Jul 28, 2014

Mumbai has the cheapest railway fares in the world!

The most important things in life are free, and the second-most important are, at least in this city, heavily subsidised. While there was understandable outcry after the railways proposed a more-than-100 per cent hike in season passes to shore up its cash chest, you, Mumbaikar, will be grateful to know that the rail tariffs in your city are the cheapest when compared to other metropolitans in the world, from London to Tehran.


Last month, after the railways’ announcement of the unprecedented fare hike, Mumbaikars flooded ticket counters to buy monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly passes before the new tariffs were to roll out. But due to a chorus of protesting voices from political and civil quarters, the railways was forced on its back foot, and rolled back the hike to a flat 14.2 per cent across all fares for both suburban and long-distance trains.

Railway officials say A-rate international cities manage to provide better amenities onboard and at terminals because they charge higher fares

But now that we have crossed that bridge of a mountainous hike safely, it may be prudent to coolly assess how fares in the city compare with others in the world, based on current rates of conversion. The nation’s financial capital is routinely compared with other international cities on various criteria, transport being the foremost.

Mumbai’s suburban rail network ferries a mammoth 75 lakh people every day 40 lakh on Central and 35 lakh on Western Railway. And it charges a mere 11 paise per kilometre from a commuter in second class, which sees inordinately dense crowds during peak hours, since it takes the load of 70 per cent of all rail passengers.

Even a first-class commuter pays not more than 37 paise per kilometre, still one of the cheapest in the world. Consider, too, that there isn’t much in the way of disparity between second and first-class compartments the latter’s only advantage being cushioned seats on which three people sit, instead of four as is the case with second class.

The most expensive city for train travel is London, where one spends at least Rs 29.20 per kilometre. Presently, the United Kingdom’s pound is out of leaps when compared to the Indian rupee. Next in line is the railway network operating in Tokyo, where the fares are Rs 18.90 per kilometre, followed by New York at Rs 11.80/km.

The cheapest suburban rail transport after Mumbai is in Tehran, which charges around 30 paise/km. You, of course, pay for this hyper affordability in other ways mostly by compromising on service. Railway officials say A-rate international cities manage to provide better amenities onboard and at terminals because they charge higher fares.

“We can only expect world-class rail network, better infrastructure and modern amenities at railway stations in Mumbai if the fares are competitive. With the rollback, the tariffs hardly make any difference in our earnings,” said a senior railway official.

Even Shanghai, whose model the politicians here keep citing as exemplary, charges Rs 4.80/km from each passenger. During the recently released Railway Budget, Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said that the escalation in tariffs was a tough measure, but was necessary to rake in an additional R8,000 crore in the railways’ kitty. However, now that the original revision in fares has been revoked, this target revenue remains elusive.

Transport experts, nevertheless, feel that the augmentation of train services has to come with limited fares, since Indian Railways is not the only loss making public transport. The world over, railway undertakings incur losses to provide citizens efficient, reasonably priced services.


Metro rail to acquire 612 sq yards Iskcon land

HYDERABAD: After a protracted battle, the Hyderabad district administration and Hyderabad Metro Rail authorities will soon acquire 612.77 square yard land belonging to International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) near St. John's Rotary in Secunderabad for metro rail corridor-III (Nagole- Shilparamam stretch). Earlier, the HMRL had wanted 1339.35 sq metres (1,601.85 sq yards) of temple land, but after protests and several rounds of discussions, the land to be acquired was pruned to 612.77 sq yards.

Protesting the move to acquire their property, Iskcon management had suggested to HMRL to change alignment without disturbing the temple land. HMRL rejected the request stating that the alignment was set by a professional team from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation by taking several technical aspects and safety point of view into consideration. However, keeping in view the religious sentiments attached to the temple, the HMRL sent revised plans to reduce the extent from 1,601.85 sq yards to 612.77 sq yards.

Responding to the HMRL plan, Hyderabad collector Mukesh Meena and land acquisition officer conducted inspection in October last and sent a report to HMRL. Later, the HMRL asked the collector to acquire Iskcon land as per the Land Acquisition Act.

