Jul 28, 2014

Mumbai has the cheapest railway fares in the world!

The most important things in life are free, and the second-most important are, at least in this city, heavily subsidised. While there was understandable outcry after the railways proposed a more-than-100 per cent hike in season passes to shore up its cash chest, you, Mumbaikar, will be grateful to know that the rail tariffs in your city are the cheapest when compared to other metropolitans in the world, from London to Tehran.


Last month, after the railways’ announcement of the unprecedented fare hike, Mumbaikars flooded ticket counters to buy monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly passes before the new tariffs were to roll out. But due to a chorus of protesting voices from political and civil quarters, the railways was forced on its back foot, and rolled back the hike to a flat 14.2 per cent across all fares for both suburban and long-distance trains.

Railway officials say A-rate international cities manage to provide better amenities onboard and at terminals because they charge higher fares

But now that we have crossed that bridge of a mountainous hike safely, it may be prudent to coolly assess how fares in the city compare with others in the world, based on current rates of conversion. The nation’s financial capital is routinely compared with other international cities on various criteria, transport being the foremost.

Mumbai’s suburban rail network ferries a mammoth 75 lakh people every day 40 lakh on Central and 35 lakh on Western Railway. And it charges a mere 11 paise per kilometre from a commuter in second class, which sees inordinately dense crowds during peak hours, since it takes the load of 70 per cent of all rail passengers.

Even a first-class commuter pays not more than 37 paise per kilometre, still one of the cheapest in the world. Consider, too, that there isn’t much in the way of disparity between second and first-class compartments the latter’s only advantage being cushioned seats on which three people sit, instead of four as is the case with second class.

The most expensive city for train travel is London, where one spends at least Rs 29.20 per kilometre. Presently, the United Kingdom’s pound is out of leaps when compared to the Indian rupee. Next in line is the railway network operating in Tokyo, where the fares are Rs 18.90 per kilometre, followed by New York at Rs 11.80/km.

The cheapest suburban rail transport after Mumbai is in Tehran, which charges around 30 paise/km. You, of course, pay for this hyper affordability in other ways mostly by compromising on service. Railway officials say A-rate international cities manage to provide better amenities onboard and at terminals because they charge higher fares.

“We can only expect world-class rail network, better infrastructure and modern amenities at railway stations in Mumbai if the fares are competitive. With the rollback, the tariffs hardly make any difference in our earnings,” said a senior railway official.

Even Shanghai, whose model the politicians here keep citing as exemplary, charges Rs 4.80/km from each passenger. During the recently released Railway Budget, Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said that the escalation in tariffs was a tough measure, but was necessary to rake in an additional R8,000 crore in the railways’ kitty. However, now that the original revision in fares has been revoked, this target revenue remains elusive.

Transport experts, nevertheless, feel that the augmentation of train services has to come with limited fares, since Indian Railways is not the only loss making public transport. The world over, railway undertakings incur losses to provide citizens efficient, reasonably priced services.


Metro rail to acquire 612 sq yards Iskcon land

HYDERABAD: After a protracted battle, the Hyderabad district administration and Hyderabad Metro Rail authorities will soon acquire 612.77 square yard land belonging to International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) near St. John's Rotary in Secunderabad for metro rail corridor-III (Nagole- Shilparamam stretch). Earlier, the HMRL had wanted 1339.35 sq metres (1,601.85 sq yards) of temple land, but after protests and several rounds of discussions, the land to be acquired was pruned to 612.77 sq yards.

Protesting the move to acquire their property, Iskcon management had suggested to HMRL to change alignment without disturbing the temple land. HMRL rejected the request stating that the alignment was set by a professional team from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation by taking several technical aspects and safety point of view into consideration. However, keeping in view the religious sentiments attached to the temple, the HMRL sent revised plans to reduce the extent from 1,601.85 sq yards to 612.77 sq yards.

Responding to the HMRL plan, Hyderabad collector Mukesh Meena and land acquisition officer conducted inspection in October last and sent a report to HMRL. Later, the HMRL asked the collector to acquire Iskcon land as per the Land Acquisition Act.

At a meeting with Iskcon representatives recently, HMRL managing director NVS Reddy convinced them and assured that none of the assets of temple would be affected. "After getting a report from Hyderabad collector Mukesh Kumar Meena to issue a draft notification to acquire Iskcon land, we had issued a notification on July 6," sources in land acquisition office, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corpration (GHMC), told TOI.

