Indian Railways News

Newly appointed Railway Minister Piyush Goyal takes Charge; Rail Safety, Finance priority for Piyush Goyal

A confidante of BJP chief Amit Shah and someone who was in the good books of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Piyush Goyal replaced Suresh Prabhu as the new railway minister at a time when the safety of the national transporter has become a major concern.

Piyush Goyal on Monday took the charge as Minister of Railways in the presence of former post holder Suresh Prabhu. Goyal yesterday replaced Prabhu as he Union Railway Minister during the Cabinet reshuffle, possibly taking the most challenging ministry in light of several derailments in the recent past.

Though Prabhu had offered to resign after a spate of accidents recently, Modi had asked him to stay.

For Goyal, the upgrade from minister of state with independent charge of power and coal to a Cabinet rank was certainly an acknowledgement as a performer.

For Modi, he wanted an efficient person to transform the crucial Railway Ministry given his focus on pushing infrastructure in the country. Also, the fact that millions of citizens use the vast railway network regularly necessitated that public concerns over safety be put to rest. In the past three years under Prabhu, the Railways had witnessed 346 accidents and the highest number of 193 passenger deaths in a decade in 2016-17.

That precisely is the challenge for Goyal as the cash-strapped behemoth dreams big on realising the bullet train project but struggles to ensure smooth running of passenger trains. Goyal is the third railway minister in the NDA government. Prabhu, who became railway minister in November 2014, had replaced Sadananda Gowda.

Goyal, who also holds the coal portfolio, will have to hit the ground running in the Railway  Ministry and focus on steps to improve freight earnings and complete pending projects ahead of the 2019 general elections. At present, the Railways is facing a loss of Rs 36,000 crore annually due to passenger fare subsidy.

Prabhu, a chartered accountant by profession, was brought in as railway minister with expectations that he would help improve the financial health of the Railways, but under him, freight loading fell further and operating ratio jumped over 100 per cent. He did take some measures such as decentralisation of tendering powers to check corruption, setting up of non-fare revenue directorate, planning high speed and semi-high-speed trains, dynamic fare pricing, merger of the railway budget with the general budget and formation of an independent tariff authority to take a call on fare hike, among others.

New railway minister Piyush Goyal has his work cut out for him as he has to prioritise safety and restore confidence since the railways is going through a rough patch due to successive derailments.

Goyal’s appointment has come just ahead of the visit of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to lay the foundation of high speed bullet train in Ahmedabad on September 13.

Railway board members are geared up to meet ambitious targets and challenges ahead of the Indian Railways, particularly safe operations, better freight and passenger revenue, doubling of tracks and electrification.

Considering the fact that Goyal is having the charge of coal as well, there are hopes of having better synergy between the two ministries. Coal is the major source of revenue for the railways.

The biggest challenge in front of Goyal would be to ensure making railways safer, fill vacancies in the safety wing and hasten procurement of safety related equipment.

Average vacancy in safety positions during 2009-10 to 2013-14 was 18.65 percent of the total sanctioned strength which has dropped to mere 16.86 percent in 2017.

The railways recruited 37,510 people in different safety categories, taking the total staff strength to 6,35,940 as on April 1, 2017.

General secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation, Shiv Gopal Mishra told Governance Now that despite the railways recruiting people, over one lakh safety vacancies are still lying vacant.

A railway ministry data revealed as many as 421 people were killed in 857 derailments over the past 11 years between 2005-06 and 2015-16.

Derailments of the three express trains – Kalinga Utkal express, Kaifiyat express, Nagpur-Mumbai Duranto express – in the past 15 days in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra forced Suresh Prabhu to offer his resignation to prime minister Narendra Modi on August 23. Prabhu was asked to wait for the few days as the cabinet reshuffle was in the offing.

Indian Railways Collaborates with Australian firm Sydac to revamp Railway Safety in India

In the backdrop of back-to-back rail accidents, the current safety standards of Indian Railways have assumed centre-stage again in India’s development agenda. As on March 2016, Indian Railways data shows that 66 of 105 serious rail accidents happen due to mistakes or negligence by railway staff.

