Indian Railways News

BHEL eyes rail track electrification orders

State-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), India’s largest power equipment maker, is eyeing a major role in the Indian Railways’ track electrification programme to tide over the uncertainties of the Indian power sector.

As part of this strategy, BHEL Chairman and Managing Director Atul Sobti has written to Ashwani Lohani, the newly- appointed Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) to entrust the Maharatna with electrifying 1,000km of tracks initially.

This follows BHEL’s strategy to pivot from the power sector to transportation as the national carrier plans to electrify 24,000km of rail tracks. The railways track electrification drive stems from its need to reduce dependence on imported fuel and rationalize the cost of energy.

According to the 1 September communication, Sobti wrote, “I understand that Indian Railways is focusing on adoption of energy efficiency measures to reduce its energy cost and greenhouse gas emission. Towards this, electrification of railway tracks has been accorded top priority with a target to electrify tracks of about 22,000km by 2021, and about 4,000km is being targeted in the current fiscal year itself.”

In January, former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had unveiled a plan to save Rs.41,000 crore over 10 years through an integrated energy management system. It was named Indian Railways’ Mission 41k initiative wherein 24,000km of rail track electrification was planned over the next five years by doubling the annual rate of electrification from 2,000km to 4,000km.

“I am confident that with the active support of Indian Railways, we shall be able to meet the electrification targets as envisaged by you in the action plan,” Sobti went on to add.

This comes in the backdrop of BHEL eyeing a major role in the marque Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail project, popularly called bullet train, ranging from manufacturing coaches and civil construction work to laying down rail links.

During the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week it was announced that a joint venture (JV) between BHEL and Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) will manufacture rolling stock for the bullet train project.

Experts believe that the public sector unit will have to build in-house capabilities.

“BHEL needs to build in-house focused capabilities. While tying up with a technical partner will help them secure government contracts, they will have to compete with focused and efficient businesses,” said Kaustav Mukherjee, senior partner and managing director of consulting firm BCG India.

“I think BHEL’s interest in railway track electrification builds on their growing interest in this sector. However, I must emphasize that they are entering a new area from their core power business,” said Amit Sinha, partner at consulting firm Bain and Co. Sinha, who leads its industrial goods and services practice at Bain, added “BHEL should be aggressive in building or acquiring the capabilities and technology needed to be successful in the new venture.”

BHEL’s reaching out to the national carrier comes at a time when power sector orders have dried up.

Given that India’s current installed capacity and projects under construction are expected to meet the country’s electricity demand till 2026, BHEL is left with little choice.

A BHEL spokesperson in an emailed response said, “Yes, we have written to them. Discussions are yet to be initiated on the subject.”

“We are examining their proposal,” a railway ministry spokesperson added.

BHEL’s order inflow has become a cause for concern despite its order book of Rs1 trillion. New orders for the first quarter this year amounted to Rs.1,800 crore, down 41% on a year-on-year basis. This is putting pressure on BHEL’s manufacturing capacity of 20,000MW per annum with a limited order inflow.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to flag-off Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express from Varanasi

The Indian Railways is starting a new train from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Vadodara in his home state Gujarat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express on Friday, when he visits Varanasi on a two-day tour.

Railways minister Piyush Goyal will be present in Vadodara that day while junior railway minister Manoj Sinha is expected to be present in Surat, senior railway officials said on Tuesday. This is India’s third Mahamana Express.

On its maiden journey, the train will run from Vadodara (Gujarat) to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) after the PM will launch it using a remote control, they said.

The Modi government had unveiled the first rake of the Mahamana Express as part of Railways’ Model Rake Project in 2016.

1. ‘Mahamana Express’ is named after former Hindu Mahasabha president Madan Mohan Malviya, also addressed as ‘Mahamana’.

2. Make in India initiative: The Mahamana Express comes with plush interiors. The coaches for the train had been designed by Vadodara-based firm Hindustan Fibre Glass. The model rakes that have been developed are a “refurbished and re-adapted” version of seven types of coaches which have been in use by Indian Railways for the past 10-12 years.

