Indian Railways News

AADHAAR may become mandatory to book Train Tickets on IRCTC

On Monday, senior officials from the Centre for Information Railway System (CRIS), Delhi, arrived in the city to interrogate Salman Khan, believed to be the mastermind behind one of the biggest railway ticket rackets to emerge recently. Railway officials had arrested Khan on May 2 and seized over 6,000 e-tickets (PNR numbers) valued at roughly Rs 1.5 crore from him. Khan allegedly operated a network of 5,400 agents across the country, and charged Rs 700 per month from each to use his booking software.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Central Railway (CR) officers were also present during the questioning. After the interrogation, the CRIS and IRCTC technical heads (who were also part of the proceedings) submitted a joint report to the railway board, which also included suggestions from the accused on how to end the racket.

According to the joint report, prepared by Sunil Kumar, Group General Manager (IT), IRCTC, and Vinod Bhatia, General Manager, PRS, CRIS, all 6,449 IDs which were used to generate the 6,603 seized PNRs have been deactivated. Apart from that, 1,510 similar other user IDs were also deactivated.

To enhance the security of ticketing systems, the report suggests that passengers’ user IDs be linked to their Aadhaars, and the railways may adopt the suggestion, sources said. The report also suggests that a question or OTP could be introduced after the ‘Book Now’ button is pressed (to break the sequence of automation and make the process more secure).

The report also said raids should be conducted on the agents to whom the accused sold his software. During interrogation, Khan had suggested restricting the IP address. As of now, there is no any restriction on the IP address to book tickets, said an official who was the part of the interrogation. Khan also said such restrictions (only one or two tickets will be generated at time with one IP address) could stem ticketing malpractices. Sources said the railway had started working on his suggestion.

Special Drives against Unauthorized Hawkers all over South Central Railway

SECUNDERABAD: South Central Railway has been undertaking continuous special drives against unauthorized hawkers all over the Zone, with a view to curb the menace of the unauthorized sale of eatables, beverages etc,. in trains. These special drives, under the direction of Shri M.G. Sekharam, Principal Chief Commercial Manager, SCR involves the participation of officers/inspectors of the Commercial department, ticket checking staff, Railway Protection Force personnel etc., and come against the backdrop of Shri Vinod Kumar Yadav, General Manager, SCR advising strict action against unauthorized hawking by trains on the Zone.

During the financial year from April 2017 to March 2018, a total of 9069 cases of unauthorized hawking were booked and an amount of over Rs.1.15 crore was realized as penalty for the offence, from the unauthorized hawkers nabbed during the special drives. The checks against unauthorized hawkers include special drives conducted under the supervision of Principal Chief Commercial Manager, decoy checks on trains and stations, using secret cameras procured specifically for the purpose, checks by magisterial squads leading to prosecution of those indulging in unauthorized hawking, inspection of licensed catering units/stalls to check on the manpower and quality of food etc,. Meetings have been conducted with catering licensees at major locations to educate them on the need to ensure quality, hygiene, correct pricing and authorized vendors to sale the eatables and beverages to rail passengers. The licensees were also strictly advised to take up contracts after proper analysis, so as to avoid resorting to wrong means for making profits.

Acting on the directives of the Hon’ble Minister of Railways who has accorded highest priority for providing top class catering services on Indian Railways, SCR has implemented a host of initiatives. Every Vendor and employee of the catering licensees/contractors needs to carry a valid identity card issued by the department or otherwise is treated as unauthorized hawker and prosecuted. The vendors also need to wear their uniform. The main cause of deficiency in catering services has been identified as overcharging on food items, quality of raw material, inexperienced cooks, sale of unbranded and unapproved items, less quantity of food etc,. The catering contractors were advised not to indulge in such practices and ensure that their appointed vendors charge the passengers correctly and behave with them properly.

With a view to ensure quality of service, SCR has also come up with a policy to rationalize the number of vendors permitted for different types of catering units at different category of stations, so as to monitor the system effectively. Distribution of menu cards by pantry contractors to passengers in the trains is also a mandatory condition to be complied. The Commercial department of the Zone has drawn a plan of action to continuously monitor the catering services and initiate stringent action against any lapse on the front. Apart from imposing fines against delinquent catering contractors, other avenue of action including termination of contract is also contemplated.

70% Train Coaches under South Western Railway get a clean makeover with bio-toilets

With 70% of coaches fitted with bio-toilets, the South Western Railway (SWR) is set to eliminate toilets with open discharge system in its passenger trains.

