Indian Railways News

Dispute with Railways over dues could hold up Chennai Metro Rail work

Even as Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) has opened key stations like Central and Egmore connecting the terminal railway stations, the state agency is involved in a bitter financial feud with Southern Railway over payment of dues to the tune of Rs 275 crore.

Documents accessed by TOI show that Southern Railway demanded unpaid dues of Rs 275.88 crore from metro rail for tunnels that cross railway land and land-use charges. Southern Railway has indicated that if the charges are not paid, it might not be able to permit metro rail to carry out further work at these locations.

Union railway minister Piyush Goyal wrote to Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami in February, asking CMRL to pay its dues.

But metro rail on May 16 wrote an eight-page letter to Southern Railway, saying the calculations were wrong and instead Southern Railway should pay Rs 215.81 crore to CMRL.

A data sheet attached by metro rail said it had paid Rs 485.72 crore to the railways. The actual amount payable was Rs 269.90 crore.

Under railway policy, metro rail must pay 99% of the market value of the land as ‘railway land crossing charges’ if the depth of the tunnel’s roof is less than 15m.

The depth of tunnels in the approach to Chennai Egmore is less than 15m — a fact that CMRL did not inform the railways about, Southern Railway said in a letter. It did not take permission to operate the tunnel boring machines on the line either. “Metro rail violated norms of working,” the letter said.

However, metro rail raised five objections. It challenged the application of tunnel crossing charges stating that there was no guideline on construction of tunnels at a depth of less than 15m. “The tunnel design allows Southern Railway to undertake future expansion, operation and maintenance without any hindrance,” CMRL said.

Metro rail stated that railways had incorrectly applied a 7% escalation over the guideline value while calculating land charges. It has also contested the railway’ s calculation of actual extent of land in Guindy, Egmore, Central and Washermenpet.

Railway has also billed CMRL Rs 3.43 crore for traffic diversion at Chennai Central which the latter has opposed. “Around 378sqm was given to railways to shift parking for autorickshaws and taxi bay. CMRL also constructed a foot over-bridge for smooth crossing,” metro rail said.

Railways extends Mumbai Duronto Express from Ahmedabad to Rajkot – details here!

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani today flagged off Duronto Express which was recently extended to Rajkot from Ahmedabad by Railways. Earlier, the train used to run between Mumbai Central and Ahmedabad. The Railways decided to extend it to Rajkot on May 14 following a long-pending demand of local people. “The train will depart from here everyday at 07:05 pm and will reach Mumbai next morning at 06:00am. The train will leave from Mumbai everyday to Rajkot. It will depart from Mumbai Central at 11:25 pm and will reach Rajkot next morning on 10:55am,” Western Railway chief PRO Ravinder Bhakar said.

The Duronto Express service was extended up to Rajkot after representations by Rajkot MP and former Union minister Mohan Kundariya. The non-stop source-to-destination train will have 15 coaches in all. The train will halt at Ahmedabad and Surendranagar stations in both directions.

Railways experiments with New Technology to prevent Theft on Rajdhani, Shatabdi Express Trains

Indian Railways division is experimenting with a new upgraded software to prevent theft! The Indian Railways is not only equipping Rajdhani Express trains with CCTV cameras, but is also providing body cameras to RPF (Railway Protection Force) officials on trains and platforms. “There have been cases of theft from Rajdhani trains, so we are equipping coaches of these premium trains with CCTC cameras. As of now 5 coaches already have these CCTV cameras and a requirement for CCTVs for 100 more coaches has already been identified,” a Western Railways official told.

According to the official quoted above, till the time that all coaches get CCTV cameras, RPF will have body cameras for real-time monitoring of the train and stations. RPF personnel on Shatabdi Express trains of the Western Railways are also being given these new-age body cameras. “These body cameras are able to transmit data on a real time basis. This would help prevent incidents of thefts,” the official said.

According to a Mumbai Mirror report, these cameras have an upgraded software. The report stated that earlier, in order to bring transparency in dealings with train passengers, on-duty police officers on Rajdhani Express trains had been provided with body cameras that stored 32 GB footage in inbuilt storage devices. It also mentioned that the footage was reviewed only in critical situations.

