Indian Railways News

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

SER to do away with Reservation Charts, depend on Digital Charting System

The practice of having a reconfirmatory look at the reservation chart on coaches before boarding a mail or express train is set to change as South Eastern Railway will stop pasting charts on its trains from Monday.

SER spokesman Sanjoy Ghosh said it has been decided that the practice of pasting of reservation charts on train coaches will be discontinued from 16 October.

“The long-standing practice of pasting charts on train coaches is being done away with at Howrah station primarily to keep the coach exterior clean. It will also save paper, thus making the railways more environment-friendly,” Ghosh told PTI here.

SER operates several mail and express trains from Howrah to different destinations in the west and south, including Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

Reservation charts are pasted on all coaches beside the doors of mails, expresses at stations from where they commence their journey.

“People used to queue up in front of coaches earlier for knowing their reservation status and seat/berth allocation. But with the advent of modern forms like SMS services and reservation enquiry through the internet, the old practice of seeing the chart pasted beside coach doors have lessened a lot,” Ghosh said.

Tickets with confirmed status at the time of booking have information printed on the ticket itself, while waitlisted and Reservation Against Cancellation(RAC) passengers get their status updated on their registered mobile number through SMS at the time of charting, which is four hours before the scheduled departure of the train, Ghosh said.

Further, digital charting system has been installed at the major stations and at other stations, manual boards are installed for displaying the status of the waitlisted tickets to guide the passengers.

Apart from these, IVRS service through number 139 are available for passengers for checking the status of their tickets on real-time basis, the SER spokesman said.

Constructing one Foot-over-Bridge takes two years in Mumbai: Railway officials

According to railway officials, it takes at least two years on an average to build a foot overbridge (FOB). The reason for the same is said to be the lack of availability of uninterrupted working time as the trains always keep running and that the officials have very little space to manoeuvre while constructing the foot overbridge The railways have to make sure that they don’t cause any damage to the tracks, overhead wires or the posts that fix these wires in place, while drilling into the ground for laying the foundation piers.

Building the Elphinstone FOB will prove difficult due to space crunch — the structure is in close proximity to the platform and tracks —  and the fact that Central Railway (CR) is also constructing the Parel Terminus simultaneously.

A railway official said, “The end of the platform at Parel that connects to the foot overbridge is extremely narrow will have to be widened. When the Central Railway will be working on widening that part, we will have to make sure that during the process of digging and fixing the foundation of the bridge, we do not damage the bed of soil on which the tracks are laid.”

For constructing the bridge, the railways will have to bring parts of the foot overbridge together and align them together piece by piece.

During this process, trains cannot be allowed to run on the section where work is going on and finding the time when trains can be halted without causing trouble to commuters is a tough job.

The Western Railway will be rebuilding the Elphinstone Road Bridge, which was opened for the public in 1972.

My query pertains to the recent stampede on Elphinstone foot overbridge in Mumbai where 22 persons died and over 35 were injured. In such a case, can the affected persons file for compensation before the consumer court?

Media reports say that the government has announced some ex-gratia payment to the families of those who died and free treatment to the injured in the tragedy. They can also seek compensation under the Consumer Protection Act., provided they were travelling (or intended to travel) by the local train and were using the bridge as part of their commute. This makes them consumers of the railway service and they can seek compensation for the deficient or negligent service.

The Railways may well argue that the stampede was a result of too many people taking shelter on the bridge on account of heavy rain. However, there is enough evidence that many regulars at this station had warned the authorities about the extremely heavy passenger traffic on the narrow bridge and the possibility of a stampede or any other serious accident and sought intervention. The Railways, however, had made no effort to expand or extend the bridge nor regulate traffic on the structure to prevent such a mishap.

Is there any judgment on an issue like this?

The Elphinestone tragedy reminds me of another horrific disaster involving a railway foot overbridge that came up before the consumer court some years ago, forcing the apex consumer court to remind the Railways that it is its responsibility to maintain in good order, platforms, footpaths and overbridges. Failure to do so constitutes negligence and the Railways has to pay for the consequences, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had said.

The complaint, in this case, pertained to the collapse of Jogeshwari railway foot overbridge on September 28, 1992. To quote from the order of the apex consumer court, because of the heavy rain, a large number of passengers had taken shelter on the bridge, when a portion of it suddenly gave way, killing and injuring several passengers.

The complainant, Vinaya Vilas Sawant, who was on the bridge with her husband, fell from a height of about 20-25 feet on to the track below, along with the rubble. Multiple fractures and spinal injuries left her with 60 per cent disability, even after two surgeries. Even with the screws and plates used to stabilise her spine, she could walk slowly only with a walker and with the help of an attendant. In fact, when she and her husband were lying unconscious from the fall, they were also robbed of their jewellery and cash.

