The salient features of the overall development and expansion plans of Indian Railways, which have been accorded a higher priority inthe Common Minimum Programme (CMP) by the Government.
Indian Railways have staged a dramatic turnaround over the last two years under the UPA Government at the Centre. Modernisation of Railways, safety and security of passengers, replacement and renewal of assets, track renewal, improvement in passenger amenities, reduced expenditure, increase in productivity and reduction in operating ratio, computerisation of railway systems, including passenger and freight traffic, induction of new technologies for signalling and telecom and prevention of leakages of revenue, have been the salient features of the overall development and expansion plans of Indian Railways, which have been accorded a higher priority in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) by the Government.
Financial Performance/Revenue Generation
Capacity augmentation, enhancement of revenues through significant growth in volumes by adopting various aggressive marketing initiatives in freight and coaching business, technological upgradations, cutting down losses and route-wise focused investment strategy are the main thrust areas of the rail budget. The Plan outlay of Rs.23,475 crore for the year 2006-07 is the largest plan size formulated so far.
The targets of passenger, goods and other coaching earnings for the fiscal 2006-07 have been set at levels implying significant annual growth of around 12 per cent, 11 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, over approximates for 2005-06.
The Railways have generated Rs. 36,405.20 crore of revenue earnings from freight traffic during the financial year 2005-06, as compared to Rs 30,778.40 crore during the corresponding period last year, showing an increase of 18.3 per cent. Railways carried 667.39 million tonnes of freight traffic during 2005-06, as compared to 602.78 million tonnes carried during the corresponding period last year, an increase of 10.72 per cent. The Net Tonne Kilo Metres (NTKM) went up from 4,07,398 million during the financial year ending March 2005, to 4,41,140 million during 2005-06, an increase of 8.28 per cent.
The total passenger earnings during this period were Rs.15,041.42 crore, an increase of 6.58 per cent over the previous year.
Railways’ operating ratio now stands at 83.6 per cent, which is as per the targeted operating ratio during the current fiscal, aiming still higher at an operating ratio of 77 per cent during the coming years.
It is worth noting that in spite of mixed operations (passenger and freight), the Indian Railways are in the same league as some of the Class I Railways in the United States.
Railway’s internal generation of resources before dividend, which stand at about Rs.13,000 crore in the previous fiscal, are targeted to go up to Rs.20,000 crore by the year 2006-07.
Year of Passenger Service with a smile
The Year 2006 has been declared as the year of Passenger Service with a Smile. To make Indian Railways more aesthetic, comfortable and passenger friendly with lighting, water supply, cleanliness and a friendly railwayman to help every customer in need, the Ministry has issued a list of ‘touch and feel’ points to all the General Managers of Zonal Railways.
The ‘touch and feel’ points are – Improvement in cleanliness standard in trains and at stations; Improvement in lighting particularly on platforms, concourse, waiting halls, circulating area, booking, reservation and enquiry offices; Improvement in circulating area at all-important stations and making it congestion free and smooth with proper demarcated parking areas; Upgradation of waiting rooms, waiting halls and retiring rooms; Installation of Train Running Position Indication Boards at all important stations; Improvement in announcement systems at stations; Upgradation of Booking and Enquiry offices; Provide more counters to substantially reduce waiting period; Ensure availability of drinking water at all stations; Development of adequate sitting space in waiting halls/platforms; Improvement in quality of food supplied in trains; and Improvement in quality of bedrolls in trains and redressal of public grievances. The schemes include round the clock grievance control rooms.
Railways have formulated a New Catering Policy in order to improve the standards of food being served in the trains and generate more revenue. Under this policy, the catering contracts will now be given through open tendering system.
In the New Catering Policy, provision of 25 per cent reservation in award of licences of small catering units at ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ category stations, and 49.5 per cent reservation at other categories of stations has been made for SC, ST, OBCs, Minorities, war widows and widows of railway employees, freedom fighters and weaker sections of society. These categories have been kept out of tendering process in allotment of licences.
With a view to improving the patronisation of higher classes, where occupancy level is relatively low as compared to that in Sleeper Class and 3-AC classes, a Scheme of Frequent Travellers (SOFT) has been launched, which is applicable to I AC, 2 AC and AC Chair Car classes. A frequent traveller will get a complimentary train trip after certain numbers of reward points are accumulated.
It has been proposed to run Garib Rath trains between a few destinations in the country. These will be fully air-conditioned trains having fares about 25 per cent lower than the present AC 3 Tier fares and will run on the Delhi-Patna, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Saharsa-Amritsar sectors. The train will be gradually introduced in all State capitals of the country.
The Tatkal booking can now be done five days in advance, in addition to availing of auto upgradation. The service is available for all trains with internet and e-ticketing facility as well. In addition, there is the facility of generation of waitlisted tickets also.
Despite an increase in diesel and petrol prices, Railways have not increased the passenger fares. To achieve this growth, Railways has strengthened passenger profile management system, rationalised reservation quotas of various types and have reduced coaches from trains running empty and attached these coaches to the trains which had long waiting lists.
