Indian Railways News

Indian Railways News

IR lacks focus and pragmatism in PPP Ventures and will have to redo schemes: says Analysts

Indian Railways (IR) may be making all the right noises about public-private partnerships (PPPs) in railway projects (expert committees had pitched for broad-basing PPPs, having private train operators paying rentals to IR for track access, proposals which haven’t materialised), but the share of PPPs in extra-budgetary resources (EBR) has declined from 51% in 2016-17 to 33% in 2018-19 (budget estimate). This is even as EBRs have become the mainstay of railway capex over the last few years, as support from the central Budget stagnated. EBRs increased from 47% of capex in 2016-17 to 56% in 2018-19 (BE).

“The capex is happening through EBRs which are basically loans even as internal accruals are reducing over the years,” said a former railway official, on condition of anonymity.

Of EBR, loans mobilised through the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) and taken from financial institutions including Life Insurance Corporation of India and multilateral bodies like the World Bank are on the rise.

PPP investments for 2016-17 were Rs 26,834 crore; these are pegged at Rs 24,000 crore for 2017-18 (revised estimate) and projected to be Rs 27,000 crore in 2018-19. This means, say analysts, the government has almost given up on the plan to accelerate PPPs in railway projects.

Station redevelopment has been an area identified for massive PPP investments but a plan to award 400 station-projects to private operators has come a cropper as the Swiss challenge method for auction hasn’t attracted investors. Only four station redevelopment projects have been awarded thus far while an effort is on to sweeten the terms for investors.

According to an analyst with a consultancy firm, while higher exposure to loans is not a problem per se if they can be serviced, IR lacks focus and pragmatism in PPP ventures and will have to redo schemes. “If you look at the roads sector, the hybrid annuity model has done well and the toll-operate-transfer model is also expected to gain traction. In comparison, a lot of railway projects relating to capacity augmentation and station redevelopment did not take off,” said the analyst.

The DK Mittal committee which had submitted report in 2014 suggested PPP investments in core operational areas of the railways. All wagons could be owned by the private sector, it said, adding that passenger trains could be either fully owned by the private players or taken on lease basis from IR.

IR, it said, should cease to make direct investments in wagons, locomotives and passenger trains and let the private sector fund the rolling stock.

Currently, IRFC, which borrows for the railways, owns the rolling stock procured and receives lease rentals from the transporter. Under the PPP model envisaged, private companies as train operators can realise revenue as passenger fares and freight from users and share it with the the railways as track access charges. Whatever limited PPP investments that occurred relate mainly to port connectivity and logistics sectors.

A committee headed by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy also advocated private participation in core railway projects given the infrastructure requirements will be going up at a time when gross budgetary support (GBS) is expected to remain a constraint. GBS went down from Rs 45,231 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 40,000 crore in the revised estimate for 2017-18 and is pegged at Rs 53,060 crore for 2018-19.

NTPC/Bongaigaon blames Railways for failure to provide sufficient Rakes to move Coal

Facing coal shortage, NTPC worried even as its third Bongaigaon unit is ready. Dipankar Bose, Group General Manager of NTPC’s Bongaigaon operation, blames the Railways for the problem, saying the Railways have not been able to provide rakes to move more quantity of coal to NTPC’s Bongaigaon plant from the Central India Coalfields despite the latter having enough coal.

A severe shortage of coal, caused primarily due to non-availability of Railway rakes, has emerged as a major hurdle for the newly-established Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (BTPS) of the public sector giant National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC), especially with its third unit ready for commissioning.

“We have been facing a severe coal shortage for the past six months. While we require 5,500 metric tons of coal per day to run the existing two units, a stock for 15 to 20 days very much essential to cope up with any exigency, which we have not been able to build up despite our best efforts,” Dipankar Bose, Group General Manager of NTPC’s Bongaigaon operations told.

