Jan 15, 2014

Spending bill to likely give L.A. $130 million for key rail projects

Culver City station
WASHINGTON -- An eagerly awaited subway extension to the Westside and a downtown tunnel to link light-rail lines would be virtually certain to each receive $65 million under a spending bill coming before Congress this week. 

The 1,582-page omnibus spending measure would also require the Federal Aviation Administration to step up efforts to reduce helicopter noise over the Los Angeles area.

House-Senate negotiators on Monday night released details of the trillion-dollar spending bill designed to prevent another government shutdown. It is expected to be approved this week.

The legislation as drafted would provide no federal money this year for high-speed rail projects, but it does not include a provision sought by Republican critics of the California bullet train that state officials warned could kill the $68-billion project.

Still, the state would take a bit of a hit from a reduction in funding -- $180 million nationwide, down from the $237 million provided last year -- to help states pay the cost of jailing immigrants in the country without proper documentation. The money has been a top priority for California, which receives the largest amount for such purposes.

Nevertheless, the bill is good news for Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was worried that congressional Republican efforts to reduce Washington’s red ink would leave them without federal money for two top projects: extending the subway from Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard, and building a downtown tunnel to link the Gold Line from Pasadena and East L.A. to the Blue Line from Long Beach and the Expo Line from Culver City.

Though the projects are not mentioned by name in the bill, an MTA spokesman noted that the measure includes more than $2 billion nationwide for new transit projects, enough to provide the money for the L.A. projects. The federal funding would cover only a portion of the projected $2.8-billion first segment of the subway extension and the $1.4-billion Regional Connector project. 

The measure also includes language that would direct the FAA, within a year of passage, to begin writing rules to reduce helicopter noise in the Los Angeles area unless it can show that voluntary efforts are working.  
The provision was sought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, and five Los Angeles-area Democratic House members in response to long-standing complaints about noise over residential neighborhoods. 

An FAA study last year recommended a voluntary approach rather than government regulation to reduce helicopter noise, citing the complexity of the region's airspace and its high number of aircraft. FAA officials say they are working with homeowner groups, pilots and others to try to come up with ways to reduce noise.

But lawmakers have grown impatient.

"For years, the FAA has not felt the urgency that homeowners and residents across Los Angeles County have felt -- very literally with the rattling of windows -- on the need to reduce helicopter noise,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). “With this legislation, FAA will have one year to act on its pledge to reduce helicopter noise or it will be forced to regulate.”

Feinstein said the provision "will finally lead to concrete action" to "improve the quality of life for millions of people living in Los Angeles."

The language would direct the secretary of Transportation to adjust helicopter routes if that would reduce noise over neighborhoods; promote "best practices for helicopter hovering and electronic news gathering [and] conduct outreach to helicopter pilots" to inform them of voluntary policies and increase their awareness of noise-sensitive areas and events; and work with local groups to develop a more comprehensive noise-complaint system.

As for the lack of money for high-speed rail projects, Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said in an email that "[w]e did not seek any new funds in the budget so we are not hurt by lack of appropriations in this bill.’’

He is to be in Washington on Wednesday for a House hearing on the project.
Source - latimes

