Indian Railways News

Rating on Cleanliness in Trains & Stations by Passengers will now have direct impact on payment to Contractors’

Indian Railways has just taken the next step to make sure your next trip to railway stations and on trains is one that brings you nothing but joy! Passengers will now rate cleanliness standards in trains and stations which will directly impact payment of contractors with low scores, Railways have said in a new contract drawn up for such services.

According to the contract, 30 per cent of a contractor’s monthly penalties and incentives will depend on an overall score from passengers regarding cleanliness levels being maintained by them, while the rest will be based on attendance of cleanliness staff, use and quality of consumables, linen distribution, maintenance and services, which will be monitored by Indian Railways staff.

The new rules say while the attendance record of janitors which has to be submitted to the Railways supervisor every month will carry 25 per cent weightage, cleanliness record will carry 15 per cent weightage, use of type and quantity of consumables, linen distribution, minor maintenance and result of surprise visits by officials carry 10 per cent weight each, passenger feedback and complaints carry the maximum weightage of 30 per cent.

“The score from each section will be compiled and weighed…Using the same the final score will be computed for the contractor every month…Based on this score, every month the contractor’s penalty and incentive can be found…,” the railways has said.

Officials said that since the standards of cleanliness directly affect passenger onboard experience, it was imperative to include them in the process.

“Also, when passengers themselves are monitoring the cleanliness levels, we will get a true picture of the situation on board,” said a senior official of the ministry.

The feedback of Indian Railways passengers will be recorded on a GPS based system leaving no room for error, officials said.

Cleanliness has in fact been a major source of grievance of passengers and the highest number of such complaints are received from passengers regarding the same.

“If our feedback directly affects those who are in charge of the services, then they will be forced to perform to ensure they get good scores. The standards will definitely get better,” said Santosh Sinha, who travels frequently between Delhi and Patna, his hometown.

On-Board Housekeeping Staff (OBHS) entrusted with the job maintaining cleanliness in Indian Railways trains are mostly on contract and the service is now available on more than 1,700 trains. The service includes scheduled cleaning of coaches twice a day, and cleaning at any time when a passenger sends in a request.

Prime Minister puts brakes on Railways’ full-electrification plan

A high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have suggested to the Indian Railways to not rush through unilaterally with its grand drive of 100 per cent electrification of the country’s railway network. The Prime Minister is learnt to have nudged the policy correction while reviewing the work of the Railway Ministry at the PMO last Monday in the presence of the full Railway Board led by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.

Modi is learnt to have raised questions on the 100 per cent electrification policy — pursued aggressively by Goyal since his arrival in Rail Bhawan in September last year — wondering what the need/ justification for it was, especially because massive working infrastructure is already in place for diesel, the other mode of traction.

The PM was of the view that premature idling of in-service rolling-stock assets from the diesel stable was not a good idea, sources told The Indian Express. The Indian Railways have around 5,800 working diesel locomotives.

“Electrification is a long-term process. Its timeframe has to depend on the Budget,” said a source who is aware of the deliberations. “These things do not happen immediately. The diesel stock that we have has a certain life, and it (the changeover) will take time,” the source said.

One major takeaway for the Railway Board from the meeting was that the “100 per cent electrification” policy was to be put on hold, without missing the yearly physical targets for electrification as and when decided every year on a need basis, sources said.

The message that Railways got from the meeting was that the PM was more interested in the national transporter achieving its yearly budgetary expenditure targets towards electrification and other capital spends.

“The electrification plan should be annual target-based. Budget allocation-based annual commitments for electrification should be taken up,” another top source said, summarising the upshot of the review meeting.

The Railways have already announced plans to electrify their entire network by 2021-22. “Ministry of Railways has decided to electrify balance 38,000 Broad Gauge (BG) Route Kilometer (RKM) for achieving 100% electrification,” Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said in a reply to an unstarred question in Lok Sabha, setting 2021-22 as the timeframe to achieved it.

Lok Sabha was informed of ambitious annual targets of upwards of 4,000 km to meet this deadline. In the 2017-18 financial year, however, only around 2,500 km was achieved until the end of February, far short of the 4,000-km route electrification target.

There have been calls from within the government for a “strategic rethink”, for both financial and operational reasons, of the 100 per cent electrification policy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not use the phrase “100 per cent electrification” in the Budget, and instead referred to “optimal electrification”.

“We are moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network. 4,000 kilometres are targeted for commissioning during 2017-18,” Jaitley said in his Budget speech.

The Railways have thus far deployed a staggered approach towards the electrification of tracks. Over the years, they have electrified high-traffic routes based on the projected rate of return on the heavy capital investment that is involved. They have not identified for electrification routes with sub-optimal traffic — and the projected return on investment is not favourable for a majority of the 38,000 route kilometres that remain to be electrified.

