Feb 7, 2016

MY STORY: Indian Railways Surprised Me with the Way It Handled an Accident

Sujay Ravikumar shares his pleasant encounter with the Indian Railways.

On Friday, the country woke up to the news of a train accident in Tamil Nadu, causing injuries to a over a dozen people. Unfortunately, such incidents have been alarmingly regular for many years now.
Have you ever wondered what happens to the trains that are scheduled to go on the same tracks after an accident?

Photo source: allindiaroundup.com

One may expect confusion and chaos, characteristic of public sector responses to emergencies in India. Here is my first-hand account.

I was on the Shatabdi Express from Chennai to Mysuru on Friday morning when the train stopped for an unusually long time in Jolarpettai station in Tamil Nadu, about halfway through our journey. What happened next was as unexpected as it was pleasant. The Train Ticket Examiner (TTE) made an announcement that another train had derailed on the way to Bengaluru and the servicemen were unable to clear the track. Therefore, our train could not continue beyond this station. He stated, in a calm manner, that all passengers heading to Bengaluru should disembark and avail one of two options to reach their destination – board any of the 15 buses that were arranged for Shatabdi Express passengers to go to Bengaluru, or wait for another train arriving in 1 hour. Passengers heading to Mysuru could board another train from Bengaluru.

Most passengers proceeded to exit the train with their luggage and cross the bridge towards the station exit. I was surprised to see the 15 buses had been proactively booked and already parked near the gate. Once we boarded our bus, an official marked our attendance to document which alternative mode of transport we chose, before the bus left for Majestic Bus Terminal in Bengaluru.

The entire process, from the initial halting announcement to the departure of the buses, took less than 30 minutes, without any panic, confusion or even any special request. Three hours later, we arrived at our destination with all our luggage in hand.

Kudos to Indian Railways, Southern Railways, the bus service and countless nameless railway officials for proactively and seamlessly managing the entire experience for Shatabdi passengers. Who knows how many such trains and passengers have faced similar responses? While rail safety remains a key issue of national importance, the rail authorities demonstrated extraordinary professionalism to service inconvenienced passengers in an emergency situation!
Source - the better india

It is time to end all kinds of subsidies on Indian Railways

The news report that Indian Railways is exploring the option of ending concessional tickets to those travelling in first class air conditioned coaches is encouraging. These concession which are enjoyed by more than four dozen categories of passengers like senior citizens, artists, journalists, handicapped, persons undergoing medical treatment and so on fly against the very rationale of a subsidy.

After all why should the government and the general public and Indian industry which utilise railways services pay through there noose to let a few people enjoy the facilities of high end services? Real subsidies, by definition, are generally meant only for those who cannot afford basic services. In fact such irrational subsidies has made even forced many Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains to run at a loss.

Ending such subsidies will not only save an amount of Rs 1400 crore but it will also send the right signal that the Indian Railways is finally rising to the occasion and is serious on bringing about a major re-haul of the system. This is all the more necessary because the implementation of the seventh pay commission recommendations in the next railways budget will weigh down heavily on railway finances and leave it with hardly anything for meeting urgent investment needs.

Ending of the first class travel subsides can only be a first step in cutting down railway subsidies. This is because the apart from first class travel the railways subsidise other commercial activities including freight and other passenger services. For instance railways allow major concession for carrying freight like food grain, vegetable, milk and other food stuff. It also gives concessions for carrying other freight like coal, cement, ore and a host of other products.

Such concessions offered by the railways has been justified for decades using the argument that it keeps commodity prices low for the domestic producers and for exports and contribute to boosting the overall level of activity in the economy. This kind of argument has lost its credibility because such un-remunerative pricing has shrunk profit margins and forced railways to raise tariffs on other products and made its services a burden on the other sectors of the economy.

This is all the more so because the railways incur huge losses on passenger traffic which utilises nearly 60% of the network capacity of the railways even when they collect just about one third of the total traffic earnings. In fact most recent estimates show that the Indian Railways loose around heavily on the subsidised passenger services.

A large part of the subsidised passenger traffic is on account of the suburban services operated by the railways in the major cities. There is no reason why the Indian Railways should subsidise city transport services which fall under the purview of states government. Ideally all suburban services should be hived off and the subsidy burden must be shifted to the state governments.

The railways efforts to subsidise passenger fares and freight rates on food and other important products has jacked up freight rates on other products that it has adversely impacted on the ratio of passenger fare and freight rates. Thus we find that while all countries with modern efficient railway network like China, France and Korea have a passenger fare freight rate ratio of more than one (which means that earnings on passenger fares are higher than from freight fares) the ratio in India has shrunk to just 0.3.

Reversing these adverse pricing policies will not only help improve the performance of the railways but also allow it to mobilise more resources to meet its commitments and to finance new investments. In fact a recent report on the railways has pointed out the social costs borne by the Indian Railways on carrying essential commodities below cost, providing cheap passenger services, operating uneconomic rail lines and other similar activities has imposed a burden of around Rs 24,886 crore on the Indian Railways each year.

So any efforts to bring the railways back on tract would require that the political leadership either put an end to all such sops or ensure that these obligations of the railways are funded directly from the government budget. So the railways should rise to the occasion and follow up on the moves to cut high end passenger subsidies with other measures so that railways subsidy is finally restricted to unreserved passenger services to the maximum.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
Source - times of india

5 Things The Indian Railways Can Learn From Japan To Make Travel Safe For Commuters

In a recent press conference, India's railway minister Suresh Prabhu spoke about focusing on strengthening the safety measures to prevent rail-related accidents in the upcoming Rail Budget for 2016-17. A number of railway accidents reported in the past claimed the lives of hundreds and left thousands with severe injuries. "Our target is zero accident level and we are working towards that goal. One has to migrate to a new platform and devise a long-term plan for this," Prabhu said in an interaction with reporters.

Prabhu specifically spoke about Japan's safety record in train operations being the best in the world and that the Indian Railways is working with them for the same as a part of an agreement with the country. So what can India learn from the Japanese as far is rail security is concerned?
1. Track Maintenance

Indian Railways

Almost all of the railway accidents that caused the loss of a number of innocent lives have been due to the trains being derailed from the tracks. India needs to have a system in place which is better, more effective, and has a failure rate of next to nothing.
2. Signalling

Technology is touching new heights but we are yet to harness and implement this as far as the Indian Railways are concerned. A number of rail accidents which go unreported are because of miscommunication or lack of signals.

3. The gap between the train and the platform


There have been many freak accidents where a passenger has had a limb stuck in the gap between the train and the platform. The new stations need to make sure the distance between them is as less as possible.
4. Suicide Gates


The number one factor for death in Japan are suicides. In fact, more people die of suicides there than of natural causes. To counter this, the Japan railways have installed suicide barriers on their stations to prevent people from jumping in front of a moving train. Now, the number of people committing suicide by jumping in front of a train might not be as high as in Japan, but there are still a number of freak accidents with people coming under an oncoming train. Gates will even help over-enthusiastic Indians who don't understand the concept of staying behind the safety line when the trains come in.
5. Signage


While there are a number of security signs at a metro station in India, the same cannot be said about inter-city railway stations. Diagrams warning people of the potential dangers that exist at a railway station is a must.

These are only speculations. However, to know what changes the Japanese will make at the Indian railways, we'll have to wait for the upcoming railway budget on February 25th.
Source - indiat imes





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