Keeping this in mind, Indian Railways has decided to collaborate with Australian firms to revamp railway safety in India. A part of Indian government’s ₹2.8 lakh crore plan for the rail sector (called Re-Build Railways), the tie-up will result in measures such as the development of high-tech driver training centres, adaptation of international safety models and procurement of sensor-based track detection machines from Australia.

In 2014, a $30 million tender floated by the Indian Railways for setting up driver training centres in 12 cities (Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Jalandhar, Vijayawada, Siliguri, Jhansi, Itarsi, Kharagpur, Ghaziabad and Tatanagar) was bagged by the Sydac Australia.

Now nearing completion, the project has led to the development of 12 high-tech training centres with 3D rail simulators and 72 regular training centres with smaller simulators.

Dermot Dixon, the Managing Director of Sydac Australia, said the company has bid for the new tender with the aim of increasing the number of simulators in these centres. He also added that the firm is willing to provide training solutions to the Indian Railways for personnel involved in signalling and switching operations.

The importance of this project is underscored by the fact that India has around 86,000 train drivers who operate over 12,000 electric and diesel locomotives every single day to transport people and freight across the country. So the driving skills, alertness and ability to deal with hazardous events of drivers is critical to safety in train operations. This, along with route learning and fuel efficient driving, is the core areas of focus at the training centres.

In another tie-up with an Australian firm, Indian Railways is partnering with Track IQ to procure high-tech equipment that includes sensor-based systems that can detect cracks in rail tracks.

With the aim of reducing rail accidents by 50% in the next two years, Indian railways is also working to make its safety research institute operational at the earliest. Named SRESTHA (Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement), it will focus on developing cutting-edge rail technology for both local and global use. Simultaneously, it will also help Indian Railways adapt international models to the national rail environment.

SRESTHA has already started working with Australia’s premier track and vehicle railway research centre, Monash University Institute of Railway Technology (IRT), to help Indian Railways’ ambitious plans come to fruition.

With the gradual introduction of these high-tech safety innovations (eg. integrated chip systems on trains that alert pedestrians of approaching trains), India’s national transporter looks all set to redefine the way the majority of Indians travel today.

Sydac is a world leader in driver training simulation solutions with 25 years experience and clients across the globe.

With over 150 employees dedicated to driver training simulation activities, including engineers, electricians and graphic artists, Sydac has developed a broad variety of simulation related products and services.

Starting from ‘top of the range’ full cab simulators with motion bases and complex CGI vision, using the very latest in computer visualisation technology, to simple training material that can be delivered on a laptop or tablet computer.

Sydac’s experience working in the simulation industry, equips staff with the knowledge to understand the unique training needs the industry requires.

Having significant experience in the development, deployment and support of driver training simulators, Sydac leverages maturity of design and re-use of field-proven software components, providing an excellent basis for the development of new products in this arena.

Each project completed by Sydac is a custom adaptation of a standard and proven solution to specific customer needs. Sydac invested early in a core technology environment that allows today to offer particular solutions at a reduced budget while taking advantage of many years of rail simulation developments for a large variety of customers and applications.

Siemens hopes to seal deal with Russian Railways on supplies of 10 trains by year end

Siemens is holding negotiations with Russian Railways on increasing supplies of Sapsan high-speed trains from the initial 8 to 10 trains and expects to resolve the matter before the end of the year, President of Siemens in Russia Dietrich Moeller told reporters.

“Siemens is in talks with Russian Railways on additional supplies of Sapsans: 8 or 10 trains, or additional cars. So far there is no final decision,” he said.

When asked when the companies would be ready strike an agreement, Moeller said, “I hope before the end of the year.”

According to Moeller, the parties are discussing the option of ten-car trains.

“This is the fastest option for delivery, maybe later, in a year, we can start adding additional cars to the train,” he said.

In February, a source familiar with the plans of the Russian Railways, told reporters that the company plans to purchase eight more high-speed Sapsan trains.

Siemens cooperates with Russia in transport industry: since 2010, the Ural Locomotives, a joint venture of the German company and the Sinara Group (the share of each is 50%) has been operating near Yekaterinburg. The enterprise produces Lastochka high-speed trains. Also, Russian Railways buys the Sapsan train from Siemens AG. In February there were reports that part of production of Sapsan trains may be organized at the site of the Ural Locomotives.