China's 120mph railway arriving in Laos


Like most of his 6.5 million fellow countrymen Galong Vue has never seen or set foot on a train.
But the 53-year-old farmer knows all about the high-speed railway from China that will run through his village in northwest Laos.
“We first heard the rumour that the railway would come through here in 2010,” he says “Then the Chinese came to survey the land last year. They told me the railway will happen for sure and that a train station will be built here.”
 Galong Vue (ANDREW CHANT FOR THE TELEGRAPH)
Sometime this year, Mr Vue’s village of Naseam Kham will be gone, replaced by a state-of-the-art railway station capable of accommodating trains that cruise at 120mph. Judging by a Chinese promotional video seen by The Telegraph, the station will dwarf every building in the nearby town of Oudomxai that it will serve.
Beijing has long dreamed of a high-speed railway connecting it to southeast Asia, enabling Chinese goods to move south in greater quantities, while the natural resources of its neighbours travel north to China.
Now, the line is set to become a reality, one that will draw the region even closer in to China’s economic embrace.
A computer-generated image of the train emerging from the forest
Last year, the secretive leaders of Laos, a one-party communist state run by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, met with China’s premier Li Keqiang. They described the project as a “priority” and called for the formal agreement to build the railway to be “signed soon”.
Starting from Kunming in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, the railway will travel south through neighbouring Laos and then into Thailand.
Ultimately, it will extend all the way to Singapore, via Malaysia. Other branches of the network will reach into Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Constructing it will be a mammoth engineering task. It will require 154 bridges and 76 tunnels, as well as 31 train stations, just to get the line the 260 miles from Boten on the Laos-China border to Laos’ capital Vientiane. An estimated 20,000 Chinese workers will be needed to build it, with the completion date set for 2019.
Land-locked Laos will be transformed by the railway. A largely agricultural nation where the average annual income is a mere £720 and many people, like Mr Vue, live without running water or electricity, Laos lacks both industry and infrastructure.
Currently, the country boasts just two miles of functioning railway track.
Operated by Thailand, it runs across the Thai-Laos frontier close to Vientiane. Few Lao people have ever travelled along it.
Laos, though, does have minerals such as potash and resources like rubber that China craves.
With China already the second-largest investor in Laos, after Vietnam, many locals fear the railway is further evidence of how their country is set to become an economic vassal of Beijing.
Two Chinese entrepreneurs survey the land near Luang Namtha in northern Laos. They told their local Laotian guides that they were planning to build a hotel in the area once construction of the controversial high speed train line is started (ANDREW CHANT FOR THE TELEGRAPH)
“Of course Lao people are worried about the impact of the railway and the number of Chinese coming here, but the reality is that we can’t stop the Chinese. They are everywhere already and there are so many of them. If they want to come to Laos, they will,” said a teacher in Oudomxai who asked to be known by the pseudonym Tou Vang.
Chinese residents now make up around 15% of Oudomxai’s population of 30,000. Chinese-owned hotels, shops and restaurants line the roads and the street signs are in both Lao and Mandarin.
“You won’t find a single Chinese person in Oudomxai who doesn’t want the railway to happen. It will bring more Chinese people and more business for us,” said Ah Hai, a 27-year-old from Guangzhou in southern China, who moved to Oudomxai two months ago to run a shop front gambling operation catering to Chinese punters.
Yet despite the vast economic disparity between Laos and its giant neighbour, it is Vientiane which will foot the bill for the rail link.
Using untapped minerals as collateral, Laos plans to borrow £4.5 billion from Beijing to pay for its section of the railway. Equivalent to almost 90 per cent of Laos’s annual GDP of £5.2 billion, the loan will instantly make Laos the world’s fourth most-indebted nation after Japan, Zimbabwe and Greece.
Many international financial bodies regard the loan as a disaster waiting to happen. The Asian Development Bank has described it simply as “unaffordable”.
The flat rice fields of Nasaemkham village on the outskirts of Oudomxai in northern Laos (ANDREW CHANT FOR THE TELEGRAPH)
Just servicing the yearly interest on the loan will amount to almost 20% of Laos’s annual government spending, according to Tristan Knowles, a director of Economists at Large, a Melbourne-based think tank, who has made a study of the financial implications of the railway.
“Where are they going to find that money? I imagine they will have to prune every part of the government budget,” said Mr Knowles.
All that is holding up the railway is Thailand. Beijing is believed to be waiting for the Thai parliament to approve a planned £41 billion infrastructure upgrade, which will include a high-speed rail line from the Laos border to Bangkok, before signing off on the loan.
That bill is expected to pass within a couple of months and will guarantee that the railway reaches the increasingly lucrative Thai market.
Mr Vue and his fellow villagers, though, appear to be on the fast track to nowhere. “The government hasn’t spoken to us about compensation,” he said.
“It’s one thing to improve the country but we need something too. All we have is our land. If we lose it, we won’t be able to do anything.”
Source - telegraph

Dull rail sector angers Transport minister

Transport Minister, Madam Dzifa Attivor

Development of the country’s seaports, connected with effective rail network, holds the key to the country’s economic growth to mark a real definition of Ghana as the gateway to Africa.