Bose blames the Railways for the problem, saying the railways have not been able to provide rakes to move more quantity of coal to NTPC’s Bongaigaon plant from the Central India Coalfields despite the latter having enough coal.

“We are entirely dependent on the Railways for our coal supply. The Railways have some problem in its Asansol-New Jalpaiguri-Bongaigaon route and has been unable to move even two rakes on an average per day,” Bose complained.

While the existing two BTPS units require 5,500 tons of coal per day, the daily requirement will shoot up to 8,000 tons once the third unit is commissioned. “With one rake containing 3,500 tons, we require a little less than two rakes now. But once our third unit becomes operational, we will not only need 8,000 tons per day, but also have to build up a larger stock for the monsoon and flood season,” he said.

The existing two units at BTPS produces 250 MW of power each, and once the third unit is commissioned, NTPC production in Bongaigaon will go up to 750 MW, Bose said. While the Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (BTPS) was originally set up by Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) in the 1980s, it was handed over to the NTPS in 2006 after remaining shut for several years. The first unit of the entirely rebuilt BTPS was commissioned in May 2015.

Railway Board Chairman Aswani Lohani had last month said that the New Jalpaiguri-Bongaigaon and Bongaigaon-Guwahati sections being single-track, were running at about 160 per cent of its capacity because of increased traffic. Delay in track doubling works of the railway lines in Assam and the Northeast has remained a major bottleneck for the region.

New project in Assam

NTPC meanwhile is awaiting for a positive response from the Assam Power Generation Company Ltd (APGCL) on a detailed project report it had submitted for setting up a new 1600 MW coal-based power plant at Margherita in upper Assam. “The Assam government had approached us for a DPR for the 2×800 MW power plant proposed to be set up close to the Margherita coal fields. It has been almost a year now, and we are still waiting for a positive response,” Bose said.

Once given the go-ahead, NTPC would require 40 to 48 months to set up the 1600-MW power plant, which would immensely ease the power situation in Assam and the adjoining states, Bose said. “Since coal available in Coal India’s Margherita coalfields has high sulphur content, the proposed 1600-MW power plant will also require a sulphur separation unit with it,” Bose said.

NTPC Group General Manager Bose said the Bongaigaon power plant was also facing a new problem due to decreasing water-level of the Champamati river due to the construction of a hydro-electric project upstream. “While we have been drawing water from the Champamati for the past three years, the water-level has started receding upstream,” he said.

Bangalore Suburban Rail: Karnataka State Govt agrees to raise FAR for Railway Land

The State government is ready to concede to the demand by Railways for a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 5 that the Railways had demanded in return for funding 50% of the cost of the Rs 17,000-crore suburban network for the City.

Responding to Union Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ananthkumar’s remark on the Railways seeking an increase in FAR from the existing 2.5 to 5, George announced, “In principle we agree.” FAR refers to the amount of usable floor area permitted for any building.

“Permitting a higher FAR allows the Railways to make more use of its existing land,” explained an official.

Urban Development Minister K J George called upon the Railways to enter into a 50:50 funding pattern to fund the 161-km suburban network. “The first phase is likely to cost Rs 1,800 crore. The Detailed Project Report is being readied. We will start the work at the earliest,” he said.

“The State has already released Rs 100 crore out of the Rs 350 crore required for the MEMU coaches,” he added.

Ananth Kumar called for the setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle, B-RIDE for the suburban network on the lines of the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Enterprise (KRIDE) for the State.

Chairman and Managing Director of BEML D K Hota said the concern was very keen on manufacturing the suburban coaches for the Railways. “We are pitching for it and can deliver it faster than others,” he said.

“BEML can manufacture 800 rail coaches a year. We can use our facilities at KGF and Palakkad too to ensure timely delivery,” he said.

“BEML presently manufacture 30 Metro coaches every month,” he added.