Railways’ Stunning ‘Vistadome’ Coach Debuts On Mumbai-Goa Route

With a view to provide a delightful travelling experience to passengers, the Central Railway introduced a see-through Vistadome coach on Mumbai-Goa route from Monday, officials said. The Dadar-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi Express has a special coach with glass-roof Vistadome, rotatable chairs and hanging LCDs, offering panoramic view of the surroundings.

“A Vistadome (glass-top) coach will be attached to the Jan Shatabdi Express running between Dadar and Madgaon from September 18,” CR’s spokesperson Sunil Udasi said.

This special and aesthetically-designed Vistadome air-conditioned coach, is a first-of-its-kind in Indian Railways, he said.

“Commuters travelling on this train will have this special coach with a glass-roof Vistadome, rotatable chairs and hanging LCDs for entertainment. A unique feature of this Rs. 3.38 crore 40-seat coach is the double-wide reclining passenger seats that could be rotated 360 degrees for a better sightseeing experience,” Mr Udasi added.

A statement issued by the CR said, the passengers or tourists can now sit relaxed in their seats and enjoy panoramic view from the Vistadome coach, unlike the stereotype train compartments.

This special coach was received by the CR at its headquarters- the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in the first week of September. Booking for the Vistadome coach opened at all computerised reservation centres and on website from today, he informed.

 

According to Mr Udasi, this train will run three times a week during the monsoon period and five days a week once the monsoon gets over.

The departure time of Jan Shatabdi Express is 5.25 am from Dadar and it reaches Madgaon at 4 pm the same day.

The Vistadome coaches have been built in The Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Mr Udasi said, the fares for this coach will be equivalent to that of the executive class in Shatabdi Express without catering charges. The reservation charges, GST and any other charges will be levied in addition to the basic fare.

“There shall be no concession and all passengers will be charged at full fare. Minimum chargeable distance shall be 50 km,” the official added.

A few months back, at the launch of the coach, former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had said the Vistadome coaches were being introduced for the first time in the country to promote tourism.

Railways to unveil ultra-luxury Anubhuti Coaches for Shatabdi Trains

Plush upholstery, designer toilets, diffused lighting, better ergonomics, LCD screens, personalised pantry — welcome to the world of ‘Anubhuti’, an ambitious initiative by the railways to target the fast-growing affluent class by offering comforts and amenities never experienced before on Indian tracks.

Anubhuti, which in English means an experience, promises to deliver more than what the Railways currently offers even on executive and first-class coaches that are attached to trains like Shatabdi and Rajdhani.

The name, Anubhuti, was chosen over words like ‘Super Deluxe’ and other such terms to convey a “personal Indianised touch” to the experience.

The railways plan to attach an Anubhuti coach on select routes of the Shatabdi and the Rajdhani. Railways will look at Shatabdi routes like Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Lucknow, Delhi-Amritsar and Delhi-Jaipur.

Anubhuti coaches are designed to offer more leg space to passengers. Hence, these coaches will have a maximum seating capacity of 56 passengers.

While fares for Anubhuti coaches are yet to be worked out, officials indicated that they may be higher by 20-25% to the current fares charged for executive and first-class travel.

A coach of the Anubhuti will cost the Railways an additional Rs 30-35 lakh more for adding luxury fitments. A normal coach without the plush features currently costs around Rs 2.5 crore.

Railway Board says no to Gohpur-Numaligarh Railway bridge on Rangiya Division

A railway bridge is not required at the proposed four-lane bridge to be constructed by the NHIDCL over the Brahmaputra between Gohpur and Numaligarh on the Rangiya Division of Northeast Frontier Railway, the Railway Board has said, citing proposals of two other railway bridges on the river – one between Silghat and Tezpur and another on the Jorhat-Gogamukh new line.The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had sent an inception report of the Gohpur-Numaligarh four-lane bridge project to the Railways to explore the possibility of constructing a rail-cum-road bridge in the site as “an integrated structure”.

In a letter to the NHIDCL, the Railway Board said the Tezpur-Silghat new line has been sanctioned in the Pink Book (which details all the budgetary allotment in railway projects) of 2017-18, which includes a railway bridge on the Brahmaputra. “The NHIDCL’s Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge is 93 km upstream and therefore, it would not be desirable to modify the alignment of the Tezpur-Silghat line,” the board noted.

