Jul 24, 2014

Nod for Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line heartens Himachalis

SHIMLA: With Union government giving nod for the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line, people of Himachal Pradesh are ecstatic. Apart from being of strategic importance, it is also expected to boost tourism potential of the area, right from Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh.

According to sources, in a meeting held on July 14, the Union government took the decision to strengthen the rail network in areas located close to Tibet. The meeting was chaired by national security adviser and attended by officials from central ministries of defense and external affairs.

The development assumes significance as, in his campaigns during Parliament elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised the line and had attacked the UPA regime for failing to start the strategically important project. Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line would pass through Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh to reach Leh. Since independence, the hill state has not witnessed much rail expansion, observers pointed out.

Defense expert Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur said that road, rail and air link to border areas are vital to keep the enemy at bay in Ladakh sector. "While the rail line is missing, road remains closed for five months in a year. Having rail network in Ladakh region would help increase mobility of troops and Union government should construct the rail line at the earliest. Forward strips, helipads and roads too should be constructed on war footing," he added.

After the rail budget failed to mention about Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail project, leader of opposition and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and had reminded him about the project.

The demand to construct rail line from Manali to Leh was raised first time when Dhumal was chief minister of the state. After that, members of Parliament from the state have also raised the issue with the Centre. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh had also, before presentation of Union rail budget, raised the issue with the Union government.

The cost of construction of the 498-km rail line has been estimated at Rs 22,831 crore with a negative rate of return of 4.46%. The Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line was one of the 114 socially desirable new line projects mentioned by then minister for railways, Mamta Banerjee, in her budget speech of 2010-11 for processing through Planning Commission for approval.

The Ladakh Autnomous Hill Development Council, Leh, in its proposed greater Leh master plan for the next 30 years, had already emphasised on detailed sector-wise projections. The Rs 414 crore future plan has already defined the land use for future projects, including proposed sites for construction of railway stations and tracks in areas for the proposed Kullu-Manali-Leh rail line, sources said.

Source..times of india

Centre steps in break metro rail logjam

HYDERABAD: In an apparent bid to rein in the TRS government that has threatened to create hurdles for the Hyderabad Metro Rail project, the Centre has summoned Telangana chief secretary Rajiv Sharma for a meeting in Delhi on Friday in which representatives of the concession partner Larson & Toubro and authorities of Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) would also take part. 

Sources said the Centre has taken a serious note of the developments in Telangana. Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had stated recently that the alignment of corridor from LB Nagar to Miyapur should be changed so that the rail line goes underground near the assembly building. After KCR's statement, sources said the TRS regime has been mounting pressure on L&T to stop the works following which the concessionaire partner suspended the construction activity near the assembly building four days ago. 

After the threat from the TRS government, L&T complained to the Centre and Friday's meeting of all concerned parties in Delhi is an outcome of that. Sources said the Union finance ministry called for the meeting because the state government did not comply with its direction issued a few days ago that it must cooperate with the concessionaire partner and ensure that the work schedule was not disturbed. While confirming the meeting, officials in the Telangana municipal administration and urban development department (MA&UD) said principal secretary S K Joshi is also likely to take part in the meeting. "We have received the notice for the meeting, it is yet to be decided as to who are all going to represent the state government," Joshi told TOI. NVS Reddy, managing director of HMRL, and V B Gadgil, chief executive and managing director of L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Limited, are likely to attend the Delhi meeting. 

This is the first time that the Centre is intervening after the Hyderabad Metro Rail project was cleared and the works started in July 2012. "It is significant to note that the Union finance ministry is intervening at a time when finance minister Arun Jaitley highlighted his government's priority to encourage public private partnership (PPP) in infrastructure development. The Hyderabad Metro Rail project is being executed under the PPP model and the complaint is that the TRS government is harassing the concessionire partner and delaying the project which will make it unviable," said the sources. 

