Jan 30, 2014

Nanded train fire probably caused by passengers, Railway probe

The devastating fire in Bangalore- Nanded Express train in Andhra Pradesh that left 26 dead was "most probably" caused due to negligence by unidentified passengers, a provisional Railway probe into the December 28 incident said. 

The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) Southern Region, who carried out the probe, also recommended switching off power points provided for charging laptops and mobile phones in AC coaches between 10 pm and 6 am. 

"The December 28 accident was most probably caused by advertent act or by an act of negligence on the part of unidentified passenger(s) or person(s)," said Satish Kumar Mittal, CRS Southern Region in his provisional findings. 

Quoting the report of the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory (APFSL), the CRS said no signs of explosion were found in the burnt coach and ruled out sabotage as cause of the fire, which had ripped through an AC 3-Tier coach of the train between Sri Satya Sai Prashanti Nilayam-Basampalli stations in the wee hours. 

As per the post-mortem report, the cause for the death of majority of passengers was given as gaseous asphyxia with 100 per cent burns and neurological shock, the findings released to the media said. 

The CRS said burnt and melted adopter and burnt laptop were found on Berth no 13 and also burnt cells in the ill-fated coach. 

Burnt laptop was found on berth no 40 and a three-pin top in burnt condition with hanging snapped wire near mobile charging point of Berth no 39, said the findings submitted to the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety, Lucknow. 

According to the findings, all protective devices -- high rupture capacity (HRC) fuses, moulded case circuit breakers (MCCB), miniature circuit breakers (MCB) and electric circuits were found intact in the coach except 40 amp MCBs and smaller MCBs for supply to light, fan and mobile charger circuits which were in burnt condition. 

In other "immediate recommendations", CRS said in order to reduce combustible materials to some extent, Railways should do away with curtains in gangway portions of AC coaches. 

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be provided in coaches to give timely warning of fire or smoldering, the report said.
Source..Business-Standard

FDI in railways: Policy to have caution note on Chinese firms' participation



In an unprecedented move, the government might incorporate a clause cautioning against investment from Chinese companies in the country’s railway network, even as it gears up to throw open the sector for 100% foreign equity participation. It is even opposed to Chinese labourers working near border areas having proximity to China and Pakistan.

The proposal to allow 100% FDI in the construction and maintenance segments of the railway network was floated in August last year by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

However, the department, which had already prepared the cabinet note on December 26, was awaiting the final go-ahead from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It seems the MHA had “strong objections over allowing the participation of Chinese and Pakistani companies in Indian railway network,” a top official told Business on condition of anonymity.

MHA has opined that China is generally perceived as India’s main rival not only in the economic field, but even militarily with unresolved border disputes between the two countries. As a result, MHA has told DIPP that investments made by Chinese firms, especially in the core and sensitive areas, should be viewed with caution. MHA said Chinese investments should also not be allowed in Jammu & Kashmir, Northeast and Sikkim.

It has further stressed on the fact that from the point of security angle, Chinese workers or technicians should not be allowed to work near the areas around international borders that the country shares with China and Pakistan. However, if such a case arises then they will be allowed to work in those areas only after obtaining the government’s permission and visas.

It is learnt that in its response to DIPP, MHA has also said that overall security aspect, quality control, signaling and telecommunication of the entire network should be under the Indian Railways.

DIPP has incorporated these changes and floated a revised draft note, which is why the matter was stuck and Cabinet Secretariat was not able take it up for consideration as was originally decided.

The railways plan to earn around Rs.1 lakh crores through public-private partnership (PPP) projects, which includes construction of factories for making locomotives and coaches. It seems Chinese firms are keenly watching the development as they want to heavily invest here. Under the proposed FDI policy the government wants to open the doors of foregn investment in areas like rail corridor projects, station development, locomotive manufacturing units, power plants related to Railways, dedicated freignt lines, high speed train systems and logistics parks and freight terminals as well as suburban corridors. 

Some of the Chinese names in the fray are CSR Corp Ltd. and China CNR Corp. Besides, Japanese and German firms have also shown keenness to invest heavily in the world’s fifth largest rail network.

Presently, FDI is prohibited in railways transport other than Mass Rapid Transport System and component manufacturing. FDI in railway related components since April 2000 till September 2013 have reached $368.28 million, according to official statistics.

While the government had earlier raised questions on the presence of Chinese companies in the telecom sector, no restrictions in the FDI policy were put in place for them. The FIPB however while clearing a proposal by telecom major Telenor to increase stake in its indian venture had out in a unusual rider that "officials who have worked in Pakistan should not be allowed to work in India". Even then the contentious clause was added because the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) wanted such a restriction. In its deliberations, MHA had said it would give security clearance to the company only if it was incorporated in the licensing condition that "no person who has worked in Pakistan, including at Telenor Pakistan, shall be allowed to work in India". DoT, too, had said officials who had worked in Pakistan should not be allowed to work in India.

