Indian Railways News

BJP Leaders Meet Devendra Fadnavis, Seek Action Against MNS For Beating Up Hawkers

A day after the Congress demanded action against MNS workers for thrashing and forcibly evicting illegal hawkers from suburban railway stations, a delegation of BJP leaders today met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for a similar demand.

The delegation led by Maharashtra minister of state Vidya Thakur met Mr Fadnavis and submitted to him a letter against the MNS’ actions.

 The delegation comprised leaders including BJP’s Mumbai unit general secretary Amarjeet Mishra, vice-president RU Singh, and state president of Uttar Bharatiya Morcha Jay Prakash Thakur among others.

We met Devendra Fadnavis ji and apprised him about how the hawkers were beaten up my the MNS ‘goondas’ (hooligans). We apprised him about how they have taken the law into their hands brazenly,” Mr Mishra said.

“We demanded action against the MNS workers and the CM assured us to look into the issue and act against them,” he added.

The BJP delegation also told the chief minister about how the hawkers, mostly belonging to north India, are shocked and petrified due to the MNS’ actions, he said adding that the vendors need the government’s support.

In the wake of the Elphinstone Road station foot overbridge stampede last month, in which 23 people had died, the MNS has started driving away unauthorised hawkers selling goods around the suburban railway stations.

Yesterday, city Congress leaders Sanjay Nirupam and Naseem Khan demanded that the rights of the hawkers be protected and action be taken against the MNS “goons”.

Mumbai To Get India’s First AC Local Trains, To Start Services From New Year

The wait for air-conditioned train will finally end for passengers of Mumbai’s suburban railway service, with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today saying that the first such train will be introduced on January 1.

The local train network, considered Mumbai’s lifeline, is heavily congested and carries over 65 lakh passengers very day, with the Western Line alone accounting for 35 lakh passengers. Officials said the plan to introduce AC trains has been on the anvil for over a year.

For starters, one AC train with around seven services daily will run on the Western Line.

“The AC trains have been tried and tested and will be introduced on January 1,” Mr Goyal told reporters.

Officials said that the fares on the AC train will be like the Delhi Metro or around 1.5 times the cost of first class tickets in the existing local trains.

The railways has procured nine more electrical multiple unit (EMU) AC rakes for Mumbai so that such services can be operated both on the Western railway (WR) and Central railway (CR) lines, officials said.

The first such train was scheduled to run this month but there were some operational issues which delayed it. However, senior officials of the railway board said that the issues have been sorted out.

“This will be the first commercial run. It is just the beginning and eventually the idea is to keep adding to the number of such trains,” Member Traffic Md Jamshed told PTI.

The Western line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway consists of 37 stations from Dahanu Road to Churchgate railway station. It is operated by Western Railways (WR) and runs the most services each day – 1,201.

Mr Goyal also mooted passenger augmentation on the suburban line by beginning elevated train services in the city area. “I have already requested teams in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to do a preliminary assessment of its technical feasibility then we can get down to preparing its financial feasibility.

“Similarly, in Mumbai there were two elevated tracks already planned in Western and Central lines but we are having a re-look at that because some of the costs were extremely high,” he said.

They were trying to use only the traditional rail “in an elevated fashion so that cost becomes reasonable” and it can implemented in a fast-track mode, said Mr Goyal.

The minister also said that he has already approved 370 escalators for Mumbai, and CCTVs are to be installed in all the trains and stations in Mumbai for better security.

Drunk Uncle Throws 3 Sisters Off Moving Train In UP, 1 Dies

A seven-year-old girl was killed and her two sisters were critically injured when they were thrown out of a moving train allegedly by their inebriated uncle in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district.

The incident happened yesterday, when the three sisters were travelling with their father and uncle in the Amritsar-Saharsa Jan Seva Express to Bihar, officials said.

The eldest of the three sisters, Albul, said their father and uncle were drinking alcohol and had a brawl, after which her uncle threw the sisters out of the train.

The deceased has been identified as Munni. The other two sisters — Albul (12) and Saleema Khatoon (4) — are in a critical condition and admitted at a hospital in Sitapur. The police are yet to trace their father and uncle.

