Indian Railways News

Indian Railways News

Railways to Opt for Reverse Bidding to Reduce Procurement Expenditure

Aiming at increasing competition and reducing expenditure on procurement, the Indian Railways will adopt a reverse bidding process for high-value items like rolling stock parts, track equipment and cement among other purchases.

Reverse auction is an online bidding process that allows vendors to submit multiple bids on time scale and then compete online with each other by offering lowest acceptable bids.

Currently several ministries, including the power ministry, and public sector undertakings are using the reverse auction process to procure supplies at competitive prices. Though the railways has introduced the e-procurement system, which has helped to bring down corruption, officials say that procurement rates are still too high.

The railways purchases about Rs 60,000-crore worth of materials, including track items and items for the production and maintenance of locomotives and coaches, in a year.

“We aim to reduce the procurement expenditure substantially through reverse bidding method,” said a senior railway ministry official.

The railways, therefore, is in the process of developing a software for the reverse bidding purpose. “First we will try the system as a pilot project involving limited items.Then it will extended to all type of high value purchases.”

The Indian Railways will also be launching a system of digitisation of its entire supply chain across all zones, which also aims at improving the ease of doing business and transparency.

Digital contract, as it will be called, will be a seamlessly integrated digital supply chain. It envisages involving stakeholders including industries, financial institutions, internal customers of railways and inspecting agencies to create an efficient, responsive and transparent system.

“With 100% e-tenders and e-auctions already assimilated into the system, we are further planning to build on these initiatives to achieve seamless flow of material, finances and information,” the official said.

The system includes digitisation of processes like bill submission, inspection, dispatches, receipt, bill passing and bill payments, warranty monitoring and enabling use of analytics for increasing supply chain efficiencies in real time.

The railways have about 52,000 registered vendors for supplies and the vast supply chain also handles more than 2,664 registered bidders for the sale of scrap material.

Tenders and auction process are already on e-platform in railways.

CBI files FIR against Railway officials and a Private Co for cheating Railways

A private company that won the contract to maintain crucial facilities for India’s longest railway tunnel deployed less than half the staff it was required to and lied to the government about it, the CBI alleged while opening an investigation.

The Central Bureau of Investigation filed an FIR against six people — four Railways officials and two from Sarvonik Sistem India Private Limited — for criminal conspiracy and cheating since the private firm billed the Railways for 87 employees while engaging only 35 people on an average.

The company has been responsible for the ventilation, electro-mechanical works and telecommunications inside the 11.2-kilometre long tunnel connecting Qazigund and Banihal in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pir Panjal range.

The contract was given to Sarvonik for Rs 5.34 crore in 2015. The following year, the contract was extended for 12 more months.

“As per the contract agreement, 87 employees were required on ground for round the clock operation and maintenance of Pir Panjal Railway tunnel,” according to the CBI FIR.

“The actual attendance register also shows that less number of employees (were) deployed on ground (and) as such huge loss was caused to the government exchequer.”

Further, according to the FIR, the contract provided for registration of 87 employees for provident fund (PF) but only 22 employees were registered for the PF.

Identity cards were issued to all 87 employees, but only 38 of them got I-cards for 2016-17.

“In this way, (the) accused persons entered into criminal conspiracy and cheated the railway department by abusing their official position by authenticating the fake employees and raised the inflated bills as per the contract agreement, thus caused a wrongful loss to the government of India,” the FIR concluded.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has constructed the 11 km long Pir Panjal Railway tunnel, the longest transportation tunnel in India, which has been successfully commissioned by Indian Railways. IRCON is the executioner of the Project.

All unmanned level crossings will be removed in one year: Piyush Goyal

Newly appointed Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said that all the unmanned level crossings will be removed within a year.

“Initially, the Railways had a target of removing all unmanned crossings in three years. But I told them, why not do it within a year. Around 5,000 unmanned level crossings which account for nearly 30-35 per cent of total rail accidents, need to be removed by the railways in the next one year,” Goyal said while addressing a program in IIM-Calcutta.

He also emphasised on leveraging technology to improve Indian Railways’ efficiency and claimed to have presented the idea of floating global tenders for laying new railway tracks.

