Indian Railways News

Railways starts process of phasing out of blankets in AC coaches

After the CAG rap, the Railways has begun the process of doing away with providing blankets in AC compartments and is instead regulating the temperature inside the coaches so that passengers don’t shiver.

The ‘no-blankets rule’ has now been implemented in the third AC coach of the Jammu Mail, a senior official of the railway ministry said.

“The ministry has started the process of gathering data from passengers on the viability of not having blankets on trains. Once we find how many of them ask for blankets and how many say that they can do without these, we will come to a decision about replicating the project in other trains,” the official said.

The Railways is using thermal control and regulating the temperature in the third AC compartment of the Delhi-Jammu train to around 24-26 degree Celsius from the current 19 degrees so that passengers are comfortable and do not need blankets.

The step to phase out blankets from trains was taken after severe criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report recently about dirty blankets and bedrolls.

Senior officials said that eventually the plan is to replace blankets with cotton sheets which would be enough for passengers given the revised temperatures being maintained in the compartments.

The no-blanket move would also be more economical for the Railways – it takes Rs 55 to clean the bedroll while passengers are charged just Rs 22 for it.

However, officials said blankets will be carried in the trains in case these are needed by passengers.

Soon, travel from Delhi to Chandigarh by train in two hours

The Indian Railways is going full steam to achieve the target of covering the 245-km long Delhi-Chandigarh distance in flat two hours despite many curves on the proposed semi-high speed route.

The Delhi-Chandigarh corridor, one of the busiest routes in north India, is slated to be first semi-high speed project being taken up by the state-owned transporter to run trains at maximum speeds of 200 kmph with French help.

There are about 10 major curves spanning over 32 km on the existing Delhi-Chandigarh rail route.

The public transporter will not go for land acquisition required for straightening up several curves on the Delhi- Chandigarh semi-high speed corridor and instead opt for slowing down while negotiating the track, according to the railways.

 The earlier plan was to straighten up these curves to facilitate uninterrupted speed on the semi-high speed route, said a senior Railway ministry official involved with the semi-high speed project.

However, since it requires acquiring land for the purpose which is a time-consuming process, railways decided not to go for land acquisition to avoid delay.

In a recent review meeting with the French team, it was decided to avoid land acquisition and instead make some adjustment on curves as much as possible on the existing railway land, he said.

However, the official said, despite curves, the target of reaching Chandigarh in two hours will be achieved.

SNCF, the French railways, has been assigned the task of submitting the execution strategy and implementation model with detailed cost of the semi-high speed project involving upgradation of the Chandigarh route.

The French team will submit the final report with details of cost analysis and technical parameter by October.

According to a rough estimate, it is likely to cost over Rs 10,000 crore with about Rs 46 crore per kilometre for running trains at 200 kmh, which includes rolling stock and signal and track upgradation on the

Chandigarh corridor.

Currently, the Shatabdi Express covers the 245 km distance in about three hours and 30 minutes travelling at a maximum speed of 110 kmh.

Commissioner of Railway Safety inspects Utkal Express Accident Site

Commissioner, Railway Safety Shailesh Pathak on Monday visited Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar where 14 coaches of Kalinga Utkal Express derailed on Saturday claiming 22 lives. Pathak and his team inspected the accident site and also met the local people.

Meanwhile, the two-day long statutory enquiry into the rail accident will begin on Tuesday in Divisional Railway Manager’s office in Delhi. The railways had on Sunday sent on leave three senior officials, suspended four officials and transferred one official following the train tragedy.

At least 22 people died and over 156 injured when the Haridwar bound train coming from Puri in Odisha derailed on Saturday evening.

Railways amending Guidelines on Safety checks

With yet another train derailment claiming 23 lives, the Railways is going back to drawing board, amending guidelines on safety checks to avoid repeat of such incidents in future. There have been at least 23 rail accidents across India since 2014.

Sources opined that though one might see a proactive Railway ministry on social media, the ground situation speaks a different story. Now, with the rescue work at Utkal Express mishap site over, the Railways feels that it is time to plug the loopholes and fix the problem areas.