SWR operates around 400 trains of which bio-toilets have been introduced in some coaches of 300 trains. As many as 7,715 bio-toilets have been installed till April this year. “We’ll install the remaining in a few months. These will improve cleanliness on tracks and at railway stations,” said an official. Each coachhas an average of four bio-toilets.Asked about the response from passengers, the official said: “It’s satisfactory.”

The section between Londa in Belagavi to Vasco da Gama in Goa has been declared a green corridor —free from human waste discharge from trains. Nine long-distance trains operate between Londa and Vasco da Gama which have bio-toilets. “The open discharge system is unhygienic and also corrodes tracks. The railway ministry has advanced its plan to fit bio-toilets in its entire fleet of coaches from 2021-2022 to 2018,” another official said.

On several complaints from passengers about poor maintenance of bio-toilets, officials claim they often dispose plastic water bottles and polythene bags that clog the toilets.

A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report released last year shows the highest number of choking cases was reported in SWR division. Of the1.02 lakh cases reported across the country in 2016-17, 34,841 were in toilets maintained by the Bengaluru coaching depot (BCD).The number of defects/problems in bio-toilets was also the highest (41,111) in BCD, followed by 24,495 and 22,521in Gorakhpur (NER) and Wadi Bunder (CR) coaching depots, respectively.

“The choking problem was mainly due to misuse by passengers. Stainless steel dustbins in bio-toilets are prone to theft.Efforts are on to fit anti pilferage devices to minimize such cases. We are also conducting awareness campaigns among passengers,” an official said.

How does it work?

The anaerobic digestion process is applied for digestion of human excreta in bio-toilets. Human waste is collected from toilets and acted upon by anaerobic bacteria that converts it mainly into water and biogases (methane CH4 & carbon dioxide CO2). The gases escape into the atmosphere and waste water is discharged after disinfection onto the tracks.

By going pink, Indian Railways magazine dedicates May issue to women

The Railways has doffed its cap to its women force, devoting the latest issue of its monthly magazine to female employees and their achievements after dedicating the year to the safety of women.

The cover of the ‘Indian Railways’ – in purple and pink — celebrates their feats in sports, as managers of railway stations, as checkers and security personnel.

“The May issue has a special focus on women and as we have dedicated this year to women’s safety in the Railways, we are taking special measures in improving the safety, security and amenities for women,” said an official.

The decisions were taken by a committee, consisting of Railway Board chairperson Ashwani Lohani, Member (Traffic) Mohammed Jamshed and other senior officials, which was set up to monitor measures taken for the safety and security of women travelling on trains.

Railway zones also have been asked to issue a calendar of events for the year on issues related to the security of women and children.

The magazine, which costs Rs 10, turns the spotlight on women ticket checkers, testimonials from them on working with the national transporter and carries a ready reckoner on the special privileges that women passengers are provided with by the Railways.

It also highlights a series of record-making achievements — the first woman to operate a train, to become a station manager, announcer, mechanic and so on.

Earlier, the committee had also decided that coaches reserved for women would be placed at the centre instead of the rear end of both long distance and suburban trains and would be painted in a different colour to make them easily identifiable.

The coaches will also have CCTV cameras as an additional security measure and talks are on about covering windows with wire meshes.

It has also been decided that the coaches will have a mixed crew – with women on the squads of ticket checkers and RPF personnel, sources said.

The committee has also suggested that in the next three years, the number of stations run by women be increased from the present three to 100. General Managers have been instructed to earmark 10 stations from every zone for this purpose, the sources said.

The committee has also decided to build infrastructure facilities specifically for women.

IRCTC to use Artificial Intelligence to serve Hygienic and Quality Train Food

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways has always endeavoured to provide a smooth and comfortable travel experience to its passengers. In a move to increase the safety of train operations and reduce the chances of the signal failing, the Indian Railways had tried to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) in November 2017.

On a related note, the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) has also been taking steps to improve its catering services, including bringing down the prices of various food items.

However, the complaints have not ceased, and in a bid to salvage its reputation, which has taken a serious hit, the Railways is looking to implement AI-based technology to improve its catering service. In order to serve hygienic food with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to railway passengers, the catering services of Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways are all set to undergo a major ‘technological’ revolution.

Interestingly, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which is the catering arm of the national transporter, will use AI vision detection, according to a Pioneer report. High definition cameras, connected to huge monitors, have been installed at all the 16 base kitchens at the IRCTC headquarters across the National Capital, the report said. With this system, any rodent, bug or cockroach in any of the base kitchens can be tracked and with the help of AI, the matter will reach various stakeholders right till the IRCTC Managing Director in real time.