While Munni was found dead at Ramaipur halt, around 11km from Biswan town in the district, Albul and Saleema were found injured at different places, police said.

The family belongs to Motihari in Bihar and the father and the uncle work in Punjab.

Bridge to a safer commute

Now that the dust over the Elphinstone Road stampede has settled, it’s life as usual. But it’s important to revisit the story every now and then to ensure it does not end up as just another calendar date for mourning. Much has been said about rail infrastructure, but it may be worthwhile to review the way Railways work. It may also be relevant to ensure practical arrangements for passenger safety till infrastructure outlays fructify into completed projects.

Each day, Mumbai ferries 75 lakh people in rakes programmed to handle half the load. Over the years, the typical solution to the ever-swelling commuter traffic has been to stretch the trains. From nine to 12 to 15-coach rakes this year, Mumbai’s trains are perpetually lengthened to accommodate greater inflow.

A 12-coach rake, which is a standard on Mumbai metropolitan tracks, is designed to carry 3,500 passengers, but ends up taking in 5,000. What has been missed or largely ignored in devising quick commuting solutions are two aspects of crowd management. One is the holding and discharge capacity of local stations. Designed in British times, many stations have narrow exit and entry points. More worryingly, the passage from the disembarkation platform to the exit is through antiquated and claustrophobic staircases and slim foot-overbridges (FOBs), Elphinstone Road station being a case in point.

While the primary response to handling increased loads is stretching the rake, creating commensurate facilities for absorption and discharge of the additional load is done haphazardly or not at all. Thus, expanding an FOB staircase/landing or building a new one is quite often an expendable priority. This is nothing if not a ham-handed approach to growth.

However, intelligent planning alone will not save the day. Railways work under constraints. More often than not, there is no room to widen a platform or install an additional FOB without redoing the tracks in a big way. Expanding an FOB is not possible often for the same reason and when it is, it is a task that gets quite protracted as it has to be achieved without sealing the station. Modifications on the rail network have to be achieved under normal traffic conditions amid a few thousand people bustling about.

The second preventive aspect that has curiously escaped experts and authorities is traffic control. Surely, the answer to ensuring passenger safety cannot lie in the continued expansion of bridges alone. Moreover, how does one prevent a repeat of the tragedy while the new bridge is in the making? The answer to averting such crises lies in crowd management.

Typically, Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force personnel are posted on Mumbai railway stations according to the perceived need for order and protection of railway property. However, the onus of crowd control does not rest on either force while the station master has little authority.

Crowd control responsibilities need to be divided rationally among these three agencies. Depending on traffic requirements, a few stations can be classified as sensitive and more force stationed at such stations during peak hours. An exceptionally high commuter traffic can be managed by a staggered police presence at these stations. More forces can be requisitioned by the station master on the basis of dynamic need assessment.

The stampede occurred on the day the tender for a new bridge — 12 metres wide as against the existing seven metre one on Elphinstone Road — was floated. Former Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu approved the proposal in April 2015 but it was pending with the railway officials for this long. In reality, it’s a wonder that the tender was floated within five years.

Each zonal railway has a Pink book that is flooded with all major and minor works/projects. Every year, a token amount is invested in works that the Railways wish to see continued. Given the imperative nature of certain projects, safety areas are not really a priority. Technically, new lines, gauge conversion, track renewals, signalling etc. rank above safety. And of course, those pushed by politicians or those concerning freight — the golden goose — get top bidding. The Pink book of the Central and Western Railways has incomplete projects dating to 2004-05 at least.

To be sure, the Railways are larger and more unwieldy than most other ministries. Each file moves from clerks to secretaries to ministers to committees and back a few hundred times in different departments for the tiniest of queries or changes — the process effectively scuttles work. No one including IMF-returned secretaries and economist Prime Ministers has attempted to streamline the process.

The perennial shortfall of money throws a spanner into the works. The Railways need an infusion of Rs 5 lakh crore. Where can it source this kind of money? Budgetary allocations cannot aspire so high and the public-private partnership model works only if there are revenues. Passenger fares, which are so low that even a first-class rail ticket does not cover its cost, can be raised only so much. And even if they are, the incremental addition will be rather modest. There is no way passenger fares can match the realistic requirements of the city’s gigantic rail network.