“We will issue necessary safety guidelines once the Commissioner of Railway Safety is through with his probe report,” said Vinod Kumar, Advisor (Safety), Railway Board. The Central and Western Railway officials claim that they too are expecting some sort of guidelines on maintaining safety in the days to come.

Guidelines apart, one of the possible causes behind this derailment is said to be the lack of coordination between the rail authorities and gangmen who maintain tracks. Sources said the gangmen alone cannot be faulted as across Indian Railways there is a practise of gangmen being asked to do personal chores at rail quarters and bungalows.

Not just this, the Railways pays little heed to the rail representatives and associations. For instance the Railway ministry has appointed commuter representatives and formed committees who discuss problems related to train travel. These are called Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee (for the entire zone like CR, WR), Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee (Mumbai Division), which are meant to discuss the issues faced by commuters.

“For the last two years, there has been only two meetings with the Railways,” said Subhash Gupta, member, ZRUCC. These members take stock of the issues faced by people and then discuss it with the railway authorities.

“Ideally, these meetings should take place once in every three months, but it rarely happens. Moreover, the rail authorities show scant interest in holding such meetings,” said Madhu Kotian, member, ZRUCC.

Blaming the Railways for the accidents, they claim that the latter pay little heed to their suggestions concerning rail safety.

Dharmendra Kumar new Director General of Railway Protection Force

Senior IPS officer Dharmendra Kumar was appointed as new Director General of Railway Protection Force (RPF) on Monday, an official said.

Dharmendra Kumar, a 1984 batch Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre officer, will be replacing Surendra Kumar Bhagat who serving the post since May 2016.

Dharmendra Kumar will be the 32nd Director General of RPF.

At present, Kumar is serving in Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) as Additional Director General.

“His appointment will be effective from the date of assumption of charge of the post or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” a Home Ministry statement said.

Kumar had earlier served as Special Commissioner, Special Unit in Delhi Police before joining CISF.

He was Special Commissioner, Law and Order when a bomb blast took place in Delhi High Court in 2011

NGT allows Registration of 3 Diesel Trucks of Railways conforming to BS-IV Emission Norms

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has allowed the registration of three new diesel trucks, conforming to BS-IV emission norms, to be used by the railways’ general store department for transporting essential supplies.

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar granted the relief after the PSU behemoth said it does not have any vehicle more than 10-years-old.

The green panel was also informed that three trucks which were more than 10-years-old had been scrapped and the certificate submitted to it.

The tribunal — which had last year banned the registration of new diesel vehicles as well as their re-registration after 10 years — clarified in its recent order that the new vehicles should be used only for carrying essential commodities and not for any other purpose.

“We dispose of this application and direct that the Registering Officer, Delhi register these three vehicles provided they are BS-IV compliant and have to be used for the purpose as stated in the application,” the bench said.

The tribunal’s order came after advocate Om Prakash, appearing for the railways, informed the bench that it had bought three new diesel vehicles which were BS-IV compliant.

The railways had approached the green panel seeking registration of its new vehicles following its directive last year.

Later, the Supreme Court had also banned registration of diesel-run SUVs and cars with engine capacity beyond 2000cc in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

In a jolt to diesel car owners in the national capital, the tribunal had directed the Delhi government to cancel the registration of all diesel-powered vehicles over 10 years old from plying in the city.

The tribunal had clarified later that deregistration of old diesel vehicles in the national capital would be carried out in a phased manner.

Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) urge Centre to speed up Rail Projects in Assam; rues at MOSR

Lambasting the Central government and the Railway Board over their failure to speed up the double-tracking projects in the State, the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) has said that delay in execution of the same in the New Bongaigaon-Agyathuri section will mean that the actual benefits of the Bogibeel Bridge will not soon be received by the State in general and its people in particular.