Recently, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal emphasized on the use of AI and innovations in order to transform the face of the national transporter. According to a senior railway official, to improve the catering units, the AI system, known as Obots, will be used, which can track any peculiarity in the catering operations. Further to this, he elaborated by saying that if a chef is not wearing the proper uniform, the AI system will track that and will notify it to the server which will then send a report to the mobile of the concerned contractor immediately and in case, if the issue is not addressed within 15 minutes, it will further be reported to IRCTC authorities in charge. Still, if no action is taken then the issue will be escalated to IRCTC Managing Director, he added. He also claimed that the technology will be made fully operational soon.

Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) informed the parliament about flies, insects, dust, rats and cockroaches found in trains and food items. It also mentioned that to prepare beverages, unpurified water straight from the tap was used, waste bins were found without covers, which were not emptied regularly and were not washed. The official said that the new system will now be able to check all such issues. Also, food items will be served in biodegradable use and throw bagasse, which will give no scope to reuse the existing culinary used now.

Improved Sorting

The systems use cameras, Near Infra-Red (NIR) spectroscopy, x-rays, and lasers to measure and quickly analyze every aspect of the vegetable as it moves along. While older automatic sorting systems were just focused on sorting the bad from the good, artificial intelligence and machine learning creates the capability to sort foods for their optimized use. For example, potatoes can be sorted based on which ones will produce the least waste when cut into french fries and which ones would work best for potato chips.

Improved Food Safety Compliance

Cameras in the kitchen or food facility watch to make sure that individuals are wearing masks or hair protection when required by safety regulations. Violations can be caught and corrected in near real time.

IRCTC will use AI object recognition for numerous applications, services and menus.

Improved Cleaning

IRCTC claim that the technology could in theory save food processing and reduce the amount of time it takes to clean equipment which saves money on water, energy, and time too. According to the officials, cleaning accounts for 30 percent of energy and water use at food manufacturing facilities. IRCTC believes it could reduce cleaning times by up to 50 percent, enabling less downtime and more productivity.

With traditional non-sensor enabled equipment it is difficult or impossible when every small part of drink processing and storage equipment has been cleaned. The current method of cleaning equipment often has no sensors or ability to see inside the equipment. As a result, IRCTC have designed the cleaning procedure to run as long as would be necessary to deal with these worst possible scenario. Without being able to see inside the equipment that is the only way to assure it has been completely cleaned. That can require a lot of unnecessary cleaning, which wastes water and cleaning chemicals.

IRCTC is also testing their Self-Optimising Clean-in Place system. It uses ultrasonic sensing and optical fluorescence imaging technologies to feed information to an AI program to monitor the amount of food and microbial debris in the equipment. The AI will self-optimise the process to only run the cleaning system only as long as necessary.

Food processing is relatively unique in being one sector where IRCTC can offer an effectively endless variety of options given all the flavors, spices, and ingredients that exist. Recipes can be tweaked in an unimaginable number of ways. Figuring out exactly what customers want is an enormous challenge, and IRCTC is turning to AI to help with that process. This is just one way the sector is using AI. Artificial intelligence is now informing one of the world’s largest food companies which new products they should create. AI is not just being used to find out what flavor combinations people are making on their own but also to help people choose new flavor combinations.

Nagpur-Chhindwara Gauge Conversion to be completed in a year: DRM/Nagpur/SECR

The crucial 146km broad gauge railway link between Nagpur and Chhindwara is expected to be completed during this financial year.“We have already started traffic on 34km patch between Chhindwara and Bhandarpur.

Now laying of tracks on 112km stretch is remaining. One consignment of rails for it has been loaded. The work was delayed due to non-availability of rails owing to Utkal Express tragedy in August last year in UP,” said Shobhana Bandopadhyaya, the new Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), South East Central Railway (SECR).The broad gauge link will give an additional route to move towards north-east directions.

We have also changed 20km of track for this.”Bandopadhyaya said 108km Nagpur-Nagbhid broad gauge conversion project had not been shelved. “We have already started traffic on 34km patch between Chhindwara and Bhandarpur. Decision to convert Nagpur-Nagbhid narrow gauge to broad was announced in 2013-14 railway budget at an estimated cost of Rs401 crore.

However, SECR’s is working on operating trains at 130 kmph and work on 90km section is in progress. The project was to go ahead with necessary approvals.In 2013, the state had agreed to share Rs188.11 crore of the tentative cost of Rs376.21 crore.