Till the time someone sits up and plunges into the marathon job of pruning the size of paperwork and thinking ahead as well as out-of-the-box, every day is a stampede waiting to happen

Amul makes a business proposition to Indian Railways on Twitter. Railways reply is epic

Dairy giant Amul today reached out to the Indian Railways on its official Twitter handle with a business proposition to use its refrigerated parcel vans to transport Amul Butter across India. And the railway Twitter handle responded in the most epic way possible.

The Indian Railways extensively uses Twitter to address passenger woes. But this could perhaps be the first time the national transporter has received a business proposition on the micro-blogging site.

The Indian Railways had introduced the refrigerated van service a few years ago with an aim to facilitate the transportation of perishable commodities such as fruits, vegetables, frozen meats/poultry and chocolates, but most of the vans were lying defunct, according to a ministry official.

However, this service exists only on specific routes.

“We would certainly like to capture this traffic. Let us see what can be done,” the official added.

The senior divisional manager of the Ahmedabad Division will meet officials from Amul tomorrow to discuss this, said the official.

He said that the South Western Railway has some refrigerated vans, they can be repaired and used by the Railways to assist Amul.

Speak up Mumbai: Rather starve than have meals on trains?

The Indian Railways is the largest public transporter in India and caters to crores of people every day. For a pleasant and comfortable journey, it is not just clean rakes and coaches but the quality of food served on long-distance trains too that plays a role.

Last week, 26 passengers travelling on the country’s first semi high-speed train, Tejas Express, were rushed to the hospital after they ate meals aboard the train and fell ill.

The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) stated in its preliminary report on the incident that it was not bad eggs in the meals or other food served to passengers on the train, rather cooked Hilsa fish carried on the train by a group of passengers that had triggered the mass nausea and vomiting.

However, the incident has once again brought under the scanner not just the quality of food served on trains by the IRCTC but also the hygiene standards maintained by hawkers and vendors that sell food on station premises.

DNA spoke to Mumbaikars who regularly use long-distance trains to find out whether they think the quality of food served on trains is up to the mark according to them.
VOICES

The general perception is that the quality won’t be good, considering the level of hygiene maintained by the Railways in other areas. Agreed, the food is usually not tasty but at times you may be surprised. I believe they maintain decent quality but of course, if one spots a rat in the on-board pantry, one would definitely think twice.

—Nitin Advani, Powai

The food served by IRCTC is of very poor quality. It is relatively better on certain western routes but bad on other routes. Not only should they improve the quality of the food served on trains but also bring in some variety which is missing from the on-board menu. Most of the time, one opts for the meals served on trains only when there is no other option.

—Bilal Khan, Lalbaug

The quality of the food served on long-distance trains by IRCTC is certainly not up to the mark. Regular passengers like me have no problem in paying for the meals but the least we can expect is hygienic food in return, if not tasty. Ever since I found out about the recent incident on the Tejas Express, passengers like me will be even more wary of ordering meals on trains. Forget about expecting decent quality food, it seems that the meals are dangerous to our health too.

—Shruti Borse, Thane

The Railways has much to do and consider when it comes to measures of quality control for the food served on long-distance trains. In my experience, on most occasions the food served to me on trains has been cold and sub-standard. When passengers are shelling out money for such expensive fares for train travel, why can’t the Railways get right something as little as quality food during the journey?

—Rajesh Patole, Kalina

The food served on trains is always average. During a train journey, I usually focus on things like timeliness of the trains and cleanliness inside coaches. In most cases, I do not like the meals served inside trains which are cooked in the pantry particularly because of hygiene issues. Take a walk to the pantry and you will know what I mean. However, in dire situations, the food can be eaten but I mostly go for packaged food products.

—Omkar Worlikar, Worli

I am a regular passenger on outstation trains and yes, the quality of the food being served on long-distance trains is truly bad. The Railway authorities should work to have a proper mechanism in place that allows them to keep a check on whether the food being served to passengers on outstation trains is up to healthy consumption standards or not. After the incident on the Tejas Express, I don’t think I would encourage anyone to order meals from the railway’s catering service when on a train journey.