However, when she filed a complaint before the consumer court, seeking compensation from the Railways, the biggest public sector undertaking argued that she was not a consumer. She was not travelling by train, but only using the bridge and that did not make her a consumer under the Consumer Protection Act. While she said that as an employee of MTNL, she had a monthly pass to travel by train and the pass had been stolen along with all the other belongings when she was lying unconscious, the Railways argued that she did not have a monthly pass!

The district and state consumer courts dismissed her complaint, but the apex consumer court clarified that once a passenger has purchased a ticket to travel by train, he or she is the consumer of all services provided by the Railways in connection with that travel and this included the platform, footpath and overbridges meant for ingress to and egress from the train. In this case, subsequent investigations into the collapse had revealed gross negligence of the Railways — the bridge was in a bad shape, but the Railways had failed to act (Smt Vinaya Vilas Sawant Vs Union of India, RP No 864 of 2006).

The decision paved the way for consumers to haul up the Railways for its negligence with regard to not just rail travel, but the connected facilities too.

Railways to run 12 Additional Services to Shravanabelagola for Mahamastakabhisheka

The South Western Railways will operate 12 additional train services from Bengaluru and Hassan to Shravanabelagola during the Mahamastakabhisheka to be held from February 7 to 26.

A.K. Gupta, General Manager of SWR, inspected the Hassan and Shravanabelagola stations on Friday.

According to a release issued by SWR on Saturday, the frequency and number of services will be announced later. During the Mahamastakabhisheka held in 2006, only a few trains were run between Hassan and Shravanabelagola, as the track between Hassan and Bengaluru was not ready then.

“This time, SWR is gearing up to handle enhanced passenger traffic. Adequate additional temporary booking counters will be opened at Hassan and Shravanabelagola,” Mr. Gupta said.

A temporary Passenger Reservation System will be opened at Shravanabelagola. And arrangements for temporary structures, including waiting hall and toilets, are being planned. “Additional stalls for food and beverages will be planned at Hassan. For uninterrupted power supply, back-up generators are also being planned. CCTV and high-speed WiFi will be provided at Hassan and Shravanabelagola stations,” he said.

The Mahamastakabhisheka draws pilgrims in lakhs during the period and hence the railway authorities said cleaning arrangements for ensuring hygiene are being worked out.

R.S. Saxena, DRM of Bengaluru Division, Atul Gupta of Mysuru Division, and P. Lamghare, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, accompanied the General Manager for the inspection.

GM INSPECTION

Mahamastakabhisheka, the head anointing ceremony of Lord Gommateswara at Shravanabelagola is being celebrated once in 12 years. The holy event will be conducted from 7th Feb 2018 to 26thFeb 2018.

South Western Railway is planning to run additional train services to Shravanabelagola from Benagluru/Hassan to facilitate pilgrims during the period. Shri A K Gupta, General Manager, SWR has inspected  Hassan & Shravanabelagola stations on 13.10.2017 in connection with preparatory arrangements and to plan necessary passenger amenities for convenience of the passengers expected to turnout in large numbers during Mahamastakabhisheka.  He was accompanied by Divisional Railway Managers of Bengaluru & Mysuru Sri R.S.Saxena ,Atul Gupta and various heads of departments.  Shri P Lamghare, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer , Shri U S S Yadav, Principal Chief Engineer, Shri Rajeev Kumar, Principal Chief Electrical Engineer , Shri John Prasad, Principal Chief Operations Manager  & Shri K Siva Prasad, Principal Chief CommercialManager  were present in the inspection.

A press release of SWR stated that 12 additional services are being planned from Bengaluru/Hassan to Shravanabelagola during the celebrations.  Frequency and number of services will be announced in due course.  Shri A K Gupta stated that in 2006 the section from Hassan to Bengaluru having Shravanabelagola station   was not open for passenger traffic and only few trains were run between Hassan to Shravanabelagola. But this time SWR is gearing up to handle enhanced passenger traffic as this section has been made operational in March this year. Adequate additional temporary booking counters will be opened at Hassan & Shravanabelagola. A temporary PRS will be opened at Shravanabelagola.  Arrangements to erect temporary structures for waiting hall & toilets are being planned.  In addition a control room will also be opened by Railways at Hassan & Shravanabelagola.  A helpdesk will also be provided at these stations to facilitate passengers.

Additional stalls for food and beverages will be planned at Hassan. For uninterrupted power supply backup generators are also being arranged.  CCTV & High speed Wi-Fi at Hassan & Shravanabelagola stations will be provided.  Coordination with Stage Govt. for security, first aid and water supply will be ensured. Cleaning arrangements for ensuring hygiene are being worked out. Mobilizing extra rakes and staff to cater this significant event is on the way. Sri Gupta has stated that all out efforts are being made by South Western Railway to organize Railway portion of the prestigious event successfully.

The team of officers later met the Seer of Shravanabelagola Digambar Jain Matha and sought his guidance.

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