Indian Railways News

Indian Railways News

Railway Contractors withdraw Strike against imposition of GST (on project contracts awarded prior to July 1)

Major capacity addition rail projects like the Chennai-Korukkupet quadrupling, Sengottai-Punalur doubling and other engineering works across Tamil Nadu and the rest of the country will now resume on Monday after a gap of two weeks as railway contractors have withdrawn their strike against imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on project contracts awarded before July 1.

This came after the Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani wrote to the Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa on September 1, requesting a one-time exemption for dealing with the impact of GST on project contracts awarded prior to implementation of the new taxation policy.

The contractors were at loggerheads with the Ministry of Railways as from July 1, they had to pay 12-18% GST for contracts awarded before the new tax came into effect. This had decreased margins for the contractors as they would have to execute projects at a loss as earlier the tax was only between 1-4%. Contractors estimated that works to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore were stalled across the country. Payments have been stalled since July 1, top railway officials said.

Lohani has asked for an early resolution to the issue to smoothly carry out the projects.

The request to grant the one-time exemption was keeping in view the principles of natural justice, fairness and reasonableness on part of the government, Lohani said in the letter. The impact of GST was unforeseen and the exemption was needed to get work done through existing contracts.

Lohani stated that the enhanced liability due to GST should either be borne by the railways or contracts should be closed without financial implications on either side. “A committee of three chief administrative officers has unanimously recommended that any extra tax liability in existing works contracts on account of GST should be borne by the railways on receipt of documents from contractors so that targets may be met,” the letter said.

A senior Southern Railway official said that though work would start from today, there was no clarity on the percentage of tax to be deducted. “An order from the Finance Ministry is expected soon,” the official said.

Output is likely to Increase after Completion of the Tori-Shivpur Rail Project: interim MD/CIL

NEW DELHI: India is not facing any scarcity of coal and the output of Coal India Ltd (CIL) is more than the country’s power demand, the mining behemoth’s interim Chairman and Managing Director Gopal Singh said today.

Singh said the miner registered a high growth rate of 28 per cent output in FY17 over the last fiscal, while the average rise in power demand in the country was at 10.3 per cent. Coal India is fully capable to fulfil the coal demand in India, he said, adding the company has plans to open new mines in the future.

Singh, who is the head of Central Coalfields Ltd, was given the additional charge of CMD of Coal India on September 1, following the retirement of Coal India on September 1, following the retirement of Sutirtha Bhattacharya.

He also made it clear that there would be no privatisation of the state-owned mining major. Talking about the Magadh coal mine in Jharkhand, which is the biggest open caste mine in Asia, Singh said that coal output in the mine has been reduced due to dispatch-related problems.

The output is likely to increase after completion of the miner’s Tori-Shivpur rail project, he said. Singh greeted Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, who was today

CRS slams Railways for Security Lapses

As the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) found the existing system in probing accidents to be insufficient, the World Bank has recommended for an independent rail safety regulatory and investigator to be set up, for averting accidents. Taking serious note of the sudden spate of tragedies on tracks – in which Railways admitted that 66 of 105 serious rail accidents were caused due to lapses by its staff – the 73-year-old international financial institution has also asked for creating a dedicated safety management system under the railway board chairman for reinforcing the prevailing accident prevention measures.

In its detailed report prepared after a comprehensive study, the World Bank had also asked for creating an independent safety regulator and investigator as per the international practice, to fix responsibility and take preventive measures to curb mishaps. Also keeping stock of the poor maintenance of tracks – a major cause of the train accidents, the report also stressed upon the need for reviewing the timetables of the trains for timely maintenance of the tracks.

It has also suggested for acceleration in the community engagement programmes, to minimise pedestrian accidents by addressing human and other factors contributing to the unsafe behaviour. Since mishaps at unmanned level crossings are one of the major reasons for train accidents in India, the Railways had already undertaken steps to eliminate all such crossings by 2020 as part its ‘zero accident mission’. The report had further sought for the need to develop a safety culture across the network.

Outlining the full support of the staff as the need of the hour to tackle and avert any possibility of an accident, the report said that without their wholehearted support, implementation of any policy or plan would remain a mirage. It may be noted that at present, with a limited power and span of control, the CRS had been assigned to probe all the railway accidents in the country, despite the fact that CRS falls under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry

Interestingly, CSR’s probe and findings had little role to question the rail operations as the Railway’s departmental inquiries after any accident have the final say in it. It may be recalled that former railway minister Suresh Prabhu, in April 2017, had hinted at outsourcing various international agencies for outlining safety measures.

The World Bank had also sought for modern equipment to detect rail fracture and paint of locomotives in bright yellow colour on the front to improve their visibility, particularly during the twilight times in the day. It has also asked to establish an emergency response plan to address derailments and fires.

