Sep 30, 2013

Blink and you’ll miss your luggage


Radha Sreevaran and her husband had just stepped into the two-tier AC compartment on a train at the Bangalore City railway station last week when three men offered to help them with their luggage. Soon after, the couple realised that Mr. Sreevaran’s mobile phone was missing from his pocket.

“It was just about five seconds after they left the compartment that we realised the phone was missing. The three men were wearing uniforms and looked like cleaners. The phone had been gifted to my husband exactly a month ago,” said Ms. Sreevaran, recounting the theft.

The cleaners were later summoned by the ticket collector (TC) on the train and Ms. Sreevaran recognised two of them. She filed a complaint with the Bangarpet police, where the train stopped next, and the two men were detained by the police for questioning.

The police are yet to ascertain whether the men were indeed involved in the theft.

There have been several incidents like this at the City railway station, be it on trains or on the railway platforms. Passengers have complained of losing their luggage, laptops, wallets and briefcases.

Some months ago, an NRI lodged a complaint with the railway police after losing his briefcase, containing foreign currencies among other valuables. He too fell prey to an attention diversion tactic. “A man drew my attention to a Rs. 10 note fallen near the ticket counter while I was speaking on the mobile phone. Unconsciously, I bent to pick up the note. When I turned around, my luggage was missing.”

The Government Railway Police (GRP) at the City railway station has registered 164 cases this year so far. These include 15 in August and seven in September so far. Picking pockets and suitcase lifting accounted for most cases. About 56 cases pertained to theft while eight were cases of chain-snatching.

So far this year, 35 arrests have been made and 22 high-end mobile phones recovered.

In 2012, 213 cases were registered.

However, these figures may only be a fraction of the actual crimes, as many go unreported. “Not all passengers come forward to file a complaint,” a Railway police official said.
Source..the hindu

‘If we get political clearances, high-speed trains will soon be a reality’

Arunendra Kumar is Member (Mechanical) entrusted with charges to ‘look after’ the post of Chairman Railway Board (CRB). A day before the completion of his term as the acting CRB on Monday, Kumar spoke to HT about his experience and achievements. Excerpts:

The impression is that because of the current instability in the Railway Board, major tasks are being neglected. Is that true?
It is actually quite the opposite. A substantial amount of work has been done. The forged wheel factory at Rae Bareli is taking off, as are the Mumbai elevated corridor plans. The wheel factory at Chapra in Bihar is ready for inauguration, while the coach factory plan at Pallakad in Kerala has also been activated. Locomotive plant proposals at Madhepura and Marhaura, both in Bihar, are also taking off.
The Railways are largely seen as having failed to fix issues relating to passenger amenities such as catering and cleanliness. Comment.We are actively working on these issues. We have made it mandatory for catering contractors to have a base kitchen in the premises of a station area. Standard bid documents (SBDs) have also been worked out. Once these processes take shape, a visible change will come about.
Is India serious about pursuing plans to run high-speed trains?
A fresh study will shortly begin on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. If we get political clearances, we will be able to move in rapidly with these plans.
The bio-toilet plan seems to be progressing at a slow pace.
This task will take some time, as Indian trains have as many as 2.5 lakh toilets. Two thousand of these have already been fitted with green toilets, while the Railways are targeting to complete 4,000 more toilets by the end of this year. By 2017, every new coach manufactured will have a bio-toilet. Also by 2022, all coaches in the inventory of the Indian Railways will have green toilets.
What is the progress on plans to set up the Rail Tariff Authority (RTA)?
Will the body have advisory powers only? The RTA is likely to be set up shortly through an executive order. The Law Ministry had certain queries about the proposal, which have now been sorted out. The body will have recommendatory powers, as the final decision making authority must remain with the executive. But, in the general course, the recommendations of the authority are likely to be accepted.
Does the Railways have an adequate number of wagons for the implementation of the food security act?
We will shortly be floating bids for acquisition of about 1000 wagons. Carriage of food grains will not be a problem, as the Railways do have an adequate number of wagons.
Source..hindustan times

    Railways to make online booking easier, faster



    After facing ridicule on social networking websites and criticism from consumer courts for its tardy and erratic electronic ticket booking system, the Railways is finally ready to make amends.

    To solve the problem of its website slowing down in response to an escalating demand for e-tickets, the Railways will introduce a next-generation e-ticketing system, which aims to make booking 50 per cent faster.

    An internal assessment by the Railways found that 85 per cent of those visiting the ticketing website, irctc.co.in, don't actually purchase a ticket. But every person still uses up the website's resources, slowing it down and even leading to failed transactions.