To improve occupancy in higher classes through a sound strategy, Railways have introduced the scheme for upgradation of passengers in a lower class to vacant seats in a higher class with effect from January 26, 2006. The resultant vacancies created by this upgradation, which is without any extra charge, is being filled in by the waitlisted passengers in all the classes.
At present waitlisted passengers who are not confirmed, have to first get their tickets cancelled and then stand in a queue to buy a new ticket for a new train. Railways have now decided to permit the facility of change of date of journey, train. class etc. on the ticket of a waitlisted passenger also. Through all these measures, the overall occupancy of the passenger trains will improve and the passenger earnings will increase without increasing passenger fares.
Reservation of tickets through Internet is available for all trains, which are covered through computerised reservation. At present, any customer can book tickets through the Internet, provided he can make payment online.
To popularise booking through Internet, the delivery of tickets has been extended to 181 cities. Payment options have been liberalised by introducing the facility of direct Debit through Internet and Prepaid Cash Cards in addition to Credit Cards. The booking hours have been extended from 4.00 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. on all weekdays and from 4.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. on Sunday. In addition, facility of booking through mobile phones has been introduced along with booking of tickets through e-ticketing where conventional ticket is dispensed with.
Integrated Train Enquiry System has been launched for knowing Train Running Status, PNR Status, and availability of accommodation through Interactive Voice Recording System. National Train Enquiry System has also been established to provide updated position to the passengers These Centres will have the capacity to handle one lakh calls a day. The system operates on the ‘Real Time Input’ basis by the Control Offices across the country. A Web linkage has also been provided on the Website (www.trainenquiry.com).
Railways have started the work on four mega bridges, which include Patna, Munger and Kosi bridges in Bihar and Bogibeel bridge in Assam The bridge on Ganga River near Patna will be constructed as rail-cum-road bridge.
All the major stations in the country, including Bihar, viz., Mathura, Madhepura, Darbhanga, Patna Saheb, Kishenganj, Tirupati, Naya Gaon, Araria, Motihari, etc. will be developed as model stations and, in addition to provision of various passenger amenities at these stations, pit lines on need basis will also be constructed.
The work of Rail Wheel Factory at Naya Gaon, near Chhapra, in Saran District of Bihar, commenced on July 22, 2005. The construction work of the proposed wheel factory is likely to be completed by 2009-2010 at an estimated cost of Rs. 470 crore. It would be the third wheel factory and will produce 1,00,000 wheels per year.
Fifteen new concrete sleeper plants are being set up. These will generate direct employment of 8 lakh man-days and indirect employment of 12 lakh man-days per year.
Some of the other measures include increasing the number of coaches to 23-24 in about 190 popular passenger trains and subsequent extension of platform lengths on about 250 more stations, introduction of 55 new trains, extension of 37 trains and increase in frequency of 12 trains besides making of over 200 mail/express trains superfast.
Railways have taken steps to bring down the Turn Around Time of wagons from 7 days to a target of 5.5 days by reducing the time taken in loading/unloading and transit. Railways have reduced the per unit cost of freight transportation by registering a historic 11 per cent growth in freight loading volume during the year 2005-06.
The Indian Railways have embarked upon an ambitious plan to develop two dedicated freight corridors including additional corridors for freight traffic. The two corridors will be between JNPT to Tughlakabad and Ludhiana to Sonnagar with further extension to Kolkata area in due course. On these freight corridors, higher axle load wagon and double stack containers will operate. This will not only improve the quality of rail freight services but also reduce the cost of rail transportation significantly. Railways are having discussions with the Government of Japan for funding of the two projects besides looking for funds from other sources like Public-Private Partnership, Market borrowings and leasing.
The movement of goods trains is made simple and easy throughout the country by removing almost all quotas and restrictions imposed in various corners of the country. Now, except for iron ore traffic, Railways is in a position to make available rakes throughout the country in a short time as per demands of customers.
There has been good response to the Ministry’s policy for permitting private container operators to run container trains on Indian Railways. Earlier, only the Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) was operating container trains on Indian Railways prior to the announcement of this policy. The rail routes connected with the ports have been grouped together in four categories.
A dynamic pricing policy, a discount of upto 30 per cent on incremental freight in the empty flow direction, a Loyalty Discount scheme and a long term freight discount scheme are some of the policies to generate more revenue from goods traffic.
The Claim offices at all zonal headquarters have been computerised and web enabled (www.claims.indianrail.gov.in) so as to provide online information to claimants about the status of claims. This is helping the customers to find unconnected consignments and is also proving to be a powerful tool in reducing the duplication of claims. Relevant rules and procedures pertaining to claims on goods and accident compensation are also available on the website i.e. www.indianrailways.gov.in.
Safety and Security
Safety is a prime concern of Indian Railways and adoption of new measures to improve safety is a continuous process. The measures being taken by Indian Railways to minimise incidence of accidents include adoption of modern technology for interlocking and signalling system, upgradation standards of track and rolling stock, modernisation of maintenance practices, replacement of over-aged assets and upgradation of training aids like simulators.