Sources said the decision to electrify 100 per cent of the network was taken without adequate multi-disciplinary high-level consultations last year. The push for electrification triggered alarm bells in the US multinational General Electric last year after Goyal instructed the Railway Board to explore the option of exiting the diesel locomotive project in Marhowra (Bihar). GE had signed an agreement with the government in 2015 to build the modern diesel locomotive factory in a joint venture with the Railways to supply 1,000 high horsepower diesel engines exclusively to the Indian Railways over 10 years. The Railways subsequently backed off to allay GE’s apprehensions.

Aiming to infuse Transparency and ensure Accountability in its functioning, Railways in the process of launching 200 Apps

Aiming to infuse transparency and ensure accountability in its functioning, railways is developing more than 200 apps for travellers, stakeholders and also for internal use of employees.

People will also be able to track the progress being made in areas such as construction of foot-overbridges, installation of escalators at stations, status of construction of underpasses or underbridges and installation of Wi-Fi service at stations through these apps being developed by the state-run transporter.

Travellers can also get information about status of station redevelopment, information about catering stalls, their locations and even planning & progress in removal of unmanned level-crossings through the use of these apps.

The transporter is likely to launch three key apps in coming days.

Passengers will be able to file complaints relating to their travel and facilities at stations on “Rail MADAD” app for faster redressal. The app, which is almost ready, has integrated all passenger grievances and redressal mechanisms in railways.

“Menu on Rails” app will display IRCTC menu with rates for food items available at stations and in different types of trains such as mail/express trains or elite Shatabdi/Rajdhani trains.

As freight is its profitmaking business, railways is ready to launch “IR SUGAM” app which will provide all the information related to freight business to customers.

The apps which will be useful for stakeholders, include those which provide information on pending issues of Zonal Railways with railway board, information on tenders of goods, works and services and details and updates about MoUs signed with zonal railways and production units.

Railways minister Piyush Goyal said the new railway apps will reshape service, delivery and complaint redressal mechanism in almost every sphere. “People will be informed about the services to be provided by the railways with the help of these apps. This will enforce accountability,” said an official.

Other apps on offer which may be of interest to people are about railway tourist information and information about national rail museum. For employees, the apps are being developed for getting information about salary, leave details etc and grievance redressal. An app for booking of officer’s guesthouses and dashboard app for monitoring of tasks such as for colony maintenance are also being developed by railway zones, PSUs and production units.

Madurai Division gears up for Punalur-Sengottai Broad Gauge Railway line inauguration in April

The much awaited Punalur-Sengottai rail route will be commissioned on Saturday. The first train along the route will start from Thambaram in Tamil Nadu to reach Kollam railway station on Saturday.

The official inauguration of the route will be held in April. “The first train will start by 5.30 pm on Friday from Thambaram to reach Sengottai by 6 am on Saturday. The train will further take the new route to reach Kollam by 10.30 am. The train will be given receptions at various stations including Sengottai on Saturday,” said N.K. Premachandran MP.

In the first phase, six passengers trains are likely to operate along the route bridging the two states, operating from Madurai, Sengottai, Kollam, And Tirunelveli. Express trains will have to wait for at least six months after the commissioning of the new rail route, considering safety issues.

The trains are expected to take more than two hours to cover 49 kilometres, the distance between Punalur and Sengottai, as the route is mostly in ghat areas.

The speed along the route has been limited to 30 kilometres per hour in the primary phase which will be advanced further.

The railways also has plans to consider the proposal to declare the rail route as a heritage tourism route, taking advantage of its course through Western Ghats along Aryankavu– Punalur stretch. The major considerations will be nature tourism and heritage tourism as the route already consists of historical structures constructed by the British. The rail route includes a heritage 13-arch bridge along the 45-kilometre-long railway line from Punalur to Sengottai, commissioned in 1903.

The bridge having 102.72 metres in length and 5.18 metres in height was constructed using the ancient Surki method by the British. It is now strengthened using concrete jacketing and the heritage look will be artificially created by fixing the walls with tiles resembling the old construction blocks. The meter-gauge rail service along the Punalur -Sengottai stretch was stopped since September 2010.

The Punalur-Sengottai section is part of the 325-km Kollam-Sengottai-Tenkasi-Tirunelveli- Thiruchendur gauge conversion project carried out by the construction wing of the Indian Railways. The rail route along Sengottai-Thiruchendur and Kollam-Punalur sections have already been opened for rail traffic.

Andheri-Goregaon Harbour line service inaugurated – 49 new services to start from April 1

After a few hours of delay, not counting the four years from the initial deadline, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday flagged off the inaugural run of the extended Harbour line service from Andheri to Goregaon.

The Minister inaugurated the Andheri-Goregaon service at an event held at the Goregaon station tonight. Prior to this, Harbour line services would terminate at Andheri on Western Railway.

The flag off ceremony, which was scheduled in the evening, finally kicked off around 9 pm as Piyush Goyal arrived at the function in Mumbai a few hours behind schedule. According to sources, his flight from Delhi had got delayed.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was also expected to attend, had to miss the event as he was in the national capital trying to convince activist Anna Hazare to break his fast.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leaders boycotted the event as their MLA Sunil Prabhu was not on the official invitation list.

The extension would immediately benefit more than 13,000 daily commuters between Borivali-Andheri who will now be able to board the Harbour line trains bound for CSMT from Goregaon.

