Feb 17, 2014

Suburban railway system is highly neglected: Madhu Kotian, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh

  • Madhu Kotian
You have been closely involved in the campaign to improve local train services. What exactly ailing the system?
The drawbacks are many. But, the main ones are inadequate funding, lack of priority and delay in completion of projects. Considering the fact that over seven million people use the suburban system one would have thought the railways would spend enough money so that problems like overcrowding are avoided. But Mumbai has not been given any priority despite the fact that it is the commercial capital of the country. Also, execution of projects take years. By the time a project is completed, its benefits are neutralised by increase in the number of passengers.
Why no priority is being given to Mumbai by the rail ministry?
The main reason for this is that most of the MPs have failed to take adequate interest in the problems of commuters. All the political parties are responsible for the present state of affairs. They have completely neglected the millions of commuters. Our MPs only come to railway stations to address commuters during elections. They all travel by high-end cars and have no connect with commuters and their problems. Only Ram Naik, who was himself associated with the Goregaon commuters' problems, evinced some interest. But as an opposition MP he has only criticised the Congress government. My approach is to appreciate whatever little work is done by any MP irrespective of his party affiliation.
But Ram Naik was a minister for railways. How do you rate his performance in the rail ministry?
Ram Naik's only contribution is the creation of the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC). In any case, he was only minister of state for railways and did not have sufficient powers. Nevertheless, he could have done a lot for the passengers. Every year he holds a press conference on railway budget and that is all. He only talked of the Virar-Dahanu rail extension.
You have interacted with several general managers of railways. Whom would you rate as the best?
Unmistakably it is Subodh Jain of Central Railway, who left for New Delhi last year. He had tremendous knowledge of the problems of local train travellers. He interacted regularly with passenger associations. He was by far the best GM I have seen.
The railway ministry claims that it spends much more than the Rs1,600cr it earns from Mumbai. Please comment.
We actually need Rs10,000 crore annually to make train journey better so that people can travel as human beings. One should not look only at the railway revenue, but the total contribution of Mumbai metropolitan region to the nation's exchequer. Not even a fraction of that is being ploughed back. The fact is that not enough money is being pumped into the local rail network to make travel safe. The ministry has okayed elevated corridor for the Western Railway. Why not for the Central Railway? At this rate, the number of people who die annually will increase from 3,000 to 7,000. Are the authorities waiting for more people to die before they act?
What is the way out?
The way out is to make our MPs lobby hard with the railway ministry on behalf of millions of Mumbaikars. Also, corruption in railways needs to be curbed in a big way. Next to banking sector, the railways are notorious for corruption. Many railway officials do business with the department through dummy companies. This has got to change.

Polls in mind, govt presents safe, no-frills rail budget

Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday kept passenger fares and freight rates unchanged, introduced 72 new trains and announced connectivity to two more northeastern states in the interim budget amid protests over the creation of a separate Telangana state.

Full coverage of the interim railway budget

In what was his personal first and the last such exercise in the 15th Lok Sabha for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Kharge also promised a new tariff-setting body and said work on eastern and western freight corridors was progressing well.

Read: Waitlisted passengers to get automatic SMS alert

The minister who could hardly be heard amid the din in the House as members continued to raise slogans and had to cut short his speech.

The minister only read a part of his speech for all of 14 minutes in the lower house of Parliament as members continued to disrupt proceedings.

The full speech copy, along with the other documents that included a vote on account for the first four months of the next fiscal, was laid on the table of the House.

Union ministers KS Rao, D Purandeshwari, Chiranjeevi and K Surya Prakash Reddy were seen trooping into the Well in protest against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh as he read his speech. They all belong to the Seemandhra region.

Read: Rail Tariff Authority for transparency in fare decision, says Kharge
The minister announced that 72 new trains were being introduced, including 17 premium trains, 38 express trains, 10 passenger trains, four suburban trains and three diesel locomotive inter-city trains for medium distances.

He said despite the resource constraints, the targets for the current fiscal were fully achieved, with some 2,207 km of new lines, adding two more northeastern states will be on the country's railroad map this fiscal -- Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya.

Anticipating a healthier economic growth, the freight traffic target, he said, was also proposed higher at 1,101 million tonnes -- an increment of 49.7 million tonnes over the current year's revised target of about 1,052 million tonnes.

Read: Railways targets record Rs. 1.6 lakh crore revenue in 2014-15

In terms of electrification of the network, 4,556 km railway line was completed this fiscal, against the target of 4,500 km, while the target of doubling the gauge was also surpassed with 2,227 km, against 2,000 km.

Train services will also start for Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra in Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

He said three new rail factories in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have already been commissioned -- a wheel plant at Chhapra, a coach factory in Rae Bereli and a diesel component factory at Dankuni, respectively.

"Specially designed coaches for adverse weather conditions have been inducted for rail travel in Kashmir valley. Also corrosion-resistant and lighter wagons to carry extra pay-load and higher speed of up to 100 km per hour have been developed," he said.

As far as safety is concerned, there are no unmanned level crossings left, the minister said, even as induction-based cooking was introduced in the pantry cars to prevent fire and improved audio-video systems installed to warn road users of approaching trains.

Read: Railways to run 17 premium AC special trains

Kharge, who has been holding the railway portfolio only for the past eight months, spoke of the role played by the railways in India's social and economic development and the lack of physical and financial resources to carry this mandate forward.

"It's time we take note of the investment and other urgent needs of the railways."

Reports added that AIADMK and TDP members tore copies of the Railway Budget in the Well.

Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House till Thursday as soon as Kharge tabled the budget.

Ranked among the world's top five, the Indian railroad network ferries 23 million people and 2.65 million tonnes of goods daily from 7,083 stations on 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains over more than 64,000 km route.