Working on improving Image Perception: CRB Ashwani Lohani

The newly-appointed Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani today said that the Indian Railways is working to improve “image perception” regarding safety.

Lohani was in Ahmedabad to inspect development works including Sabarmati railway station ungradation, Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed rail project, among others.

The Rail Board chairman further added that the entire railway system was strong.

“Entire Railways system is strong, fortified, and our processes are strong. If you see safety records from across the country, for 2017-18, overall cases of safety breach have gone down.

“But image perception is also important. There should be right image perception. We are creating awareness among staff, inspections are being carried out and shortcomings being detected and addressed. We are taking all measures that need to be taken for that,” Lohani told reporters.

“It is very clear that safety remains our priority. We have taken all steps, and will continue to do so to ensure that our passengers get safe journey and railway safety system remains strong,” he further said.

Asked about the reason behind the recent train accidents in Uttar Pradesh, Lohani said inquiry was on in the matter and reasons will be out only after inquiry is completed.

“It won’t be right to speculate, because inquiry is going on in that. Reasons will be out only after inquiry is completed,” he said.

Lohani also said that the Indian Railways is serious about cleanliness and hygiene in terms of food being served to the passengers.

“We are serious about cleanliness, hygiene. Food has to be good, even though it is simple,” he said.

“Safety, cleanliness, and growth are our focus. We want it to be a big contributor to economy in freight carriage,” Lohani said.

BRICS Member States Express Interest in Eurasia High-Speed Railway

The Russian Direct Investment Fund’s (RDIF) CEO Kirill Dmitriev has noticed that the Eurasia high-speed railway (HSR) is drawing interest among foreign investors at the BRICS summit. However, RDIF had not yet decided on entering the project.

“We discussed the Eurasia high-speed railway project with partners on the sidelines of the [BRICS] summit. We are now looking at it more actively, and see that RZhD [Russian Railways] already has significant progress on the model which shows more interesting yield now. Moreover, it has raised investors’ interest. Cargo transportation through Russian territory is also among its’ main fuctions. The project has prospects to be realized,” Dmitriev said on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

According to Dmitriev, Russia is positioned correctly within the framework of this project — as a logistical corridor between China and Europe.

The Eurasia project is supposed to bridge the railway network of the China Railway Corporation with the Euro Carex, a high-speed freight network. The track will be almost 10,000 kilometers (around 6,200 miles) in length, and speeds on railway are set to reach up to 300 kilometers per hour. The project is scheduled to be finished by 2035.

Moreover, the transcontinental high-speed railroad project might be co-funded by the Russian Railways, Russian Direct Investment Fund, China’s Silk Road Fund, BRICS’ New Development Bank, the Eurasian Development Bank and the Russia-China Investment Fund.


Truecaller integrates Fast Track Toll-free Numbers of Railways under Essential Categories that works without Internet

Truecaller has launched Fast Track numbers – a service which integrates toll-free numbers for emergency services like Railways, police, fire, medical care, women’s helpline, roadside assistance, as well as essential categories like banks, couriers, airlines and insurance, all integrated directly into the Truecaller App, accessible by the user without an internet connection.

Building upon its core proposition of being a complete communication platform, Truecaller will be rolling out two new features – Number Scanner and Fast Track numbers with its upcoming Android release 8.45 in the coming week.

  • Number Scanner – Now you will be able to use the Truecaller App to scan a number directly from business cards, websites, street signs, shop fronts or anywhere you need to quickly lookup a number or store it to your contacts. This will enable users to have the proper resources to receive relevant information quickly, digitally and in their surrounding physical environment.
  • Scan & Pay – Users in India will also be able to scan a number and pay directly using Truecaller Pay – this is a more convenient way of making quick payments as opposed to scanning QR codes. You could be out for lunch with a friend, in a store, or even looking to pay bills – this will be beneficial to our users who are always on the go and lessens the need to carry cash or cards.
  • You can now send or request money, recharge, or even Flash Message any contact from your native phone book.

    These also include extremely useful ‘Bank Balance Check’ numbers that enable a user to check their bank balance via a return SMS from their respective bank via a missed call service. Located in the search bar, the in-built contacts will help users make phone calls at critical moments with a single tap.

    Currently, Fast Track numbers will only be available in India.

    Commenting on the feature set expansion, Narayan Babu, Director of Product & Engineering at Truecaller, said, “As a product made by the community and for the community, our commitment to our users is to constantly add features that enable them to stay ahead of the curve. These new features make Truecaller even more relevant in the real world.  When you see an important phone number, you can directly pull it into your phone with Truecaller and use it, in seconds, to connect or make a payment. Also, during critical moments you can reach out to the right company, person or service with a single tap with Fast track numbers.”

China ferries 2nd Freight Train down New Silk Road to Tehran

A new freight train service bound for the Iranian capital of Tehran was launched from Yinchuan City of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on Tuesday.

