Indian Railways News

Indian Railways embarks on a multi-pronged plan to boost revenues

Keen to stand on its own feet and produce decent investible surpluses, Indian Railways has embarked on a multi-pronged plan to boost revenues. While the heavily subsidised passenger segment will see creeping tariff hikes from September under a diktat from the Prime Minister’s Office, the transporter has also lined up a slew of long-term freight contracts with large customers like cement and steel firms. Worried over the stagnant growth in freight loading — in FY17, the loading actually declined an annual 0.6% — and the loss of consumers to roads and airlines, the railways thinks that contracts of three years or more will help create a loyal base of large freight users.

While some long-term freight contracts will be signed on Thursday, a clutch of steps taken in recent months like launch of “time-tabled” freight trains and double-decked dwarf containers, waiver of port congestion charges and dual tariff policy for iron ore are also expected to boost loading and freight revenue.

According to official sources, the three-year freight contracts will provide for fixed rates for the contract period, which will be topped with discounts from the second year onwards if loading levels are retained. The discounts on incremental traffic may go up to 35%.

“Two cement manufacturers and one steel firm have already come on board and another 10 are in the pipeline (for signing the long-term contracts). The deals are getting finalised across different zones,” said a top railway official, requesting not to be identified.

Despite a 0.4% drop in industrial production and 8.7% contraction in cement output in December, mostly on the back of demonetisation, the railways’ freight loading has shown an encouraging trend since January. During the first quarter of the current fiscal, the railways revenue from freight has increased 12% compared with the same period last year.

The freight loading target for the current fiscal is 1,165 million tonnes (mt) against 1,094 mt last year. The railways’ operating ratio had worsened to 95 in FY17 from 90.5 in FY16. Mindful of the market realities, the OR target set for the current year is almost the same as last year’s.
Earnings from freight are estimated to contribute 62% of the transporter’s gross traffic receipts in FY18, against 66% in FY16, in what reflects the gradual roll-back of subsidies in the passenger segment. All segments on the passenger side except the air-conditioned 3-tier category are still making losses.

The signing of the long-term freight contracts comes at a time when the PMO has asked the carrier to redirect 20 mt of freight traffic from roads to the railways by the end of this financial year. “We have to provide a very competitive transportation system vis-a-vis the roads which is also witnessing huge investments. The average parcel size is decreasing, which make them suitable for transport by road. Definitely there are challenges and that is why we have tried many alternatives such as time-tabled freight trains to attract traffic,” added the official quoted above.
The railways has been constantly losing freight traffic to roads; the transporter’s share in freight volume has fallen from around 90% in 1950 to just 30% at present.

 

Railways Launches ‘SAARTHI’ App, Solar Train: 10 Things To Know

Here are the key things to know:
  1. Users now don’t need to download multiple railway apps as the new SAARTHI app will allow them to perform various functions.
  2. They can also book air ticket through the app. Mr Prabhu also announced a quota facility for differently-abled people in 3AC coach and extending the advance booking period for foreigners to 365 days from present 120 days.
  3. A lower berth in a 3AC coach will be reserved for physically-challenged people and the middle for the individual accompanying them. But, there will be only one such berth in the 3AC coach of a train.
  4. The quota provision which was only in the sleeper class (2 berths) has now been extended to the 3AC as well.
  5. While booking tickets through the app, users can also share their feedback.
  6. In a move to promote the use of cleaner fuels while launching the first solar powered DEMU train, Mr Prabhu said, “Indian Railways is trying to increase use of non-conventional sources of energy.”
  7. “First rake has been commissioned and based at Shakurbasti DEMU shed in Delhi of Northern Railway. Twenty-four more coaches will be fitted with this system within the next six months,” the ministry said in a statement.
  8. According to the ministry’s estimates, a solar-powered train with six trailer-coaches has the potential to save about 21,000 litres of diesel and thereby effect a cost saving of Rs. 12 lakh every year.
  9. The entire electrical needs of the train are fulfilled by power produced from solar panels fitted on the roof of coaches.

 

Fresh Violence In Darjeeling, Police Post, Library Set On Fire

A Railway Protection Force (RPF) office, a police outpost and a state-run library were set on fire in the Darjeeling hills as the indefinite strike demanding a separate state entered its 30th day today, police said. As unrest simmered, internet services remained suspended for the 27th day.

The RPF office in Kurseong and a police outpost in Sukhiapokhri were set afire in the early hours of the morning while the state-run library in Mirik sub-division was reduced to ashes by pro-Gorkhaland supporters last night, a police official said.

The Army continues to be deployed in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sonada. The Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) decided to postpone its fast unto death from July 15 due to the upcoming Presidential elections.

