Indian Railways News

Indian Railways News

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freight rebate scheme in empty flow directions, rationalised distance slabs above 1,500 km and up to 3,500 km, withdrawn port congestion charges, offered short-lead concessions and discount for loading of bagged consignment in open and flat wagons, concessional station-to-station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

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.

Railway Hotel Scam Case: Lalu Yadav Asks For 2 Weeks To Appear Before CBI

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has sought two weeks to appear before the CBI for questioning in connection with a case of alleged graft in giving the maintenance contract for two Indian Railways (IRCTC) hotels to a private firm, sources said today.

The contracts were given when Lalu Yadav was railway minister. Mr Yadav, who was summoned by the CBI for the second time to appear before the investigating team, sent his lawyer who submitted the request seeking two weeks time for questioning, the CBI sources said.

They said the agency was processing the request and would take a call on future course of action.

The lawyer did not say anything about Tejashwi Yadav, the RJD leader’s son and former deputy chief minister of Bihar, who is summoned in the case tomorrow, they said.

They had been called on September 11 and 12. Lalu Yadav did not turn up, citing an ongoing court case in Ranchi where his presence was required, while Tejashwi claimed he had political commitments to take care of.

The case pertains to allegations that Lalu Yadav, as railway minister, handed over the maintenance of two hotels run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, in Ranchi and Puri to Sujata Hotel, a company owned by Vinay and Vijay Kochhar, in return for a prime plot of three acres in Patna through a benami company.

The FIR alleged that the RJD leader, as the railway minister, abused his official position for extending undue favours to the Kochhars and acquired a “high value premium land” through a benami firm Delight Marketing Company. As a quid pro quo, he “dishonestly and fraudulently” managed award of leasing of the two hotels.

The CBI has registered the case against Lalu Yadav, his wife Rabri Devi, a former Bihar chief minister, son Tejashwi, who was deputy CM until a few months ago, and Sarla Gupta, wife of Prem Chand Gupta, a former union minister.

Others named as accused in the FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar, both directors of Sujata Hotels and owner of Chanakya Hotel, Delight Marketing Company, now known as Lara Projects, and then IRCTC managing director PK Goel.

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

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 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.

Booking A Train Ticket? All Cards Accepted, Clarifies IRCTC

Clarifying on media reports which said that the Railways is not accepting a number of financial institutions from using its payment gateway for debit cards, The Railway ministry said that it has not imposed any restrictions and debit and credit cards of all Indian banks powered with VISA and Mastercard are accepted. IRCTC or Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation said that it has provided seven payment gateways for accepting domestic debit and credit cards and has also provided direct integration to some banks as value added service to for the convenience of its passengers.

In a circular issued yesterday, the Railways also added 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.

Currently, banks are allowed to charge 0.25 per cent on transactions of up to Rs. 1,000 and of 0.5 per cent on transactions of values between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 2,000, according to Resrve Bank of India guidelines.

Highlighting that roughly 66 per cent of all transactions were under Rs. 1,000, IRCTC asked the banks to strictly follow the RBI guidelines.


Railways offers GE option to make Electric Locomotives

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.

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. 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.

China restores 350 kmph Commercial Bullet Train

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.

PayU partners with IRCTC, lends online payment services to users

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.

Can’t blame Railways for stolen luggage unless booked: NCDRC

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 are 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 three 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.