In a major development that will open up new vistas for innovative technologies developed by Konkan Railway for safety, the Anti-Collision Device (ACD), also known as Raksha Kavach, has been included as an accepted safety system and Railways plan to install it on the entire broad guage route by the year 2013.
In addition to giving protection against collisions at high speeds between two ACD fitted entities, the Raksha Kavach also provides additional safety features in train operations, such as detection of train parting, train actuated warning to road users at level crossings etc. Konkan Railway will be executing this work phase-wise. The device has been installed by Konkan Railway on its entire route and in Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR). The installation of Raksha Kavach (network of ACDs) on Rajdhani route of Northeast Frontier Railway has been completed.
An Action Plan is being prepared to weed out the defects and deficiencies of the system in a planned way for preventing train accidents.
As per the recommendations of the Railway Safety Review Committee, a non-lapsable Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF), amounting to Rs. 17,000 crore, for liquidating arrears of the replacement of assets, was set up in 2001-02. About 45 per cent of this amount has been earmarked for track renewal. It is planned to renew 23,000 kilometers of railway track during the Tenth Five Year Plan, i.e. 2002-07 out of which 15,328 kilometers have already been completed by the end of March 2005. For the year 2005-06, 4,000 kilometers of track renewal has been targeted.
Ø New Lines on 330 kms. have been added during May 2004-May 2006. As a measure of greater capacity augmentation in the Railway Infrastructure Network, 1523 kms. of Guage Conversion and 513 kms. of Doubling has been done
Ø New line from Jammu Tawi to Udhampur (55 kms) was inaugurated on April 13, 2005, connecting Jammu & Kashmir to the heartland of the country.
Ø New line from Hassan to Saravanbelgola (43 kms) was commissioned in February 2006.
Ø Manipur and Tripura in the North East India are sought to be brought into the Broad.
Guage Railway Map of India by declaring the following as National Projects:
Ø New line from Jiribam to Imphal Road (Tupul) – 98 km at an anticipated cost of Rs.728 crore and is targeted for completion by March, 2010.
ØNew line from Kumarghat to Agartala-109 kms at a cost of Rs.880 crore and is targeted for completion during 2006-07.
Ø Gauge conversion of Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam & Badarpur-Baraigram – 292 kms at an estimated cost of Rs.1500 crore and is targeted for completion by March 2009.
Railway Projects in J& K
Jammu-Udhampur Rail line is also a major achievement of Indian Railways. The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh flagged off the Uttar Sampark Kranti Express and dedicated the Jammu Tawi-Udhampur Rail line to the nation at Udhampur on the April 13, 2005. The 54.85 Km Jammu Udhampur Rail line is part of the ambitious Jammu-Udhampur-Shrinagar-Baramula Rail link.
The important features of this unique project include hollow tapering pier shafts raised on well/raft foundation in seismic zone of Himalayan regions, Cantilever construction of pre-stressed concrete high rise box girders, encompassing rivers, nallahs and unstable hill tops, laying tunnels through soft and medium fragile sedimentary rocky strata, accentuated by the fact that the terrain is tough, approaches are difficult and overall un-favourable working environment.
Utilisation of Vacant Railway Land
Railways propose to set up Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) for commercially exploiting unused land available with Railways. A Bill in this regard has already been passed by both the houses of Parliament during the Monsoon Session last year.
This authority will also develop railway stations in metro cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai as world-class mega terminals where Shopping Malls will be opened. The vacant railway land in other parts of the country will be commercially utilised which will not only solve the problem of trespassing of railway land but will generate additional revenue for the railways.
Clearing of Backlog Vacancies of SC/STs
In pursuance of the UPA Government’s Common Minimum Programme, a special recruitment/promotion drive has been launched to fill up the backlog vacancies of SC/STs as existing on March 31, and July 1, 2004, respectively, in a time bound manner. About 77 per cent of these vacancies have been filled so far and efforts are on to fill up the remaining vacancies.
Contribution of Railways towards Peace Initiatives
The Peace Initiatives undertaken by the UPA-led Government have shown significant results and train services have been resumed between Munabao and Khokrapar besides reviving Amritsar-Lahore train. This has given a new impetus to passenger traffic between the two countries besides improving the overall climate of trade and commerce in these countries. It is also planned to have rail links between India and countries like Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway has been inscribed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in their 29th World Heritage Committee meeting, held in Durban, South Africa. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is easily the most authentic and original rack and adhesion railway in the world. It remains much as it was at the time of its completion in September 1908, such as stations, signalling, locomotives and rolling stock.
Applications for consideration of Kalka-Shimla Railway, Neral Matheran near Mumbai and Kangra Valley Railway (Joginder Nagar-Pathankot) as world heritage sites are already under examination with UNESCO. Besides these, other mountain railways like have unique qualities for the inscription by UNESCO.
Fairy Queen, the famous steam locomotive of Indian Railways completed 150 years this year and is still in working condition.