—Robin Sharma, Kalbadevi

It is true that the catering service of the Railways and the quality of the food being served in passenger trains are touching new lows. The incident on the Tejas Express was shocking considering dozens of people had to be hospitalised because of food served in the train. The Railways authorities should get more serious about their catering services and ensure that such an incident does not happen again.

—Suhail Ansari, Pydhonie

At times I have opted for the meals served by the IRCTC on trains but the taste is not that good. It is the responsibility of the Railways to ensure that the quality of the food is up to the mark since several passengers rely on their food services during long journeys. They should have a system to check the quality of food. According to me, the prices are high but they fail to provide healthy food of good quality.

—Sanjana Sawant, Parel
EXPERT SPEAK

There is little that the Railways authorities do to maintain or keep a check on the quality of the food available in long-distance trains and on the premises of railways stations. There are no external checks done to keep a tab on the quality of food being provided to crores of passengers in the trains by IRCTC or in stalls set up at stations and by hawkers.

——Gaurang Damani, ex member, Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee

The IRCTC’s basic responsibility is to provide quality food on long-distance trains. However, in their reports on the Tejas Express incident, they have chosen to blame the passengers and given a clean chit to the contractors and their own officials. If they are blaming the passengers for carrying outside food, then why do they allow hawkers to set up stalls on station premises?

—Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad

Innovative timetabling: Running time of 500 long-distance trains to reduce from November

The Indian Railways will soon cut short the running time of over 500 long-distance trains by up to two hours, a senior railway official said on Friday.The new timings will be updated in the November timetable of the railways, he said.

Following directions from railway minister Piyush Goyal earlier this month, the national carrier incorporated “innovative timetabling” under which running time of popular trains will reduce by 15 minutes to two hours.

The new timetable will also provide each railway division two to four hours for maintenance works.

“Our plan is to maximise the use of the existing rolling stock. It can be done in two ways – if we have a train that is waiting somewhere to return, we can use it during the lie over period.

“In the new timetable around 50 such trains which will be run like this. Fifty-one trains will immediately see reduced run time from one to three hours. This will go up to more than 500 trains,” the official said.

The railways has started the exercise of an internal audit through which 50 mail and express trains will be upgraded to super-fast services.

This is part of an overhaul of the rail system of increasing the average speed of existing trains, he said.

Trains such as the Bhopal-Jodhpur Express will reach 95 minutes early while the Guwahati-Indore Special will complete its 2,330-km journey 115 minutes early and the 1929-km journey of the Ghazipur-Bandra Terminus Express will be completed 95 minutes earlier.

The national transporter has also reduced the halt time of trains at stations. Similarly, trains will not stop at stations where footfall is less.

Coupled with track and infrastructure upgrade, automatic signalling and the new Linke-Hofmann-Busch coaches that allow a 130 kmph top speed, trains are expected to run faster.

The railways has also in the process of reviewing permanent speed restrictions.

Central Railway to get 29 new drainage lines

At the first meeting of a multi-disciplinary committee headed by state education minister Vinod Tawde on September 30 after the stampede at Elphinstone Road station, core issues that affect railway commuters in the city were discussed. At a meeting held on October 16, the officials from the Indian Railways and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) agreed that 29 new culverts and drainage lines will be created along the Central Railway (CR).

Railway authorities said that it has been decided that 29 new culverts will be created along the rail lines. In the first phase, 15 culverts will be created of which drawings of eight have been approved by the Railways and BMC.

“We will start work on creating new culverts in the next few days after calling for tenders. The BMC will provide Rs 55 crore for this work,” said SK Jain, Divisional Railway Manager (Mumbai), Central Railway.

To begin the process, the Railways will carry out micro-tunneling, which will require them to go 3 meters underground. The BMC has been asked to remove encroachments that could obstruct the work. The existing culverts too would be cleaned up apart from creating new drains.

After severe-water logging on August 29, the CR authorities identified new critical spots which needed culverts along the railway line. The Railways as well as the BMC were severely criticised after the water level on the tracks had risen to such a high level that the trains on both Central and Western had come to a standstill.