 “All you need is some infrastructure and a set of communication devices. The RailTel has already prepared the optic fibre network for improving

communication,” Goyal added.

 RailTel Corporation, a Mini Ratna PSU, is one of the largest railway telecom infrastructure providers in the country.

He further said that the officials have been asked to look into the upkeep of railway tracks and expedite procurement processes.

“These are just ideas that we have discussed. Let’s see how soon we can take them forward,” Goyal said.

He had chaired a high-level meeting with top Railway Board officials on train safety in New Delhi on September 7.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan Join Key Cabinet Committees

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan have become members of key cabinet committees reconstituted after the September 3 reshuffle.

After her elevation as defence minister, Ms Sitharaman has become a member of the cabinet committee on security headed by Prime Minister Modi. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely was till recently holding the additional charge of defence after Manohar Parrikar quit the Union Cabinet in March.

The other members are Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Minister of State for Urban Development with independent charge Hardeep Singh Puri has also become part of the cabinet committee on accommodation.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is no longer part of the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs. Before his elevation as a cabinet minister, he was a minister of state in the parliamentary affairs ministry.

SS Ahluwalia, who was divested of his charge as minister of state for parliamentary affairs, is also no longer a member of the cabinet panel on parliamentary affairs which recommends dates of parliament sessions.

Vijay Goel, who has been made the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, is part of the reconstituted parliamentary affairs ministry as a special invitee along with Arjun Ram Meghwal, another MoS in the parliamentary affairs committee.

Ms Sitharaman and Mr Goyal have also become part of the cabinet committee on political affairs and cabinet committee on economic affairs. Mr Pradhan has also become a member of the cabinet committee on economic affairs which meets almost every week just before the meeting of the full cabinet usually on Wednesdays.

Uma Bharti, who was divested of her water resources ministry portfolio, is not a member of any of the cabinet committees.

Railways’ April-August Coal Movement falls marginally on year

State-run carrier Indian Railways carried 215.86 million mt coal over April-August, down marginally by 0.3% from the same period a year ago, according to the latest data from the Directorate of Statistics and Economics.

Of the total quantity transported by Indian Railways in the first five months of the current fiscal year 2017-18, 179.89 million mt was domestic coal, down 0.6% year on year, while 35.97 million mt consisted of imported coal, up almost 1% from the year-ago period.

Domestic coal shipments transported to thermal power houses fell 32% to 89.56 million mt during April-August while imported coal shipments stood at 6.95 million mt, up 69% year on year, the data showed.

Domestic coal supply to steel mills during the period under review was at 6.71 million mt, down 6% from a year ago, while imported coal volumes grew 23% to 15.82 million mt.

The data showed domestic coal deliveries to other users jumping 107% to 83.50 million mt while imported coal deliveries fell 29% year on year to 13.20 million mt.

Coal contributes to around 50% share in the overall freight traffic of Indian Railways.

On a monthly basis, the railways carried 42.07 million mt of coal during August, up 6% from the same month a year ago.

Indian Railways will switch to LHB Coaches, reduce casualty rate by 25 times

If a fast-moving train with Integral Coach Factory (ICF)-designed coaches derails, the deaths and injuries will be 25 times higher as compared to a train composed of LHB coaches.

This statistic, brought out in a recent audit report of Indian Railways, is a key reason why the railways will stop manufacturing the ICF coaches and switch over completely to the German-technology Linke Hoffman Busche (LHB) coaches.

Extracts from the report show that for 2014, 2016, 17 trains with ICF coaches which met with accidents, resulted in 431 deaths and injury of 866 people. In comparison, the three derailments that LHB coaches met with, killed only four people and injured eight. “This proves the superiority of LHB coaches over ICF coaches’. The latter is not safe for operational speeds of 100120 kmph with trailing loads of 2024 coaches,” the report noted.

On August 19, 13 ICF coaches of the Utkal Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh, killing more than 20.On August 29, nine LHB coaches of the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto Express derailed, but there were no casualties.

“This is attributed to the anti-climbing/anti-piercing  features of LHB coaches due to vertically interlocked centre buffer couplers that prevent the coaches from capsizing in a derailment. None of the LHB coaches of Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express turned turtle despite a derailment in 2014,” the audit report noted.