“We have decided to postpone the fast unto death as Presidential elections are nearby. We’ll take a call on it at our next all-party meeting on July 18,” a GMCC member told PTI.

The 30-member GMCC represents all hill based parties, including the GJM, the GNLF and the JAP.

Government To Double/Triple 16,500 Km Rail Tracks: Suresh Prabhu

To fast-track creation of a robust infrastructure, the government has sanctioned plans for doubling and tripling of 16,500 km of railway tracks in few years as against only 22,000 km in last 70 years, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said today.

“We have decided to create an infrastructure at a much faster pace…16,500 km of doubling and tripling will happen in the next few years as opposed to what 22,000 km was sanctioned in 70 years,” Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said on the sidelines of a Assocham event here today.

Mr Prabhu said Railways is investing in infrastrucutre to create seamless movement of traffic so that GST becomes a gamechanger wherein goods are moved without hassle.

“Only 42 per cent of electrification has been made so far which will double in next five years,” the minister said addressing the conference on ‘India – on the Cusp of a Logistics Revolution.’

He said, “We are already creating about 100 private freight terminals with private participation so that more and more traffic can come to the railways”.

The Railways plans to save about Rs. 41,000 crore in energy bills of which it has already saved about 10 per cent, he said.

“So, all of this will result in creating a good logistic backbone for India which will help it do much better business as logistics is key to success of industrialisation,” he said.

On low consumer price inflation, Mr Prabhu said it is the result of sound fiscal monetary policies in India.

“Our prime minister already said that people at large are suffering because of inflation being very high and the growth rate being low. So, it was double whammy. We actually reversed it, inflation is low and growth is high means the common people don’t have to spend too much money on their daily necessities and they will have more savings,” he said.

Bomb Threat At Churchgate Turns Out To Be Hoax

An anonymous call warning about a bomb planted at the busy Churchgate station, where the Western Railway headquarters are located, turned out to be a hoax, officials said on Thursday.

The call was received around 10.45 am on the Railway Protection Force (RPF) helpline number. Both the RPF and Government Railway Police immediately swung into action.

A thorough search of the Churchgate station revealed nothing though there was brief panic reaction among the commuters.

Thursday is the sixth anniversary of the triple blasts at Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar which left 26 people dead and over a 100 injured.

Police are making efforts to trace the person who telephoned the RPF.

 

Suresh Prabhu Writes To Telecom Minister On Poor Connectivity In Konkan Region

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has drawn the attention of Telecommunication Minister Manoj Sinha to the problem of poor telephone connectivity in Konkan region, including Sindhudurg district.

A native of Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, Suresh Prabhu currently represents Andhra Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha.

In a recent letter to Mr Sinha, the railway minister has highlighted the “poor infrastructural facilities, shortage of staff and frequent disruptions in services after every rainfall and storm” in the region.

“I would like to bring your attention towards the problems faced by the residents of Konkan region, including district Sindhudurg, with regard to the telephone connectivity,” Mr Prabhu said.

Mr Sinha is also the minister of state for railways.

He has said the problems are “related to shortage of staff, need to upgrade infrastructure facilities, including National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) and Base Transceiver Stations (BTS)”.

Restoration of services becomes a major challenge owing to shortage of staff, he has said in the letter.

Describing the topography of Sindhudurg as “unique”, Mr Prabhu has said, “As a matter of fact, the mobile coverage is very poor in difficult and hilly areas of Sindhudurg district.”

Seeking a permanent solution to the problem, he has demanded additional infrastructure and upgradation of the existing facilities in the region.

Fast track implementation of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) would complement the overall efforts of improving connectivity in the region, the letter said.

“I request you to pay personal attention in the above matter and instruct officials to take necesary steps for extending the telecom services to the last mile in the district of Sindhdurg and Konkan region effectively,” Mr Prabhu has said.

Man Arrested For Allegedly Flashing Woman At Mumbai Train Station

A 20-year-old man was on Wednesday arrested for allegedly flashing at a woman at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST) railway station in Mumbai, a senior police official said.

The incident had occurred on June 29, but it came to light after a video went viral on social media, the official said.

The 22-year-old woman, who works for a child rights NGO, was about to travel to Nashik by an express train when the incident took place.

The accused, identified as Ashok Pradhan, who is a rag picker, allegedly exposed himself to the woman on platform number 13 when she was about to board the train.

The offence took place on June 29 around 5.45 am. The matter came to light after the video of the incident, shot by the woman, went viral on social networking sites, the official said.

A case in this regard was registered at CST police station today. We examined the CCTV footage of that day and traced the accused within six hours after the registration of the case. He was arrested from Carnac Bunder area of the city,” ACP Machindra Chavan said.