Some of the 15 culverts that have been identified will be created at Kurla, Masjid, Sion, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar and Mulund to name a few. The CR officials are also in touch with civic bodies of Thane and Navi Mumbai for creating additional culverts, which will be part of phase 2. Sources said that they also took reference from the BRIMSTOWAD project that was prepared after the July 2005 deluge in Mumbai.

The Railways have also asked the BMC to provide dustbins along the tracks as many of the slum dwellers along the track tend to dump trash on the tracks indiscriminately, leaving no place for the water to drain.

The CR officials said that the BMC is looking for locations along the rail tracks where garbage bins can be provided to make it easier for the Railways to carry garbage dumped along the tracks.

Not bad eggs or other food items, Hilsa caused food poisoning on Tejas Express

fter 26 passengers travelling on the country’s first semi high-speed train Tejas Express fell ill on Sunday following consuming food, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has stated in its preliminary report that it was not bad eggs or other food items served to passengers, but the Hilsa fish being eaten by a group of passengers, that caused the problem.

Blaming a group of passengers, IRCTC in the report has asserted that there was nothing wrong with the breakfast served to passengers. It has found that smell from stale fish had caused some children to vomit, triggering a similar response from other passengers. Some were taken ill after they consumed the fish.

Following the incident, the Area Officer of IRCTC at Madgaon and the onboard manager were placed under suspension on Sunday pending a fact-finding report and a food test report. A three-member committee from Central Railway and IRCTC, too, has been formed which interacted with passengers, AC mechanic, and train ticket examiners.

Sources said that as per the report, the tour manager of a group of passengers from Kolkata categorically said that there was no problem with the quality of food served to them on the train. “He also reported that for the last 16 days, they have been travelling to various places in Maharashtra and Goa with their own cooks and food material. They were carrying fish (Hilsa) from Kolkata,” said an official. According to the report, the tour manager even confirmed that he ate everything served by the waiters twice, and found no problems with it. Six passengers of the tour manager’s group were among the 26 passengers hospitalised at Chiplun, who have since been discharged. There were two tourist groups travelling on the train, one from Himachal Pradesh and another from Kolkata.

Passengers of Karmali-Mumbai Tejas Express, which departed at 9.15 am on Sunday from Karmali, were served breakfast at 9.30 am. Around 12.30 pm, soup was served. Around 1 pm, at least three to four passengers from coach C5 started complaining that they were feeling giddy.

The first case of uneasiness was reported by the group from Himachal Pradesh, in which two children vomited in the coach owing to the smell of fish that was being consumed, the report states. The smell of the vomit triggered uneasiness among other co-passengers, and then another two children vomited in the same coach. This further vitiated the air in the AC coach and then two more children vomited, and in turn, triggered uneasiness among their parents, it adds.

The feedback about the quality of food from other passengers was taken and almost all passengers gave satisfactory remarks. The food samples were collected and it was observed that they were all within their date of expiry.

The committee has therefore concluded that the food quality served on Tejas Express was of satisfactory quality. The problem of uneasiness was reported by members of the tourist group, which appears to be the main cause of the incident, it has concluded.

The Indian Railways have made catering optional in trains like Rajdhani, Duranto, and Shatabdi. People will be given an extra form while booking train tickets, on which they can opt for vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals or choose not to be served meals.

The Railway Board has issued a circular that states that catering services will be made optional in top trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duranto in which the public sector undertaking of IRCTC has been providing food to passengers. In the ticket booking form, two more columns have been added that mentions ‘Meal Request’.

Amul Tweets Business Plan To Rail Ministry. See Their “Utterly, Butterly” Reply

Not all business deals are discussed in stuffy, corporate boardrooms. Some happen in the virtual world on Twitter with 140 characters – as displayed by dairy cooperative Amul and Ministry of Railways.

On Monday, Amul came up with a business proposition for Ministry of Railways – on Twitter. The dairy company reached out to the ministry and expressed their interest in using Indian Railways’ refrigerated parcel vans to transport their ‘utterly butterly’ butter across India. The ministry promptly replied asking for contact details of their team. But surprising everyone on Twitter, rail ministry borrowed Amul butter’s famous tagline in an epic tweet that was a hit on Twitter.

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