Padma Bridge Rail Link in Bangladesh promises Kolkata in four hours from Dhaka

The government is going to start the construction work of the Padma rail link project in a month and 23 kilometres of the 215 km railway tracks — from Dhaka to Jessore — would be elevated.

Once the project is over, it will take just four hours to go to Khulna from the capital, Bangladesh Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said at a press conference yesterday.

The implementation of the project, expected in four years, would lead to the economic development of the country and the GDP would increase by 1 percent, he said.

Amjad Hossain, Director General of Bangladesh Railways (BR), said the travel time between Dhaka and Kolkata would also come down significantly.

“The distance between Benapole [in Jessore] and Kolkata is around 70 kilometres. Once the project is implemented, it would not take more than three to four hours to reach Kolkata from Dhaka.”

The project would bring four districts — Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Narail — under the coverage of railway network, says a press release from the BR.

Currently, it takes more than nine hours to make the distance of about 412 kilometres from Dhaka to Khulna. The minister said once the project is over, the distance would be reduced to 213 kilometres.

The railways ministry organised the press conference at the Rail Bhaban after the Economic Relations Division (ERD) signed a $2.67 billion loan agreement for the project with China Exim Bank at Beijing on April 27. China Railway Group Limited is the contractor firm.

Amjad said the project would be the biggest and “most complex” projects of BR.

The 23km elevated tracks would begin in Gandaria and go over the Buriganga, Dhaleswari-1 and Dhaleswari-2 rivers. There would be an elevated railway station in Keraniganj on the outskirts of the capital.

As many as 66 long bridges and 244 small bridges would also be built. The length of the bridges would be seven to eight kilometres.

The railways minister said the tracks from Mawa in Munshiganj to Bhanga in Faridpur would be ready for use the day vehicles would be plying the Padma Bridge. He did not give any specific deadline.

Padma Bridge Project is scheduled to end by December but project officials say vehicles would not be able to use the bridge before the second half of next year.

DG Amjad said the rail link project would establish direct communication between Dhaka and Mongla Port. On the other hand, the government has a plan to introduce a trans-national rail line from Dhaka to Kolkata through Jessore, Benapole and India’s Petrapole in future.

Madras High Court Allows Southern Railway To Evict Land Squatters

The Southern Railways has received permission from the Madras High Court to go ahead with the removal of encroachments on the 3.9-acre government land allotted by the state government for Chennai’s Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) project over 15 years ago.

A division bench of Justices R Subbian and P D Audikesavalu gave the Railways the permission to proceed after an appellant association said that they did not have any grievance over the removal of encroachments. The court has asked the Joint Commissioner of Police, Adyar to provide protection. The Railways had faced opposition from the encroachers when it started the drive.

As part of the drive to remove encroachments on the land, which is worth Rs 150 crore, a fish market constructed on a 20-cent land by an All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) member will also be removed.

Earlier, the ownership claims of 97 persons over 97 cents in the 4.87 acres of land was dismissed by the court, bringing an end to 25 years of ‘illegal occupation.’ An appeal against the court order was filed by the 97 persons, who came together under the banner of the Annai Indira Gandhi Hut Dwellers Welfare Association.

During the hearing, the Railways, while disputing the claim of the appellants, had sought permission to free the remaining 3.9 acres of land. The court, however, ordered the inclusion of the market constructed by an AIADMK member

IRCTC, Railways busts one of the Biggest e-Ticket Rackets

Over 6,000 e-tickets valued at Rs 1.5 crore seized; the accused had a network of 5,400 agents. How is it that some travel agents manage to book confirmed railway tickets under Tatkal category, while thousands of passengers queue up in vain at reservation counters or click unsuccessfully at their computers? On May 2, the Central Railway (CR) authorities arrested a 32-year-old man in one of the biggest railway ticket rackets and seized over 6000 e-tickets (PNR numbers) valued at around Rs 1.5 crore.

Identified as Salman Khan, the accused allegedly operated a network of 5,400 agents across the country. He charged Rs 700 per month from each agent to use his software. According to a CR official, Khan generated around 6,000 PNRs daily. A native of Zila Gonda in Uttar Pradesh, Khan was arrested by CBI in 2012 for his involvement in ticket touting but later released on bail.

According to Sachin Bhalode, senior divisional security commissioner of CR, a raid was conducted on May 2 by the vigilance team along with Railway Police Force’s (RPF) Crime Intelligence Branch (Panvel) and anti-tout squad of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Oshivara Police in Jogeshwari (West). During the check, Khan was arrested with his laptop; from his server, 80 e-tickets amounting to Rs 104,465 were recovered. A case was registered against him by RPF, Byculla, under section 143 of Railways Act.

