Indian Railways News

Improved supply of Rakes by Indian Railways help CIL increase dispatch by 7%

Coal India (CIL) dispatched 580.5 million tonne of the fuel in 2017-18, up 7% over the previous year, on the back of higher demand from power plants. Demand was mainly pushed up by increased requirement of coal-based power in July-August, when various sources of electricity generation — hydro, wind and nuclear — were down due to climatic and technical reasons, Gopal Singh, chairman, CIL, said on Thursday. After coal-supply scenario at power plants reached critical levels in the second half of 2017, the railway ministry increased the number of rakes for coal transportation to 320, out of which 280 were earmarked for power. CIL was supplying around 215 rakes to the power sector in October, 2017. Singh credited the improved coal supply scenario to the synergy between the coal, power and railway ministries. As on Tuesday, out of the 113 power plants with coal-linkage with CIL, 26 power plants located far away from coal mines had fuel stocks that could last for less than 10 days. According to guidelines from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), plants should have coal stock to last for 22 days, which amounts to about 32 MT of coal.

Refuting claims made by certain section of private power producers that state-owned NTPC power plants get preferential treatment for coal supply from CIL, Singh said that all power plants located near the mines, including those of NTPC, have sufficient coal stock. Out of the 588 MT of coal demand from the power sector in FY19, CIL is expected to supply 525 MT. The company’s capital expenditure in FY18 was `8,693 crore, higher than the target of `8,500 crore set for the fiscal. Against the production target of 600 MT, CIL mined 568 MT. The company expects an annual impact of about `7,000 crore from the new wage and salary structure. CIL also reduced cost of production by `53/tonne in Q3, FY18, an annual fall of 4.4%, helping it report a profit growth of 10.9% (before tax) year-on-year in the quarter.

Acknowledging the imminent change in energy mix with the flourishing renewable sources, CIL also has long-term plans of diversification. It intends to use 4,000 hectares from its land bank to build 20,000 MW of solar capacity in the next ten years. The company is also planning to invest in areas such as coal bed methane and experimenting on coal to syngas conversion units. Tenders are also being finalised for setting up a coal to methanol unit at the Dankuni coal complex in West Bengal.

Railway Board plan for buying Wagons via Reverse Auction process raises concerns of aggressive bidding

The Railways will outline the demand for the next five years and select suppliers through a reverse-auction method

Having invested in track capacity over the past couple of years, the Railway Board is now ready to purchase wagons.

It wants to break away from the tradition of floating annual tenders, and is toying with the idea of bulk-tendering to meet the demand for the next five years.

The news has brought cheers to wagon makers, which have had low order books for the past two years.

They have just one concern: in return for widening the market by at least five times from the current rate of procuring 10,000-12,000 wagons a year, the Railways wants the prices to remain flat for the five years.

According to the proposal, the Railways will outline the demand for the next five years and select suppliers through a reverse-auction method. The successful bidder(s) will be offered the opportunity to meet the demand for the five years at the same price. The Railways think this will help it save costs.

The concern is that such mechanisms often invite aggressive bidding, leading to disastrous consequences. The economy paid the price for fixed tariff-based bidding of electricity, and most of the captive-coal mines stopped working after the reverse auction in 2015.

“We have discussed this with the Railway Board,” Umesh Chowdhary, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Kolkata-headquartered Titagarh Wagons, told BusinessLine.

He, however, welcomes the idea of bulk purchases as it will give manufacturers the opportunity to plan long term.

“Yes, there are concerns (about the reverse auction). But it is too early to pass the verdict. If the Railway Board wants to do something path-breaking to ensure transparency and price discovery, it is welcome,” he said.

Rajaji Meshram, Director of KPMG India, thinks the proposal has merit as the bulk purchases will bring in a “quantitative change” in the market size, thereby creating prospects for “drastic” price reduction.

The bulk purchases proposal will trigger a paradigm shift in the market conditions, and “market price discovery” of wagons is a welcome idea, he said.

Meshram thinks a strong qualification process for participants may limit potential aggressive bidding. Also, a lower price benchmark may be set to identify unviable bids and the resultant failures in fulfilling the order.