    A Rs 5 crore upgrade to the system will ensure that the journey planner and the actual process of purchasing tickets on the website are separate. At present, around 5 lakh tickets are booked every day.

    While the journey planner will provide information of ticketing, it is only when the user hits a 'book now' button that the actual system of ticket purchase will be deployed.

    "We have ensured that the journey planner is a smooth exercise so everyone gets to research trains and routes without slowing down the system for others," said Sunil Kumar, Managing Director of Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the IT-arm of the Railways. The aim is to increase the booking capacity to 7000 tickets a minute.

    Source..indian express

    Industry flays hike in railway freight tariff



    COIMBATORE: Apprehensive about the proposed 15% hike in railway freight tariff from October 1, representatives from various industries in Coimbatore feel that the burden will be too much for them to bear. "The hike has come at a most inopportune time when the entire industrial scenario is down due to factors such as economic slowdown and lack of orders," Coimbatore District Small Industries Association (CODISSIA) president R Ramachandran said. Since industries in the region are going through one of the most difficult times, he urged the government to reverse the proposal.

    "Diesel prices are being hiked on a regular basis and the proposed hike in railway freight tariff will be damaging to industry," he said. Industries are finding it difficult to work out the costs for their products due to these factors. According to him, the proposed hike is contrary to the efforts taken by the same government to implement various measures to boost the growth of MSMEs in the country. "Under these circumstances, chances for cost-cutting seem to be remote and ultimately the added costs are transferred to the consumers," he added.

    Representatives from MSMEs say that the proposed hike has come as a rude shock to them. "Government has now pushed us into yet another crisis and it will be difficult for the MSMEs to stay competitive," district president of Tamil Nadu Association of Cottage and Micro Enterprises (TACT) J James said. Manufacturers here are mostly dependent on rail for transporting raw materials from northern states to Coimbatore and sending the finished goods to various markets.

    "We are already struggling to compete against products made in northern states due to price difference and the proposed hike will have a telling effect on MSMEs here," said James. At a time when the price rise of most products affect the common man, it is feared that the proposed hike in railway freight tariff is expected to result in further increase in prices of commodities. "Such revision of tariff should be announced only in the railway budget and this is not a healthy trend," said K Kathirmathiyon, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause.

    The railways has started to revise tariff along the lines of oil companies that hike the prices of fuels regularly. "What is the need for the railway budget when the railways are taking liberty to revise the tariff during the financial year?," he questioned.

    Source..times of india

    Noida may use public-private-partnership model to fund Metro



    NOIDA: Taking a leaf out of the Gurgaon Rapid Metro rail project, the Noida Authority is planning to run the Metro in their region on a public-private-partnership (PPP) model. Authority chairman Rama Raman said that funding plays a vital role in running heavy investment projects like the Metro. Considering the fact that the Gurgaon Rapid Metro has generated funds through advertisements and private players, Noida Authority is also gearing to pitch its project on the same pattern.

    Authority officials said some private companies have shown an interest in the endeavour. The Uttar Pradesh government, Noida and Greater Noida authorities are facing a challenge to generate Rs 5,000 crore to build the 29km proposed Metro link between Noida's City Center and Greater Noida's Bodaki.

    Officials said the PPP model can pave the way for early delivery of this project. "In return we will allow private players to publicize their company or projects through advertisement. In Gurgaon, the 3C Company is spreading a green message through the rapid rail. We can offer private players certain subsidies if they come and join the initiative of building world-class infrastructure in the region," Rama Raman said.

    Even private players have welcomed the idea. "It will give an opportunity to speed up infrastructure development as well as allow us to advertise on a good platform," said Amit Gupta, MD Orris infrastructure and member Assocham.

    "If funding constraints cause time and cost overruns, it would be best to involve private realtors by offering them suitable incentives, apart from streamlining the implementation process," said Vidur Bharadwaj, director (sales), The 3C Company, which has tied-up with the Gurgaon Rapid Metro. Realtors and industrialists in Noida and Greater Noida have also welcomed the proposal.

    Source..times of india

    HC issues notice to Railways on sports quota recruitment



    NAGPUR: The Bombay High Court has issued notices to the Railway Minister and the senior personnel officer of South East Central Railway seeking reply on a petition regarding sports quota recruitment. The Nagpur bench of justices Vasanti Naik and Atul Chandurkar, which heard the petition last week, sought the replies within two weeks.

    Petitioner Nagpur District Football Association has objected to a condition for recruitment of sportspersons as per the 2002 policy framed by the SECR. The condition requires that a candidate, to qualify for sports quota, must have actually played and merely being a part of the team would not suffice.

    The Railways had issued an advertisement for recruitment in the sports quota last August.