"As per the notification, the land owner has to send objections within 15 days from the date of notification. As there was no response from Iskcon representatives even 15 days after the notification (July 21), we will go ahead with acquisition of the land. However, we will invite Iskcon representatives in a day or two to take their consent before acquiring the land," the official added.
Source..times of india

Zonal railway asked for Rs 10 cr, NDA's rail budget gave it Rs 25 cr

Generosity of govt raises curiosity of officials in zonal railway as well as a section of Railway Board. Railways may have cited lack of funds as the reason to deny funds to many projects across India, but one item in the rail budget has been sanctioned more than what was originally demanded - and it is not something the transporter cannot do without immediately.

The budget has sanctioned Rs 25 crore for the purchase of 10 mini, portable biodiesel plants - without officially trying out even one. Northern Railway, which got the money, had asked to buy only four.

The generosity of the ministry has raised the curiosity of officials in the zonal railway as well as a section of the Railway Board because the transporter has yet to ascertain the real efficacy of these machines, and also because it is universal budgetary practice to sanction less money than what is demanded.

Notably, the budget has allocated only Rs 1,000 for the purpose. Officials said the remaining Rs 24,999,9000 will come in the form of re-appropriation as the year progresses and purchase is finalised. “Sanction is what matters. Allocation can increase depending on progress,” said a ministry official.

The machine railways wants to purchase is largely manufactured by foreign farms, which employ local agents to lobby for them in India. The procurement, as usual, will happen through a tender and the lowest bidder will get the order.

In its Machinery and Plant Programme, 2014, Northern Railway had proposed four mini bio-diesel plants, each of 4kl capacity. The justification given was that the portable nature of the plants would enable bio-diesel production even in remote locations where raw material is easily available. The money demanded for this purpose was Rs 10 crore.

“The plant pays for itself in about two years apart from bringing about intangible benefits to the environment,” the official pre-budget document reads.

The usual custom in railways is to buy such technology on a low scale to try out and see if it suits the desired purpose. New technology in railways is also vetted by Research Designs and Standards Organisation.

Railway Board officials said with diesel bills touching the sky and the budget laying down a policy roadmap to use more biodiesel in the future, the procurement was felt necessary. “Indian Railways will start using Bio-Diesel up to 5 per cent of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. This will save precious foreign exchange substantially,” the rail budget speech says.
Source..financial express

China to build more highways, rail lines, airports in Tibet

BEIJING: China has unveiled plans to build more highways and airports in Tibet by 2020 to make travel to the "roof of the world" a lot easier with projects underway to construct a rail network to connect places along the borders with India, Nepal and Bhutan. 

The plans include 1,10,000 kms of highways and 1,300 kms of railways, China's Ministry of Transport said. The plan is to complete a primary network of railways by then with 1,300 kilometers of railway in operation, it said adding that the country will also build more airports in Tibet in addition to the six existing ones. 

The rail line connecting Tibet's provincial capital Lhasa with Xigaze (also known as Shigatse) close to the Indian border in Sikkim as well as Nepal and Bhutan which is currently under trials would become operational next month. 

Another new line connecting Lhasa to Nyingchi in the east is also expected to start construction soon. Nyingchi is located right on top of Arunachal Pradesh. The railway expansion will connect Nepal, Bhutan and India by 2020, state-run Global Times reported. 

Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of Tibet said that during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period, the construction of a railway connecting Shigatse with Gyirong county, which has a checkpoint connecting Nepal and with Yatung county, (close to Indian border near Sikkim and Bhutan) a trade centre bordering India and Bhutan, will start. 

Building roads connecting rural areas has become the policy focus. The authorities plan to make sure that by 2020, every village in Tibet has at least one road connecting with the outside, state-run Xinhua news agency said. 

Tibet has received about 83 billion yuan (US $ 13 billion) in transport investment during the last 20 years. In ancient times, it usually took months even years for people living in the country's middle and eastern regions to get to Tibet. 

Although airlines, railways and expressways have made travels to Tibet much more convenient, the transport infrastructures in the autonomous region are still outdated, the report said.
Source..economic times

Jul 27, 2014

Centre's hawk eye on Metro rail

HYDERABAD: In a blow to the TRS government's plans to get the alignment of the Hyderabad Metro Rail project changed, the Centre has decided that the Project Monitoring Group (PMG) under the cabinet secretariat will directly monitor the venture and ensure that it is completed as per its schedule. 

"A web-based monitoring system will be launched by September. Until then, the state government will give a progress report on the project once every fortnight," said sources who were privy to the meeting held in Delhi on Friday that was attended by Union finance secretary Aravind Mayaram, Telangana chief secretary Rajiv Sharma, Telangana municipal administration & urban development principal secretary S K Joshi, HMRL managing director NVS Reddy and L&T chief executive V B Gadgil. 

The Centre convened the meeting following a complaint from L&T that the Telangana government wants the alignment of corridor-1 changed so that it goes underground near the Assembly building and the design of corridor-II modified so that the traders in Sultan Bazaar are not displaced. The move could prove to be a roadblock to the TRS government's plans as despite it being a signatory to the concessionaire agreement (by virtue of being the successor state of united AP), only the Centre and L&T have a stake in the project. 