While it is yet to be seen how the Railway Board will design the tender, another rolling stock manufacturer, who didn’t want to be named, said any aggressive bidding may end up proving costly to the Railways.

“The Railways has invested heavily in creating the infrastructure, and it needs wagons for return on investment. Aggressive bidding and delay in delivery of rolling stock may convert the notional savings into net loss,” he said.

The concern is also shared by the Finance Ministry. At a recent seminar in Kolkata, Kumar Vinay Pratap, Joint Secretary (Infrastructure Policy and Finance), said aggressive bidding is a concern for the smooth implementation of infrastructure projects.

Indian Railways plans to lower the Cost of Goods Transport

Transporting goods by train may get cheaper, with the railways planning to offer special rates for bulk consumers who will give the national transporter assured freight traffic on advance payment. In return, the railways will offer a 5-10% reduction in base charges, fixed prices over the financial year and preferential allotment of rakes.

Power plants that use coal, among other bulk users, can benefit from this scheme. The planned incentives will effectively lower transportation costs for commodities such as coal, steel, cement, fertilisers, food grain and automobiles.

NTPC, the country’s biggest power generator, is set to be the first customer of this special offering. The state-owned corporation will pay Rs 5,000 crore to the railways as advance freight charges for the next financial year. In return, NTPC will get a 10% reduction in freight charges, fixed rates and availability of rakes throughout the year. A memorandum of understanding between the railways and NTPC will be signed soon.

“These long-term contracts will help us grow at a faster pace and we’ll also be able to utilise our assets more efficiently. Bulk consumers in return would get unmatchable rates,” a top rail ministry official said.

The railways is trying to regain share in freight transportation that it lost to roads. The Indian Railways, which had about 70% share in freight movement in the country after Independence, now has a 33% share.

As part of the special freight rate offering, other charges will be waived for key customers, the official said. Freight accounts for almost 65% of the revenue of the railways and helps to subsidise passenger fares. Indian Railways expects revenue of Rs 1.18 lakh crore from freight in the current financial year from carrying 1,165 million tonnes of commodities. For the next financial year, the railways has set a freight earnings target of Rs 1.22 lakh crore from transporting 1,216 million tonnes of goods.

Centre to pay for entire 12 per cent contribution for Pension for the first 3 years for new employees

 In a major move that may help in giving a push to job creation in the country, the government has decided to pay for the entire 12 per cent contribution for pension for the first three years for new employees. The Centre is hoping that the decision would help in creating one crore new jobs as the Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to bear the entire 12 per cent of the basic salary that employers are mandated to make towards the pension for the first three years for new staff.

“Our government is committed to creating jobs. The scheme which was implemented in 2016 had a provision for the government to pay for 8.33 per cent of the pension contribution by employers,” said Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Thursday. “We have further expanded the scope of the scheme. It has been decided that for apparel, garment and textile segments, the full 12 per cent of the employers’ pension contribution will also be borne by the government,” Gangwar added.

As many as 30 lakh workers have already been benefited from the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY), which was launched in August 2016, he said. “We feel that the government’s decision will help create one crore new jobs, and we will increase budget provisioning by about Rs 6,500-Rs 10,000 crore under this scheme,” the minister said.

Employees, who are already reaping the benefit of the 8.33 per cent pension contribution, will be updated to the 12 per cent bracket for the remaining period of their first three years, Gangwar said. According to the latest report by TeamLease, it has been estimated that rolling out of 10 regulatory reforms, including demonetisation, GST, FDI, digitization and artificial intelligence, etc, have the potential to create around 10 million jobs across the country and 7 lakh jobs in Delhi/NCR.

“The country is going through an exciting phase with most of the sectors experiencing growth prospectus. In the coming three years, the country would have 10 million jobs in different sectors,” said Mayur Saraswat. Notably, Indian Railways has also started recruitment process to fill over one lakh vacancies of different levels.

The government bears 8.33 per cent employers’ contribution to the Employees’ Pension Scheme (EPS) for new workers under PMRPY. Employees who have joined on or after April 1, 2016, having a new Universal Account Number (UAN) with salary up to Rs 15,000 per month, are covered under this scheme.