The software, which is an e-patrolling mobile application will be set up on the patrol staff’s phones and it will be paired with the body camera. The App will be fed with details such as the police officer’s name, beat, rank as well as assigned patrolling perimeter on the train. Further, the system will record and transmit all the information to the main control room. This will include the number of rounds undertaken by the concerned officer as well as the officer’s current location.

According to Arun Tripathi, Divisional Security Commissioner of Western Railway, Mumbai Central division, the software will provide an extra hand to the security agencies. Also, it will certainly improve the train passengers’ security.

Indian Railways made Historical Progress in past Four Years: MOSR

Union Minister of state for Railways Manoj Sinha said that Indian Railways has made historical progress in past four years as many facilities have been introduced for common commuters during this time.

Addressing the gathering in Basti while inaugurating many facilities for passengers at Basti railway station Sinha said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge in 2014 he has asked for the betterment of railways frequently.

He said Rs 1100 crore were used for development of railways in 2014 and the amount increased to 7200 crores in this fiscal year.

Sinha claimed that railways has introduced many facilities and upgraded meter gauge into broad gauge introduced electrification and has done doubling of tracks.

Speaking about achievements of Northeast Railways Sinha said that 410 kilometer new tracks were constructed, 576 kilometer tracks were doubled, 293 kilometer lines were turned into broad gauge and 2.156 kilometer lines were electrified in these past four years. Keeping huge population in mind, railways have to expand further, he added.

Union minister said that Indian Railways has to upgrade 600 railway stations as per international norms. He said that 92 over bridges were constructed in Uttar Pradesh in recent years. He said that railway officers were working like Indian army men for the development of the sector.

24 illegal Bangladeshi intruders arrested from Agartala Railway Station – NIA interrogating the youth

The Tripura Police Mobile Task Force (MTF) on Thursday arrested 24 Bangladeshi youths from the Agartala Railway Station for intruding into the state without valid passports, an official said.

MTF Superintendent of Police Abhijit Chaudhuri said that all the 24 youths arrived here from different states through trains.

“Documents and identity cards of madrasas of different states along with mobile phones and Indian currencies were found from the intruders. They have no valid passports,” Chaudhuri told IANS.

He said that these youths would be handed over to the Government Railway Police after preliminary interrogation.

Tripura shares an 856 km border with Bangladesh, most of which is fenced except some stretches in the eastern frontier of the mountainous state.

Officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) are interrogating 24 Bangladeshi youths arrested in Agartala on Thursday reportedly before they could return to their country, a senior police officer said on Saturday evening.

“A two-member NIA team from Guwahati is interrogating since Friday the 24 Bangladeshi youths lodged in three different police stations in Agartala,” Tripura Police Mobile Task Force (MTF) Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhijit Chaudhuri told IANS here. A local court sent the intruders to seven-day police custody on Friday.

The MTF personnel on Thursday arrested the 24 Bangladeshi youths as they reached the Agartala Railway Station from outside the state. “These youths after entering India illegally, probably through West Bengal borders, mostly stayed in Uttar Pradesh,” the MTF SP said.

“Documents and identity cards of madrasas of different states, along with mobile phones and Indian currencies, were recovered from the intruders. They have no valid passports,” Chaudhuri said. Once the interrogation is over, these youths would be handed over to the Government Railway Police.

The interrogators are yet to disclose whether the Bangladeshi nationals were involved in any crime in India. Tripura shares an 856km border with Bangladesh, most of which is fenced except some stretches in the eastern frontier of the mountainous state.

During the investigations a number of madrasas came under the scanner of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), National Security Guard (NSG), Intelligence Bureau (IB), etc.

The NIA and NSG investigators carried out extensive search at Simulia madrasa under Mongalkote police station in Burdwan and also at Mukimnagar in Murshidabad’s Lalgola. They recovered mobile phones, SIM cards, jehadi literature and cables from the residence Jamat Sheikh, the father-in-law of absconding terrorist Sheikh Yusuf in Nawpara village of Mangalkot.

Yusuf was a teacher at the Simulia madrasa, located 40 km away from the Khagragarh blast site in Burdwan, which was believed to be a training centre for the terrorists. Yusuf is one of the prime suspects in the Burdwan terror network.

Officials investigating the Burdwan blast pointed out that these terror modules recruited youths and women, and set up several illegal madrasas to introduce radical philosophy among the impoverished minority population. For them, the target audience was always easy to penetrate.