Apart from asking L&T to take the rail underground near the assembly building, KCR wants to save the Sultan Bazar traders from eviction and has asked the concessionire partner to change the alignment of corridor 2 from the original plan so that the shops in the bazar are saved from demolition. 

The MA&UD officials said the CM's insistence of changes in the alignment could lead to L&T invoking the 'force majeure' clause and claim a hefty penalty of approximately Rs 6,000 crore. L&T's contention is that a change in design would result in further delay resulting in escalation of the cost of project which has already gone up from the original Rs 14,132 crore to over Rs.20,000 if inflation, currency fluctuation, and fluctuation in the rate of interest are factored in. According to the sources, per day's delay would increase the cost of the project by Rs 5 crore. Incidentally, the metro rail project construction took off on July 4, 2012, almost two years behind schedule. 

"It is alarming that the cost of project is escalating due to various factors. That is the reason why the Union finance ministry has convened the meeting. Otherwise, it is related to the Union urban development ministry," said the official. Interestingly, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who holds urban development portfolio, is mum on the issue and the sources said he is nudging the finance ministry to take the initiative for local political reasons. The officials said the Centre was intervening in its capacity as a stakeholder as it has invested Rs1,458 crore in the form of viability gap fund. 

Waking up to the seriousness of the issue, the CM has called a meeting of officials on Thursday to explore the avenues to convince the Centre on his government's stand. Officials from HMRL, MA&UD, GHMC, HMDA, and other departments concerned are likely to attend the CM's meeting. 

Source..times of india

Stop all trains at Kudal Nagar station, urge rail users

MADURAI: Just two km away from the buzzing Madurai Junction railway station, lies, another quiet station that does not witness much activity as only a handful of passenger trains and a lone express train halts there. But, for the residents of Madurai city and its suburbs, the Kudal Nagar railway station is as important as the junction station itself as it helps them reach their homes early after a tiring train journey. At present, the Kudal Nagar station hosts only the goods yard, but railway users want more than that. They want the railways to halt all trains bound for Madurai and beyond from Chennai and other destinations at Kudal Nagar.

For long, trade and industrial associations and rail users have been urging the railway authorities to provide a stoppage as they feel that it would be of immense help to almost 40% of the total passengers hailing from the western part of city and beyond since they can alight there to reach their homes without getting caught in traffic snarls in the morning hours.

Kudal Nagar station was announced as one of the ?Adarsh' stations (model station) in June 2013 by the railway ministry. The station had earlier handled train operations when yard remodelling works were undertaken in October 2012. Originating trains like Vaigai and Pandian Expresses were operated from Kudal Nagar station for more than a where the railways and local administration had made arrangements to handle passenger flow. Though it was proposed even in those days to convert Kudal Nagar as second terminal, nothing much has happened after that. Passengers from the city anticipated that there will be some announcement regarding that in the railway budget but it did not find any mention.

At present, all passenger trains halt in this station while the Guruvayur ? Chennai Express is give a short halt. However, rail users demand all express and superfast trains are provided with one minute halt in this station. "We will be able to reach our homes faster and need not go all the way to Madurai to board or alight trains," says R N Soumya, a college girl from Dinamani Nagar near Kudal Nagar station.

"We have to travel to Madurai Junction with all our baggage and pay hefty charges for autorickshaws or taxis. If there is a halt here, we will be relieved of the hardship of travelling through traffic congestion that takes place around Madurai Junction every morning," said S Kubendran, a resident from Vilankudi.

S P Jeyapragasam, president of Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association Limited said that they eagerly anticipated some announcement about Kudal Nagar in this budget. "We are going to take it up again with our elected representatives and railway authorities. Kudal Nagar could be turned as Madurai's terminal like Tambaram and Mambalam stations for Chennai," he pointed out.

Railway sources said that Kudal Nagar station could handle train stoppages but it needs proper road facilities. The station managed train operations when Madurai Junction was closed in 2012. "There are basic facilities in the station and if division start halting trains, other facilities will come up automatically," a railway official opined.