Dipankar Sharma, ARPA secretary, said that though utilisation percentage of the main rail lines in Assam has reached as high as 170 per cent, no step has been taken by the Centre to undertake double-tracking works, while similar projects have been sanctioned in states like Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, even when tracks in those places have only a utilisation percentage of around 100-110 per cent.

“In the 2013 Railway Budget, sanction was given for doubling of tracks in the New Bongaigaon-Agyathuri section, but since then the files have been lying with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). This is the main rail line of our State and officially its utility was mentioned as being 167 per cent six months ago,” he said.

Sharma added, “While people of our State are being made to wait for CCEA nod for so many years, earlier this year, sanction was given for doubling of tracks at some sections in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the utilisation of tracks is currently only around 100-110 per cent. This shows that despite tall claims and promises, the NDA regime has not done anything to remove infrastructure bottlenecks in the railway sector in Assam and the Northeast.”

He rued that despite the Minister of State for Railways hailing from Assam, the State in particular and the Northeastern region in general have not been able to reap the benefits in actual terms as far as the development of railway infrastructure is concerned.

“Even our State government and the MPs elected from Assam are mum on such sensitive issues. Our Chief Minister visits New Delhi at least twice a week but he never bothers to raise such issues of vital economic, infrastructural as well as strategic importance with the Centre,” said the ARPA secretary.

Sharma said such discriminatory attitude by New Delhi is what forces the people of Assam to resort to agitations

Everybody knew Khatauli Track had Cracks, Why One-Sided Action?

The railway track at Khatauli had developed cracks. It could break any time. The maintenance team from the Engineering Department are aware of it. The maintenance engineer (Permanent Ways Inspector) sought permission from the Station Master for a block of 15-20 minutes for a no-traffic window when they could have cut the damaged portion and repaired it. The station master, after consulting his superiors – section controller – denied the block.

Maintenance Workers Flee on Seeing the Train

The maintenance team then went ahead without permission. They cut the railway line, re-laid the undamaged section of the railway line and started welding the piece.

Before the job was finished, they saw the Kalinga Utkal Express approaching at a speed of 105 km/hour.

The workers fled the scene leaving the work unfinished. They panicked so much that they even left their welding machine and tools on the track.

The facts are slowly emerging of criminal negligence from all quarters that resulted in derailment of the Kalinga Utkal Express in Khatauli.

Saturday, 19 August, will go down in the history of the Indian Railways as the day when everyone knew of the impending disaster, but no one blew the whistle. The audio-recordings and documents that indicate culpability of both the engineering section as well as the operations division of the railways is a clear indication that lethargic staff from various departments contributed for the mishap, and not just engineering department. The Operating Staff also played a role in derailment and cannot go unscathed.

ASM Seeks 20-Minute Window for Repair

In one such recording, Assistant Station Master (ASM) of Khatauli,Prakash Kumar is heard asking Section Controller (SC), PB Taneja – responsible for operations and smooth traffic between Delhi and Saharanpur – that PWI is asking for a 20 minutes ‘block’. The conversation that took place minutes before the mishap goes like this –

SC: Khatauli?

ASM: Sir, the PWI people are asking for a 20-minutes block.

SC: Which block is this now?

ASM: They are saying they have to change something called the glue-joint? But that would bring entire traffic to a halt – main line and loop line, everything will be blocked.

SC: Trains are lined up…

ASM: Yes sir, that is what I have been telling them. Group of trains are coming, how can a block be given to them?

SC: Okay.

In another conversation, the ASM is asking the Section Controller whether he should turn the signal red. SC tells him how can that be allowed as the Utkal Express would then come to a halt. The train has already started moving and should not be stopped at Khatauli.

ASM followed the instructions and it culminated in the mishap which claimed over two dozen lives.

There is yet another conversation that took place a while earlier, in which the ASM is informing the SC of an impending request of PWI for a 15-minutes window to repair the track, but the SC flatly refuses to grant the block as this was a rush hour and a number of trains were moving in that direction.