The decision by the government to put a stop on the movement of executives working in Pakistan is significant, as there are many strategic sectors in which MNCs are present or have equity stakes in both India and Pakistan.
Source..Business-Standard

Speed Restriction in 168 Km Stretch of North Bengal forest areas not feasible – will hit Ops



Ministry of Railways also rejects plea for construction of elevated tracks over stretch of 168-km in view of tremendous cost.

The Railways informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it was not possible to have the entire 168 km-stretch of the North Bengal forest areas under speed restriction to prevent elephants from being mowed to death by speeding trains.

This stretch covers parts of Bihar, Assam and West Bengal and it has not only the highest concentration of wild elephants but also the highest mortality of jumbos.

As per the railways statistics, 65 elephants have been hit and killed by trains since 2010, mainly in this region. There were 22 deaths in 2013, the highest in the last three years.

Responding to a PIL filed by journalist Shakti Prasad Nayak, the Railways said that the 168-km long railway alignment between Alipurduar and Siliguri via Hasimara Passes, has already got periodic speed restrictions spread over as much as 95.3 km.

There is a permanent speed restriction of 50 km/hour over 22.4 km in the four reserved sanctuary areas of Buxa, Jaldapara, Chapramari and Mahananda and temporary speed restriction across other sections.

“It is practically not possible to have extended portions of railway tracks to be covered under speed restriction of 50 km per hour since this impairs punctuality of running 19 trains each way, with maintenance blocks and existing speed restrictions,” it said. It added that if speed restriction is imposed on the entire stretch, the number of trains would also be reduced to 9.5 trains each way and night closure of goods train would add to the capacity constraints in this section.

The ministry also rejected the plea for construction of elevated tracks over the stretch of 168-km in view of tremendous cost.

“Construction of elevated tracks over the entire stretch will have huge cost implications (Rs 8,000 crore).

Even the cost of laying elevated corridor in the reserve forest area covering a length of 17.4 km will be exorbitantly high apart from causing continuous disturbances to the wild life for an extended period,” it said.

With regard to suggestion of prohibiting running of goods trains at night, it said the step would affect economy of the north-eastern states and those trains, if stopped at night, would be susceptible to theft as well.

The ministry was responding to the direction given by the Supreme Court on December 10 to ensure that the speed limit of trains was lowered and goods trains were stopped at night while passing through elephant corridors in order to protect pachyderms from getting killed.

In its earlier affidavit, the ministry said that it was working on developing electronic intelligent surveillance system for receiving alerts in the control rooms on an elephant coming near to its tracks as 77 pachyderms died since 2007 after being hit by speeding trains.

Source..Rail News

Overaged & Outdated RE Overhead cables and alignment pose a danger



Railways still using outdated cables; passenger safety at risk

Posing risks to passenger lives, the Railways continue to use the overage and outdated Railway Electric (RE) cables to operate signaling systems.

The task of replacing these with the modern Quad-6 has remained painfully slow, with just 27 of the total of 64 block sections having been commissioned. “The condition of the RE cable and overhead alignment have deteriorated beyond maintainable levels and working on this has become hazardous”, says an internal document.

The cable replacement scheme was taken up as a pilot project in 2003 in the North Central Railway (NCR) zone on India’s busiest section from Jhansi to Banda on the important “Golden Quadrilateral” route.

With the pilot scheme having remained a non-starter, a huge question mark has come to hang over plans to replicate the scheme across the country’s rail network of approximately 64,000 route kilometers.

A big chunk of rail accidents in past years have been caused because of cable and signaling failures. In sections where the erstwhile Yugoslavia-made RE cables have completed their life of 30 years, train operations have become more risky. RE cables are no longer being manufactured and spares for these are unavailable in the market, officials said.

“We are constrained to use the old RE cables, as the new cable systems have not been completed or handed over. Signaling failures have alarmingly increased because of the poor insulation of old cables and train operations have been adversely impacted”, said Manmohan Garhwal, the NCR Chief Technical and Signaling Engineer (CTSE).

Officials of the Indian Railways Project Management Unit (IRPMU) –the implementing agency – say that two-thirds of the cable replacement work had been completed and handed over to open line department. But the Railways have been unable to migrate to the upgraded system because of “deficiencies” in execution work, official documents show.

Despite repeated attempts to contact him, NCR General Manager Pradeep Kumar remained unavailable for comments.

Source..Rail News

Railway's station revamp plan remain unstuck for want of investor interest



New Delhi: The railways, struggling to modernize its stations due to dearth of funds, has to rely on the PPP model for making at least few stations world-class. However, railways’ initial plan to modernise five stations via the public-private partnership (PPP) model itself has come unstuck for want of investor interest. According to sources, even as the deadlines for awarding contracts for the five projects set by the railway board nears, the national transporter is yet to begin the bidding process.

