Dec 3, 2014

A New Look for Indian Railways

An Indian railway worker carries packaged food at a railway station in Bangalore on Feb. 26, 2013. Manjunath Kiran/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Indian Railways is trying to get a makeover.

“We want to improve passenger amenities,” said Suresh Prabhu, India’s new minister for railways, via a video conference at an event organized by the Asia Society in Mumbai Wednesday.

India’s nationalized rail network carries around 30 million passengers a day and has a budget for 2014/15 of 654 billion rupees ($10 billion.)

So what will the new railways look like? Mr. Prabhu gave some clues Wednesday.

Better food: Train travelers have long grumbled about the quality of food served on Indian trains including watery dal (lentil soup) and thick rotis (Indian bread.)

Mr. Prabhu said he’s considering a plan to set up base kitchens that will make good quality food to supply trains.

He’s also exploring an option to tie up with restaurants along train routes, so that commuters can order food from those restaurants, and the food would be delivered onto the train by Railway staff.

Some private websites have lately started offering this facility on their own, such as travelkhana.com, yatrachef.com and railtiffin.com.

Mobile ticket booking: The Indian Railways’ website irctc.co.in, which allows travelers to book tickets online, is one of the most-frequently visited websites in India.

Now, Indian Railways wants to introduce an option for travelers to be able to book train tickets on their cellphones. Mr. Prabhu didn’t clarify if he was referring to a new app for this booking.

He said Wednesday that a technical glitch has delayed the launch, but passengers can expect it soon.

Cleanliness: The Railways are looking to improve the quality of toilets and waiting spaces at train stations, said Mr. Prabhu. “We also want to improve the coaches,” he said. The plan is to retrofit existing train coaches and set up a factory for making new coaches, he added.

“In the next few months we should be able to put in place a complete blueprint” to achieve these goals without denting the rail finances, said Mr. Prabhu.
Source-wsj.

Wi-Fi for New Delhi station from Thursday



NEW DELHI: Surfing the internet is set to become faster and easier at the New Delhi railway station from Thursday.
Railways minister Suresh Prabhu will inaugurate the facility aimed at providingWi-Fi services to passengers at the busiest station in the national capital. 

The initiative is being implemented by Rail Tel - a railways PSU providingtelecom infrastructure. A senior railways official pointed out that the trial at allthe platforms of the station has almost been completed. 

The service provider is finalizing the nitty-gritty like free time limit and the charges for using the facility. The facility would be provided at other major stations in the city after judging the response at the New Delhi station. 

Bangalore City railway station was the first in the country to have its own Wi-Fi network for passengers which was commissioned in October. 

The facility was made available to passengers, on their mobile phones, free of charge for the first 30 minutes. After that, you can purchase more browsing time online through your credit card, or buy a scratch card at the Wi-Fi helpdesk. These are priced at Rs 25 for 30 minutes and Rs 35 for one hour, and are valid for 24 hours. 

The high-speed Wi-Fi internet facility to rail passengers was promised in the railway budget by then minister D V SadanandaGowda. 

The railways PSU RailTel is mandated to provide Wi-Fi facilities at other 'A1' & 'A' category stations as well. 

Railways has set an ambitious target of introducing Wi-Fi across 400 stations all over the country, and in some select trains (Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duranto category).

Wi-Fi facility in HowrahRajdhani Express has been provided as a pilot project which would be extended to other elite trains. This facility will be provided selecting suitable technology for continuous connectivity with the web when the train is on the move. 

As of now the work is in progress to provide WiFi facility at 75 'A1' category stations such as Dadar and CST in Mumbai, Thane, Chennai Central and Trivandrum Central. 

An official said that these stations are expected to be covered in the next 12 months and subsequently work in A category stations will be taken up.
Source-times of india

CR to take over 100-yr-old Mumbai Port Railway



An old wagon of Mumbai Port Trust

Exactly 100 years after it was constructed, the Central Railway (CR) is set to take over the 10-km-long Mumbai Port Trust Railway for operations. It will also help CR expand its existing network and create space for the elevated fast harbour line corridor that is now being proposed to decongest the existing harbour line. 

"The Mumbai Port Trust had been asking us to take over the operations and we have agreed. The final decision in this regard lies with the Mumbai Port Trust authorities and the policy makers," General Manager Brigadier Sunil Kumar Sood told Mirror. Mumbai Port Trust officials said the Rani Jadhav committee has been asked to work on a plan for the port's development and the decision will depend on the final report by the committee. The issue of taking over the railway was discussed at the recent meeting of CR held on November 25. Officials said an agreement on taking over the port trust railway was sent to the port trust authorities on September 8 this year wherein certain terms and conditions have been stipulated for taking over Port's railway operations. 