Sources said NIA officers seized a large number of books and documents, 12 trunks and a car from a madrasa at Simulia where the Burdwan blast accused were suspected to have been radicalised.

The NSG and NIA officials also recovered a huge cache of sophisticated explosives from other terror hideouts in Burdwan.

The officials also visited the Mukimnagar madrasa in Murshidabad’s Lalgola. They had found another madrasa at Tamilpukur in Burdwan, which was under construction and was built on a huge plot of land financed by Mohammad Yusuf and Sobhan Sheikh, a carpenter.

Sources said the subversive modules, several of whom were members of the Jamaat-ul- Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), became operational in the state since October 2011, as their members had infiltrated into India and have been operating with the help of local support.

These elements also received tactical support for staying close to the political formation (mainly the ruling Trinamool Congress party) in the rural belts and enjoyed several undue benefits as no one could question their identities.

“It is a very sensitive issue. It has got lot of implications. The situation is really complex now as there are several direct and indirect factors involved in it,” said Sandhi Mukherjee, a retired IPS officer.

Investigations revealed that there are some 58 terror modules operating in West Bengal.

The probe also zeroed in on some 180 Bangladeshi nationals operating these modules and working with JMB. As many as six people, including two women, were arrested in connection with the Khagragarh blast in Burdwan while six more people were arrested in Assam.

The incident was being linked to terrorist groups from across the border having connections with al-Qaeda, LeT and HUJI, sources said. However, not everyone is willing to accept that illegal madrasas are breeding grounds of terror networks.

Noor-ul- Rehman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque here, said: “It would not be proper to label all the madrasas as nursery of terror logistics. There are only about 500 madrasas recognised by the state government while over 4,000 such madrasas are still unrecognised.”

He said the entire episode was a political conspiracy to dislodge the ruling Trinamool government.

“Everything is being framed to target the year 2016 so that the Bharatiya Janata Party can gain in the state Assembly elections,” he added.

According to NIA sources, the primary objective of these hubs was to give training to prospective militants in explosive manufacturing and in establishing links with international terror outfits.

The terror groups most of whom are members of the banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen, a Bangladeshi outfit, have managed to infiltrate and start operations with the help of local support since October 2011, according to the report.

They recruited young men and women and set up several illegal madrasas in order to introduce their radical philosophy among the minority community.

The initial findings indicate that the investigating agency would require more time to unearth the real magnitude of the conspiracy hatched by terrorists in the rural belts of West Bengal.

“The situation is very complex now. There are several direct and indirect factors involved in it.

“These illegal madrasas mushroomed over a period of time as practically there was no monitoring or intelligence mechanism available with the local administration,” informs a senior official of the State police.

“They (people engaged in terror activities) also enjoy local political support and set up these terror cells right under the nose of the administration,” says the official.

“By cozying up to the ruling Trinamool administration, the terror groups successfully avoided any queries pertaining to their identities from law enforcement agencies,” the official alleges.

TERROR ON RENT

According to sources, they were also given a free hand by the local police in whatever they did.

As a result they indiscriminately built up bases, purchased agricultural land to set up illegal madrasas, recruited locals for subversive activities, gave arms training and imparted ideological lessons.

“The terrorist elements successfully spread their networks in the impoverished minority-dominated belts cashing in on factors such as illiteracy and large-scale migration of youths from other parts of the state for jobs,” says another official.

As the NIA and National Security Guard (NSG)-led joint investigation is progressing, two things are gaining prominence: one, the terrorist group used to enjoy indirect support from the ruling Trinamool Congress locally and two, there was a massive failure of the state intelligence machinery which failed to identify the suspected terrorists holed up in the rural outskirts.

The state intelligence agencies also failed to monitor activities carried out at madrasas in the rural pockets of Bengal.

The investigating team has also expanded its search to include other neighbouring madrasas that are allegedly operating illegally.

The team also found another madrasa at Tamilpukur and many other areas which was under construction on a huge plot of land without permission.

Railway Network in Mumbai grapple with Land encroachments during Monsoon

The Western Railway (WR) have a mammoth task ahead of them before the monsoon arrives as they will have to clear the illegal slums, structures and the huge garbage thrown in lands belonging to the rail. More than 41 hectares of land belonging to the Western Railway are dotted with encroachments which are the major reasons for water stagnating during heavy rainfall, which leads to train services being halted.