Villagers threaten to shut down N.F.Railway related work under Makhuam village area

Villagers of Makhuam (Marangching) today threatened to ban and shut down Northeast Frontier Railway related work within the jurisdiction of Makhuam (Marangching) Village of Tamenglong district from the midnight of February 16, 2018 against the inaction to resolve the rehabilitation and compensation of the Makhuam (Marangching) Village, Tamenglong.

Speaking to the media persons at Manipur Press Club, Majorkhul, Imphal, Guangchalung Gangmei, Secretary of Makhuam (Marangching) Village said that villagers of Makhuam (Marangching) Village which has been affected by the Trans Asian Railways has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur on December 10, 2017 to initiate action to the grievances to resolve the rehabilitation and compensation matter of the Makhuam (Marangching) Village however no positive response has been received till date.

With strong condemnation for non-action from the government side despite the submission of memorandum, the villagers took the decision to completely ban the railway works from the midnight of February 16, 2018, he added.

Guangchalung Gangmei also said that the villagers had urged the Chief Minister to recover the compensation amount illegally siphoned by Thaunkulung Gangmei and Kh Lovejoy who had clamied individual ownership over the major portion of lands which legally belongs to Makhuam (Marangching) Village acquired for construction of NF Railway Board Gauge and the illegal withdrawal of the compensation amount due to illegal acts of Armstrong Pamei, Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong based on nullified copy of the court orders and fabricated documents but their demands are not made till date.

Since the villagers had suffered enough, their demands to the government of Manipur is take full responsibility to recover the compensation amount made to Thaunkulung Gangmei and Kh Lovejoy by setting up a committee consisting of a senior officer not below the rank of Chief Secretary or Additional Chief Secretary, Guangchalung Gangmei added.

Guangchalung Gangmei further said that the government should also take necessary legal action against Armstrong Pamei, Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong and his subordinate officials involved for causing the siphoning and the loss of public exchequer more than 36 crores including the authority of United Bank of India for allowing the withdrawal of amounts despite the persisting controversy and timely notification on illegal and fraudulent attempts by Thaunkulung Gangmei and Kh Lovejoy for the withdrawel.

Failure to fulfil their demands, villagers of Makhuam (Marangching) Village will imposed total shutdown NF Railway related work within the jurisdiction of Makhuam (Marangching) Village of Tamenglong to Imphal from the midnight of February 16, 2018 and appeals the railways authorities to stop the railway works till the matter is amicably resolved in accordance with the demands of the villagers.

State government and the railway authorities and companies should hold responsible for any untoward incidents, Guangchalung Gangmei asserts.

Mention may be that vehicles were burn down on December of 2017 for failing to meet their demands made in the memorandum by the villagers.

52 RoBs under construction at Railway level crossings in Telangana

Construction of 52 Road-over-Bridges (RoBs) at railway level crossings will be taken up in Telangana this year. Though the Indian Railways and the State government will equally share the estimated cost of Rs 2,700 crore for construction of these RoBs, the Roads and Buildings Department has been entrusted with the construction works besides taking up development of approach roads on both sides of railway tracks.

In a meeting chaired by Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao at Jala Soudha here on Wednesday, Roads and Buildings Minister Tummala Nageshwar Rao, Transport Minister P Mahender Reddy, Principal Secretary Sameer Sharma, South Central Railway General Manager Vinod Yadav and others participated to review progress of construction of RoBs.

The officials said the RoBs were aimed at reducing accidents and also streamlining traffic near railway level crossings.

In all, proposals have been prepared for construction of RoBs at 460 railway level crossings identified in the State. The Railways Ministry has approved construction of 52 RoBs in the current fiscal and construction of 16 RoBs was nearing completion. The Ministers instructed the Collectors to expedite land acquisition for construction of RoBs and expansion of approach roads to the RoBs.

Nageshwar Rao requested the railway authorities to allocate necessary funds for restoration of old RoBs considering the increasing vehicular movement at various railway level crossings.