It is also among the largest employers with an estimated 1.4 million people on its rolls.
Source..hindustan times

Rail Satisfaction Levels Drop Below 50%

Southeastern trains scored just 40% for satisfaction levels

Passenger satisfaction levels have dipped below 50% for the majority of train companies, according to a new survey.

For two companies - Greater Anglia and Southeastern - the satisfaction score was just 40%, Which? found.

Ten of the 19 companies had satisfaction scores of less than 50%, with Merseyrail the best-performing company at 70%.

The survey, conducted among 7,415 UK adults in November 2013 also showed that 16% of all passengers experienced a delay on their last journey, with that figure rising to 26% among commuters.

Which? also asked what passengers felt would improve their journeys and what they would be prepared to pay more for.

Lower ticket prices were top of the list, with 80% of those surveying saying fares were too high.

Passengers also wanted to see more carriages at peak times (35%) and wi-fi as standard (20%).

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's disappointing to see some train companies consistently falling down on the basics of customer service, with dirty and overcrowded carriages and toilets that don't work
Many passengers complained about delays, particularly when commuting

"Seven rail franchises end in the next two years and we want to see passengers' experiences put right at the heart of the tender process so companies respond to consumer expectations and can be held to account if they don't."

A spokesman for the rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: "As we acknowledged last month when the independent watchdog's far more comprehensive survey found that more than four out of five passengers were satisfied with their overall journey, the industry needs to build on the improvements it has delivered over the last 15 years.

"We are always keen to get feedback from customers, whether good or bad, which has helped the industry attract record numbers of passengers and cut complaints by three quarters in a decade."

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "As well as getting passengers to their destinations, operators should be working hard to improve the overall experience of their customers.

"Passengers have every right to expect trains to arrive on time and be clean, and while this can be a challenge, I expect operators to do all they can."

Swanston Street rip-up for Melbourne Metro rail akin to Berlin Wall: Napthine

Tearing up Swanston Street for at least two years to build the Melbourne Metro rail project would divide Melbourne worse than the Berlin Wall, Premier Denis Napthine says.

Dr Napthine on Monday confirmed reports that the state government was looking at alternative options for the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. It had originally been planned to run from Kensington to Parkville, continue under Swanston Street with two CBD stations, then to the Domain Interchange and join at South Yarra station.

The Premier said the government was still committed to building a rail project to increase capacity on the state's passenger and freight rail networks.

"We have a lot of options on the table, the original Metro rail capacity project had raised some challenges, particularly the proposal in that project of having Swanston Street closed for two years plus, and completely dug up," he said.

Under the current plan, Swanston Street would be ripped up to build the rail line with a "cut-and-fill" technique, with engineers saying it was the best and most appropriate way to build the railway.

"I'm only a humble citizen of Melbourne and Victoria, but having a massive hole dividing Melbourne would be worse than the Berlin Wall; it would be absolutely detrimental to the operation of Melbourne," Dr Napthine said.

"It would be an absolute disaster for Melbourne."

The project has several problems including "very sloppy" ground south of the Yarra, compared to the strong basalt north of the river, making construction difficult.

He said CityLink had special "floating tunnels" because the quality of the ground was better, adding there had been 600 bore holes for testing completed for the project, many more than those done for the east-west link.

The Sunday Age reported that the project would cost $11.6 billion, but Dr Napthine said it was premature to put a cost estimate on rail project.

The report said that some stations may be removed from the project, with a station at Fishermans Bend possibly being included in the scheme.

The premier said any changes were in the early part of consideration, saying it would be irresponsible not to consider all ideas.

Dr Napthine failed to say if the final design would be known before the November 29 election, other than to say the project was part of the government's infrastructure plan and the timeline to deliver it in "the back-half of this decade" remained.

Meanwhile, the premier has denied suggestions that there would be a ministerial reshuffle this week while parliament was in session. He said there would be "minor adjustments" made soon, after three ministers announced they would not contest November's state election.

Source..The age

Chidambaram to present interim budget today; will not make speech in Parliament

  • P Chidambaram
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will present the interim budget in the Lok Sabha today.
* Finance Minister Chidambaram tables budget papers in Lok Sabha.
*  Cabinet approves Interim Budget for 2014-15.
*  Chidambaram will not make interim budget speech in Lok Sabha.
* It's the first time a finance minister has not read a budget speech in Parliament.
The vote-on-account will authorize the government to release expenditure on different heads till a regular budget is presented.
Before the concluding winter session of parliament, Chidambaram had said the government would only tinker in areas that are essential to revive the economic growth which might include some changes in excise and service taxes.
On Sunday, Chidambaram gave final touches to the interim budget or Vote On Account for fiscal 2014-15.
Chidambaram will be walking a tightrope when he presents the interim budget. It is expected that he might be doling out more funds to woo voters and tax cuts to support industry while projecting a lower fiscal deficit before elections.
According to official sources, Chidambaram is likely to make a last-ditch attempt to win back voters by announcing more funds for health, rural jobs, roads and food subsidies, and to speak about the government's achievements in the last ten years.
Chidambaram will have slightly more maneuvering room after an auction of telecommunications spectrum which ended on Thursday brought in a much higher-than-expected 61000 crore in bids. The government will get at least 20000 crore upfront in the current fiscal year, with the rest spread out until 2026.
In an election year, India presents an interim budget to parliament for approval for planned expenditure for three to four months, but leaves it to the next government to announce major policy steps in a full-year budget after the polls.
Chidambaram is expected to cut factory-gate duties on products like autos to support the manufacturing sector, extend an interest subsidy on bank loans to exporters, farmers, and offer tax concessions for poorer regions.





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