At a meeting with Iskcon representatives recently, HMRL managing director NVS Reddy convinced them and assured that none of the assets of temple would be affected. "After getting a report from Hyderabad collector Mukesh Kumar Meena to issue a draft notification to acquire Iskcon land, we had issued a notification on July 6," sources in land acquisition office, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corpration (GHMC), told TOI.

"As per the notification, the land owner has to send objections within 15 days from the date of notification. As there was no response from Iskcon representatives even 15 days after the notification (July 21), we will go ahead with acquisition of the land. However, we will invite Iskcon representatives in a day or two to take their consent before acquiring the land," the official added.
Source..times of india

Zonal railway asked for Rs 10 cr, NDA's rail budget gave it Rs 25 cr

Generosity of govt raises curiosity of officials in zonal railway as well as a section of Railway Board. Railways may have cited lack of funds as the reason to deny funds to many projects across India, but one item in the rail budget has been sanctioned more than what was originally demanded - and it is not something the transporter cannot do without immediately.

The budget has sanctioned Rs 25 crore for the purchase of 10 mini, portable biodiesel plants - without officially trying out even one. Northern Railway, which got the money, had asked to buy only four.

The generosity of the ministry has raised the curiosity of officials in the zonal railway as well as a section of the Railway Board because the transporter has yet to ascertain the real efficacy of these machines, and also because it is universal budgetary practice to sanction less money than what is demanded.

Notably, the budget has allocated only Rs 1,000 for the purpose. Officials said the remaining Rs 24,999,9000 will come in the form of re-appropriation as the year progresses and purchase is finalised. “Sanction is what matters. Allocation can increase depending on progress,” said a ministry official.

The machine railways wants to purchase is largely manufactured by foreign farms, which employ local agents to lobby for them in India. The procurement, as usual, will happen through a tender and the lowest bidder will get the order.

In its Machinery and Plant Programme, 2014, Northern Railway had proposed four mini bio-diesel plants, each of 4kl capacity. The justification given was that the portable nature of the plants would enable bio-diesel production even in remote locations where raw material is easily available. The money demanded for this purpose was Rs 10 crore.

“The plant pays for itself in about two years apart from bringing about intangible benefits to the environment,” the official pre-budget document reads.

The usual custom in railways is to buy such technology on a low scale to try out and see if it suits the desired purpose. New technology in railways is also vetted by Research Designs and Standards Organisation.

Railway Board officials said with diesel bills touching the sky and the budget laying down a policy roadmap to use more biodiesel in the future, the procurement was felt necessary. “Indian Railways will start using Bio-Diesel up to 5 per cent of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives. This will save precious foreign exchange substantially,” the rail budget speech says.
Source..financial express

China to build more highways, rail lines, airports in Tibet

BEIJING: China has unveiled plans to build more highways and airports in Tibet by 2020 to make travel to the "roof of the world" a lot easier with projects underway to construct a rail network to connect places along the borders with India, Nepal and Bhutan. 

The plans include 1,10,000 kms of highways and 1,300 kms of railways, China's Ministry of Transport said. The plan is to complete a primary network of railways by then with 1,300 kilometers of railway in operation, it said adding that the country will also build more airports in Tibet in addition to the six existing ones. 

The rail line connecting Tibet's provincial capital Lhasa with Xigaze (also known as Shigatse) close to the Indian border in Sikkim as well as Nepal and Bhutan which is currently under trials would become operational next month. 

Another new line connecting Lhasa to Nyingchi in the east is also expected to start construction soon. Nyingchi is located right on top of Arunachal Pradesh. The railway expansion will connect Nepal, Bhutan and India by 2020, state-run Global Times reported. 

Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of Tibet said that during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period, the construction of a railway connecting Shigatse with Gyirong county, which has a checkpoint connecting Nepal and with Yatung county, (close to Indian border near Sikkim and Bhutan) a trade centre bordering India and Bhutan, will start. 

Building roads connecting rural areas has become the policy focus. The authorities plan to make sure that by 2020, every village in Tibet has at least one road connecting with the outside, state-run Xinhua news agency said. 

Tibet has received about 83 billion yuan (US $ 13 billion) in transport investment during the last 20 years. In ancient times, it usually took months even years for people living in the country's middle and eastern regions to get to Tibet. 

Although airlines, railways and expressways have made travels to Tibet much more convenient, the transport infrastructures in the autonomous region are still outdated, the report said.
Source..economic times





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