ICF, Chennai, will completely switch-over to LHB coaches in a few weeks time, an official said.

RDSO reverses ‘Ease of Doing Business’ policy of Railway Board

Indian Railways, the largest civil establishment of the Government is providing due opportunities to MSME suppliers, today it procure 25% of its total purchases from micro and small enterprises.

However, down below, some of its offices are still scary of allowing supplies by MSMEs and putting hindrances in upscaling status of the MSME suppliers.

One glaring example is reintroduction of category gates for suppliers by the RDSO, which put additional procedural burden on MSMEs, even after categorisation of vendors were annulled by the Railway Board.

Railways register new suppliers after detail inspection of  manufacturing and testing facilities and all other documents.

Even after that MSMEs are registered as ‘Developmental Vendors’ with limitation on the extent of supplies they can make and other additional checks and balances.

After repeated successful supplies, these contractors have to apply again for upgradation to regular vendors and repeat the entire registration process.

With the focus of the present Government on ease of doing business, the Railway Board, the apex body of the Railways, done away with the two track registration system by an order dated 18th November, 2016.

But the bureaucracy below thought otherwise.

By an order hardly a month after, RDSO Lucknow, the authority to approve the vendors, negates the Railway Board order and reintroduced categorisation of vendors.

The MSMEs are really upset.

Commenting on the situation, Mr. Naveen Jain of Muzaffarnagar and regular supplier to Railways mentioned that this a big harassment to MSME suppliers.

He also mentioned that for new products / items Railways can term  contracts as developmental but for routine items what purpose the categorisation serve, besides creating additional hurdles for MSMEs to register as regular vendors.

The moot question here is who rules the Railways, the Board or the subordinate RDSO.

Otherwise, how an order of the board, abolishing ‘developmental’ and ‘normal’ categorisation of the vendors, were overruled by RDSO.

According to some of the observers, this is the real challenge for  ‘Make in India’ today, where the decisions of the Government to promote manufacturing are reversed by the bureaucracy.

India’s Train Accidents are not even accidents, but High-probability Events caused by Systemic Problems!

India has had four train derailment accidents in the last few weeks. One of the accidents, in Uttar Pradesh on August 19, killed 23 people and injured more than 150 people. This series of serious accidents led to the resignations of Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu and Chairman of the Railway Board A.K. Mittal.

Since last many decades railway up-gradation was not keeping pace with time technology. Unions in railways rule the roots, efficiency and safety are the last things on their mind. Accountability is passing the buck and generally the blame is put on human error. However, we are supposed to follow rules. Shoddy maintenance of railways across India is the main cause for major accidents – particularly on the Northern India. Railways are also looting passengers by imposing safety surcharge. People started thinking that all the false promises were given from behind the veils of power mongers. God knows how the tough rakes are maintained or not but prone to more major mishaps.

India was one of the first countries in the world to build a large railway system. Its 21-mile railway from Mumbai to Tana was built in 1853, under British colonial rule. At the time of independence in 1947, the Indian railway network covered more than 55,000 kilometers, behind only the US, the former Soviet Union and Canada. The surge in India’s population and its rapid urbanization meant that the trains, which were relatively affordable, became the most important means of transport for most people. But the explosion in passenger numbers severely burdened the aging railway system, which had been constructed to a fairly low standard. As a result, accidents have not been uncommon.

As in the past the blame on the derailment near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh is caused by negligence and the blame is passed on human error. The locals in UP expose lapses and it is very clear that accident could have been averted. The victims narrate their ordeal and that is pathetic.  Just by giving compensation we will not be able to make up the human loss. Eyewitnesses recount the horror and how the victims were struggling for help. Medical facilities reached the accident spot late and that shows the apathy and the lethargic approach of the officials.

By suspending or by transferring officials is not the solution.  More and more care should be taken on passenger safety and the railway budget should allot more funds to reduce the accident cases to a negligible level. The approach after the tragedy by the government does not augur well and the railway passengers are feeling lack of relief during such major accidents. It should not be out of context to mention here that the system is controlled by the Railway Ministry through the state-owned Indian Railways having more than 1.5 million employees and is India’s largest state-owned enterprise too. However, it is also probably the most inefficient Company in the world, in the state sector. Coupled with the government’s policy of low-cost train transport and high salaries for railway employees, the Indian Railways simply cannot accumulate enough funds to update its railway system.