The project will also facilitate harbour line's fast corridor that is being proposed to be built between Mumbai CST and Panvel and is expected to come up by 2019. It is supposed to run air-conditioned trains on the lines of Metro trains and had been planned to help the new airport. Its estimated cost is between Rs 12,000 to Rs 14,000 crore and is likely to cut down the time from existing 75 minutes to about 35 to 40 minutes as the alignment would only have 10 stations. There is also a plan to further extend suburban railway till Ballard Pier for which this transfer will be of big help.
Source-mumbai mirror

Central Railway to award people giving recorded evidence of crime



The next time if you witness a crime occurring on the railway premises or on trains it would be of great help to have it recorded in forms of photographs or videos. This is what happened in Haryana when a video of three youths getting beaten up by two girls was recorded. Those providing such recorded evidence will be rewarded by the authorities.

"Central Railway (CR), as a part of its consistent efforts to provide safety and security to its passengers, has now announced an incentive scheme. According to the scheme, anybody reporting any incident of crime on the trains and railway premises will be suitably rewarded," said Narendra Patil, chief public relation officer of CR.

As per the scheme, a brainchild of the general manager of CR, any individual or detective agency who provide documentary evidence of criminals and crimes like robbery, dacoity, chain snatching, theft of mobiles or laptops, crime against women, etc. will be rewarded. However, the proof should help in registering First Information Report (FIR) and most importantly ascertaining the identity of the culprits.

"The reward will be of the order of Rs5,000 for heinous crimes and Rs1,000 for crimes like chain snatching, etc.," added Patil.

On Friday, a pregnant lady recorded a video of two sisters beating three eve-teasers on board a moving public bus in Haryana. This helped in not only nailing the culprits but also became evidence helping the sisters. This video went viral on Sunday.
Source-DNA

Railway officials to learn 'upkeep practices' from 5-star hotels

New Delhi: Taking ahead its cleanliness drive, Railways has asked officials to to visit airports, five-star hotels and corporate hospitals to learn best "upkeep practices".

The Railway Board has issued a set of guidelines to all Zonal Railways for inviting tenders for engaging reputed agencies for the purpose of outsourcing of cleanliness at 50 major railway stations.

According to the guidelines, "The Medical Officers/ Commercial Officers who are in-charge of station cleanliness and Chief Health Inspectors (CHIs) should visit well maintained public places like airports, five-star hotels and corporate hospitals to observe and learn from their upkeep practices."

Flooded with complaints of about lack of cleanliness and unhygienic conditions at rail premises, Railways has decided to engage private agencies to keep the stations, platforms and trains clean.

Eyeing a changeover, Railways has sought steam cleaners to be used by contractors to remove stains from all smooth surfaces such as floors, walls, wash-basins and urinals.

The guidelines emphasize use of bio-enzyme products to kill bad odour in urinals and in concrete aprons on the tracks.

Agencies will be selected through tendering process, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Some of the general guidelines are cleanliness contract should be an integrated contract covering the entire station which shall include the whole geographical area of the station covering tracks, platforms, all parts of the building, concourse, approach road and parking area.

The scope of the cleanliness contracts shall include all areas and aspects of cleanliness - cleaning of the entire station area including tracks, rag picking, disinfection, pest and rodent control, garbage collection, segregation of waste and disposal.

The guidelines have specified that pest and rodent control should be an integral part of the integrated cleanliness contract.

It has also sought regular supervision of the contractors of AC waiting halls on platforms, vehicle parking lots, loading and unloading of parcels and catering units in the station should be undertaken.

Fifty major stations have been selected for integrated cleanliness contract. Among them are Nasik Road, Howrah, Sealdah, Patna, Mughalsarai, Bhubaneswar, New Delhi, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Kathgodam, Jaipur, Chennai Central, Mumbai Central Main, Bandra Terminus and Bhopal.
Source-zee news

Do-It-Yourself: A village near Delhi that built its own railway station

It is cool, inspiring and the ultimate do-it-yourself ( DIY )project. Almost four years ago, a remote village outside Delhi did the unthinkable — built a railway station on a land allotted by the railways.

This is how the story goes: The villagers of Tajnagar had to travel miles to catch a train as the village just had a railway line passing through the area but no station. An articlein the HyperVocal reported that after several requests to the railway officials since 1982, residents finally took matters in their own hand, pooled in their own resources and put forth a proposal to build their own railway station.

According to villagers, commute was especially tough when they had to travel to Gurgaon or Delhi. Hukum Chand, another villager, was quoted by The Times of India as saying:

"There are students who go to college. Until now we had to go to Hailimandi or Patli to catch a train. We have been raising the demand [for a station] since 1982, but the railways told us they did not have funds. So, finally we decided to craft our own destiny."