"It is a very significant development since this is the first time that an infrastructure project is coming under the PMG's scanner. So far, the PMG has been facilitating clearance of 215 stalled projects with investment of Rs 1,000 crore and above in the areas of power plants and mining," said an official in the Union finance department. The PMG is headed by Anil Swaroop, additional secretary, cabinet secretariat. 

According to the sources, Anil Swaroop said there were about seven or eight issues related to alignment of route and land acquisition among others that have to be resolved in a time-bound manner. "Timelines have been fixed to resolve the stand-off between L&T and Telangana government," the sources said but refused to elaborate.The sources said the Centre has asked the Telangana government not to press for the change in the route alignment of the metro rail as it would have legal and financial implications as it is being executed under the public private partnership (PPP) model. "In the meeting, Aravind Mayarama asked Rajiv Sharma to ensure full cooperation from the state government to the project," said the sources. 

HMRL MD NVS Reddy said: "The Centre is very keen on the progress of the project, and works would not be hampered from any quarters whatsoever." Telangana MA&UD principal secretary S K Joshi said: "The Centre will not be supervising the works per se, but monitor the project in its entirerity." The decision to bring the Hyderabad metro rail project under the purview of the PMG is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of putting in place a foolproof system to ensure hassle-free execution of projects, Joshi added. 

However, a Telangana government official said the metro rail project cannot progress without the cooperation of the state government as its agencies, including the GHMC, are involved in facilitating land acquisition and giving various clearances
Source..times of india

In big infrastructure push, PM sets roads, rail, power targets

With the objective of boosting growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met the secretaries of nine economic ministries to outline a plan to put infrastructure development in top gear over the next two years.

At the meeting with the secretaries of roads and highways, civil aviation, shipping, power, telecom, railways, petroleum, coal, and industry, planning secretary Sindhushree Khullar made a presentation on targets for different sectors. She spoke of bottlenecks faced during the UPA regime and mooted the idea of a monitoring unit in the Planning Commission to remove these.

She also stressed on swift, time-bound clearance of projects and easing of environmental norms to ensure projects take off, government sources said. “The focus of the presentation was speedy development of smart cities, ports, roads, special economic zones and corridors (like DMRC). Greater infrastructure development by way of building more airports and ports, and having better connectivity through the railways was discussed,” said a source.

The infrastructure sector is a focus area for the Modi regime, and projects worth over Rs. 50,000 crore have already been cleared in the two months the government has been in power.

Construction of roads remains a top priority with the Centre setting a target of awarding projects for the construction of 8,500 km of highways this fiscal, against 9,638 km in 2013-14. However, the UPA government had managed to award projects for just 3,169 km last year.

Of the 8,500 km of highways, 3,500 km would be PPP projects and the remaining would be implemented on the EPC (engineering procurement construction) model where the government provides 100% funding.

The target for actual construction of highways in 2014-15 has been set at 6,300 km.

As many as 189 highway projects with a total cost of around Rs. 1,80,000 crore are currently stuck due to problems such as land acquisition issues, clearance delays, etc.

Since availability of power is critical for infrastructure development, issues related to power generation and transmission projects were discussed. “It was pointed out that the biggest challenge today is not power generation but transmission,” a senior government official said.

Building gas pipelines to ensure projects don’t suffer from fuel shortage also came up.

The official said, presently, over Rs. 1 lakh crore of investment in gas-based power capacity is suffering due to shortage of gas.

For the railways, it was proposed that 300 km of new track should be laid in the current fiscal.

The Indian Railways laid 450 km of new track in 2013-14, short of the targeted 500 km.

For the aviation sector, the plan panel proposed lowering the investment target from Rs. 1,008 crore in the previous fiscal to Rs. 934 crore this year, since investment realisation was just about 55% of the target in 2013-14.

A plan to develop airports in non-metro cities was talked about.

Other issues that came up for discussion included mobilising coal from one location to another, increasing rural tele-density and providing undersea fibre optic connectivity to the Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands.
Source..hindustan times