3. Weekly train: Like the other two sister-trains, Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express is a weekly train that will run from Varanasi every Friday at 6.15am and from Vadodara every Wednesday.

4. Train halt points: Mahamana Express will cover 1,531-km journey between the two cities in 27 hours 30 minutes at an average speed of 55.7 km/hr. It has stops at Bharuch and Surat in Gujarat; Amalner and Bhusawal in Maharashtra; Itarsi, Jabalpur, Katni and Satna in Madhya Pradesh; and Chheoki in Uttar Pradesh.

5. Plush design: Some other special features of the Mahamana Express include modular panels, ergonomically designed ladders for climbing to the upper berths, aesthetically appealing toilet modules with big mirror, platform washbasin, controlled discharged water tap, odour control system, exhaust fan, LED lights and dustbin inside the toilets. The train has LED lighting across the coaches, special berth indicators-cum-night-light in reserved coaches to assist passengers boarding train at night.

6. Train coaches: This train will have 18 coaches – one AC 1st class, two 2nd class AC, eight sleeper, four general, one pantry car and two guard brake vans. There is no AC-3 tier coach in the train.

7. Fire extinguisher: Necessary facilities like fire extinguisher in all coaches, electrically operated chimney in pantry car and stainless steel panelling in luggage compartment have also been provided in the train.

Railways to post Station Directors at 75 major Railway Stations

Indian Railways has decided to post station directors at 75 major (A1 category) railway stations. These officials will be young officers from Group A railway services who’ll be posted as station directors immediately after completion of their training.

“Station Directors will ensure that the stations function as Excellence Centers for the customers with the additional objective to ensure vigilant and sensitive customer service and also superior commercial sense,” as senior Railway Board official said.

They will also monitor the safety and repair works on stations and the nearby blocks. All staff at railway station including the station manager and superintendents will report to the director.

“They will also be actively involved in the process of raising revenue from non-fare box like the commercial advertisement at that station,” the official said.

The decision to post young officers as station directors was taken by rail minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday.

The officers will be chosen from across different operational services of Railways after due screening and scrutiny. Also, they would be given Special Orientation Training focussing on coordination and public dealing..

Some of the A1 Category Stations are New Delhi, Dehradun, Howrah, CST Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Mughalsarai, Agra Cantt, New Jalpaiguri, Jodhpur, Kharagpur, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai central, Bangalore City, Hyderabad among others.

Railways set to double Lease Tenure for station upgrades

The Indian Railways is set to more than double the lease tenure under the station redevelopment programme—raising it to 99 years from 45—in an effort to make the scheme more attractive for investors whose response has so far been only lukewarm.

A top Railway Board official told ET that the decision was taken in a recent meeting called by railway minister Piyush Goyal to review measures aimed at securing private investment in the cash-strapped national carrier.

“The long contract period will make it lucrative for private players to invest in small stations as well,” the official said, requesting anonymity. “Investors will also be allowed to commercially utilise space on the platforms.”

The railways is offering up to 400 stations to private entities in, what it has called, the biggest station redevelopment programme in the world. The scheme envisages a minimum investment of Rs 1 lakh crore.

Under the scheme, companies winning the bids will have to modernise the stations and provide world-class passenger amenities, for which they will, in return, get the ancillary land on lease for 99 years. The companies can build malls, hotels and other commercial complexes on the land to recover their investment.

It is also working on a plan to secure the infrastructure project status for station redevelopment, which will enable the developers get easy and economical loans from banks.

The stations will be awarded under the Swiss challenge method, where a proposal is invited online and rivals can offer counter-bids. The method cuts the long-drawn tendering process currently used by the railways.

An expert committee will accept the best proposal and the original proposer will get an opportunity to match it.

