Indian Railways News

Indian Railways News

Agartala-Delhi Rajdhani Express To Start Soon

The much-awaited Rajdhani Express, connecting Agartala with New Delhi, would be launched soon, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) sources said today.

A train with 19 coaches, two power vans and two pantry cars reached Agartala railway station on Saturday, the sources said.

“The coaches have arrived but the date of inauguration and the name of the dignitary who would be launching the service are yet to be finalized. The process for ensuring a hassle-free journey has begun,” the chief Public Relations Officer of NFR, Pranab Jyoti Sharma told PTI over phone.

Chief operations manager AK Biswas, who looks after freight and passenger train operations, also expressed his ignorance over the date of launch of the new service.

SBI Announces 10 Crores For Restoration Of Mumbai’s Iconic Shivaji Terminus

The historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in Mumbai has found a new benefactor. SBI Foundation, the CSR subsidiary of India’s largest bank has promised Rs. 10 crore for conservation and restoration of the building.

Central Railway’s Divisional Railway Manager SK Jain and SBI Managing Director PK Gupta signed a memorandum of understanding, as per which the SBI Foundation will provide Rs. 10 crore towards the project under the “SBI-Project Swachh Iconic CSMT”.

The Shivaji Terminus has been identified as one of the top 10 Swachh Iconic Places by the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation under the Swachh Bharat Mission programme of the central government.

The project undertaken by SBI Foundation will provide the amount to the Central Railway over a period of three-to-five years for renovation of the building. The project will be evaluated, executed and monitored by Central Railway.

D K Sharma, General Manager of Central Railway told NDTV, “It’s the duty of all Mumbaikars to preserve this heritage and I would like to thank the SBI foundation for their effort. This money will go a long way to restore this building to its old glory.”

Popularly known as VT or Victoria Terminus, the building is one of Mumbai’s most famous landmarks. The building has been immortalized in several films.

So far the Central Railway has been spending from its own coffers for the maintenance of the Terminus but with help from the corporate sector, railway authorities say the constraints of funding will be resolved.

An engineering marvel designed by famous architect FW Stevens, the Shivaji Terminus – originally called Victoria Terminus – was built at a cost of around Rs. 1.61 million and will complete 130 years in May 2018.

The station handles over 30 lakh commuters daily and had made international headlines when terrorists attacked the station ni

Toy Train Services In Darjeeling Hills To Resume From October 25

Services of the heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), popularly known as ‘toy train’, is all set to resume in the hills from October 25, after its suspension for 125 days due to the strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

The indefinite strike in the Darjeeling hills, called by the GJM for a separate state of Gorkhaland on June 15, was lifted after 104 days ahead of Durga Puja. But the train service was restarted partially up to Sukna from October 15.

“We have partially started the narrow-guage passenger train service up to Sukna from Siliguri in the plains,” North Frontier Railway (NFR) spokesperson Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.
As the service remained suspended for 125 days, repairs and maintenance jobs are required to be done, he told PTI over phone from Guwahati.

The 88-km journey from Siliguri to the Darjeeling hills through forests, tea gardens and numerous bridges and tunnels will recommence from October 25, Mr Sharma said.

He said works relating to maintenance of engines, coaches, tracks, stations and signalling systems would be completed soon and trains would again run the full distance.

The ‘toy train’ service, which earned UNESCO World Heritage tag in 1999, is a big attraction to tourists who flock to this eastern hill town from all over the world.

The hill town, however, is yet to get back to normalcy and arrival of tourists in good numbers may take some time.

“Though tourist inflow at present is negligible, but recommencement of services like the toy train will certainly send a positive message to the tourists,” Raj Basu, convener of Association for Conservation of Tourism, said, adding this would boost tourism in the Darjeeling hills.

IRFC, 2 other Rail PSUs IPOs to hit markets in Q4

The initial public offerings (IPOs) of three profitable rail PSUs — Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC), IRCON International and RITES Ltd — are likely to hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2017-18, officials said.

Even though the companies would be ready for the IPOs in a month or so, they said, the IPOs would be pushed to the fourth quarter as bankers and foreign investors proceed on year-end vacations in December.

“In the second-third week of January, action will be visible on IPO of these companies,” an official said.

The draft prospectus for the three IPOs are currently being prepared while the process has also been initiated for listing Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL) as well.

Three book-running lead managers have already been appointed for the IRFC IPO, namely IDFC, HSBC, ICICI Securities and SBI Caps. IDBI Capital Markets, SBI Caps and Axis Capital have been appointed for the IRCON IPO.