No funds for 60-km rail line survey

Important suburban train surveys, like the one for a 60-km line from Thane to Navi Mumbai airport, that were announced in this year’s railway budget, are unlikely to happen this year as the funds allocated in the Railway budget are inadequate, said Railway sources. It costs around Rs 7-8 eight lakh per kilometre for a fresh survey, but Railways has allotted only Rs 9 lakh for the survey of the entirely new Thane to Navi Mumbai airport line.
Officials are doubtful and say that this is too meagre an amount. “When we do a Detailed Project Research (DPR) of a completely new line with no prior research done on it whatsoever, we spend Rs 7-8 lakh per kilometre. We have to spend time and money on this research, but many a times we get in outside experts to consult with us,” said a railway official.
“These surveys are very complicated and a lot of work goes into them as we have to create a new line around whatever existing infrastructure that may lie in its path. That means we may have to circumvent a building or an ongoing project. Also, we have to see if there is an environmental issue at hand and get permission in the wake of that,” said the official.
Anil Tiwari, a railway expert, said, “Ideally, Railways have to do the survey if it is asked to do so. It can ask for more money in the supplementary budgets that can be asked after the main budget is announced.”
“If it does the survey , it will be timely as it will have a concrete plan in their hands until the Navi Mumbai airport begins to operate flights,” he said.
SOURCE..asian age

Courting Danger: Case of Removed Rail Gate

A level-crossing where a gate was set up and later removed near Buddiram village in Srikakulam district | Express Photo
SRIKAKULAM: The apathy of the railway authorities and elected representatives has put the lives of a large number of people, particularly students, in grave danger at the unmanned level crossing close to Amadalavalasa railway station in Srikakulam district. Interestingly, the railway officials had built a guard room and installed all required equipment for a fully-operated railway gate two years ago but removed the gates within a couple of weeks, consequently turning equipment worth lakhs of rupees into unusable scrap.

Ward Number 21 of Amudalavalasa municipal limits had an unmanned level crossing near Kuddiram village where scores of people travel across the tracks every day. The railway authorities, following pressure from locals, constructed a guard room in 2012 and installed a railway gate which was operated for a couple of weeks by a gateman. The authorities had written to the general manager, East Coast Railway for sanction of a gateman post to the Kuddiram village gate. As there was no sanctioned post, railway authorities removed the gate and locked the guard room. As a result, the equipment has now become useless.

“There will be thousands of proposals laid on the tables of railway authorities at various levels. Unless there is political intervention from the local elected representatives, these proposals are unlikely to be cleared. Due to poor coordination among the local MPs, the post might not have been sanctioned,” a senior official of Waltair railway division said.

There are several unmanned level crossings at Itchapuram, Palasa, Tekkali, Narasannapeta, Amadalavalasa and Etcherla. At every unmanned level crossing, a large number of people, mainly students, cross the tracks. Several fatal incidents have been reported in the past and cattle being run over by the trains on the tracks is very common.


“The civil works were completed about one-and-a-half years ago. The equipment has also been acquired. However, due to lack of manpower, the gate has not been opened. There is no clarity on which railway station has jurisdiction over the gate. It could be either Amadalavalasa railway station or Dusi station. To operate the gate, a minimum of four persons are needed. There is no possibility of outsourced personnel in the Safety Department of Railways. At present, it is only an unmanned level-crossing,” a railway official said.
SOURCE..new indian express

No More UMLCs on New Rail Lines

HYDERABAD: Wherever new rail lines are proposed to be laid in the South Central Railway, there will be no unmanned railway level crossings (UMLC).

To avoid any scope for accidents at UMLCs, Indian railways as part of the national agenda have taken a policy decision not to have any UMLCs where new rail lines are proposed in the near future and to do away with all the existing unmanned crossings by 2016 to averrt accidents, SCR chief public relation officer K Sambasiva Rao has said.

As per the proposal, the SCR will construct subways by constructing road under bridges (RuBs) or Road over Bridge (RoBs). It also proposes to merge unmanned level crossing gate with the nearby manned crossing and have suitable road diversions to check accidents.

Having RoB, RuBs and subways at level crossings will be a permanent solutions and there will be no need to recruit staff to man the level crossings. Each subway would cost Rs 50 to Rs 75 lakh which would be economical in the long run.

As on April 1, 2014, there were nearly 13,000 UMLCs across the country. There are about 640 unmanned level crossings spread over six divisions of the SCR and an action plan has been prepared to eliminate all of them by 2016.
SOURCE..new indian express

Jul 26, 2014

Passengers face travel disruption caused by storms

Several train services cancelled on Saturday due to earlier stormy weather, as airports face one of their busiest weekends on record
Commuters at Paddington Rail station try to get information from rail staff after discovering they are unable to travel because of disruption to signals between London and Reading caused by a thunderstorm Photo: LNP

Passengers continued to face disruption on Saturday as the aftermath of sudden storms saw more travel problems.

Thousands of people were affected by delays and cancellations on busy commuter routes on Friday as the weather took a turn for the worse.

There were seven cancellations to services by First Great Western on Saturday "due to poor weather conditions earlier", its website said.

South West trains said their engineers had worked through the night to avoid further delays.

"Our teams continued to work through the night to ensure that trains and train crew are in the correct positions to enable us to operate our full timetable from the start of service on this morning," they said in a statement.


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