the train carriages but also the technology that will is used to run the train.

 

Japan’s Shinkansen has a Fabulous Record of Zero Accidents in its Operations over more than 50 years: Sanjeev Sinha

Sanjeev Sinha, Advisor-Bullet Train Project

AHMEDABAD: Becoming Japan’s advisor for the bullet train project is certainly fulfilling for Sanjeev Sinha, the first IIT-ian of Barmer, Rajasthan, who has a niece in Ahmedabad and a brother living in Surat. Sinha will be acting primarily as the main interface between the governments of Japan and India to make the bullet train project a reality.

Sinha, who has been appointed by Japan Railways as advisor for the project, has a personal reason to inspire him in actualizing the Rs 1.08 lakh-crore project of Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail. He recalls his childhood days in Barmer, Rajasthan, when his mother had to travel long hours in trains to reach her workplace.

“My mother was a teacher in a village near Barmer. She had to get up early to catch the 5am train to reach the school. It was a two-hour journey, though the place was not so far. Had there been speedy transportation, she could have spent more time with us,” he told, explaining why he was especially interested in this high-speed rail project.

Sinha studied at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur. He is a resident of Japan for 21 years and worked there for various firms. His wife is Japanese. He often comes to India and visits Gujarat too, as his brother lives in Surat.

Given the safety issues of Indian Railways, Sinha said that Indians can learn from Japanese Shinkansen (Bullet Train), “which has a fabulous record of zero fatal accidents in its operations over more than 50 years, despite very intricate passenger friendly operations amid earthquakes, typhoons and the difficult hilly terrain of Japan”.

For Sinha, a bullet train in India is a challenging task, but he believes that it has to be completed. To support the huge technology collaboration efforts, Sinha is also setting up an India-Japan Technology Collaboration Fund as President of Research Institute of Next Generation AI in Tokyo.

He also plans to start a centre for learning Japanese language and culture for Indian youths. He sees plenty of opportunities for Indian youths in Japan’s corporate sector and industries. “Indians have got good skills of marketing and language. Their strength lies in the existing diversity in India which makes them able to adjust anywhere in the world,” he said.

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