Divisional railway manager, A K Rastogi said only the railway board could decide on providing halts and rail users and trade associations could submit their proposals to the division. "We will forward it to railway board and find out the feasibility of halting trains in Kudal Nagar," he said.
Source..times of india

Jul 23, 2014

Confusion over changes in child rail ticket concession

KOLKATA: The Indian Railways has made some changes in the policy of allowing 50% concession on the base fare of children in the 6 to 12 age group for distances below 300 km.

Consider a trip to Jamshedpur. If you travel by the AC chair car of Ispat Express or Steel Express from Howrah, your child will be charged Rs 305 when the adult fare is Rs 430.

However, if you travel by AC First Class in Steel Express, the child ticket will cost Rs 1,230 which is the same as the adult fare. Similarly, if you travel by Sleeper Class in Gitanjali Express to Jamshedpur, the child's ticket will cost Rs 170 instead of Rs 210 charged from adults. But, if you choose to travel by AC-III tier of this train, you will end up paying Rs 535 for your child, same as the adult fare.

If you are travelling to Asansol by AC Chair Car of Black Diamond Express, the child fare will be Rs 305 and adult fare Rs 390. However, if you choose to travel by Poorva Express, your child will be charged Rs 535 similar to that of the adult fare.

Now, children up to the age of five are permitted to travel free on trains. Till recently, those between 6 and 12 years of age were allowed a concession of 50% on base fare. Though a Railway Board circular (No. tcii/2941/11/policy) dated October 26, 2012, stated that 'concessions will be admissible subject to the minimum distance of 300 km' from April 1, 2013, there was no mention of the trains that would allow concessions and those that wouldn't.

"The ultimate plan of the railways is to do away with such concessions altogether. A child travelling with concession occupies a seat or berth just like an adult. Had that seat or berth been booked by an adult, the railways would have received the full fare. If people don't grudge paying airlines full fare for children, why should they seek concession during rail travel? Earlier, this was an additional service offered to passengers but with the railways going through a funds crunch, the day may not be far when concessions are done away with, at least for upper class travel," a senior official in the Railway Board said.
Source..times of india.

U.S. Seeks New Rules for Rail Transport of Fuel

The U.S. government wants to phase out thousands of railroad tank cars that carry crude oil and ethanol within two years, as part of proposed rules to upgrade safety for trains carrying flammable fuels.

Workers stand before mangled tanker cars after a train derailment and fire in Lac-Megantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013. The accident claimed 47 lives. The U.S. government Tuesday proposed new safety rules for trains carrying flammable fuels. Ryan Remiorz/AP

Tens of thousands of these older DOT-111 tank cars will have to be replaced or retrofitted under the proposed rules, announced Wednesday. That is a faster deadline than Canada's three-year timeline to upgrade or phase out the railcars used to carry oil, ethanol and other hazardous liquids.

The federal government's proposals are sweeping and will change how flammable liquids are transported by rail in North America, but they aren't as stringent as some in the rail and energy industries feared.

Tanker rail cars, carrying crude oil, travel on an elevated railway last month through Aurora, Illinois. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Other new requirements proposed include a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit until sturdier tank cars can be built or existing railcars can be strengthened, as well as other rules that cover tank-car design, routing, brakes and testing of hazardous liquids.

Railroads, oil companies and railcar owners have been expecting new U.S. regulations meant to improve the safety of oil shipments in the wake of several fiery train accidents. A year ago, a train full of oil from North Dakota exploded in a rural Quebec town, killing 47 people.

The proposed rules must be posted for 60 days to give the public, rail industry and other parties a chance to comment. The final rules are expected to come into effect early next year. The rules also call for the rail industry to design routes based on safety and security factors.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken Shale is volatile and contains large levels of combustible gases, and that the energy industry didn't install oil field equipment to stabilize the crude. The federal government is expected to report Wednesday morning that its own study had found Bakken oil is usually more volatile and flammable than other crude oils.