SRMU plans protest against temporary engagement of Retired Staff

The Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) has declared a three-day hunger protest from May 8 to against re-employing retired personnel, said K Kannaiah, general secretary of SRMU, on Thursday.“Under the guise of reforms the Union government has been creating an extra-ordinary situation in which rampant privatisation of departments is depriving lakhs of permanent posts in railways – by hiring contract labourers, re-employment of retired persons – without any bother for the safety of passengers,” he said.“The maintenance activities pertaining to passenger, freight and EMU services are handled by mechanical and electrical maintenance staff.

But the government is more interested in handing over the duty to contractors,” he alleged.“Though there were nearly 2.5 lakh vacancies unfilled in railways for the last several years, the central government continues to ignore the legitimate demands of railway men,” he added.“We have decided to conduct a 72 hour relay hunger strike from 6am on May 8 to 6am on May 11.

In Southern Railway, thousands of SRMU railway men and women would conduct the hunger strike in front of the general manager’s office, divisional railway manager’s office, workshop manager’s office and at important junctions,” he added

Indian Railways plans new Toy Train; here is what it is all about

Tourists and locals would soon be able to enjoy a ride on a new Indian Railways toy train at the Rewari loco shed in Haryana, as part of the Railways’ efforts to develop it as a tourist hotspot, officials said today. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who visited the Rewari section, took the decision that that the visitors have to pay a nominal ticket charge to enjoy the ride on the toy train, which would be just like the one that runs at the National Rail Museum at Chanakyapuri, officials said.

Lohani said that the electrification of the Rewari station will be completed by May 2018. Rewari is a significant section for Indian Railways as the national transporter is planning a first-of-its-kind railway heritage theme park there as part of the Bharat Darshan Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, officials said.

Lohani also finalised the details of running a steam engine between Faruknagar and Garhi, which has been a long term demand of the locals there.

Lohani also cautioned Indian Railways staff to keep their focus on work despite four back to back government holidays. Starting with Ram Navami today, government employees have off days for Good Friday tomorrow followed by the weekend. “It is essential that the focus on safety must not be lost.

The consecutive four-day office holiday should not result in any laxity in safety measures. Every officer must discuss this aspect with his subordinates in his jurisdiction. We are a 24×7 organisation and must be alert all the times,” he said in a message to all railway staff.

Lohani has been travelling extensively across the railway network inspecting and reviewing divisions almost every week.

Today, Lohani met the Kerela Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here and then left for the inspection of the Rewari section.

7th Pay Commission: Indian Railways staff get Good News on LTC now

7th pay commission: The end of financial year 2017-18 brought a good news for lakhs of Railways employees, as the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), citing Seventh Pay Commission recommendation, said that they can now avail Leave Travel Concession (LTC).

The Ministry said, “The matter has been considered in this department in consultation with Ministry of Railways. It has been decided that Railway employees may be allowed to avail all-India LTC once in a block of four years.”

However, it added, “The ‘All-India LTC’ will be purely optional for Railway employees”.

According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on March 27, the ministry said as per existing LTC instructions, government servants and their spouses, working in Indian Railways, are not entitled for the facility of LTC as the facility of “Free Pass” is available to them.

However, 7th Pay Commission recommended that they be included in the LTC fold.

The Ministry said that Railways employees, however, shall continue to be governed by the Railway Servants (Pass) Rules and availing of the “All India LTC” under the CCS (LTC) Rules by them will be facilitated through a special order under the relevant provision of the said Pass Rules. The DoPT order reportedly stated that railway employees will not be eligible for “Home Town LTC” and will have to surrender the Privilege Passes (concessional or free tickets) admissible to them in the calendar year in which they intend to avail the LTC facility.

Further, the order said the Railway employees would continue to be eligible for other kinds of passes such as the duty pass, school pass and special passes on medical grounds, as admissible under the pass rules.

It also clarified that if a Railways employee has already availed of a Privilege Pass, then LTC will not be allowed in that year. Further, the Indian Railways employees on deputation to any other organisation, including railway PSUs, would also continue to be eligible for optional LTC in lieu of Privilege Pass entitlement, the order added.