The government stakes in these units to be offloaded would be announced closer to the dates of the IPOs, but could be 10-15%. A 10% stake sale in these three rail units might fetch the Centre around Rs.2,800 crore (IRFC Rs.1,929 crore, IRCON Rs 564 crore and RITES Rs.325 crore).

The department of investment and public asset management has approval for diluting up to 25% stake in these rail PSUs, which are wholly owned by the Centre. IRFC, which posted a net profit of Rs.942 crore in 2016-17, is a financial services company and mobilises funds for Indian Railways.

IRCON, which reported a net profit of Rs.379 crore in 2015-16, is engaged in infrastructure construction activities specialising in railway-related projects. Rites is a consultancy in the fields of transport, infrastructure and related technologies

RVNL is a dedicated special-purpose vehicle for development and arrangement of financial resources for the Golden Quadrilateral and port connectivity projects.

The IPOs are part of the government’s Rs 72,500 crore disinvestment programme for 2017-18. It has already got over Rs 29,500 crore from stake sales in a clutch of companies — public and private — this year, including the mega IPO of GIC Re.

The rail unit PSUs are part of the government pipeline of about ten10 PSU IPOs including Hindustan Aeronautics and New India Assurance, which could fetch around Rs 10,000 crore to the exchequer this year if the plans go through.

As per available data, there are over 100 unlisted profitable PSUs. After a gap of five years, the government listed a PSU this year (to start with Hudco, later Cochin Shipyard and GIC Re).

Super Rajdhani on Delhi-Mumbai route Launched: Fares, Details Here

For travellers between Mumbai and Delhi, the Indian Railways has a good news:  new Super Rajdhani will be launched from October 16, which the Railways said, will reduce at least two hours of travelling time as compared to the usual Rajdhani that runs on this route. The train will not have a flexi fare system according to the dynamic pricing mechanism of the railways, the Ministry of Railways said, on its official Twitter account @RailMinIndia. This means that the fares of the train will not jump by 10 per cent over every 10 per cent of seat bookings as happens with usual Rajdhani trains.

The fares on the Super Rajdhani will cost passengers Rs. 600-800 less than the two other Rajdhanis already on the route, according to a report by news agency Press Trust of India.  The train will chug-off from Delhi on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and from Bandra on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

To fulfil the long-overdue demand of passengers and to provide faster and convenient connectivity to passengers between two metros, Delhi and Mumbai, Indian Railways introduced the new Special Rajdhani Express between Delhi and Mumbai from October 16, the Ministry of Railways said in a statement.

The ministry also said that the train would be introduced on an experimental basis for three months to gauge the response of the public to the concept of a flat increase in fares against the existing flexi-fare system.

Railways said that with the introduction of the new Rajdhani Express, the travel time will be reduced from about 15 hours, 50 minutes to 13 hours, 55 minutes. The train will stop at Kota, Vadodara, and Surat only. Railway officials said that to increase the maximum speed of the train to 130 km/h, it will be hauled by two WAP5 locomotives of 5,400 horsepower each. The transporter already runs two Rajdhanis and more than 30 mail or express trains between the two metro cities.

The Rajdhani Express will comprise one first AC, two 2AC, 12 3ACs, and one pantry car. The fares of the new special train would be 20 percent more than the base fares for the existing New Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani without any flexi fare. The fare for the special Rajdhani in 3rd AC and 2nd AC will be around 19 percent cheaper than the maximum flexi fare of 3rd AC in the Mumbai Rajdhani.

The Special Rajdhani Express will depart from Hazrat Nizamuddin on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 4:15 pm, reaching Bandra Terminus at 6:10 am. It will leave Bandra Terminus on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 4:15 pm and reach Hazrat Nizamuddin at 6:10 am. On September 9, 2016, Railways introduced flexi fares for premier trains — Rajdhani, Duronto, and Shatabdi.

Under this, the base fare increases by 10 percent with every 10 percent of berths sold, subject to a prescribed limit. There was no change in the existing fare for 1AC and EC class of travel. But on December 19, Railways started to provide 10 percent rebate on any seat left vacant after the preparation of the chart.

Tata Memorial to run Railways’ Cancer Hospital in Varanasi

Tata Memorial Hospital, the country’s top cancer treatment facility that provides free care to thousands of patients, has now taken over the Railway Cancer Hospital in Varanasi at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a Member of Parliament from Varanasi. The 101-bed hospital, officially the Indian Railways Cancer Institute and Research Centre, is located in Varanasi’s Lahartara locality.

