Apr 4, 2014

ARE YOU GOING TO TRAVEL BY TRAIN?


Metro rail should lead urban traffic system in major cities



Most of the big cities in the advanced countries have efficient mass rail transportation supplemented by public buses.

One cannot imagine a situation in London without its popular “Underground”. Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) is a boon to the several thousands who use it every day to commute to San Francisco. Nearer home, Delhi has demonstrated that even a partial commissioning of the metro rail has eased the traffic situation. Bombay’s suburban trains and Kolkata’s metro rail carry lakhs of passengers every day. Bangalore and Hyderabad are forging ahead with construction of mass rail systems that could ease the traffic situation. The partial opening of Bangalore Metro has given some relief to the harassed citizens. 

These metros have proved that metro rail is the only answer to mass transportation when lakhs of people are involved. There is thus a strong case to strengthen these by providing funds for expansion to those areas not covered by the metro network.Prime minister Manmohan Sigh has voiced his support to the proposal for improving the mass transport in urban centres. The money invested would be worthwhile when saving of foreign exchange by way of fuel import is concerned, as a long-term perspective. The burgeoning crude oil price should spur us to improve mass transportation and save precious fuel.

Rail transport has several advantages over road transport – it is fast, pollution free, traffic accidents are rare, saves petrol and diesel and there is no traffic congestion. However, it is capital intensive and given the fare structure, it could barely break even or may have to be subsidised by the government. Even then, its several advantages could make rail transport a front-runner in any mass transport system.

Raising funds

One wonders why the traffic planners are dragging their feet in starting mass rail system where there is none or strengthen the existing ones through increased capacity. Paucity of funds is one constraint, which could be overcome by raising funds through bonds and by borrowing money. Surely, World Bank and IMF would be interested in such a project that has a beneficial impact on the environment as well as reduce dependence on crude oil. Another solution is to involve reliable private operators by offering attractive incentives – tax breaks and share in profits or by allowing them to levy tax in any ‘build and operate’ system. These private companies could be asked to cater to the various requirements of a metro rail – civil works, rail, signal / telecom segment, coaches, stations while keeping controls to see that funds are utilised responsibly.

Crude oil, on which we are so dependent for providing energy, is going to be costlier. There appears to be no end to the spiralling price of crude oil, which is hovering around $108 per barrel. Moreover, it is a non-renewable energy, which means there is a need to conserve it by efficient means. Use of bio-diesel / ethanol is a small drop in the ocean in saving fuel. People must see mass transport as a viable alternative to use of one’s own vehicle. 

The island nation of Singapore has shown how mass transport can meet people’s demands and expectations. It has a system of incentives and disincentives. For instance, metro rail, public buses and taxis are fast and affordable. On the other hand, owning a car is expensive by way of additional levies and hefty parking fees. That is true of metros like London and New York where owning a car is a luxury, only a few could afford. Parking hassles deter an individual car owner from driving in and around big cities especially when good public transportation is available cheaply. 

Grappling with traffic

Cities and towns are grappling with the burgeoning traffic by various means that are not very effective. London has imposed a ‘congestion tax’ on each private vehicle destined to Central London. A few others are trying the system of ‘park and ride’ at the outskirts of urban centres so that the number of private vehicles entering the city is limited. Flyovers, to relieve congestion, are somewhat effective in effecting a smoother flow of traffic but certainly are no ideal solution. These only divert traffic elsewhere and cause problems there. Moreover, in future, the number of vehicles is likely to increase thanks to the automobile and two-wheeler boom with many newer and attractive models hitting the streets regularly. Attractive terms, with promise of easy loans and ‘zero’ interest rates are being held out to woo would-be owners of vehicles. 

Time has come for every big town and city to work out the modalities of introducing an efficient rail system, rather than having more buses on the roads or building more flyovers. The rail system could be over-ground like the ELRTS, underground or partially underground / partially over-ground, like in the metro rail system depending upon the needs of each urban centre. 

The more we delay, the more expensive such projects would be. And that is why the traffic planners should take a holistic view and go full steam ahead for introducing / strengthening metro rail soon in major urban centres to start with. In the long run some subsidy might be given but that’s a small price to pay for transporting millions of people in safety, quickly and with no pollution. Having satellite towns near big metros, with good connectivity, could relieve congestion but that needs long term planning to decongest metro cities.
Source-deccan herald

After Lac-Megantic disaster, CP Rail advocates shipper insurance



Governments should require companies shipping crude oil by rail to carry enough liability insurance to make up for shortfalls in coverage carried by railways, the president of Canada's second-largest rail operator said on Thursday.

Currently, there are no requirements in Canada for shippers of oil and other dangerous cargo to carry liability insurance against accidents, Keith Creel, president and chief operating officer of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd , said after testifying to the House of Commons' transport committee.

The panel was examining the adequacy of Canada's transportation safety regime after a series of North American rail derailments and crashes involving shipments of crude oil, including a horrific accident last July that destroyed the center of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

The accident also exhausted the insurance of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, the small railway responsible, which threw it into bankruptcy protection, leaving federal and provincial governments to cover the rest of the recovery costs.

"I know for a fact there are certain events that could happen that could be so catastrophic that you'd not have enough liability to protect the company," Creel said. "It would be a going-out-of-business issue for the company. We call it a bet-the-company case."