A senior railway official said the 99-year lease offer will make it the longest tenure for any public-private partnership project in the country.

“In the rail ministry’s consultations with stakeholders, several big infrastructure companies were willing to invest in stations in major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru,” this official said. “However, there were no takers for small stations.”

The railways is also planning to bring in a revenue sharing agreement with the concessionaire, where the latter will have to share some revenue with the railways every year.

Food Served Must Carry Details Of Quantity, Supplier: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has asked officials to ensure that meals served on board trains carry information about quantity and the contractor supplying it, as the national carrier continues efforts to improve catering services.

In a letter addressed to all zonal general managers, the railway board has said that Mr Goyal has asked that food served to passengers has the name of the supplier or contractor, weight, date of packing and a distinct symbol indicating if it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

As of now, the packets only mention if the food is veg or non-veg.

“Honourable Minister of Railways has decided that each food box/casserole in which food is packed and sold on trains must have these details,” said the letter from Sanjiv Garg, Additional Member (Tourism and Catering), Railway Board.

The letter, which was issued on Tuesday, said the guidelines should be implemented with immediate effect.

The communication comes days after another letter was sent to the IRCTC and all general managers of Zonal Railways on the instructions of Mr Goyal, asking them to crackdown on overcharging by catering contractors and staff.

The September 5 letter also said that special emphasis should be laid on ensuring hygiene and quality of food served to passengers.

These measures come in the backdrop of a CAG report earlier this year which was severely critical of meals served by the railways.

Alert Personnel Avert Possible Rail Accident In Bengaluru

Timely detection of a ‘rail cut’ near Cantonment Railway Station in Bengaluru averted a possible train accident, South Western Railways said on Wednesday.

The cut was noticed on Tuesday when Marikuppam-KSR Bengaluru passenger train was about to chug into the station.

The train was detained for 36 minutes till the damaged portion was repaired.

According to a South Western Railway press release, head constable Thirumalesha and constables Chandramani and RS Sundo of Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) were on track patrol duty near Railway cantonment to prevent theft of passenger related offences when they noticed rail cut.

Immediately, information was passed on to the officers concerned. RPF Inspector along with senior section engineer, and station master rushed to the spot, it said.

Appreciating the promptness with which the fault was detected, South Western Railway General Manager AK Gupta announced Rs. 5,000 cash award to the RPF staff.

Government Approves Bonus For Railway Employees, 12 Lakh To Benefit

With an aim to boost services of the Indian Railways, the Cabinet on Wednesday gave nod to a productivity linked bonus (PLB) for Railway employees before the festival season. The productivity linked bonus or PLB would “service as an incentive and result in motivating a large number of Railway employees, to improve their productivity and ensure safety, speed and service for Railway customers,” an official statement said. The move is expected to benefit about 12.30 lakh Railway employees, the government said.

Here are top takeaways from the government statement on bonus for Railway employees:

Productivity-linked bonus equivalent to 78 days’ wages for the financial year 2016-17 to be given to eligible non-gazetted railway employees (excluding RPF/RPSF personnel)

One Dead, Another Injured While Clicking Selfie With Moving Train

A madness to click a selfie with a running train took the life of a polytechnic student and left another youngster seriously injured in West Bengal’s Nadia district on Tuesday, railway sources and witnesses said.

Rakesh Triguna, 23, and class nine student Suraj Mondal wanted to take the selfie about 1.5 kilometers from Kalyani station and upload it on social media.

They positioned themselves on the edge of the railway track with the Krishnanagar local just behind them.

But as they were clicking the selfie, the fast moving train rammed into them, said eye-witnesses.

Rakesh died on the spot, while Suraj was now fighting for his life in NRS Medical College and Hospital, railway sources said.

Rakesh hailed from Bihar, and used to stay at Anandanagar near Kalyani.

PM Narendra Modi To Flag Off Varanasi-Vadodara Mahamana Express On September 22

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the country’s third Mahamana Express from his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi on September 22, senior railway officials said today.