Moreover, the reconnaissance engineering-cum-survey (RET) has been sanctioned for the new Gogamukh-Jorhat line to connect Majuli and the Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge is 45 km downstream of the proposed railway bridge at the river island.

“Shifting of the alignment of the Rail Bridge to proposed location of Road Bridge across Brahmaputra will defeat the very purpose of the RET survey – connectivity of Majuli Island with Jorhat via a short route,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, NHIDCL sources said once the State government gives the go-ahead after studying the inception report (the broad outline of the project), Louis Berger will start the work of preparing the DPR of the Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge. The four-lane bridge will be around 9-km long, with 10 km of approach roads on both sides.

Railways starts Operations on Loop Line at Binjana Railway Station on Ratlam Division

The railways on Sunday started train operations on a newly-laid ‘loop rail line’ at Binjana Railway station which falls on the Ratlam Division of Western Railway. This second rail line is expected to reduce the waiting time for trains coming from Dewas to Indore as it will allow trains to cross without taking a halt. Rail traffic began at around 4:00am on this newly laid rail line at the station but it affected train movement by a few minutes as trains were allowed to cross the line at a certain speed limit.

Binjana railway station near Dewas is next to Kshipra and is identified as a D-category station. Though there is only one platform at the station, this new line will be used as a loop line at the time when two trains have to cross this station at a time.

The railways had been taking power blocks for doubling project, and this affected the arrival of trains mainly Amritsar-Indore Express (19326), Bhopal-Indore Express (19304), Avantika Superfast Express (12961), Delhi Sarairohilla-Indore Superfast Intercity Express (12416) and Rewa – Dr Ambedkar Nagar (11703). On Sunday also, Bhind Express, Dehradun Express and Avanitka Express were delayed due to the restricted speed of trains along this newly developed rail section.

Railway officials said that trains coming from Barlai to Dewas will no more have to wait at Dewas railway station for trains coming from the opposite direction. “This new loop line was needed as the train coming from Barlai had to wait for at least 15-20 minutes for other trains to cross by,” said a spokesman with Ratlam division of the western railways. He added that the restriction of speed for trains on this line will be removed soon.

Nearly 70 trains that start or operate via Indore railway station have to pass through Binjana railway station. In the absence of a separate line they have to wait 20 to 30 minutes at Dewas or Birlai railway stations.

MEMU Coach Maintenance Unit to come up at Godhni near Nagpur

In a big boost to development and employment in the region, Godhni, near Nagpur, under Central Railway will soon get a mega depot to maintain Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) coaches.

Nagpur, which is centrally located, is among three cities, after Jaipur in Rajasthan and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, where such depots will be set up. “The Railway Board has already given a green signal to set up the unit in Godhni, where huge railway land is available,” said Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Brijesh Kumar Gupta.

Gupta said Railways have invited financial bids worth over Rs.20,000 crore for manufacturing around 5,000 MEMU coaches at the Kanchrapara rail factory in West Bengal. “The modern and well equipped depot at Godhni will maintain at least 750 MEMU coaches. Earlier, there was a plan to set up the project at Bhusawal but Railway Board decided to go for Nagpur,” said Gupta.

The DRM said it will be a joint venture project and entire tendering process is being handled by the Railway Board. As per the policy decision, there are plans to reduce passenger trains and pitch in MEMU trains. at some locations

“These coaches will be equipped with modern facilities like automatic doors, forced ventilation, bio-toilets, regenerative braking, and better interior design. The stainless steel coaches will run faster than the existing coaches,” said Gupta.

Central Railway sources said that in June last year, railways had sought requests for qualification (RFQ) for manufacturing 5,000 modern EMU/MEMU coaches over the next 10 years in a joint venture model.

The RFQ got good response as Bombardier (Canada), Siemens Consortium (Germany), Alstom (France), CRRC Corporation Consortium (China), Stadler (Switzerland), Medha Consortium (India) and BHEL, an Indian PSU, qualified for financial bidding. Railways will have a 26% stake in the joint venture project.

Sources said last month a section of officials from Siemens and its consultant visited Godhni. They visited the proposed site, a kilometre away from Godhni railway station. The Siemens officials also conducted a soil survey. “Though modalities are still being worked out, the project is likely to be set up over 1 lakh sq feet area,” they said.