Joint Feasibility Study by Railways, KRDCL for Third and fourth line in Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod Rail corridor

Railways and Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) will jointly carry out a feasibility study for third and fourth lines in the 574-km rail corridor from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod.

An agreement to this effect was reached in talks Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had with Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani in New Delhi on Thursday.

A preliminary feasibility study carried out by the KRDCL, a joint venture between the State and Railways for executing viable projects on 51:49 cost-sharing basis, had found that the project will cost ₹46,769 crore.

Railways are of the view that the proposed coach factory at Kanjikode in Palakkad is not feasible as three factories are currently manufacturing conventional rakes. The Chairman informed the Chief Minister that Railways will look into the possibility of manufacturing metro coaches there.

It was agreed that the proposed rail line from Thalassery to Mysuru will be taken up for discussion after the Assembly elections in Karnataka .

Mr. Lohani agreed to look into the demand that Railways should bear the cost of laying the Angamaly-Sabari line aimed at putting Sabarimala on the rail map.

The Railway Board Chairman said Railways would give nod for rail connectivity from Balaramapuram station to the Vizhinjam seaport.

A directive would be issued to the Southern Railway to set up a terminal on the vacant land at the old railway station in Ernakulam, Mr. Lohani said.


NMR to introduce Summer Special train services from tomorrow

The Nilgiri Mountain Railways (NMR) is all set to introduce summer special services on weekends from this Saturday. Titled Heritage Steam Voyage, the train services would be operated between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, a stretch of 30km, on all Saturdays and Sundays, starting March 31 to June 24.

The summer special train would feature two first class coaches and one second class chair car coach. The fully reserved train would start from Mettupalayam at 9.10am and reach Coonoor at 12.30pm, with stoppages at Kallar and Hillgrove. The train would then depart from Coonoor at 1.30pm and reach Mettupalayam at 4.20pm. During the return journey too, the train would stop at Kallar and Hillgrove.

The total seating capacity of the special train would be 132, including 32 first class seats.

Until 2012, summer special train services in NMR section were available between April 15 and June 15. But after 2012, it was cancelled for reasons unknown.

Meanwhile, members of the Heritage Steam Chariot Trust said the condition of the loco shed at Mettupalayam railway station was a cause of concern and urged authorities to take steps to repair the same to avoid any untoward incident.

“A dilapidated loco shed in the Mettupalayam railway station is a disgrace to the NMR heritage site. It is high time that the railway authorities took up the issue immediately,” K Natarajan, managing trustee, Heritage Steam Chariot Trust, said.

Harishankar Varma, divisional regional manager, Southern Railways (Salem Division), said the loco shed has a huge crack on one side of the wall. “I have passed an order to renovate the structure, but only half the portion. The remaining will be demolished and constructed anew. A plaque will also be installed there to depict its heritage value,” he said.

Khurda Road Division sends Parcel Express loading Soft Drinks for first time

division of the (ECoR) transported soft drinks from Road station for the first time. This is a new traffic for the division which traditionally carries bulk items like coal, iron ore, cement, wheat and rice in goods trains.

It had dispatched the first train on Saturday from Khurda Road station to Fatuha station in Patna of Bihar. With the success of the first parcel express, the soft drink company has now placed order for the second parcel express, this time to in Bihar.

Railway sources said a local bottling plant of a branded soft drinks manufacturer has requested the ECoR for the transportation. “Faced with lots of difficulties in dispatching soft drinks by road, the manufacturers approached Railways through their logistics provider,” said an ECoR statement.

ECoR had provided a parcel train with 20 parcel vans for carrying soft drinks from Khurda Road to Fatuha. Each parcel train is expected to fetch the Railways an amount of more than Rs 12 lakh as revenue, said an ECoR spokesperson.

Transportation of such consumer products assumes significance for ECoR. It will bring about a sea change in the logistics scenario of the state. “Rail movement is generally preferred over road traffic as it can carry twenty times the volume and deliver the goods in less than half the time compared to road traffic,” said an official statement.

Transportation of soft drinks by parcel express has given a new source of income for the Railways. Carrying the goods manufactured in Odisha to other states is a good sign for industry.