The rapidly growing amount of crude oil moving on the nation's railroads has sparked protest and concerns by local fire chiefs, who worry they aren't prepared for a catastrophic crash. In May, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the "safety of the nation's railroad system, and the people who live along rail corridors, is of paramount concern."

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group that represents large oil producers, said it would review the proposed regulations. "The government can and should take steps to ensure greater safety without stalling the energy renaissance," API President and Chief Executive Jack Gerard said.

Starting last fall, the government has issued several temporary measures to improve safety. The proposed rules unveiled on Wednesday begin the process of permanently overhauling how the government regulates the transport of flammable fuel.

The rules are expected to affect trains that carry both crude oil and ethanol. It has become common for dedicated oil trains—consisting of 100 or more railcars filled with crude—to operate as a pipeline on wheels. But the proposed requirements say any train with 20 or more tank cars of oil, ethanol or a comparable fuel will be categorized as a "high-hazard flammable train" and subject to the new rules.

The Transportation Department also will ask for comment from industry and emergency-response officials on railcar design. The rules lay out several options, including improved brakes and thicker, 9/16th-inch steel walls on tank cars. The new design would cover all cars built after October 2015. Existing cars would need to be retrofitted, retired or used to carry less flammable liquids.

There are about 102,700 DOT-111 railcars in service, transporting oil, ethanol and other flammable fuels, according to the Railway Supply Institute's latest estimate.

In addition, the proposed rules would limit high-hazard trains with these cars to 40 miles an hour, but leaves open whether this would only apply in certain urban areas. Trains with upgraded tank cars would be allowed to travel at 50 miles an hour.

Some experts had advocated for limiting oil trains to speeds of 30 mph or lower, but rail executives warned such a move could snarl the entire country's freight system.

"Picture yourself behind a hay wagon on a country road," said Edward Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads. "Trains don't just put on a turn signal and zip around each other."

James Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said a 20 mile-an-hour speed limit is warranted when oil trains travel through communities.

"In my opinion, if we've determined that people need to drive through school zones at that speed to protect our children, I don't see any difference with oil trains," he said.

The rules also require the development of a robust program of sampling flammable cargoes. Last year, officials with the Transportation Department found that oil cargoes were poorly tested and the flammability of North Dakota crude was often mischaracterized.

The railroads have been worried that slower speed limits could cause major gridlock, while oil companies have fretted that new tank car design rules might reduce the amount of oil that can ship in each car.

Oil shipments on trains across the U.S. have grown exponentially in the last few years to 1 million barrels a day, according to Energy Department data. Oil companies have discovered deposits of crude in places where there are few pipelines to move it, such as the Bakken formation of North Dakota.

TN to restructure mono rail to woo developers

Tamil Nadu Government today said it has decided to restructure the proposed monorail project for the city in a bid to attract potential developers under the Public Private Parnership (PPP) mode. 

Stating this in the state assembly, Transport Minister V Senthil Balaji said the length of the network under the project would be approximately 43.48 km with two corridors. 

While one will be from Poonamallee to Kathipara junction with a link from Porur to Vadapalani (20.68 kms), another will be between Vandalur and Velachery (22.80 kms), he said. 

"To attract potential developers for the implementation of the Chennai Monorail project under the PPP mode, the government has decided to restructure the project," he said adding 

In respect of introduction of mono rail in Coimbatore, selection of consultant for the preparation of feasibility study "is under process," he added. 

CPI(M) floor leader A Soundararajan urged the government to extend the monorail project to North Chennai areas as there was a need for such transport solutions in that region. 

In 2011, after taking over the reins of power, AIADMK government announced a monorail network of 111 km in the first phase to reduce traffic congestion in the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA). It was said the network would eventually cover 300 km in the CMA.