Though MEMUs have been deployed across all railway divisions, Nagpur and its suburbs, which are growing manifold, have still been deprived of these fast trains. With the setting up of Godhni depot, Nagpur will now get MEMU trains.

Sources said there were 4-5 services operated from Nagpur to places like Bhusawal, Amravati, Amla, Itarsi, and Kazipet, which could be run using MEMUs. Those coaches could then be utilized to clear waiting list of passengers in other mail/express trains.

Railway officials said EMU/MEMU is the most successful and cost-effective option with adoption of few more technologies to match the transport challenge of suburban network all around metropolitan cities. They are popular trains for suburban travel. This configuration of the train is popular not only among commuters but also as a feeder train to main line trains.

Highways & transport minister Nitin Gadkari had proposed MEMUs for Nagpur in 2012. However, after he became minister, the proposal was sent again to the Railway Board. State power minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule too had last year pushed for a local train for daily commuters between Kanhan-Kamptee-Butibori

India’s Bullet Train project to obtain the most Modern Technologies; to up the Innovation in Transportation

While European countries like Germany and Italy had been researching and experimenting on high speed rail network since as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, it was Japan which made the breakthrough in this race for the fastest rail technology with innovation.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid down the ceremonial first stone of India’s first high-speed rail line at the Athletic Stadium near the Sabarmati Railway Station in Gujarat, it showcased India’s entry from the smoke-billowing ‘chhuk-chhuk’ train, started under the British Raj some 164 years ago, to the league of those nations equipped with a high-speed ultra-modern rail network. Not only that, it is a back-to-back answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. A bullet train on Indian soil, under the government’s ambitious plan to modernise rail infrastructure after decades of underinvestment, is a proud moment as it indicates that Indian Railways would be obtaining the most modern technologies matching that of the developed countries.

EFFICIENT, FAST, ACCIDENT-FREE

The ultra-efficient Shinkansen train network connects cities along the length and breadth of the country. Till 2011, it also had the highest ridership annually before giving up the title to its rival China.

The trains, which run every three minute, attain the maximum speed of 320km. They are operated by companies of the Japanese Railways Group and are known for their punctuality and safety record. Sample this: crew members of the Shinkansen trains are asked to give an explanation if the train arrives a minute late to its destination.

The network boasts of zero accident fatalities in its 53-year-journey, although Japan is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes. A Google search about Shinkansen accidents streams an incident of self immolation in the train and a minor derailment due to earthquake.

The system has become synonymous with efficiency. A video on YouTube titled ‘The 7-Minute Miracle Of Japanese Train System’ was shared widely on social media websites. The clip showed crew members respectfully bowing as a Shinkansen entering the station, waiting for passengers to disembark and swiftly cleaning every car of the super speed train in seven minutes.

COSTLY, BUT ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY

An undated report of the Japan Railway & Transport Review said the Shinkansen project has tried to minimise noise pollution because it passes through high population density areas. Compared to other means of transport, the Shinkansen hardly emits any carbon dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and other harmful gases. “If the Tokaido Shinkansen had not been constructed, about 15,000 tons more CO2 would have been emitted in 1985. This corresponds to the annual amount of CO2 emitted by industry in and around Tokyo,” it read.

The fares for Shinkansen were, however, costly. Former member of the railway board, RC Acharya, wrote in an article for HT in 2015 that a Shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Kyoto (514 km) costs Rs 7,700. It isn’t surprising too that the estimate fares for the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train is estimated to range between Rs.3,000 – Rs.5,000.

This new High-Speed Rail (HSR) line which would run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, cutting the travel time down from eight hours to two or three hours for a 508-kilometers’distance is aimed to become a part of ceremonies commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, its scheduled completion date has been moved up by one year to August 15, 2022. The total cost of this project had been approximated at 17 billion USD, of which Japan would provide a friendly loan for over 80 per cent of the value.

The Japanese government would charge interest at 0.1 per cent, over a 50-year repayment cycle along with a grace period of 15 years. Japan would also provide the HSR technology making India a potential developer of it. With an aim to unleash the unexploited potential of Asia’s two largest democracies, India and Japan had formed a ‘special strategic and global partnership’ in 2011. And, incidentally this Mumbai–Ahmedabad Shinkansen line has come within months after the announcement of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, which is a joint effort by both Japan and India to strengthen transportation infrastructure and development across Asia and Africa.