It receives non-railway patients as well, especially from tire North-East, but because of lack of infrastructure, most patients are referred to other hospitals, mainly Tata Memorial. A few months ago, the Tata Memorial top brass was asked by the Prime Minister’s Office whether it can take over the Varanasi hospital from the railways, as there has been several complaints about the lack of infrastructure and expertise. “Around 20,000 patients are registered at the Varanasi facility every year and the hospital authorities do not have experienced doctors to tackle advanced stages of cancers.

When the PMO asked whether we will be able to take over the facility, we immediately said yes,” a senior Tata Memorial Hospital official said. Besides running the Varanasi hospital, Tata Memorial is also setting up another 250-bed hospital in Varanasi, which is a part of its expansion project that will see hospitals with similar facilities in Chandigarh, Guwahati, and Visakhapatnam (‘Tata Memorial to open four cancer hospitals’, MM, January 30). Dr Kailash Sharma, project co-ordinator and director of academics at Tata Memorial, confirmed the development.

“We have indeed taken over the cancer hospital at Varanasi from the railways, and the revamp has begun. The process to appoint oncologists, onco-surgeons and support staff has begun. Once the team is in place, it will be trained at our Parel hospital,” Sharma said. Senior Tata Memorial officials added that the revamped hospital could begin operations within three months. “Initially, we will focus on head and neck cancers, bone cancer, breast cancer, and setting up of a paediatric ward,” Sharma said. “The structure is in place but we need to set up equipment, operation theatres, etc.

Around Rs 80 crore has been sanctioned to revamp the hospital and we are hoping to start in January,” Sharma said. He said this was the first time that Tata Memorial was taking over an existing facility. “The authorities felt the railways were struggling and asked us to step in as we have the necessary expertise to run such facility. We are up for the challenge,” Sharma said.

While officials from Indian Railways Cancer Institute and Research Centre were not available for comment, the Tata Memorial sources said for the last several years, most patients visiting the Varanasi facility have been referred to Tata Memorial because of lack of facilities at the Railway Cancer Hospital. “Patients referred here from Varanasi say the infrastructure is crumbling even as the number of cancer cases is rising,” said a source, adding that the facility’s name could be changed to Homi Bhabha Institute for Cancer Treatment and Research.

Railway Board wind up ambitious Rs.5000-crore One ICT Project and the Transformation Cell

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is changing the tracks set by his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu. After overhauling the Rs 1-lakh crore station redevelopment plan, Goyal has now spiked two pet schemes and directorates set up by his predecessor.

The Railway Board has decided to wind up the ambitious Rs 5,000-crore One ICT (information, communication and technology) plan and the transformation cell.

Prabhu had set up four directorates during his tenure as the railway minister — mobility, non-fare revenue, One ICT and the transformation cell.

The One ICT directorate was created to set up an integrated software that would have brought various functions of the Railways — such as passenger reservation, movement of goods trains, asset management and the entire functional requirements of the national transporter — under one roof.

The transformation cell directorate was mandated with the implementation of 55 new ideas that had originated at the Rail Vikas Shivir, held in November last year, where rail employees shared their visionary ideas in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The railway board has decided to shut ICT and merge the transformation cell with mobility,” confirmed a railway official. Officials said the new minister was of the opinion that these areas were already being covered by other directorates, including non-fare revenue and mobility, and there was no requirement for a separate department.

Prabhu had set up the ICT directorate with a view that an organisation like the railways, which posted a revenue of Rs 1,65,068 crore in 2016-17, should spend a considerable amount of money on information, communication and technology. The railway information technology expenditure was only Rs 336 crore in 2016-17, which was scaled up to Rs 513 crore in the 2017-18.

The Rs 5,000-crore One ICT software was supposed to be implemented over five years using digital technology. It was to ensure better connectivity of goods and services with the market and efficient internal management to ensure customer satisfaction.

Revamping the railways, Goyal had earlier decided to cancel the bidding process for 23 stations for redevelopment owing to tepid interest shown by construction companies.

He had also wound up the Swiss challenge mode for redevelopment (under which a public authority asks for a bid, and publishes it for third parties to match or top it), which was mooted by Prabhu.

Such changes in policies are normal when there is a change in government. But railway officials are experiencing this situation for the first time when only the minister has been changed.

“For Goyal, the priority is implementation of schemes in a quick pace. He is giving additional emphasis on renewal of tracks and safety and has instructed the Railway Board to allot the required money for each division in this regard,” said another official.