Regular services are expected to start next week, from April 1, 2018. A total of 42 Harbour line services will be operated between CSMT and Goregaon and seven services will operate between Churchgate and Goregaon on the Western corridor.

“The Harbour line will be further extended till Borivali, which will make commuting easy for those traveling to CSMT from Western Suburbs,” Goyal said, adding the Union government has undertaken Rs 54,777 crore-worth projects for improving the railway infrastructure in Mumbai.

“Seventy locals will have AC compartments, which means around 250 to 300 services will have this facility. The proposal has recently received a nod. This would be the first time in the history of Mumbai that second class will also have AC,” said Mr Goyal. He added, “The facility will be available for first and second class, both in the general and ladies compartments.” Meanwhile, Mr Goyal also stressed that a comprehensive plan should be prepared for Maharashtra for the next 50 years.

The function was delayed by two hours on Thursday after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis missed the event.  The line was inaugurated by Mr Goyal who reached the location at 9 pm, two hours later than the scheduled time ie 7:15pm. Also, Shiv Sena workers had staged a protest during the function and disclosed that the party would boycott it. “Once the harbour services start plying from Goregaon, WR locals to Churchgate will be relieved,” said Mr Goyal.

According to Railways, nearly 7,000 commuters who travel daily from Jogeshwari, Ram Mandir, and Goregaon stations  go to Andheri to travel via the harbour line.

Northeast Frontier Railway Construction Organisation meets Target for 2017-18

The N F Railway Construction Organization has met its target through completion of all the projects it set out to do within the year 2017-18. It has recently commissioned three important targeted works of BG doubling project in existing single line thereby thus enhancing the line capacity of existing route tremendously.

Two doubling projects, New Coochbehar to Gumanihat (29.32 Km) and New Coochbehar to Samuktala Road Jn. (29.02 Km), were completed on March 27 last after CRS inspection of 41 Km from Ghoksadanga –New Coochbehar- New Alipurduar at a maximum sanctioned speed of 110 Kmph.

The inspection was completed after a successful trial run up to a maximum 130 kmph to entire satisfaction of Commissioner of Railway Safety, S K Pathak. Work under this section involve construction of two important bridges on river Torsa and river Kalyani including replacement of three old Road Over Bridges and change in interlocking at 11 stations simultaneously. The N F Railway Construction Organisation has not only achieved the targeted doubling section set for the fiscal 2017-18, but also completed the Sajerpar- Ghoksadanga doubling section (7.5 km), which were targeted in fiscal 2018-19.

In Raninagar Jalpairugi – Jalpaiguri Road (7.15 Km) section of Ambari Falakata – New Maynaguri (36.52 km) doubling project, the CRS inspection has been completed and passenger train services started from February 9, 2018.

During the financial year 2017-18, Karimganj bye-pass section (3.50 Km) of Lumding – Silchar gauge conversion project have also been commissioned for passenger train service on November 25 next. This has facilitated flexible train operation and avoid usual reversal of engine from one line to another line without sustaining loss of time for mail and express train.

N F Railway has further commissioned BG new line for a total length of 11.50 km of Gauripur-Alamganj section of New Maynaguri-Jogighopa (288.88 km) new line project in the north bank of river Brahmaputra. In addition, after completion of track work, goods train movement was also done.

The section of Udaipur-Garjee (9.2 km length) of Agartala-Sabroom New line project (112 km) has commissioned with the running of Passenger train services from 5.1.2018 which was flagged off by Rajen Gohain, Minister of State (Railways).

Newly-constructed BG Railway line from Garjee to Santirbazar station (13.36Km) was inspected by S K Pathak, Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety on March 29. Once authorization is received from the Railway Safety Commissioner, trains can now run up to Santirbazar, providing much-needed rail connectivity between Agartala to Santirbazar.

Track laying is in advance station between Santirbazar to Belonia. Construction work is also progressing in full swing in the last leg of the project between Belonia-Sabroom.

Haldibari (India)-Chilhati (Bangladesh) new line project

The new line construction of 3.50 km length up to the international border of India- Bangladesh  has been completed and Goods train movement was done on March 15 last.

Tetelia to Kamlajari (10 km) section of Tetelia-Byrnihat (21.50 km) new line project has been completed & Engine rolling done on March 28. Out of 21.50 km , 19.20 km falls in Assam and 2.30 km falls in the state of Meghalaya. The Tetelia-Kamalajari section is having one tunnel of 500 m long, two major bridges and 24 minor bridges. The section has been planned for commissioning in August-2018.

As part of Bogibeel Rail-cum-Road Bridge new line project, Railway track between Bogibeel North Block cabin (between Sripani and Silapathar station)  to Tangani station (13.94 km) has been inspected by CRS, N F Circle on March 28. This is part of the Bogibeel Rail-cum-Road Project.

Again CRS inspection has been conducted on March 29 on newly-constructed BG line from Garjee station to Santirbazar station (13.50 km) of Agartala-Sabroom new line project in the state of Tripura.

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.