As China and Japan are the global giants competing for contracts to build new HSR lines and supply the rolling stock all over Asia and even in Europe, Beijing may also be eyeing the other two HSR projects in India waiting in the wings, including the proposals to construct HSR lines from Delhi to Nagpur and Delhi to Chennai. However, another reason for preferring Japan over China is that Japan does not have a history of accidents on their bullet train network. On the other hand, there remain many unanswered questions regarding the timely completion of the Mumbai–Ahmedabad Shinkansen line project. Maintaining a balance in providing better connectivity while managing costs due to the demands of the land, may escalate to become a big source of worry for the authorities. The government might face a hard time explaining even the fares – which is expected to be higher than the flight tickets between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

With train tickets costlier than flight tickets, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project would have to cater to at least 1.5 crore passengers a year to earn enough and repay the loans with interest on time. Acquiring 825 hectares of land for this project would be the toughest task as it covers more than 163 villages in eight districts of Gujarat and 44 villages in three districts of Maharashtra, affecting as many as 2,761 families. Besides, the safety issues for bullet trains will also be a matter of concern as it would be running at 320 kmph. Not to forget, Narendra Modi is a Prime Minister who is gradually gaining accolades for his particular brand of big stick politics – aimed to push his country into a full rebuild. Asserting that India is willing to jump on the ride to see where it goes, he said that this ambitious project would bring pace to development in the country and no country can grow if they don’t dream big. “It is a new India which has to fly high. To grow one needs to expand his dreams and decide his strengths that would be required to achieve that,” the Prime Minister said in his address at Sabarmati Ashram.

Only time can spell out the success of the much-hyped Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, but right now, it seems that India is aiming to become a high-speed rail powerhouse, resulting in a proper upgradation of its 164-year-old conventional transportation system on the tracks. And, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line is the first step towards this ambition.

How the Railway systems around the world raced to get their fastest trains

The quest for the fastest possible rail network had been on the agenda of countries across the world throughout the twentieth century. The concept of high speed train is used to designate any railway system that has a speed above 250 kph. While European countries like Germany and Italy had been researching and experimenting on high speed rail network since as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, it was Japan which made the breakthrough in this race for the fastest rail technology.

Japan’s headway in high speed rail technology was soon followed by France, Germany, Spain United Kingdom, United States, China, Italy, Korea and Taiwan. “This transformation of ground transportation infrastructure has become the symbol of modernity in many countries, and, from the financial perspective, high speed rail lines have become the most important projects in those countries where this innovation has been implemented,” write economists Daniel Albalate and Germa Bel in their work on the economics and politics of high speed railways.

While the government of these countries have often justified the technology in terms of commercial gains to be made and environmental benefits, they have also come under criticism regarding the economic and social burden the fast train projects might lead to. Whatever be the highs and lows of high speed rail technology, its association with modernity has made the idea of ‘fast trains’ a near necessity for any country desiring to be labeled as ‘developed’.

On Thursday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, inaugurated the first high speed rail service in India, or what is popularly called the bullet train, the Indian rail industry took a leap in the direction of modern locomotives. Here is a look at few other countries who have been ahead in this race.

JAPAN

In the period following the end of the Second World War, Japan made several astounding economic gains as it benefited from Cold War politics. A product of this economic boom and the necessity of the post-war demographic situation in Japan led the country to discover high speed locomotive technology. Subsequently, the country made a breakthrough in high speed railways in 1964 with the Shinkansen or the bullet train network. At its inception, the network extended from Tokyo to Osaka. Over time it has extended to cover 2,764.6 km, linking most of the major cities in the country.

The bullet train technology inaugurated by India and Japan in Ahmedabad on Thursday rests on the same technology that made Japan the first country to successfully introduce high speed railways.