The second freight train departed at 10:00 a.m. from Yinchuan South Railway Station, carrying some 560 tons of cargo, including mechanical equipment, ceramic tableware, crystal ware and automobile accessories, worth around $1.6 million, China reported.

The freight train is scheduled to reach Tehran in about 15 days, travelling via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, according to Xinhua Silk Road Information Service.

“The train takes more than 20 days less than transporting by ship, and is expected to greatly lower our delivery costs,” said Liang Hua, whose company is in charge of the operation.

Lying on the route of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Ningxia autonomous region has gained support from the central Chinese authorities to strengthen its role as a trade and logistics hub.

According to Kong Guohua, an official from Ningxia’s Department of Commerce, the new cargo route will help increase trade between China and countries in central and west Asia.

Following the launch of the freight train, Ningxia will continue to expand Yinchuan-Tehran freight rail cooperation, including normalizing the freight trains’ schedule, branding the service and attracting enterprises from all industries to work on International Capacity Cooperation projects in the region.

This is the second time China is sending a freight train down the route to Tehran.

Maiden Journey

The first train set off from Yiwu City in China’s Zhejiang Province on January 28. It covered 10,399 km, passing through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to reach the border station of Sarakhs in Iran’s Khorasan Razavi Province after 14 days.

The route, better known as the New Silk Road, was first proposed by He Huawu, the chief engineer of China Railway Corporation in late 2015.

From Tehran, the grand project will join Iran’s east-west network leading to Turkey and eastern Europe. It could also open a way to Europe via a developing rail route from southern Iranian ports to Azerbaijan and Europe.

The Belt and Road initiative, put forward in October 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, includes several corridors through land and sea, including the New Silk Road rail route, which will serve as a tailwind for the transport of goods and energy between Iran and China.

The two sides have set a long-term bilateral trade target of $600 billion a year.

In a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xiao Jie, in China back in May, Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyebnia said, “Iran’s position in Xi Jinping’s innovative plan to revive the New Silk Road is spectacular and ideal. Therefore, we intend to play an effective role in its implementation.”

Iran resolved issues regarding government guarantees during Tayyebnia’s visit to China to represent Iran in the New Silk Road Forum, which opened on May 14 with China and 29 other nations reaffirming their commitment to build an open economy and ensure free and inclusive trade, under the Belt and Road initiative.

Tayyebnia noted that Iran has been a part of the ancient Silk Road—a route contributing for centuries to trade and cultural exchange—stretching from Japan to the Mediterranean Sea, and intends to play a more important part in the new Silk Road plan.

Chinese Financing for New Silk Road Strand in Iran

China signed a contract with Iran in Tehran back in July to finance the electrification of a strand of the New Silk Road in Iran—a 926-km railroad from Tehran to the eastern city of Mashhad in Khorasan Razavi Province with a $1.5 billion loan.

The railroad is part of China’s New Silk Road initiative.

As per the agreement, signed after 16 months of negotiations, the guarantee for the loan, which is to be granted by Exim Bank of China, will be provided by Iran’s Bank of Industry and Mine.

The electrification project will be carried out by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation, otherwise known as CMC.

According to Maziar Yazdani, the deputy head of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, the electrification of Tehran-Mashhad railroad will take four years.

The route is already double-tracked and both tracks will be electrified as part of the deal with the Chinese side. This will raise the speed of the line from the current 160 kph to 200 kph, significantly reducing the duration of a trip between the two cities.

For Iran, the electrification of Tehran-Mashhad line is part of its wider rail development plan to electrify all railroads by 2025.

DRM/Danapur conducts intensive inspection on Safety measures in Train Operations and Passenger Amenities

A team of officials, led by DRM R K Jha, carried out an intensive inspection of railway stations from Baruna near Buxar to Islampur under Danapur Division of the East Central Railway (ECR) on Wednesday. As per the directives of the new CRB Ashwani Lohani, the officials concerned to crucial categories have to ensure utmost importance to safety in train operations to ensure safety of passengers at any cost and to improve passenger amenities.

According to DRM R K Jha, the Danapur Division has initiated several steps to improve passenger amenities at big and small railway stations. “Since Barh station experiences huge traffic flow, the platforms have been widened so that passengers have enough space to sit while waiting for trains. Mail and express trains with a load combination of 24 coaches have also been stabled on the platforms,” Jha said, adding the railways had introduced announcing system facilities at Kasichak, Sirari and Wazirganj stations on the Kiul-Gaya route of the Division.

While additional sheds have been made on the railway platforms at Hathida, Rampur Dumra, Darauli and Gahmarh, concrete surface has been built on platforms at Mahavir Halt, Jatdumri Halt and Neema Halt on the Patna-Gaya section.