He also urged allocation of funds for expansion or construction of four-lane RoBs at level crossings where four-lane roads were being developed.

Railway officials said laying of Medak-Akkampalli railway line would be completed by the end of 2018. They also said proposals for construction of a railway terminal at Miyapur-Patancheru stretch on the outskirts of Hyderabad were under examination, while second phase works of MMTS in Hyderabad city would be completed by the end of December this year.

Bibek Debroy red-flags Indian Railways Electrification plan

ectrification recorded in reports in the past and putting in context the available financial numbers, the paper leans towards continuing a dual traction policy of electric and diesel, which is what the Railways has.

Presenting data of railway systems from other countries, the analysis has taken note that China, Russia and Europe have between 33 and 43 per cent diesel traction in their railways. In North America and Latin America, 99 per cent of the trains run on diesel. In India, it is 50 per cent. Globally, the railway systems (India included) have a mix of traction wherein 45 per cent locomotives are run on electric while the majority are on diesel.

“It is also suggested that Indian Railways puts in place a rolling stock strategy,” the paper states.

The future traction strategy, according to the paper, should consider aspects like gradual phase-out path of less efficient and lower horse power diesel and electric locomotives with modern state-of-the-art products; impact of train sets on future requirement of diesel and electric locomotives in passenger business, etc.

The analysis estimates that the capital cost of electrification of around 40,000 km of lines, replacing around 5,000 diesel engines with electric ones together, would be around Rs 1 lakh crore when taken together with depreciation cost and the debt service obligation over the next four-five years — funds for which Railways would have to tap market sources.

In terms of financial feasibility of total electrification, the paper puts forth arguments that question the official calculation that conversion to a total electric fleet will save the Railways Rs 10,000 crore on fuel bills annually.

“If one considers the fact that taxes (State and Union combined) account for more than 50 per cent of diesel cost, the net savings to the government look more reasonably be around INR 5,000 crore per annum instead of Rs 10,000 crore,” it says, adding, “Information in public domain shows that diesel and electric traction have similar levels of operating cost (per unit).”

The paper from Debroy also rues the fact that there is lack of any credible study that “detail the financial computation for the mission electrification.”

To present arguments on utility of having two kinds of fuel systems, the paper touches upon the rationale of strategic flexibility that diesel engines offer, especially in cases of crisis, disasters, war etc.

“Any rethink on the need, viability, appropriateness or the implementation speed in the mid-term would be difficult and costly,” the note says, adding, “Considering the size, scale and strategic implications of this decision, it is therefore crucial to take a step back and examine carefully the pros and cons of this mission. At the least, the major concerns should be examined dispassionately to ensure that the path towards mission electrification is based on a firm foundation.”

Install emergency buttons in trains for women’s safety, Railways told

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has asked the Ministry of Railways to ensure installation of emergency button in trains and in the washrooms to provide better safety to women passengers during travelling.  The WCD also wants the Railways to provide berths or seats to a woman travelling alone, close to other female passengers. A woman could exercise this option while booking her ticket.

In a letter to Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, WCD Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has suggested some measures, including display of women helpline numbers in coaches, stations and on tickets. “Women helpline number (toll free helpline number 182 and All India helpline 138) are in use at a few places. However, women are sometimes unaware of such a helpline,” the letter said.

It added that railways should advertise these numbers through stickers in compartments and on stations.

“Unfortunately, trains and railway premises are vulnerable areas for women and cases of sexual assault, molestation keep getting reported, “Menaka said in the letter.

The Central Railway had introduced panic buttons system in women’s coaches of a suburban train two years ago, but it was withdrawn after rampant misusing of the panic buttons.

The WCD Minister said the connectivity to helpline numbers during travel is also an issue. “Railways may improve connectivity in no signal zones or take up the issue with telecom operators for providing shared networks for calling helpline numbers under emergency or SOS call provisions,” she said.