Unfair to Blame Only the Engineering Division

The matter was, in fact, discussed not only at the junior level – PWI and SM, but at senior levels too. Senior Divisional Manager RK Verma spoke to Divisional Operations/Movements Manager (Delhi), Sudeep Kumar about the cracks in the track at Khatauli.

A day after the accident, station master of Khatauli, Rajendra Singh, in his interviews to newspapers and TV channels, denied knowledge of any ongoing repair on the track.

In any case, when ongoing repair work was common knowledge in Khatauli, Singh feigning ignorance about something that was barely 200 meters from his station and was informed repeatedly about the need for a ‘block’, is simply criminal. A memo was also written by the PWI to SM, Khatauli, Rajendra Singh seeking permission for repairs.

This resulted in the blame being squarely laid on the engineering division and immediate action was initiated against eight officials – right from the PWI to Member (Engineering) of the Railway Board. The operations divisions, however, escaped unscathed. No action was initiated against ASM, SM, SC, Divisional Operations Manager, Chief Operations Manager or Member (Traffic) of Railway Board.

One-Sided Action

It is not that the engineering section is above board. If there were cracks in the track, they shouldn’t have given the go-ahead without permission from the operations division.

Even if they had to go urgently, they should have taken enough precautions to avert the mishap. They should have posted couple of personnel with red flags at least one kilometre ahead of the repair site. This would have either stopped the train or at least would have slowed it down to a manageable speed.

This is the first time top officials like Member, Railway Board, have been taken to task for a train accident. But only one-sided action against the engineering division is causing more than just a few ripples.

Chitheri Train Accident: Loco Pilot gets 10-year Jail for Accident that claimed lives of 12 and injured 71 in 2011

The principal district and sessions court on Monday sentenced a loco pilot to 10 years rigorous imprisonment for causing a train accident in 2011 that claimed the lives of 12 persons and injured 71.

A mobile phone-wielding loco pilot, whose train rammed a stationary rake in Chitheri killing 12 people in 2011, has been found guilty of committing culpable homicide, and sentenced to 10-year imprisonment.

Vellore principal district sessions judge S Ananthi convicted loco pilot A Rajkumar who drove the Chennai Beach-Vellore MEMU on the fateful day, under two counts and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for maximum period of 10 years. Delivering the verdict, principal district and sessions judge sentenced A. Rajkumar, the then loco pilot of Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU) Train no. 66017 – Chennai Beach to Vellore Cantonment, to 10 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 304 Part II of the Indian Penal Code.

According to A Dilli Babu, public prosecutor, a total of 74 witnesses were examined in the case, and 12 material evidence too were submitted. This included the mobile phone of the loco pilot and speedometer of the train engine.

Rajkumar had made phone call to a fellow loco-pilot, Ravi, when he was in-charge of the train. During the conversation, he told Ravi that he had to return from Vellore to Chennai the same night and hence he was rushing to Katpadi. During the course of the conversation, the phone call got disconnected and then it became not reachable, Ravi had depose during the trial.

Police stated that the train was being driven at 97 kmph, as against the permitted speed of 75 kilometres per hour.

During trial, police also produced the call details of Rajkumar’s mobile number, which clearly showed that he was speaking on the mobile while driving the train, which is against rules as per the Railway Board orders. While on the call, he missed the signal and dashed against the Arakkonam-Katpadi passenger train.

On September 13, 2011, the Chennai Beach-Vellore Cantonment Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit-66017 driven by Rajkumar rammed into a stationary train Arakkonam-Katpadi Passenger at Chitheri at 9.24 pm. Twelve persons died, while 71 were grievously injured in the accident. Of the 12 deceased, 11 had died on the spot, while another person died at the hospital. The then station master of Walajah Road station Krish Kumar, 31, was one among the deceased. He had gone to Arakkonam to buy gifts for his son’s first birthday.