The train accident near Khatauli saw tragedy struck killing of more than 23 people and injuring over 100 and that jolts the nation. It could have been averted if the track fractures had been taken care in time and a close watch carried on the train tracks. The derailment created fear among the passengers. Strange are the ways of train accidents in the Indian history. In the past we heard about bomb blasts, head on collision, wrong signal, smoke inside coaches and snatching of fish plates caused trouble and discomfiture to the travellers and caused major causalities at late night. A panel will be set up for a probe. But the dear lives were lost in a major mishap. Time tested methods are to be carried out regularly on all rail routes periodically.

The past governments have not given enough attention to vital infrastructure like railways. At the same time, India’s domestic manufacturing industry has fallen behind, unable to provide technical and equipment support for railway upgrading.

It could be said that India’s train accidents are not even accidents, but high-probability events caused by systemic problems. For decades, the situation has not improved. According to the statistics, in 2016 more than 500 train accidents took place in India. This problem cannot be solved by the resignation of the minister of railways. The minister himself to be serious on various corrupt practices in Railway system right from the Railway Board level to the Zonal and Divisional levels in the Engineering, Safety, Operations, Electrical, Signal & Telecom wings. Most of the Indian Railway officials are corrupt and past Governments have not taken sufficient steps to correct the system. Atleast Suresh Prabhu, former Railway Minister was too serious on such malpractices, as he has taken aggressive stand on corruption under the Prime Minister Mr.Modi’s regime.

The slow speed and frequent accidents on India’s railways have become symbolic of the backwardness of the country’s infrastructure. In the international media coverage of India, the train-related problems also give a negative impression of the country to the international community. Not only do foreign tourists feel insecure about traveling there, but foreign investors also have little confidence in India’s infrastructure, which has hindered the development of India’s economy and modernization.

Over the past decade, the government has recognized the importance of railways for economic development and it has proposed a series of railway construction plans. After Modi came to power, he expressed ambitions not only to reconstruct the original railways but also to form a “diamond quadrilateral” of railways connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta, the Delhi-Chennai high-speed railway corridor and the Mysore-Bangalore Chennai high-speed rail lines. At the same time, India also become more welcoming to the participation of foreign funds and enterprises. In September 2014, when Chinese leaders visited India, the two countries signed an agreement to invite Chinese enterprises to participate in a project to upgrade the railway from Bangalore to Mysore. India also announced in 2015 that it would invest more than $13 billion over five years to modernize and expand the railway system. In February 2016, India and Japan signed a $12 billion agreement to build a high-speed railway from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.

The Modi government’s railway construction plan is exciting, but will not be easy to achieve. First, the huge funds required have not yet been mobilized, partly because private capital hasn’t been properly involved, but also because there are still concerns regarding foreign investment. Second, long-term constraints in the institutional infrastructure in India have not been resolved, such as problems related to land expropriation.

Even if Modi can create a miracle and successfully complete his plan, it only involves the enhancement of the main Indian Railways, which account for just a small part of the entire Indian railway system. A comprehensive upgrade of the whole system will need a huge amount of money, and will take several decades to achieve. Therefore, news about Indian train accidents is not likely to fade away.

Railways Multi-purpose Stalls satisfy travelling needs of the Passengers under one roof

In a bid to facilitate passengers, now there will be multi-purpose stalls (MPS) at railway stations. These stalls will have miscellaneous items that will satisfy travelling needs of the people, under one roof.

Pursuant to announcement made in 2016-17 budget, the Railway Board announced the policy on September 5, directing all general managers to ask divisional railway managers (DRMs) to prepare a blueprint of the total requirement of MPS platforms and stations.

Such multi-purpose stalls will first come up at A1, A, B and C category stations on priority. The policy will be applicable to existing stalls also but if they don’t want to opt for it, such stalls will be allowed to continue till their agreement term period with railway divisions ends.

“The railway divisions have been asked not to make any new allotment or give extension to any existing stalls or trolleys. All these stalls will be converted into MPS in phased manner. The basic idea is to mop up additional revenue by the railways,” said senior officials.