New rail line commissioning: Visakhapatnam-Digha Express, Shalimar-Visakhapatnam Express cancelled

VISAKHAPATNAM: In connection with commissioning of third line between Kharagpur and Shyamchak from July 30 to August 9, the Visakhapatnam-Digha express and Shalimar-Visakhapatnam express will be cancelled. 

In a release, senior divisional commercial manager, east coast railway said that train number 22874 Visakhapatnam-Digha express leaving Visakhapatnam on August 7 (Thursday) and the corresponding train No 22873 Digha-Visakhapatnam leaving Digha on August 08 (Friday) will remain cancelled. 

Also, the train number 22853 Shalimar-Visakhapatnam express leaving Shalimar on August 5 (Tuesday) and the corresponding train number 22854 Visakhapatnam-Shalimar express leaving Visakhapatnam on August 6 (Wednesday) will remain cancelled. 

The following trains will run in diverted via Asansol , Adra, Hijli, the release added. Train number 12514 Guwahati - Secunderabad express leaving Guwahati on August 7, train number 12508 Guwahati-Ernakulam express leaving Guwahati on August 1 and on August 8 (Friday) , train number 15902 Dibrugarh-Yeswantapur express leaving Dibrugarh on August 1 and 8, the train number 12510 Guwahati-Bangalore express leaving Guwahati on August 3, 4 and 5, the train number 12516 Guwahati-Thiruvananthapuram express leaving Guwahati on August 6, train number 12254 Bhagalpur-Yesvatapur express leaving Bhagalpur on August 6 and the train number 15228 Muzaffarpur-Yesvantapur express leaving Muzaffarpur on August 4 will be diverted to run in the above route. 

Also, the train No 12253 Yesvantapur-Bhagalpur express leaving Yesvantapur on August 2 and 9 will be diverted to run via Hijli, Midnapur, Adra and Asansol 

The train number 15227 Yesvantapur -Muzaffarpur express leaving Yesvantapur on August 6 will be diverted to run via Hijli, Midnapur, Asansol. 

The train number 12513 Secunderabad-Guwahati express leaving Secunderabad on August 3, train number 12515 Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati express leaving Thiruvanathapuram on August 3, train number 12508 Bangalore-Guwahati express leaving Bangalore on August 1, 6, 7 and 8, train number 12507 Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati express leaving Thiruvanthapuram on August 5, and the train number 15901 Yesvantapur-Dibrugarh express leaving Yesvantapur on August 4 will be diverted to run via Hijli, Midnapur, Asansol.
Source..times of india.

Govt okays 4 rail links along China frontier

India has decided to start work on militarily crucial strategic railway lines in the Himalayas to connect areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), dividing India and China, with the mainland India.

The rail lines will enable rapid deployment of forces over the rugged, inhospitable and mostly snow-bound terrains. A high-level meeting of the government on July 14, chaired by the Deputy National Security Adviser Nehchal Sandhu and attended by representatives from ministries of defence and finance, identified four strategic lines that would be taken up on a priority as part of the BJP-led government’s budget announcement to build strategic railway lines, sources said.

The four lines have been prioritised from among the 14 strategic lines identified by the Ministry of Defence. China has high-speed railways connecting almost all areas of its side of the 3,448 km LAC.

This will be the first foray of India in the upper Himalayas to build strategic railway lines. This will enable rapid deployment of troops, especially the newly created Mountain Strike Corps mandated to face China. The railway line being built in Kashmir has a dual purpose - socio-economic and strategic. The other existing narrow gauge lines in Himachal Pradesh and Northern Bengal are of British vintage.

The most important railway lines will connect Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh with the mainland India. Both these are on the LAC. The other two routes will connect one of the remotest parts of Arunachal Pradesh and facilitate easier military movement between other north-eastern states and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Tawang line is the most significant, considering the strategic importance of the area which is also a major Indian military base.

At present, there is no crossing over the Bhramaputra from Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram forcing the troop movement by a circuitous road route.