Sessions judge Ananthi sentenced that Rajkumar must serve 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for offences punishable under Section 304 (ii) of IPC besides five years and Rs 1 lakh fine under Section 3 of Tamil Nadu Public Property Prevention of Damage and Loss Act, 1992 read with 151 of Railways Act. Though he was also booked under section 308 of IPC, he was acquitted of the charge. He will serve the imprisonment concurrently. If he failed to pay the fine, he will have to undergo one year imprisonment. He was acquitted of charges filed under Section 308 (attempt to culpable homicide) of the IPC. He will undergo the imprisonment concurrently.

“As per stipulated rules, the train should ply at 75 kmph. Instead, the train was plying at 97 kmph,” he said.

Police had filed a 395-page charge sheet in the case and said Rajkumar was speaking over the phone, jumped a signal and violated the speed limit. They also listed 165 witnesses in the charge sheet and quoted Southern Railway’s assessment that Rs 2 crore worth property was damaged in the accident.

Railways in process of using Modern Technology to plug Accidents: Officials

The railway ministry has already initiated measures like inducting modern coaches, creating a safety fund as well as incorporating new technology to not only plug accidents due to derailments, but also to reduce casualties, a senior ministry official said today.

A key step was introdcution of sophisticated Linke Hofman Busch (LHB) coaches replacing conventional ones in a phased manner to reduce the chances of derailment and bringing down the possibility of grievous injury or death in case of accidents such as the one that took place in Khatauli yesterday evening, he said.

“These (LHB) coaches have anti-climbing features and provision of superior braking and lesser chances of uncoupling of coaches in case of accidents. Besides, the railways have speeded up the use of modern technology such as ultrasonic system to detect track defects,” the official, who did not want to be identified, said.

While the production target of LHB coaches has been increased from 1,697 in 2016-17 to 2,384 in 2017-18, it is expected to be 3,025 LHB coaches in 2018-19, he said.

According to the railways, under the rolling stock production programme, there will be only 801 conventional coaches manufactured in 2017-18 and, subsequently, no such coaches will be produced.

The train-protection warning system (TPWS) and the train- collision avoidance system (TCAS) are also being used to prevent accidents, the official said.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had launched ‘mission zero accident’ in the 2016-17 Rail Budget for carrying out a special drive to curb accidents.

The Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, a special safety fund, was created in the 2017-18 budget with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over a period of five years for financing critical safety-related works.

While the TPWS has been installed on a 342-km route, the TCAS is being tried on a 350-km route, the official said.

“It is crucial for safe running of trains to ensure track security. So, track renewal has been undertaken on a priority basis and adequate funds have been allocated for this purpose,” he said.

The fund allocation for track renewal has been almost doubled from the last five years average of Rs 5,548.6 crore to Rs 9,961 crore in the Budget Estimate of 2017-18.

In the 2016-17 fiscal, the railways eliminated 1,503 unmanned level crossings and 484 manned level crossings by constructing road over-bridges and under-bridges.

Since unmanned level crossings are responsible for the maximum number of train accidents, the railways intends to eliminate all such crossings on broad gauge sections by 2020.

 

In Utkal Express Accident, Railways Lose One Of Its Own

At least 20 people have been killed and over 200 injured in Saturday’s train tragedy in Uttar Pradesh’ Muzaffarnagar. Among the dead was Alok Sarkar, a 48-year-old railway employee working with  Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Office in Delhi.

The Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express was always the preferred choice for Mr Sarkar. On Saturday, he had boarded the ill-fated train for Muzaffarnagar – the journey turned out to be his last.

“Never thought, this would be his last journey,” Mr Sarkar’s elder brother told news agency PTI as he struggled to come to terms with the loss that last evening’s derailment has afflicted on the
family.

“He always used to take this train,” he added.

Mr Sarkar body was taken to Delhi for cremation today.

Thirteen coaches of the train went off the tracks around 5:45 pm in Khatauli, about 100 kms from the national capital, New Delhi. One of the coaches crashed into a house by the tracks.

At least 22 people were killed and over 200 injured in the derailment. “We have identified about 12 bodies and their post-mortem have been conducted,” said Saharanpur Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agarwal.

 Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Four people were suspended, three others sent on leave and one official was transferred based on an early probe, a railways spokesperson said on Sunday.

 

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