The accused was booked under section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intending to insult the modesty of woman).

 The accused, who hails from Bhubaneswar district in Odisha, resides at a slum in Chembur. He will be produced in a court today, Mr Chavan said.

 

Central Railway Hands Over Matunga Railway Station To All Women Staffers

In a bid to empower women, Central Railway has appointed all ladies staff at suburban Matunga station, a senior official said.

Matunga station has thus become country’s first ladies special station.

Women are manning this station on the Central Railway since last two weeks, said the official.

A total of 30 women staffers, including 11 booking clerks, five RPF personnel, seven ticket checkers are working under the supervision of station manager Mamta Kulkarni since last two weeks, said the official.
A formal event to mark all women railway station will be held soon, he said.

The staff has been handling overall operations of the railway station round the clock, said the official.

“Our experience has been very smooth or say some what magical. In my career spanning 25 years with the Railways I never thought of working with all women staff,” said Ms Kulkarni, who holds the credit of becoming first station master in Mumbai division when she joined Central Railway in 1992.

“We are working like a family and with a sense of responsibility and cooperation,” Ms Kulkarni said, adding, initially we faced a few problems but now we are taking them in our stride as part of job responsibility.

For instance points person Kirti Kothane, who never attended accident cases, has now learnt how to deal with run over cases.

Even women ticket checkers deployed at Matunga station have learnt how to deal with male passengers while discharging their duties.

“So far, we used to preferably check tickets of women passengers. But, ever since we have come here, we don’t hesitate to ask tickets from male passengers,” said a woman ticket checker.

She added, presence of women RPF and police outpost near railway station makes them feel secure while doing their job.

D K Sharma, general manager of Central Railway, who floated the idea of all ladies station, said, “We in Central Railway are convinced that there is no tool for development more effective than empowering our women and the ladies special station speaks all about it.”

 

Knife Used To Stab Junaid Khan Recovered

A knife which was used to stab teenager Junaid Khan to death on a train last month has been found from a pond in Jatola village, Haryana Railway Police said today.

The shoes and a ‘gamchha’ or stole worn by accused, Naresh Kumar, at the time of the killing have also been found from his house in Palwal, police said.

“We have recovered the knife used in stabbing,” Haryana, Government Railway Police SP Kamaldeep Goyal said.

Junaid Khan, 17 was stabbed to death onboard the Mathura-bound train when he and his brothers were returning home to Khandawli village after shopping for Eid in Delhi. His body was dumped close to Asaoti village in Faridabad district.

The 30-year-old accused was arrested from Maharashtra’s Dhule district on July 8, about a fortnight after the June 22 incident which had triggered a nationwide outrage.

During investigation, Naresh Kumar told police that he had bought the knife from Delhi on the same day. After the crime, he put it in a bag and dumped it in a pond in Jatola village, police said.

The accused works as a security guard in a Delhi firm.

Superintendent of police Kamaldeep Goyal said police was yet to recover the T-shirt which he was wearing at the time of incident. He will be taken to Maharashtra for its recovery.

The knife and other items recovered by the police would be sent to a forensic lab in Bhondsi in Gurugram for examination, police said.

Mr Goyal said accused was sent to police remand for five days by a court here yesterday.

Naresh Kumar, a prime accused in the killing of Junaid, had “confessed” to having stabbed the victim.

Junaid Khan was stabbed to death while his brothers, Hashim and Sakir, were injured by a mob which also allegedly hurled communal slurs against them.

His brothers had claimed the attackers had taunted and repeatedly called them “anti-nationals” and “beef eaters”.

A reward of Rs. two lakh had been announced for information on identity of those involved in the killing.

 

Thailand Approves $5.5 Billion Bullet Train Project With China

China has received the first overseas order to export its bullet train technology as Thailand approved a US $5.5 billion high-speed railway project aimed at linking Bangkok with southern China.

The project is part of China’s huge regional infrastructure plan to build a high-speed rail network connecting the southern city of Kunming with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Construction has already begun in Laos but the Thai segment of rail has been stymied for years by tussles over financing, loan terms and protective labour regulations in Thailand, China’s state-run television CNTN has reported.

The high-speed railway is set to start operations in 2021.

The Thai order is a breakthrough of sorts for the Chinese multibillion high speed train technology as China’s attempts to export the bullet train technology were bogged down due to political issues, finance or stiff competition from Japan.

China is also trying to get the New Delhi-Chennai route for the high-speed train and started feasibility study for it.

China has already built a massive network of bullet trains connecting most of its cities.

 It has the world’s longest railway network, 22,000 kilometres by the end of 2016, about 60 per cent of the total. network.