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) is currently carrying out expansion works at the Takoradi Port to make it attractive to importers in Ghana and landlocked countries.

However, the lackluster performance of the rail sector is not providing the right impetus to complement a sterling port system that the country has in place. Besides helping to move more goods faster and cheaply, the rail sub-sector is a source of reliable income to the country.

Poor management, planning and low investment in both the port and the railway sub-sectors have left the rail sector, in particular, in tatters, reeling under debt and poor cash flow.

The Transport Minister, Ms Dzifa Ativor, was not amused during her recent visit to the Takoradi Port, the adjoining railway station and head office of the Ghana Railway Company during her recent visit to the place, as coaches and wagons idled in waste and begged for refurbishment or complete replacements.

Her visit was followed with another by members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Finance who were at the port for a familiarisation visit for a first-hand information on the dividends the port expansion financing would amount to.

The government has contracted a loan from the China Development Bank to finance a number of projects, including the port expansion, refurbishment of rail lines in the Western Region and the construction of a gas processing facility.

The ongoing expansion works, the major one since the port was constructed in 1928, is expected to cut the long turn-around time at the port.

The Takoradi Port handles major commodities such as manganese, bauxite, clinker, cocoa, wheat, petroleum products, chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, pipes, wood pellets, palm kennel shells, as well as heavy machinery for the mining sector.

However, cocoa, bauxite and manganese are the main export commodities that go through the port and expansive handling makes them uncompetitive in the global market place. This is due to the unique loading approach at the port which has shallow berthing facilities.

This means that bigger vessels have to be loaded to a certain level and then the vessel is tugged to buoys offshore and subsequently loaded with tugboats, which come with additional handling charges.

The deeper berths at the port are between 8.6 metres and 9.3 metres, with the depths of five working buoys ranging from eight metres to 11.3 metres. This is below what world-class crafts require, ports with depths more than 15 metres.

The BUSINESS GRAPHIC team, which was part of the familiarisation tour, chanced on a loading Singaporean vessel, Kot A Bunga, which loaded half-full and moved to a deeper berthing place at the manganese wharf to be loaded with tugboats in the 11.3-metre buoy at an additional cost.

The Director-General of the GPHA, Mr Richard Anamoo, said if Ghana did not improve its ports, neighboring countries would grab the opportunity.

He explained that when completed, the port would have a longer breakwater measuring about 1.75km northward, with deeper berthing places of up to about 16 metres. The project would also reclaim about 53 hectares of land.

There would also be improved infrastructure such as oil services and bulk terminals, first-class road network, an open area for the parking of heavy machinery and storage of pipes and other bulky consumables meant for the oil industry.

The director-general told the delegation that the country stood to benefit a lot from the expansion, and gave the assurance that the project was not going to be a drain on the state resources, as it could pay for itself.

Ready funding

The expansion works, which are in phases, are being funded 197 million euros and US$176 million from the China Development bank (CDB), both commercial loans.

Mr Anamoo said extending the country’s railway network to link border towns with neighbouring countries would make ports in Ghana more attractive to landlocked countries such as Burkina-Faso and Mali.

For her part, Ms Ativor said the government was aware of the positive impact the rail network and port would bring to the country and was pursuing it aggressively, adding that the country was promoting the “hub concept” to serve other countries.

Source - Graphic Business

Railway Minister lays Foundation Stone for Station Building & Goods Shed at Sultanpur



Gulbarga (GR): Union Minister for Railways Mr.Mallikarjun Kharge laid foundation stone for the construction of Station Building and Goods Shed at Sultanpur, which is a part of the Bidar-Gulbarga new rail line project, at a function held at Taj Sultanpur near Gulbarga on 13th January, 2014.