On its maiden journey, the train will run from Vadodara in Gujarat to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh after the PM launches it using a remote control, they said.

The Modi government had unveiled the first rake of the Mahamana Express as part of Railways’ Model Rake Project in 2016.

The Mahamana Express with plush interiors — built under the Make in India initiative — currently runs on two routes of Varanasi-New Delhi and Bhopal-Khajuraho.

The new weekly train will run from Varanasi every Friday and from Vadodara every Wednesday.

The 1,531-km journey between the two cities will take 27 hour 30 minutes at an average speed of 55.7 km/hr, ministry officials said.
It has stops at Bharuch and Surat in Gujarat; Amalner and Bhusawal in Maharashtra; Itarsi, Jabalpur, Katni and Satna in Madhya Pradesh; and Chheoki in Uttar Pradesh.

Some of the special features of the Mahamana trains include modular panels, ergonomically designed ladders for climbing to the upper berths, aesthetically appealing toilet modules with big mirror, platform washbasin, controlled discharged water tap, odour control system, exhaust fan, LED lights and dustbin inside the toilets.

The new train will have 18 coaches – one AC 1st class, two 2nd class AC, eight sleeper, four general, one pantry car and two guard brake vans. There is no AC-3 tier coach in the train.

The train has LED lighting across the coaches, special berth indicators-cum-night-light in reserved coaches to assist passengers boarding train at night.

Other facilities like fire extinguisher in all coaches, electrically operated chimney in pantry car and stainless steel panelling in luggage compartment have also been provided in the train.

‘Mahamana Express’ is named after former Hindu Mahasabha president Madan Mohan Malviya, also also addressed as ‘Mahamana’.

China, Nepal To Start Technical Works On Cross-Border Railway

China and Nepal have agreed to start technical works to build a cross-border railway link via Tibet to boost connectivity, according to Nepalese Foreign Ministry.

This was decided during the recent visit of Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara to Beijing.

“Both sides have agreed to move forward technical works relating to construction of Nepal-China cross-border railway line,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week.

During the high-level talks in Beijing, Mr Mahara had requested China to forward the work relating to preparation of a Detailed Project Report for the construction of inter-country railway line giving it high priority, it said.

China, Nepal To Start Technical Works On Cross-Border Railway
This was decided during the recent visit of Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara to Beijing.
All India | Press Trust of India | Updated: September 19, 2017 00:51 IST

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China, Nepal To Start Technical Works On Cross-Border Railway

Nepal and China have agreed to move forward technical works (Representational Image)
Beijing/ Kathmandu: China and Nepal have agreed to start technical works to build a cross-border railway link via Tibet to boost connectivity, according to Nepalese Foreign Ministry.

This was decided during the recent visit of Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara to Beijing.

“Both sides have agreed to move forward technical works relating to construction of Nepal-China cross-border railway line,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week.

During the high-level talks in Beijing, Mr Mahara had requested China to forward the work relating to preparation of a Detailed Project Report for the construction of inter-country railway line giving it high priority, it said.

However, China’s state-run People’s Daily has claimed that during Mr Mahara’s visit to China early this month a deal has been struck to establish the rail link.

It said the rail link includes two lines: one connecting three of Nepal’s most important cities and two between China and Nepal.

The daily, however, did not identify the Nepalese cities. The Sino-Nepali railway, which passes through the Chinese border town of Zhangmu and connects with routes in Nepal, will be the first railway by which China enters South Asia, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

“Although the railway connection between China and Nepal is intended to boost regional development and not for military purposes, the move will still probably irritate India,” he was quoted as saying by the daily – the ruling communist party’s official mouthpiece.

China last year agreed to consider building a railway into Nepal and to start a feasibility study for a free trade agreement with landlocked Nepal, which has been trying to lessen its dependence on its other big neighbour India.

Nepal also signed up to President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative which is opposed by India as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

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