The Minister advised that Railways should consider employing more women not only in RPF but also in other jobs. “Thirty three per cent reservation for women may be ensured at all levels of jobs in railways and at least in RPF”, the letter said.

The WCD Ministry has also suggested that CCTV cameras should be installed in all the trains and their working must be ensured.

Jabalpur-Coimbatore spl train service extended

The railways have decided to extend the periodicity of train No 02198 / 02197 Jabalpur-Coimbatore-Jabalpur Special (Weekly) and provide one additional stoppage at Kundapura (KUDA) station to clear the extra rush of passengers in coordination with West Central Railway.

According to a release, the train timetable during non-monsoon (April 7 to June 9) will be as follows: Train No 02198 Jabalpur – Coimbatore Special (Weekly) will leave from Jabalpur at 11:00 hrs on every Saturday and reach Coimbatore at 03:40 hrs on the third day.

Train No 02197 Coimbatore – Jabalpur Special (Weekly) will leave from Coimbatore at 19:05 hrs on every Monday and reach Jabalpur at 10: 20 hrs on the third day.

Similarly, during monsoon (from June 10 to July 2) – Train No 02198 Jabalpur-Coimbatore Special (Weekly) will leave from Jabalpur at 11:00 hrs on every Saturday and reach Coimbatore at 05:00 hrs on the third day.

Train No 02197 Coimbatore – Jabalpur Special (Weekly) will leave from Coimbatore at 19:00 hrs on every Monday and reach Jabalpur at 12:45 hrs on the third day.

Train will halt at Narsinghpur, Gadarwara, Pipariya, Itarsi, Harda, Khandwa, Bhusaval, Manmad, Igatpuri, Panvel, Roha, Khed, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Kankavali, Kudal, Thivim, Madgaon, Karwar, Kumta, Mookambika Road Byndoor, Kundapura, Udupi, Mulki, Mangalore Jn, Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Payyanur, Kannur, Thalasaery, Vadakara, Kozhikkode, Tirur, Soranur Jn. and Palghat stations.

India’s fastest train Gatimaan to slow down from 160 to 130 kmph on extended route

India’s fastest train, Gatimaan Express, which runs at a speed of 160 kmph, will slow down to 130 kmph after it is extended to Gwalior and Jhansi, according to senior railways officials. Railway ministry officials say the Railway Board has taken a decision to extend the route of Gatimaan Express – which runs between Delhi and Agra at a speed of 160 kmph – to Gwalior and then to Jhansi. On the new stretch, the train will run at a speed of 130 kmph and not at its original speed. “The Agra-Gwalior-Jhansi route is fit for only 130 kmph only, so the train has to run at that speed,” officials said. The train’s extended run, expected to begin any day now, however, is stuck as the board is still contemplating the fare structure, ministry sources indicate.

The difference in speed limits is making their task difficult. At present, the fare for travelling in an executive class is Rs 1,505 and a booking for AC chair car costs Rs 755 between Delhi and Agra. The board now faces two options: either to reduce the ticket fare in lieu of the reduced speed on Agra-Gwalior-Jhansi stretch or stick with the structure for the better amenities it provides.

Gatimaan Express is equipped with modern amenities including bio-toilets, fire alarms, GPS-based passenger information system, automatic sliding doors and free Wi-Fi Internet service. Officials say the decision to extend the train’s run was taken because it reaches Agra in the morning and then it is stationed there all day. Now, it will make its way to Jhansi.

Bangalore Metro gets 3 Intermediate Car Units from BEML

Bangalore Metro got its first set of three intermediate car units from by public sector undertaking Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Bangalore Metro at present runs three car train sets.

Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) Managing Director Mahendra Jain said the Bangalore Metro is committed to integrating the new car sets to the existing trains as early as possible.

BEML is expected to hand over all the 150 cars by June 2019.

“Metro has become very popular now. Our ridership has reached four lakh per day. Please give us all 150 coaches by June 2019. We will try and integrate the new set of coaches into the existing trains soon so that it can be dedicated to the public,” he said.