Dr.N.Dharam Singh, Member of Parliament (Bidar) and Ex.Chief Minister of Karnataka; Qamar-ul-Islam, Minister for Municipalities & Local Bodies, Public Enterprises, Minorities Welfare & Wakf Department, Govt. of Karnataka and District In-charge Minister, Gulbarga; Dr.Sharanprakash Patil, Minister for Medical Education, Govt. of Karnataka and Basavaraj Patil Sedam, Member of Parliament (RS) and other public representatives concerned, dignitaries and senior railway officials also participated in the function.

Speaking o­n the occasion, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge said that in order to meet the demands of the people in Hyderabad-Karnataka region, a series of Railway developmental initiatives have been taken up towards expansion of Railway network and services in this area. He said that once completed, the new station at Sultanpur would enable the people from Taj Sultanpur village and the adjoining areas to conveniently travel to Gulbarga city by rail to catch long distance trains. The commuters from this area also would be benefited as they can move to / from Gulbarga in lesser time at a lesser cost. Further, shifting of Good Shed to Sultanpur will boost the loading / unloading activities at this location which is well connected to the road network and is convenient for smooth movement of road vehicles. It would also result in decongesting the present Gulbarga station area and reduce the traffic problems there, he added.

Earlier, Mr P.K.Srivastava, General Manager, South Central Railway, while welcoming the gathering, said that the commencement of work for new Station and Goods Shed at Sultanpur marked another big step forward in the construction of the Bidar-Gulbarga new rail line. These works would be taken up at an estimated cost of Rs. 30 Cr. and are targeted to be completed in October this year. Every care is being taken to make available a modern station complex at Sultanpur with all requisite facilities for the convenience of passengers and the goods customers, he added.
Source..Rail News

AAP Govt not keen on Delhi Monorail – project may go off the track



New Delhi: The new AAP government’s broom seems to be sweeping projects that were the toast of the previous Congress government into oblivion. A case in point is the much publicized monorail project which is languishing. Sources say the project, which could not be approved by the previous government due to the code of conduct, hasn’t even made it to the new transport minister’s desk. “The new minister’s priorities seem to be different. He is concentrating on autorickshaws and the BRT at present,” said an Official.

Incidentally, the transport department spent Rs 6 crore on getting the detailed project report done. The alignment for the monorail project was prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, which also did the DPR. According to government officials, the DPR stated the monorail project would be complete by 2017, if work starts soon.

DMRC has been describing the project as “challenging” due to the areas through which the alignment will pass. The 11km-long alignment will start from Shastri Park and terminate at Trilokpuri. At the time, Delhi Metro head Mangu Singh had said DMRC would look at new technology for the project, which is the first of its kind in the country.

Sources, however, say the project is not being given any consideration at present. “Though the minister had asked for the files related to the project, the monorail project isn’t part of the list. There has been no talk of moving any cabinet note on the same,” said the official. The project is expected to cost Rs 2,235 crore.

The entire alignment for the monorail will be elevated, along roads that are mostly narrow. The minimum right of way-12-14m at Raja Ram Kohli Marg-however, is enough for the monorail to come up, said officials. The elevated corridor will have a minimum height of 5.5m clearance from the road.

The advantage of the monorail in such populated areas, said a Delhi Metro official, is the narrow diameter of pillars-while a Metro pillar has a diameter of 1.5-1.8, a pillar for the monorail measures only 1-1.2m. The monorail’s ability to take sharp turns is another factor in its favour.The 11km corridor will have 12 stations-Shastri Park, Kailash Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Taj Enclave, Geeta Colony, Guru Angad Nagar, Scope Tower, Ganesh Nagar, Mother Dairy, Patparganj, Kotla and Trilokpuri. It will start from Shastri Park Metro station and culminate at Trilokpuri via Yamuna Pusta Road, Raja Ram Kohli Marg, Geeta Colony, Patparganj Road, Vikas Marg, Ganesh Nagar, New Patparganj Road, NH-24, Sanjay Lake and the proposed Trilokpuri Metro station.