Railways recons PFTs on its land to reduce encroachments, to increase earnings through Licensing Fee

The Indian Railways is working on a plan to allow private freight terminals (PFTs) on railway land adjacent to stations with a view to utilising vacant land parcels better, increase public-private-partnership (PPP) investments and boost freight revenue. “There are chunks of land available around stations especially in areas which are mineral-rich and where loading is high. These are sparsely populated areas as well. We are seeking to permit private freight sidings on land adjacent to the railway stations,” said a railway ministry official. Commercial viability of private terminals is more near cement companies, ports and power plants which consume coal. At present, private freight terminals are built by private investors on private land and connectivity is given by the railways to the operators on lease basis. “These terminals are mostly 2-3 km away from stations and therefore huge capital is required to build warehouses, yard and railway lines which many small players are not able to do,” the official added.

The transporter reckons that PFTs on railway land would help reduce encroachment of its land apart from increasing earnings through licensing fee. According to the official, railway minister Piyush Goyal has already given his approval for the scheme under which captive warehouses will be built by investors on land adjacent to stations and railways will earn lease rentals. The transporter will also charge for the railway lines leading up to the warehouses. On average, a rake of freight earns the railways around Es 50 lakh. Sources said since commercial use of land will require Cabinet approval, Goyal has asked to consider a policy to involve Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) in the process. “RLDA will look at the availability of land and give clearance,” said the official, adding that applicants will apply at the zonal level post which a feasibility report will be made with projections of traffic before a final approval.

The government is also trying to make station redevelopment more attractive to investors by introducing single-stage bidding, 99-year lease and inclusion of residential mix in projects. The railways has around 11.4 lakh acres of land of which 1.17 lakh acres are deemed surplus. However, since most of this surplus land is in linear stretches, the scope for commercial development of vacant land is much less than what the land areas suggest. PPP investments in the railway sector has been low, even though for the last few years, the government has tried to promote private investments in peripheral areas. While expert panels had suggested allowing private train operators (by paying rentals to IR for track access), the government hasn’t acted on such proposals

Railways conduct Automated Inspections & Frequent Traffic Blocks to improve the Safety of Rail Tracks

The Indian Railways is planning a series of steps to improve the safety of rail tracks, including automated inspections and frequent traffic blocks for maintenance. In a meeting chaired by the Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, with all General Managers of the Zonal Railways through video conferencing on September 16, Mr. Lohani suggested various measures to give the highest priority to the Railways’ safety. He also noted that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is concerned by the speed of response during accidents, a senior Railway Ministry official said. Mr. Lohani directed all the Railway zones to procure “self-propelled cars” for track inspection, citing its usefulness in the Delhi division.

A Railway Board member highlighted that a large number of rail fractures are occurring on rails that have not served even 25% of their lifespan. “This usually happens due to improper handling or laying of rail tracks, and is a major sign of worry. We have asked the Zonal Railways to adopt technology while inspecting rail tracks. Quality of welding and frequent maintenance blocks are crucial to improve rail welds,” a senior official said.

SAIL raises flat steel prices by Rs.600 a tonne; hike double of lapsed Rail subsidy

Steel Authority of India has raised prices of its flat products by Rs 600 per tonne while keeping rates of longs unchanged, an industry source told. The hike by the state-owned steelmaker, coming as it does after some months of no change, will more than compensate for the lapse in railways’ Rs 300 per tonne subsidy for steel transport in the lean monsoon season.

The subsidy is provided by the railways to encourage transportation of commodities in the lean season of monsoon when demand is subdued. It lapsed September 30.

Flats are currently trading in the market at around Rs 39,000 per tonne while longs are going for Rs 34,500-Rs 35,000 per tonne.

Private steel producers did not raise the prices in October after having increased them in September quarter by 2 to 6 percent, sequentially. SAIL had not hiked the prices then.

October is usually a time for price hikes in the steel sector as general demand for new vehicles and construction and real estate picks up on the passage of monsoon amidst the festival seasonAccording to a report by Kotak Securities, domestic prices have trailed global prices due to increased supplies from new capacities. Flat products find use in automobile and consumer durable industry.

Prices of longs, a product whose supply chain is characterized by many small players, declined during July-September by 2 percent compared to same quarter a year ago due to weak construction demand. Long products are used in real estate and construction activities.

“I don’t see the prices firming up any more over the next one to two months,” an official with a company, making downstream steel products that find use at airports and malls, said.

Domestic steel demand increased 4 percent on year to 42.9 million tonnes in the first half of the ongoing financial year. The rise was led by the 16 percent jump in April-August flat product sales to 15.27 million tonnes against the 2 percent decline in demand for longs to 17.12 million tonnes, according to the Kotak report