Jain also said an exclusive coach for women would be introduced shortly.

“The first coach of every train will be reserved for women after the integration. But on an experimental basis we will allow women to enter the first two entrances and then the others from March 1,” he said.

Bengaluru Development Minister K. J. George said the number of people travelling by Bangalore Metro on its 45 km of Phase I had increased manifold.

He also said the BMRCL had to earlier import metro coaches from abroad earlier, but now it was being manufactured locally by PSU BEML.

George also said work on the extension of the metro was happening at a rapid pace in places such as Kanakapura Road, Kengeri and Whitefield and the inconvenience caused due to it would be unavoidable.

About the suburban rail project, he said there was a delay in getting coaches from the Railways and the task could be handed over to BEML as it had the capacity, which could reduce the delay.

“It would be good if the Centre also pitches in 50-50 for land acquisition,” he said.

Bengaluru Central MP P. C. Mohan said with clearance coming for the suburban rail project for the city, Bengaluru’s roads could be decongested by up to 25% by easing the roads from traffic along with the metro.

Six-coach metro trains in two months

Hopes of travelling in a less crowded Namma Metro train could soon be a reality. With BEML Ltd. handing over the first intermediate car unit to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) here on Wednesday, the rail corporation said six-coach trains would be put to public use in about two months.

BEML is expected to hand over all the 150 cars to the BMRCL by June 2019, which will result in six-car trains. This is expected to double the passenger-carrying capacity as metro trains at present have three cars.

The first set of three cars handed over on Wednesday was for the east-west Purple Line that runs between Baiyappanahalli and Mysuru Road.

Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George said the new cars would have to undergo security checks first. “Namma Metro has become popular now with the ridership reaching around four lakh a day. But the coaches have to go through security checks before being dedicated to the public, which could take a month or two. Once the first set of cars get clearance, the remaining ones will be integrated faster,” he said.

BMRCL’s managing director Mahendra Jain said BEML would hand over six cars a month from June, and nine to twelve cars a month from September. “By June 2019, all the 150 cars will be handed over to us,” he said.

D.K. Hota, CMD, BEML, said the PSU was committed to de-congesting Bengaluru. “BEML has 47% of the market share in metro coaches. We would be happy if greater reliance is placed on us. BEML has the capacity to make 30 cars a month as we have three lines (one line can accommodate three cars),” he said.

Mr. Hota also said the cost of manufacturing the cars had come down. “It has come down by at least 15 to 20%. When the cars were delivered the first time, one coach cost ₹11.5 crore. Today, it has come down to ₹8.9 crore,” he said.

Union Minister Ananth Kumar assured BEML that disinvestment of the PSU would not be allowed. He said the HAL airport should not be allowed to remain as it is, keeping in mind the fact that Bengaluru is the aerospace hub.

“It should be made the maintenance, repair and overhauling centre of the country,” he said.

First two entrances for women from March 1

After promising that the first of the six-coach trains will be reserved for women, BMRCL’s managing director Mahendra Jain said until the new coaches are integrated into the existing three-coach trains, they will experiment with prioritising entry and exit of women in the first two entrances of trains from March 1.

“The first coach of every train will be reserved for women after the integration. But on an experimental basis, from March 1, we will first allow women to enter the two entrances, and then let in the others,” he said.

Suburban rail coaches from BEML?

Another ambitious mass transport project — suburban rail — found its way into the discussion on Wednesday.

Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George said there was a delay in getting coaches from the Railways and suggested that the task could be handed over to BEML as it had the capacity, thereby bringing the project closer to reality sooner. “It would be good if the Centre also shares the cost of land acquisition with the State government,” he added.

D.K. Hota, CMD, BEML, said the PSU would be able to fulfil the demand as it could manufacture up to 800 railway coaches in a year at its plants in Kolar, Bengaluru, and Palakkad.