As part of its inquiry, the committee is also looking at the phasing-out of the older version of the DOT-111 tanker cars that were involved in the Lac-Megantic accident. Experts think the process could take years to complete despite the heightened risks presented by rising oil-by-rail shipments.

But Creel told the committee that railroad companies have reached the limits of the amount of liability coverage they are able to buy.

"The only other people that can buy additional insurance would be the shippers of the products. They've not been mandated to do that. It's not a regulatory requirement," Creel said. "It needs to happen. This should be a collaborative effort."

He said he had no expectations that such a catastrophe involving Canadian Pacific was likely, adding it was the safest railway in North America. Even so, he wanted to be prepared.

Canadian National Railway Co, CP's larger rival, told the committee it was confident it had enough insurance.

CN has never had any damages anywhere that exhausted the level of insurance it carries, said Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena. Pressed about the possibility of a future worst-case scenario, he said: "We're very comfortable that we're carrying enough insurance."

POLITICAL IMPETUS

The Liberals, one of the opposition parties in Parliament, said they have long advocated for a requirement that shippers carry insurance, and the opposition New Democratic Party also said it was worth looking into the issue.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in an emailed statement that the Conservative government had promised in their policy speech last October that it would require additional insurance of the railways as well as the shippers.

"The taxpayer should not have to fund the cost of damages after an incident," she said, without indicating when she might act on this.

Creel said that under common carrier rules, railways are legally required to carry products they might not want to carry, as long as the containers conformed with government regulations.

He said CP had tried to require adequate shipper insurance on its own, but was rebuffed.

"You can't do it in the States and you can't do it in Canada. It's just the regulatory regimes on both sides won't allow it," Creel said.

CP has started charging a $325-per-car surcharge for hauling the older DOT-111 tank cars. But Creel said it would lose in arbitration in Canada if it charged prohibitive rates to force the DOT-111s out.

The safety issue is only expected to become more urgent as shipments of oil by rail rapidly expand to keep up with burgeoning production in Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota without matching growth in pipeline capacity.

Many in the rail industry are calling for a retrofit or an aggressive phase-out of these legacy tank cars - mostly owned by shippers or lessors and not the railways - and estimate the process could take years to finish.

But some argue regulators could immediately order dangerous cargo, such as the highly flammable crude that comes out of the Bakken oil fields, to only be carried in safer tank cars.

Canadian and U.S. officials have been meeting to hammer out rail safety laws, and Raitt said on Tuesday those discussions were currently centered around what the next-generation tank car will look like.

Creel said he guessed it could take the United States 12 to 18 months to come out with new standards, and declined to estimate when the two sides would mandate a phase-out of the older cars.

CN and CP own only a tiny handful of the older rail tank cars, or less than 1 percent combined of the approximately 92,000 used in North America to transport flammable liquids.

Both CN and CP said their DOT-111 fleet are used to carry diesel fuel for their own locomotives and not for moving other products, and said they were working to phase out the cars. CN has said it is looking at a four-year phase-out plan.

Federal railways carry more than 50 percent of goods transported by land in Canada, the world's second largest country by area. The network has 44,000 km (27,300 miles) of track. (Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; editing by Frank McGurty and G Crosse)
Source-reuters

Probe allotment of land to metro rail: Country club to high court

HYDERABAD: The Country Club of India Limited (CCIL) on Thursday said it would move the high court seeking a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in land allotment to the Hyderabad Metro Rail project.

CCIL was responding to a notice by Hyderabad Metro Rail Limted (HMRL) to partially demolish their corporate office in Begumpet. Addressing the media, club chairman Rajeev Reddy said the move was illegal as the HMRL had given a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the office. HMRL was going ahead with the demolition process despite the high court staying the construction on the premises of the CCIL, he said.

"The CCIL had spared over 1700 sq yards for the Metro Rail project in 2006, following which the HMRL issued an NOC to build the corporate office. We built the office only after receiving the NOC. But now the HMRL has issued a notice to partially demolish the building," Rajeev Reddy said.

Apart from CCIL, buildings including White House, Lifestyle and Varun Motors face the threat of demolition .

Charging HMRL with deviating from norms and changing the alignment of the project to save properties of some vested interests at the cost of the traders in Begumpet, Reddy said there were irregularities in the land acquisition and allotment. "

I see vested interests of real estate sector behind the move.

We will request the High Court to order a CBI probe into it," Rajeev said.
Source-times of india

Airport rail construction to start in May



Airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II said on Thursday the construction of a railway network connecting Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and Jakarta city center will begin in May this year.

Indra Cahya, the head of the project management unit with Angkasa Pura II, confirmed the construction schedule, saying the state-owned railway company PT KAI would start placing materials around the M-1 Gate, an alternative access route to th airport.

“We will close the M-1 Gate to give space to construction activities,” Indra added.

In addition, Angkasa Pura II general affairs manager Yudi Setiawan said the construction of the railway network was part of the grand design of Soekarno-Hatta.

As part of the grand design, the airport operator is developing the apron of Terminal 3. “The facility and capacity of Terminal 3’s apron will be equal to other international airports across the world,” he added.

According to him, the airport operator also plans to develop Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 and double their capacity to 18 million passengers. He said all services at the airport would remain in operation during the construction process.
Source-the jakarta post

Proceedings of the conciliation held on 02.04.2014 at New Delhi - AISMA

 

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