Earlier this April, the WR authorities began demolition work for the encroached land in Dahisar, Malad, Kandivali etc. However, they faced political flak for not giving ample time to illegal residents for the evacuation of the land.

“Unless there is an unified political will, its difficult to remove encroachments from our land. They are the reason behind the garbage being dumped and litter which accumulates on the tracks and chokes the gutters during monsoon,” said a WR official.

There are close to 2000 settlements at selective locations between Churchgate and Virar. Clearing of encroachments from rail land one of the vital issues discussed at the recent meeting between the General Manager of WR, AK Gupta and the BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, informed sources.

Some of the prominent locations identified by the WR authorities are between Grant Road, Charni Road, Mahalaxmi-Lower Parel, Dadar-Elphinstone Road, Mahim-Kings Circle, Mahim-Bandra on both Harbour and Main lines, Andheri-Vile Parle, Goregaon-Malad, Jogeshwari-Goregaon and Borivali-Dahisar. There is a plan to build 17.5 km of concrete wall along the rail land to prevent further encroachments and trespassing.

“According to the plan, we want to build tall cement concrete walls to prevent encroachments. For this purpose, we have also made an arrangement of Rs 4.5 crore. However, all this is futile unless the political parties stop shielding the encroachers,” said a senior WR official on condition of anonymity.

At Bandra East, a whopping 46,220 square metres of railway land is overrun by 3935 shanties. These are removed but they resurface due to political influence.

The WR has identified a humongous 3.50 lakh cubic metre of muck and garbage that gets dumped along the rail tracks. Off these around 1 lakh cubic metre of muck has been removed and efforts are being made to clear it further. Every monsoon, these flow onto the culverts and nullahs and floods the track. The 37 lakh daily commuters of WR have to bear the consequences as the train services comes to a halt.

The WR is in the process of completing cleaning and widening work on 10 culverts. Ravinder Bhakar, Chief PRO, Western Railway said: “First phase of joint inspections are over. We are confident of completing necessary work by the first week of June”.

Railway Board Chairman reviews Punctuality of Worst-Performing Zones

Amid the delays occurring in the running of trains, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani today held a video conference with the worst performing zones and conducted a review of their speed restrictions.

The video conference was held with the general managers of eight zonal railways which had reported less than 70 per cent punctuality.

The eight railway zones are East Coast Railway, East Central Railway, Eastern Railway, North Central Railway, North Eastern Railway, Northeast Frontier Railway, Northern Railway, and South East Central Railway.

“The punctuality performance of these zones was discussed in detail for the current year. The CRB said that blocks are to be optimally used. These are needed works, but the zonal railways need to maximise the output,” said an official here.

The Zonal Railways raised the issues of improving the time tables and availability of coaching stock and other issues.

“The CRB ordered to monitor the timing of more than half a dozen trains that are running too late for the last few days,” the official said.

Official figures show that almost 30 per cent of the trains ran late in the financial year 2017-18 — the Indian Railways worst punctuality performance in three years.

From April 2017 to March 2018, the punctuality of mail and express trains was 71.39 per cent, down from 76.69 per cent in the corresponding period of 2016-2017, which is a deterioration of 5.30 per cent.

Bullet Train Stations at Vadodara, Ahmedabad & Sabarmati will be over existing Railway Platforms

The bullet train stations at Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati will be built over the existing railway platforms belonging to the Indian Railways, said Achal Khare, Managing Director of National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) that is building the ambitious bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. This is being done to provide bullet train connectivity to passengers travelling by the Indian Railways and the metrorail in Ahmedabad.

“We wanted to give connectivity to the people travelling on the existing network of Indian Railways. So at Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati we will be building the platforms over the existing Indian Railways platforms,” Khare said while delivering the second Dr AN Khosla Lecture at the Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) on Saturday.