On May 3, when his server was screened further, 6,603 PNRs amounting to Rs 1.47 crore were detected. “It seems like a very big racket. Further investigation is underway and we are taking help of IT experts to retrieve data deleted by the accused from his laptop,” said Bhalode. “The names of passengers whose tickets have been seized will not appear in the passenger charts,” said Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer, CR.

According to a railway official, Khan used an unlawful software named ‘Counter’ that subverted the railways reservation system, allowing the agents to book hundreds of Tatkal tickets at a single click of mouse. The software, once installed on the agents’ computers, needed a username and password which Salman allegedly changed from time to time to ensure recurring payments. Through the software, Khan could also keep a statement of all the tickets booked across the country.

Subhash Gupta, former member of Zonal Railways’ Users Consultative Council, told, “It’s not enough that we arrest touts and recover tickets from them. It is necessary that the IRCTC website is strengthened against such automation software. The IT department of IRCTC should come down heavily on such software so that thousands of passengers logging on to the website are not cheated. Unless this case is taken to its logical conclusion, the recovery of crores of rupees will be of no value.”

How does the software operate?

The software, ‘Counter’, facilitates opening of multiple windows at the same time. Before the booking time, data is filled into all these windows. The moment booking opens, the opened windows by-pass IRCTC captcha and bank OTPs, allowing the user to fraudulently gain unauthorised access to IRCTC network. In normal course, it takes 60-90 seconds to generate a single PNR. This illegal software enables the user to book multiple Tatkal tickets online in less than 30-40 seconds, generating PNRs in no time. “As the number of seats is limited, the use of this software denies a genuine and authorised passenger fair access to the IRCTC server for confirmed Tatkal tickets,” said officials.

IRCTC e-Ticket Cancellation after Chart Preparation: TDR Filing Rules, Refund Policies, Others

The Container Corporation (CONCOR) of India – a subsidiary of Indian Railways – has started ferrying Nepal-bound cargo containers to Jogbani, the nearest railhead from Biratnagar check post, from today.

Until now, cargo containers via rail were only ferried to Birgunj, where the country’s only rail-linked Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) is located.

However, since long Nepal had been seeking the facility to ferry Nepal-bound cargo containers via rail to the nearest railheads of the major customs points, namely Biratnagar (Jogbani railhead), Bhairahawa (Nautanwa railhead) and Nepalgunj (Rupedhia railhead) considering the high transportation cost of ferrying containers via road and unpredictability of timely delivery of cargo containers to the country.

The government of India allowed ferrying of Nepal-bound cargo containers to Jogbani in Katihar Division of N.F.Railway from last week after the Nepal government initiated installation of electronic cargo tracking system on containers ferried through Kolkata port.

The electronic cargo tracking system (ECTS) is expected to address the concerns of the government of India that the containers bound for Nepal could be opened within the Indian territory and the goods sold in the Indian market. The rails with Nepal-bound cargo containers from Kolkata port to Jogbani have been initiated under test phase, which will end in 90 days. After 90 days, a study document will be prepared with recommendations to make this system functional and effective.

Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ravi Shanker Sainju and Sanjeev Kumar, inspector of Central Board of Excise and Customs of India, had inked an agreement in May last year to initiate ECTS, under which the pilot phase has been started.

As per the pact, ferrying of Nepal-bound cargo containers to the railhead of Jogbani can be extended for another 90 days. However, to regularise movement of cargoes via Indian port to nearest railhead of aforementioned major trading routes between Nepal and India, the two countries would have to revise the Transit Treaty, according to Sainju.

Nepal will put the agenda of revision of Transit Treaty during the commerce secretary-level talks, which is going to commence here from tomorrow (Thursday), according to Sainju.

The study report will provide recommendations for effective functioning of ECTS and the provisions that need to be included in Nepal-India Transit Treaty.

Nepal will start the process of revision in treaty from tomorrow based on the standard operating procedure prepared for ECTS, according to Joint Secretary Sainju.

Nepal is also preparing to execute ECTS for containers ferried to Nepal via Vizag port. Once it is implemented, Nepal-bound cargo containers will be directly ferried to Nepal. It will reduce the process related to customs transit declaration in Indian ports and Nepal-bound cargo containers will be delivered on time without having to face any hassles at Indian ports.

The trans-shipment agreement that Nepal has been seeking with India will depend on the effectiveness of ECTS, according to Sainju.