For north India, the Rail link to Leh will be crucial. The pre-feasibility report pegs the cost of the entire 498-km all-weather broad gauge Bilaspur-Manali-Leh railway line at Rs 22,831 crore. The take off point could be either near Kiratpur Sahib in the foothills of Punjab or Pathankot.

A British era 181 km narrow gauge line exists between Pathankot and Joginder Nagar. It can be converted into board gauge. The conversion is expected to cost Rs 3,279 crore. The rail-line to Leh will pas through Upshi in Ladakh providing for further bifurcation to important conflict points at Demchok and Chumar in south-eastern Ladakh. From Upshi onwards, it's a flat plateau.

A sum of Rs 1,000 crore for this fiscal will be used in land acquisition and preparing detail project reports.
Source...tribune india

Govt looking at stake sale in Rail infra cos

The government is planning to offload its stake in certain profit-making infrastructure companies of Indian Railways, a move that will help such companies to get listed on stock exchanges as well as raise funds for exchequer. 

"We are in talks with the Railway Board for sale of government equity in certain PSUs managed by Indian Railways, a source told PTI. 

There are about half a dozen companies which are managed by Indian Railways. These include RITES, IRCON, IRFC, IRCTC, and RailTel Corporation. 

Since these companies are not listed it is likely that the initial public offer (IPO) will be accompanied by government offloading its stake. 

Indian Railways, which is facing cash crunch, is looking at various ways to mobilise resources for undertaking its expansion programme. 

Government has already pitched for reforms in Railways by proposing Foreign Direct Investment and Public Private Partnership (PPP) to meet the resource crunch. 

"The disinvestment will be a part of the government exercise to engage private players in ancillary services as part of overall agenda," the source added. 

The Finance Ministry plans to raise Rs 43,425 crore through disinvestment in PSUs in the current fiscal. 

A host of companies have been lined up by the disinvestment department as candidates for stake sale. These include SAIL, NHPC, ONGC, REC and PFC.

Missing Sadananda Gowda holds up debate on rail budget in Rajya Sabha

NEW DELHI: It seems the railways' endemic problem with punctuality extends to railway ministers too. 

When Rajya Sabha was to discuss the rail budget on Tuesday afternoon, rail minister Sadananda Gowda was found missing, forcing the chair to adjourn the House for five minutes. 

Soon after the upper House met after lunch to continue the discussion on rail budget, former minister and Congress MP Jairam Ramesh drew the chair's attention to the missing minister. He was supported by CPM member P Rajeeve who said, "There is no minister, forget railway minister." 

When the House re-assembled, Gowda appeared and apologized for his absence but Ramesh was not impressed and demanded that the government be admonished. "Sir, you used to scold us. But you never scold them," Ramesh told the chair. 

Reacting to Ramesh's comment, Gowda said, "Sir, at least the delay has been minimized now, unlike earlier days." 

This was the second instance when the railway minister left the Narendra Modi government embarrassed. Gowda was found missing in Lok Sabha when the lower House was to discuss the rail budget. The government had to face some embarrassing moments after the opposition benches took exception to the fact that the minister was absent. 

In the upper House, the discussion resumed after an apology from Gowda. However, TMC MP Derek O'Brien took a dig at Gowda, saying, "Sir, you walked in five minutes late and we, in very good spirit, accepted your heartfelt apology." 

During the discussion, a strong pitch was made for doing away with the rail budget with a few members saying it was a colonial era practice not relevant anymore. 

"The railway budget is a colonial idea whose time is over. Today, railway expenditure accounts for only 6% of the general expenditure of the government... Why should we have a separate budget for the railways," said Ramesh, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the railway minister to give "serious thought" to the idea of abolishing the separate budget for railways. 

He noted the separate budget as "the root cause" of the financial disaster in the railways, saying that as long as the practice remained, the turnaround of the railways was not possible.
Source..times of india


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