They added one of the objectives of the new policy is to decongest railway stations by optimum utilization of space on platforms. “Too many stalls at platforms also prove to be hurdle in smooth flow of passengers. MPS will not only solve the purpose to great extent but will also benefit passengers by one-stop purchases,” said officials.

The MPS will include artifacts and items of local and regional importance. It will also include existing items like packaged drinking water, magazines, newspapers, chemist stall items, milk powder and food items.

It shall be mandatory for these stalls to sell books pertaining to Indian culture, values, morals and history. The MPS will also have to sell zonal railway timetable and trains at a glance and other official publications.

Official sources said a blueprint will be prepared with approval of DRM and it will be forwarded to chief commercial managers (CCMs) prior to invitation of bids. Retailers, individuals and self-help groups (SHGs), registered firms will be eligible for bids.

With digitization, the railways have made it mandatory now for the stall owners to keep swipe machines for acceptance of debit and credit cards without charging any additional transaction charge for sale above Rs 100.

Sources said, a committee of CCMs of four zones — Southern Railway, Northern Railway, Eastern Railway, and Western Railway — will prepare a tender document to be executed by all zonal railways and licensees after Railway Board approves it.

Salient Features of The Policy
* Multi-purpose stalls to have all items under one roof.
* DRMs told to prepare blueprint of the MPS and submit proposal to CCMs before bids.
* Retailers, individuals, SHGs, registered firms allowed to be part of the MPS.
* Bids to be invited through e-tendering process only.
* Three-member panel at division level to deal with tendering process.
* The MPS allotment will be for five years only.
* 25% reservation for MPS will be for all reserved categories at A1, A, B & C category stations and 49.50% at D, E, F category stations.
* The policy will be for existing stalls only.

Latest On Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train: 70 Daily Rides, 7 Kms Under Sea

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will on Thursday lay the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project, connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad, in Ahmedabad, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

“The commencement of work on the country’s first High Speed Rail (Bullet train) project will begin on September 14 in Ahmedabad,” Mr Goyal told reporters, adding that the bullet train technology would “revolutionise and transform the transport sector”.

“This will be a historical moment as India will gets it first bullet train,” he said.

“This is an occasion to celebrate the advent of the most modern technology in India. It shall also benefit the farmers for transportation of agricultural produce in a fast mode,” Mr Goyal said.

 The Railway Minister said that the high-speed rail was envisioned by PM Modi to take Indian Railways towards “most modern technologies like developed countries”.

With the Indian Railways adopting most modern technologies, the bullet train was an endeavour to bring economic growth and prosperity in the country, he said.

The 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project will entail an estimated cost of Rs. 1,10,000 crore.

“Out of this Rs. 1,10,000 crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs. 88,000 crore and the interest on this loan is minimal, i.e. 0.1 per cent,” Mr Goyal said.

“This loan is to be repaid to Japan in 50 years. Loan repayment period of 50 years with 15 years grace.”

Of the 508-km stretch, 92 per cent of the route will be elevated, six per cent in tunnel and the rest two per cent will be on the ground.

That is, 508 km stretch will have 468 km of elevated track, 27 km inside tunnel and the remaining 13 km on the ground.

The high speed train will also pass through the country’s biggest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Sushant Mishra, Infra Advisor to the Indian Railways, told IANS that Japan was awarded the contract because there had been no accident on its bullet train networks.

“They (Japan) are pioneers of bullet train technology, and their train has the highest punctuality rate,” Mr Mishra said.

Japan was also ready to transfer the technology to India and sponsoring the project.

He also said that the works for the terminal in Sabarmati would start from September 14 itself.

“About 825 hectares of land would be acquired for the high speed rail,” he said.

On the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route, total 12 stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance of 508 km will be covered in two hours and seven minutes by the bullet train if it stops at four stations namely Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai.

According to railway ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train will be 320 kilometers per hour and maximum speed will be 350 kilometers per hour.

If the bullet train will stop at all 12 stations, then it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

In a day, the high-speed train will make 70 Ahmedabad-Mumbai sorties.

“A total of 24 high-speed trains will be imported from Japan and then rest of the rakes will be manufactured in India,” Mr Mishra said.