In Budget 2013-14, the railways had set a target of Rs 1,000 crore as private sector investment for the development of five railway stations-Chandigarh, Habibganj, Shivaji Nagar, Bijwasan, Shivaji Nagar and Anand Vihar-phase II. Later, the board decided that by March end all these projects would be awarded.

The railways, struggling to modernize its stations due to dearth of funds, has to rely on the PPP model for making at least few stations world-class. The selected stations, as per the blueprint, were supposed to have all amenities available at stations across the world.

In September, the railways held several pre-bidding meetings with potential investors but the plan failed to take off due to lukewarm response.

According to the railways, the master plans of Chandigarh and Pune’s Shivaji Nagar stations have already been prepared by a consultant and are with the zonal railways for approval.

The master plans of other stations are being prepared by foreign consultants and will be submitted to the railways soon. The redevelopment project has been undertaken by the newly formed Railway Station Development Corporation.

“We have got the approvals from local civic bodies for providing basic amenities and making traffic plans for the peripheral areas of stations. The overall economic situation and slowdown in the infrastructure sector has had its toll on the station redevelopment plan,” a railway board official said.

Source..Rail News

Maha Cabinet approve Metro Rail Project for Orange City – Nagpur to get Metro Rail



Nagpur (NGP): Nagpur, the “orange country”, will soon become the third city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune to have a metro railway. The state cabinet Wednesday approved a proposal to construct two elevated metro line corridors linking important locations in the state’s second capital in Vidarbha region. The project will cost around Rs.8,680 crore and is expected to be completed in six years, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said. “Of the total cost, the centre and state will bear 20 percent each, the Nagpur local bodies will contribute 10 percent and the remaining 50 percent shall be raised through loans and other sources,” he said. The two lines shall link Automotive Chowk-MIHAN and Prajapati Nagar-Lokmanya Nagar, a distance of around 38 km. The project approval follows a study by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). This is the second metro rail project approved outside state capital Mumbai. Last year, the state government gave the green signal to the Pune metro railway which will cost around Rs.10,183 crore and is expected to be completed in phases by 2021. The Mumbai metro railway’s first phase linking Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar is nearing completion and is expected to be commissioned shortly.
Source..Rail News

Reliance Infra resumes paying Delhi Metro dues



Total exposure of the lenders, including Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank, was around Rs.1,800 crore

New Delhi: In a fresh twist to the Airport Express saga, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has resumed loan repayments to banks after initially disputing its liability to repay the loan taken for the project.

Bankers and government officials confirmed that the concessionaire—Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt. Ltd (DAMEPL), a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure—is paying its dues.

The 22.7km Delhi airport metro line, which connects the New Delhi railway station with the T3 airport terminal, was a joint venture between DAMEPL and DMRC.

Last year, a consortium of lenders led by Axis Bank Ltd had issued notices to the company for non-payment of dues. The total exposure of the lenders, including Punjab National Bank and Canara Bank, was around Rs.1,800 crore.

DAMEPL had contended then that there was no liability on its part to make any further repayment to the lenders as the Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (DMRC) had taken over the entire project on 1 July 2013 and was collecting revenues from both ticketing and retail business.

It said that the liabilities to the lenders are now to be repaid by DMRC.

The 22.7km Delhi airport metro line, which connects the New Delhi railway station with the T3 airport terminal, was a joint venture between DAMEPL and DMRC. DMRC built the civil infrastructure and spent more than half of the Rs.5,700-crore project cost, while DAMEPL brought in the rolling stock and was supposed to run it for 30 years. But Reliance Infrastructure pulled out of the agreement with DMRC in July last year saying the project was not financially viable.

The decision on the termination notice and on who will repay the debt is being considered by an empowered group of ministers on mass rapid transit system headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

“They (Reliance Infrastructure) are making the loan payments now. Irrespective of the unilateral termination notice by them, for us the concessionaire is still Reliance and they have an obligation to repay the dues,” said an official with India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd, whose UK subsidiary is a lender to the project.
An emailed questionnaire sent to Axis Bank on 27 January remained unanswered.

“After termination of the Concession Agreement and subsequent takeover of project by DMRC, DMRC has failed to meet its obligations under the concession agreement towards termination payment and the payments to lenders,” a Reliance Infra spokesperson said in through email.

“In these circumstances, DAMEPL without prejudice to its rights and claims under the concession agreement has made the debt service payments to ensure that the lenders of the project do not suffer owing to wilful defaults by DMRC in making payments to the lenders.”

“All such payments are being claimed from DMRC in the ongoing arbitration,” the spokesperson added.

A DMRC spokesperson said the matter to decide the concessionaire was under arbitration. “Whether Reliance is paying off the loan or not, it is a matter between the banks and Reliance,” he added.

Hatim Broachwala, an analyst at Karvy Stock Broking Ltd said, “Though there is no written rule as such, it would not look good for a company to get classified as a defaulter especially when another group company is bidding for a banking licence.”

Reliance Infrastructure is a Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group. One of the group subsidiaries, Reliance Capital is an aspirant for a banking licence.
Source..Rail News

 

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