“RPF and RPSF personnel have been directed to keep a close tab on the activities of miscreants on running trains and railway premises. Important stations, including the Patna Junction, Rajendra Nagar Terminal, Pataliputra Junction and Danapur station, have been brought under round-the-clock security surveillance to ensure safety of the passengers,” Jha told.

Railway officials will continue the inspection of important sections under Danapur division on Thursday.

Loco Pilots fight over New Train, Antyodaya Express, put Safety of Passengers at Risk

A rivalry between two Divisions under two different Zonal Railways, “to show dominance over a new train” Antyodaya Express, led to a fight between drivers at Bharatpur Junction in Rajasthan last month, putting at risk the safety of passengers and delaying the train for hours.

The issue pertained to who would drive the Gorakhpur-Bandra train between Mathura and Kota section. On the first trip, which was flagged off by then-railway minister Suresh Prabhu, the Agra division driver had taken the train on the route, but on the second instance, the Kota division claimed their right to helm the locomotive.

Dozens of Kota division drivers stopped the train at Bharatpur on August 22 and beat up the driver and his assistant, Sandeep Mukherjee and Deepak Mahaur of Agra division, before taking over and continuing the trip. The Kota division drivers again stopped the train on August 29, but senior officials intervened and let the Agra division driver continue.

Divisional Railway Manager of Agra, Ranjan Yadav said the fights, which delayed the weekly train for a few hours, occurred due to overlapping schedules made by the two divisions — Kota and Agra.

“It rarely happens that schedules of crew from the two divisions overlap,” a train driver said, but added, “It’s also true that often divisions’ drivers enter into a rivalry to show their dominance on a new train.”

The issue was resolved on September 1, when the Chief Passenger Traffic Manager of the NCR division issued a letter of compromise.

Under the new plan, it has been decided that on the Bandra-Gorakhpur trip, the WCR crew will drive the train from Kota to Mathura, and on the return trip, the NCR crew will take the train from Mathura to Kota.


In the wake of recent train derailments in the region, the fight between divisions of railways poses a grave threat to safety of passengers due to the drivers’ lack of concern over passengers’ well-being.

“A train driver is supposed to concentrate on his job. He is not supposed to carry dozens of people for his safety inside the engine. The two divisions have risked the lives of passengers,” said a source.

A report by loco inspector M K Meena, who was present at the time of the incident, said on August 22, the train driver Mukherjee was beaten up and had to be treated by a doctor. The Railway Police Force (RPF) stood as mute spectators.

On August 29, the situation was tense as the Agra division driver had brought dozens of colleagues with him, fearing assaults by the Kota division staff. A fight was prevented, but the train was delayed for half an hour. The Indian Railway Loco Running Organisation, a registered association of train drivers, wrote a detailed report to the Railway Board narrating the incident.

The fights come at a time when the Indian Railways faces a 20% shortage of drivers across the country.

Bengaluru Suburbs to get Two Electric Trains soon

In a month, Bengaluru will receive two spanking new electric trains to replace conventional trains in the city’s suburban network.

These two trains are part of the 15 trains that the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala will deliver to the state in the next one year.

All of them are meant for suburban services around Bengaluru. This was the deal signed between the state government and the ministry of railways in January. The total cost of the conversion is pegged at Rs 327.79 crore, 80 per cent of which will be shared by the state government.

Each of these two trains have eight coaches. “They are expected to arrive by September end,“ said RS Saxena, Divisional Railway Manager, Bengaluru. These electric trains, called mainline electric multiple units (MEMUs), have greater carrying capacity (resulting in better utilisation of line capacity), better fuel efficiency and performance when compared to the outgoing diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) trains and conventional passenger trains.

The above-mentioned 15 trains operate between Bengaluru and various suburban town such as Bangarpet, Jolarpettai, Mysuru and Hindupur.

“As and when the new rakes arrive, we will deploy them on sections that are seeing good patronage. Two more rakes are expected to arrive by this-year end and the remaining four rakes will be dispatched in 2018,“ Saxena said.

January’s memorandum of understanding also involved upgrading maintenance facilities for the MEMUs at Banasawadi. “The project will be taken up only after approval in the supplementary budget,“ an official statement from the railways said.

Although any project that costs more than Rs 5 crore should be routed through the railway budget for approval, A K Gupta, general manager, SWR, said this would not affect manufacturing of nine rakes as agreed in the pact. “Each year, a certain amount is set aside to manufacture rakes. As the Railway Board has already agreed to allot 15 pairs of trains to Bengaluru, there will be no problem,“ he said.

At present, the SWR operates 94 commuter services in Bengaluru. Of them, 44 are passenger (conventional) trains, 26 are MEMU and 24 are DEMU trains. Urban mobility activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar hoped that the new trains will mean an increase in the number of services to Whitefield.

“As Metro work is being taken up between Baiyappanahalli and Whitefield, a higher frequency of train services would definitely see good patronage,“ he said.