“We have to build (the platforms) without closing the existing railway stations in these places. This is a big challenge,” he said adding the platform number 7 at the Vadodara station will be used to assemble and erect the bullet train structures. The high-speed rail alignment between Ahmedabad and Vadodara passes close to the existing rail network and it crosses the major stations of Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

Special bridges are planned to span over existing railway tracks in these places. “Vadodara will have the longest bridge, that crosses the entire railway yard. Steel bridges with 240 meter span is planned over the existing railway tracks. There are multi-storeyed buildings on both sides and so we do not have space to do free work. It is one of the biggest challenge for the project,” he told a gathering largely full of engineers and members of Ahmedabad chapter of IIT-Roorkee Alumni Association. Ahmedabad will also have a special bridge with a 120 meter span near the railway station. He said the Japanese will be helping NHSRCL to construct these structures without closing down or stopping the busy network of Indian railways operating below.

Khare said that Sabarmati will not only have a “very big high speed terminal” at the very spot where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had laid the foundation for the project, it will also have a parking for 1500 cars and will have a connecting link to the Ahmedabad metro station which is coming up in the immediate vicinity.

Though NHSRCL will initially run bullet train with 10 coaches, the platforms are being designed to accommodate 16 coaches. Apart from these three stations in Gujarat, most of the alignment of the 508 kilometer long bullet train between Ahmedabad- Mumbai is being built about eight kilometers away from the existing Indian Railways rail network.

Khare said that NHSRCL will be operating two services one with limited stops which will take just 2.07 hours to reach Mumbai and the other with 12 stops which will take 2:58 hours.

Railways ropes in noted Architect to Redevelop Network, earn 1L crore

A redevelopment plan for the entire mass transit system, designed by architect Hafeez Contractor, could help railways earn Rs 1 lakh crore. The plan for suburban railway network will be unveiled in a few months.

The government is also looking at revising the terms of public private partnership in railways to facilitate longer leases, enabling sub-leasing and mortgaging property. The railways is also in talks with Bombardier and Siemens to convert three coaches in each of its 80 suburban rakes into air-conditioned ones. Also on the cards are separate first- and second-class compartments in the air-conditioned section and a separate compartment for ladies.

The railways has drawn up an ambitious Rs 54,000 crore investment plan for Mumbai suburban section, which includes extending the network to outward sections of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. This includes construction of an elevated railway line along the Harbour line to the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport.

The investment plans reflect the demographic shift in the city-traffic in the island city is falling as housing and employment increases in the northern suburbs. “Until now, modernization and monetizing of assets meant looking at each station as a unit. This plan looks at the entire rail network as one unit and could help railways realise Rs 1 lakh crore according to Contractor,” said a source in the railways.

The PPP in developing stations, however, has met with mixed results. Only two stations-Habibganj and Gandhinagar-have been developed under this scheme. According to a source, it is a challenge for a private developer to meet specifications of Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Ltd.

Railways launches Mobile App for General, Platform Tickets

The Northern Railways authorities have launched a mobile-based app UTS (Unreserved Ticketing System) for rail commuters of Ferozepur Division to get general as well platforms tickets. This development would provide a major relief to most passengers who earlier had to stand in long queues to get their general tickets for travelling throughout the division.

The service of providing general tickets through the mobile-based app commenced on Saturday, and it would also resolve the problem of charging of excessive amounts on general tickets by rail officials deputed at various general ticket booking counters. Senior divisional commercial manager of Ferozepur Division, Monu Luthra, said: “Finally, the service of providing general as well platforms tickets through the mobile-based app has commenced for passengers in the Ferozepur Division.”

The Central Railway Information System (CRIS) has enabled the technical process for the e-ticketing system. Railways officials too had generated some general tickers to verify its working, and found it was working smoothly without error. Railways will soon install hoardings in the premises of different stations to create awareness regarding this mobile app. Through this app, passengers can make payments through credit cards, debit cards, and several mobile-based wallets, without facing any hardship. Although several specifications have been taken into consideration while developing the mobile app, passengers would have to follow all the steps strictly to get their unreserved tickets.

If a passenger wants an unreserved ticket, then the foremost thing to do is stay away from railway tracks to at least a minimum distance of 70 metres up to 5km for the smooth functioning of the app. Luthra added: “Southern Railways authorities have already started this project in their railway stations, and the same thing will be implemented in our division in the forthcoming days for the convenience of passengers travelling on unreserved tickets.”

One of the passengers, Dilpreet Singh, said: “Railways had achieved another milestone in their ticket generating system with the commencement of e-ticketing system for general as well as platform tickets, as earlier, passengers would have to stand in queues for several hours to buy tickets for their trains, and in between the whole process, they would even miss their trains at times.”

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