    Petitioner's lawyer advocate Virat Mishra argued that the condition violates sportsperson's fundamental rights and should be set aside.
    Source..times of india

    Upcoming elections may delay Centre's financial aid to state



    :The upcoming elections in five states including Rajasthan may slightly delay the financial support of Rs 630 crore from the Union government. Recently, in public investment board meeting that was chaired by the Union finance secretary R S Gujral, recommendation to allocate funds for the Jaipur Metro Phase - I was made. Now, apprehensions loom large as Union cabinet meeting for the final approval may not happen as code of conduct will be put into action before that.

    On the other hand, senior Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRC) official said, "Even if there is no meeting for final approval there are sufficient funds to carry out the construction. There will be no impact on the project pace and we can easily manage till funds are received."

    The JMRC will seek financial assistance from the Central government in the form of equity for the Jaipur Metro corridor-I (Mansarovar to Badi Chaupar). As part of the joint venture, the Centre is expected to provide 20% financial assistance in the form of equity.

    Sources claimed, the JMRC cannot even ask Asian Development Bank (ADB) to lend advance money as the bank will only release money after seeing the construction on site. The ADB had recently given in principle approval to provide a loan of Rs 969 crore.

    "There is sufficient arrangement of funds to construct the project from Mansarovar to Chandpole. However, the state government is not in a position to fund the entire project till Badi Chaupar," a source said. The estimated cost to construct the line from Mansarovar to Chandpole is Rs 2,000 crore. After extension to Badi Chaupar, the cost will go up to around Rs 3,149 crore.

    The JMRC cannot afford delay in the project else it will have to bear losses due to price escalation. In this regard, the state government was recently asked to give a written promise to the Union government that escalation in the cost of the project from Chandpole to Badi Chaupar due to delay and any other operational losses will be borne by it.

    The processing of loan for Rs 969 crore by ADB will not be discussed until written assurance is given. Mrinal Kant Tripathy, director in Union transport ministry, highlighted this condition in a letter to chief secretary CK Mathew recently.
    Source..times of india

    Train journeys start with some suffering here


    The dismal state of amenities at the Bangalore city railway station

    Convenience derailed by accessibility issues and dismal state of amenities at City station

    Much has been written, and sung in our films, about the romance of a train journey. But look long and hard, and you’d still be hard pressed to find much that is pleasurable about the Bangalore City railway station.

    Thousands of passengers and at least 100 trains pass through the station every day. But the services and amenities at the station leave a lot to be desired. Passengers told The Hindu here about their experiences with non-functional display and public announcement systems, poor accessibility, dismal hygiene and poorly maintained facilities at the station.

    Inconvenient

    Shirley N., a passenger from Guntur, had a tough time with her injured foot. The ferry cart (a small four-seater vehicle) is offered as a free service to senior citizens and those with disabilities. But, said Ms. Shirley, “The cart driver asked me to pay Rs. 50. So I opted for a wheel chair. The porter demanded Rs. 600 in all for the wheelchair and transporting luggage. We eventually settled for Rs. 400.”

    Some passengers asked for lifts to aid senior citizens. The authorities said four escalators would be installed in the next four months.

    Lack of information

    Passengers on platforms nine and 10 were bewildered by the non-functional public display system monitors. “I am not sure when my train is expected to arrive. I have to ask the police or the porters,” said Lalitha, a resident of Mandya.

    Officials said the monitors had been in a state of disrepair for two months. However, Divisional Railway Manager Anil Kumar Agarwal said he had not received any complaint so far regarding the monitors. He promised that new ones would be installed by October-end.

    Hygiene issues
    Madhukar complained of filthy platforms and toilets. The Hindu found that taps in the toilets were leaking.

    Mr. Madhukar, who says he is a frequent commuter, said of the Basava Express (Bangalore–Bagalkot) that leaves for Yeshwanthpur from the city station at 5 p.m.: “It used to be washed at the Yeshwanthpur station before proceeding to Bagalkot, but now is not cleaned on most days.”

    People have to make do with only one cloakroom, which is on platform 1. Passengers said they would have liked more, especially at the other end of the station, on platforms nine and 10, so that they wouldn’t have to lug their belongings all the way.

    Seating

    D.R. Nagaraj, a senior citizen from Shimoga, voiced concern about the seating arrangements on the platforms. “I have been sitting here for an hour as the train doors have not yet been opened. On the platform, the seats are neither sufficient nor comfortable.”
    Source..the hindu.

    Habibganj-Indore AC double-decker train



    The Habibganj-Indore AC double-decker train, the first such service in Madhya Pradesh, was flagged off on Friday at Habibganj station in Bhopal by Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. This is the fourth AC double decker train in the country to become operational since 2011.

    Source..the hindu

     

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