UNITED KINGDOM

On January 10, 2012, the Secretary of Transportation of the British government announced the building of a high-speed railway line between London and Birmingham, with an extension to Manchester and Leeds. Despite criticism against the project regarding the high costs it would accrue, the British government maintained that the benefits to be gained from the rail network would be much higher than the costs. The project has come under strong criticism from organisations like the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute. The media too has been critical of the project. In 2011 an article on the high speed rail project published in the weekly publication, The Economist, came out with the title “The great train robbery”.

The British government, however, had been consistent in their confidence on the project. A report on the rail network presented by the government to the Parliament stated that “the Government believes strongly that the time has come to act with the same boldness as our Victorian predecessors”.

UNITED STATES

While research and tests for high speed rail in the United States had been ongoing since the early decades of the 20th century, one of the first substantial projects date back to the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. Despite being one of the first countries to introduce high speed rail networks, it could barely spread with the same agility. A more recent development in the process has been the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in 1991. The Act mandated the Federal Railroad Administration to identify five corridors for high speed rail network. Over time the number of such corridors identified have increased.

In April 2009, the Obama administration presented a blueprint for a national network of high speed passenger rail lines. “The purpose of the plan, as the president stated is to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil, and foster livable urban and rural communities,” wrote Albalate and Bel. While the cost of the network has come under heavy criticism, a major point in support of the railways made by the government is that of environmental benefits to be made, particularly those related to energy efficiency and cutting down of air pollution.

EUROPEAN UNION

The first high speed rail line arrived in Europe in 1981 with the Train Grande Vitesse line between Paris and Lyon. The process of opening high speed rails in Europe accelerated in the late 1980s with lines opening in Germany and Spain and later in Italy. The development of high speed rail network in European countries depended on a variety of factors including the specific socio-economic and territorial needs of the states, the condition of the rail companies and the strategies adopted by the individual governments.

While high speed rail network developed at a fast pace in almost all European countries, the French and the German models gained an upper hand over all others. Developed in the 1980s and 90s, the two models became a source of inspiration for most other European countries who wished to develop fast trains strategy, this was particularly the case for Italy and Spain.

In the early 1990s, the European Union launched an ambitious plan for an integrated European high-speed network. One of the first steps taken by the Union in the process of railway reorganisation was the liberalisation of the rail economy. As of 1994, nine projects were selected for building high speed rail lines. With the enlargement of the European Union, however, the number of projects also increased over time.

Indian Railways’ Freight Loading up 5% in April-Aug 2017

The Railways has seen nearly 5 per cent year-on-year increase in freight loading for the first five months of this fiscal (April to August) riding on growing volumes of cement, steel and iron ore traffic.

Steel cargo increased by 22.27 per cent to 22.62 million tonnes (mt) during April-August 2017 over the same period last year.

Iron ore loading saw a near 13 per cent y-o-y increase to 59.23 mt, while cement cargo grew by 12.60 per cent to 47.53 mt. Loading of foodgrains and containers has also gone up. The improved showing, however, came despite a 0.3 per cent drop in coal cargo to 215.86 mt, owing to reduced imports.

No growth in coal

Coal accounts for 48 per cent of the Railways traffic and 44 per cent of its earnings profile. According to Bajwa, while the loading of imported coal dropped, domestic coal loading increased. The demand for rakes from the domestic coal sector, however, is way below the projected targets. As against 238 rakes a day, Coal India Ltd is loading only 214 rakes a day, he said. “We hope the coal loading numbers will improve and we will be able to achieve the set target of 555 million tonnes this fiscal,” Bajwa told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the ‘mjunction’ organised coal markets conference. Fertiliser was the other major category that saw around four per cent decline in traffic, during this period, to 20.29 mt due to “less imports.”

The Railways invests nearly 131,000 crore to ramp up rolling stock (wagons), expanding track capacity through line doubling and improving the signalling system. According to Bajwa, by the end of 2018-19, the rolling stock (wagon) availability will increase by 10 per cent.

Container volumes at major ports increased 8.4% in August over a year ago, indicating a significant recovery in trade

Container volumes at major ports (in terms of 20-foot equivalent units) increased 8.4% in August over a year ago, indicating a significant recovery in trade. Due to the initial disruption caused by the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), container traffic growth had slowed to around 2-5% in the earlier two months. Encouragingly, volumes at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s largest container port, remained strong, clocking a growth of 9.1%, data compiled by PhillipCapital (India) Pvt. Ltd shows.

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