Representational image. AFP

Despite repeated requests, the railway officials would dismiss the villagers and tell them that there were bigger and better transport related issues that they had to solve. Speaking to BBC in 2010, a Northern Railway spokesperson Anant Swarup said:

"The railways have limited resources and we have to prioritise, and it was not a matter of priority for us to build a station in Tajnagar."

But frazzled by long commutes, the villagers, mainly from agricultural background, pooled in their own money and raised Rs 2,080,786. Once the finances were in place, the residents approached the railway officials and put forth a proposal to build their own railway station. A report in The Times of India quoted former village sarpanch Ranjeet Singh as saying:

"Most of the 3,000-plus people living in the village are agriculturists. But such was the burning desire to have a station in the village, everybody contributed according to their capacity. Ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 75,000 they donated money for the station and we started construction in January, 2008."

While the railway officials refused to heed to the village's demand, they were happy to help with the specifications and helped them design a building. The officials even promised to make arrangements for the trains to stop at the Tajnagar station once the it was up and running. "The railway authorities considered their proposal and found it feasible. So it was given the go-ahead," Swarup told BBC.

In January 2010, the Tajnagar railway station was ready to receive trains. It took the villagers seven months for the construction work. The area was badly connected by roads but the officials said that the new Tajnagar station would benefit about 25,000 people.
Source-first post

Private stations can be a win-win for railways, operators

The idea of modernising and running India's large railway stations in the public-private-partnership (PPP) mode has been dusted and taken off the shelf. The prime minister has announced that this will be done initially in around a dozen stations, with trains running below and the space above developed as commercial property. The idea of modernising railway stations under a PPP arrangement was aired several years ago by the then railway minister, Lalu Prasad, who visualised attracting Rs 15,000 crore investment in 22 stations. A beginning was made in seeking to transform New Delhi Railway Station for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But this was a non-starter as the Planning Commission and the railways could not agree on a model concession agreement for such projects. Now, with a more powerful prime minister, Narendra Modi, at the helm and the Planning Commission out of the way, it is quite likely that prominent Indian railway stations will be put under the PPP mode.

Running railway stations or owning rolling stock like wagons and even entire trains is not the core operation of the railways, which is to maintain tracks and signalling and run trains. So it is entirely logical that the prime real estate that every station represents be leveraged to unlock capital and build valuable commercial space and business. But the more important issues are how this should be done and whether the railways in their present condition are capable of doing a good job of it. Their experience in bringing in private partners has been at best mixed. As there are no private competitors in the railway business and railway services are a utility, it is critical to get the regulatory framework right. Catering on long-distance trains, for example, has been outsourced with negative results. Quality initially jumped but thereafter declined, indicating that the railways are neither very efficient nor sufficiently free of corruption to do a good job of monitoring private delivery.

The key task before Mr Modi is to have a railways minister who can bring about a culture change in the organisation, so that it can successfully venture out into new forms of management. He has already made a false start, and the railways minister has had to be changed. In the process, a crucial six months have been lost. Hopefully the new minister, Suresh Prabhu, who comes with a reputation for both efficiency and integrity, will be able to deliver. For private development and management of railway stations to succeed, the concession agreement has to get the pricing right, so that the operator can earn a decent return without overcharging passengers and incentives to improve efficiency. It is also critical to lay down minimum standards of service and ensure that they are maintained. There should be penalty for failing to make the mark and provision to get rid of a non-performer and bring in a new partner. None of this is rocket science, but the bureaucracy in the railways has to do much to get it right.
Source-business-standard

Railway drops Mamata's medical college project

New Delhi: Former Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's ambitious proposal of setting up medical colleges across the country has been dropped, Lok Sabha was told on Monday.

Banerjee had announced in the 2009-10 Rail Budget setting up of medical colleges attached to existing railway hospitals through PPP mode to give higher education facilities to children of railway personnel at 18 locations.

The identified locations were Barasat, Kharagpur, Garden Reach, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bilaspur, Lucknow, Bhubaneswar, Mysore, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Jodhpur, Dibrugarh, Bhopal, Jammu and Trivandrum.

"As per Medical Council of India rules, PPP medical colleges with Government (Railway) Hospital is not permitted. This Ministry has therefore dropped the proposal of setting up of medical colleges," Minister of State for Railway Manoj Sinha said in a written reply.

After the budget announcement, RITES, a railways subsidiary, was awarded the work at an estimated cost of Rs 187 lakh besides service tax for consultancy and preparing bid documents for selection of a private partner to implement the project.

RITES had submitted the preliminary reports of feasibility studies of Chennai, Secunderabad and Kharagpur. RITES had been paid Rs 29.41 lakh.
Source-zee news

 

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