The monorail will also connect with three Delhi Metro lines-at Shastri Park, Nirman Vihar and Trilokpuri- thereby providing connectivity with the existing Dilshad Garden-Rithala line, Anand Vihar-Dwarka and the proposed Mukundpur-Yamuna Vihar under phase III of the Delhi Metro network. The monorail alignment will initially ferry 1.5 lakh passengers per day.
Source..Rail News

Indian Railways Time Tabling Conference 2014 held at Guwahati


Guwahati (GWH): The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) hosted the Indian Railways Time Tabling Conference (IRTTC), 2014, here for the first time last week.

The meeting is held to deliberate on introduction of new trains, extension of existing trains, increase in frequency of trains, modifications of train timings and other related issues.

More than 200 delegates including about 30 senior officers from all the 17 zonal railways and the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd. participated in the conference which had ‘Maximising the Number of Trains with Existing Resources’ as the main focus.

It is significant that the Conference, considered to be the precursor of formulation of Budget announcements and New Time Table that comes into effect in July every year, was held in north-east for the first time, an NFR release said here today.

The IRTTC is an annual feature in Indian Railways wherein all the zonal railways discuss and deliberate across the table to thrash out solutions to issues like modifications in the timings of trains, augmentation of capacities of trains and introduction of new trains in a coordinated manner so as to improve the service being provided to the passengers.

The major agenda of this year’s conference was measures to improve on-time running of trains, considerations of major demands for introduction of new trains, extension of new trains to new destinations, increase of frequency of trains which are not run daily and introduction of new trains or extension of existing trains on newly-constructed or newly gauge converted railway lines.

The conference was successful in resolving several issues connected with improvement of train services in the country, the release added.
Source..Rail News

GPT Infraprojects bags Orders worth Rs.137 Crore



New Delhi: GPT Infraprojects, the flagship company of GPT Group, has bagged orders worth Rs.137 crore, including a Rs.114 crore contract from Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) for construction of steel bridges in Uttar Pradesh. “GPT is pleased to announce that the company has bagged orders worth Rs.137 crore,” it said in a statement. The projects include “Construction of important and major Steel Girder Bridges, along with Foundation, Substructure and related protection works in connection with Jhansi-Bhimsen doubling in Jhansi Division of North Central Railway in the State of Uttar Pradesh,” the company said in a press release. The completion period for the Rs.114 crore project from RVNL is 36 months, Besides, the company has also won other projects worth Rs.23 crore, it added.

About GPT Infraprojects: GPT Infraprojects Limited, the flagship company of the GPT Group was incorporated in 1980. GPT Infraprojects operates primarily in two divisions – the Concrete Sleeper Division and the Infrastructure Division. Infrastructure division is involved in civil infrastructure projects for Railways, Roads, Airports, Industrial and Urban Infrastructure. The Concrete Sleepers division is involved in manufacture of concrete sleepers for railways systems in India and abroad. Today, GPT Infraprojects is the only Indian company which has presence in 6 countries for its Concrete Sleeper Business viz. South Africa, Namibia, Myanmar, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. GPT Infraprojects is one of the few core companies involved in construction of mega bridges with steel superstructure for Indian Railways. The significant projects under execution by GPT include Rail-cum-Road bridge over River Ganga at Patna, Railway Bridge of River Kosi, turnkey construction of 38 bridges for Tripura PWD, bridges for Eastern Railway with large pile foundations and steel superstructure, Cable Stay Bridge over Railway Station at Burdwan, Elevated structures for Eastern Railway in Kolkata, and turnkey construction of 5 Road-over-Bridges in Kerala. In recognition of its excellent contract execution track record, the company has received Certificate for Excellence in Contract execution from Railways for 2 consecutive years in 2008-09 and 2009-10. In addition, the company has received the Emerging India Award in 2010 for Best SME in Infrastructure and SME with a Global Reach from CNBC TV-18, ICICI Bank and CRISIL. GPT is listed on Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and Calcutta Stock Exchange under Scrip Code: 533761, Scrip ID: GPTINFRA. The Company recorded consolidated revenues of Rs.487 Crores during year ended March 31, 2013 and has current orders in hand of about Rs.1,897 Crores in its Infrastructure Division. The Company was accorded the status of Export House in accordance with the provisions of the Foreign Trade Policy, 2009-2014 w.e.f. 1st April,2012.
Source..rail news

 

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