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Railways may soon be having an independent regulator, thanks to Debroy committee

Renowned economist Bibek Debroy headed panel set for improvement of the Indian railways has suggested an independent regulator for railways. As per a news report in The Economic Times, the panel submitted the over 300-page report to the railways ministry last week and the ministry is expected to present it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for consideration before the ball is set rolling. The employees’ unions and the opposition parties reacted sharply to the report, interpreting it as an attempt to privatise Indian Railways in the name of liberalisation.

“This is not a report and not a government where you should expect that all recommendations are accepted on a given day and then nothing happens over the next 20 years,” Debroy told the financial daily. “Implementing the report is a series of incremental steps, so you will soon have an announcement of an independent regulator and a first step in that direction will be drafting of the bill.”

According to Debroy, the committee has proposed setting up of a statutory regulator that will be independent, answerable to Parliament and not to the Railway Boards. “There has to be legislation for this, which will require amendment to the Railways Act and the Railway Board Act. This will take at least three years,” said Debroy.

He said it is better to take three years to set up a statutory regulator rather than setting up a regulator with no powers in one month through the executive process. Commenting on the extent of changes that can be expected after the report is implemented, Debroy said the problems of Indian Railways were not created in two years but six decades ago. “Probably nothing will change in the next five years if you see as a customer of railways. The recommendations are building for a change that will happen 15 years down the line,” he said. It will take three years for the report to be accepted and implemented, he said. Debroy shrugged off the criticism of the unions and the opposition parties, saying that even the existing railways policy envisages participation of private players in the sector.

“Entry of private players into Indian Railways is already part of the railway policy and a whole range of services on trains, be it catering, cleaning of toilets and stations or providing security, are already privatised,” he said.

Besides, the public statements of the unions suggest they are not opposed to commercial accounting, unified entry of officers and decentralisation while there are mixed opinions on the independent regulator. “Yes, they are opposed to private entry, at least their public statement said that, but the other way to look at it is that the unions agree with 80% of the recommendations,” said Debroy. The report has suggested five big things to be done in the next five years to reform Indian railways.

Besides setting up an independent regulator, these include breaking down the silos for unified entry to future entrants, introducing commercial accounting on a pilot basis in the first two years, endorsing private entry in the railways and taking up the existing practice of decentralisation to beyond the level of general managers.

http://www.businessinsider.in/Railways-may-soon-be-having-an-independent-regulator-thanks-to-Debroy-committee/articleshow/47721729.cms?utm_source=ten_minutes_with&utm_medium=Referral&utm_campaign=Content_Patnership

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Railway minister urges general managers to travel with passengers and sign MoUs for station upgrade

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu during a video-conference with general managers of all 17 zones, urged them to take steps to enhance passenger amenities and seek feedback during the ‘Customer Facilitation Fortnight’ commencing May 26. The GMs have been asked to travel in suburban and passenger trains during that period and interact with passengers to get firsthand feedback. Prabhu has also directed the Railway Board to sign Memorandums of Understanding with Railway PSUs for better passenger amenities at 10 stations.

“These stations are Mumbai CST, Howrah, New Delhi, Guwahati, Patna, Varanasi, Vadodara, Chennai, Agra and Bengaluru. The MoUs should be signed with PSUs such as CONCOR, IRCTC, IRCON, RITES and RVNL, assigning them two stations each for bringing about visible improvement in passenger amenities through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes. The MoUs will have to clearly indicate what kind of amenities each PSU can provide. The MoUs will have one-year, two-year and five-year targets. In addition to this, the Railway Board may also sign MoUs with select zonal railways, granting them more autonomy with attendant accountability. Railway zones may also sign MoUs with state governments for Special Purpose Vehicles for infrastructure development,” a senior officer in the Railway Board said.

The GMs have also been directed to meet state chief secretaries and other officials to discuss issues such as cleanliness, law and order and safety at level crossings. Meetings between divisional railway managers and passengers’ associations and chambers of commerce should also be held to help in better understanding of problems, the minister has directed. The general managers have also been instructed to involve railway unions to interact with passengers and highlight achievements. Intensive drives will also have to be launched by all zones to check the quality of catering both on trains and at stations, Prabhu has said.

“The other thrust areas are safety awareness drives, monitoring of punctuality and cleanliness and sanitation drives at all stations. The minister has also instructed that the zonal railways start skill development courses for local youth in batches of 100,” the officer added.

TOI

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Railway Minister initiates move to ‘right-size’ Railway Board

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has kicked off the restructuring of railway board with a direction for pruning additional officers in the powerful but ‘top-heavy’ board.

A senior railways official said that the minister has asked senior officials to submit a list of unproductive staff in each department.

At present, railways works on a top-down hierarchical model — a six-member railway board creates, implements and monitors policies and takes all key decisions.

Apart from Chairman, Railway Board, there are six members—Member (Electrical), Member (Engineering), Member (Traffic), Member (Staff), Member (Mechanical) and Financial Commissioner. The members, including CRB enjoy the rank of secretary.

The railways is divided into 16 geographical zones employing about 14 lakh people. The national transporter operates on a cadre-based system (mechanical, engineering, electrical, traffic departments, etc), with neither any separation between policy making and implementation nor between passenger and freight businesses.

A senior official said that the move is aimed at right-sizing the all powerful board, housed in Rail Bhawan with around 3,000 people working of which around 270-300 are officials.

The decision is the second major initiative taken by Prabhu after he dissociated the minister from the tendering process to bring transparency and speed up decision-making while delegating powers to zonal railways and heads of production units.

“There are around 130 officials which are working at the rank of executive director and above in railway board,” he said, adding that its surprising that there are 24 officials from civil engineering department and 25 belonging to traffic services in the board.

He added, “If we include director rank officials also, the figure goes to around 250-270 senior official working in the board.”

Another official said that the board has become a kind of resting ground as posts are being created for “connected” officials who want to stay in Delhi.

Many committees and experts have advised for more than a decade now to restructure the railway board to cater to the changing realities but nothing has changed.

The Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2001 sought corporatization of the railways, with separate freight and passenger operations. The Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012 sought reorganization of the railway board, with separate members for passenger, freight, technology and business development. The panel called for scrapping the position of chairman of the railway board and replacing it with a chief executive officer while suggesting appointment of an ombudsman for all private-public partnership projects.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Defecation and littering on railways to be punished with Rs 500 fines

Open defecation and littering on railway stations will now be a punishable offence.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed the railways to slap a fine of Rs 500 on those making the stations and tracks dirty.

Apart from the penalty, the offenders will be made to remove the “offending polluting elements” and restore an environment compatible with the ecology of the area in question, the NGT said.

Following the “Polluter Pays” principle, the court also directed that those found polluting the environment will be liable to pay Rs 5,000 or more.

The green court passed the order while noting that the railways authorities failed to perform its statutory duties under the Indian Railways (Penalties for activities affecting cleanliness at railway premises) Rules 2012 and Environment Protection Act 1986.

The notification issued by the Railway Board on November 26, 2012, under Railways Act, 1989, prohibits littering in any occupied or unoccupied railway premises or the carriage, and bars an individual from cooking, bathing, spitting, urinating, feeding animals or birds, repairing or washing vehicles, washing utensils or clothes or any other objects or keep any type of storage in any railway premises.

The rules also prohibit defacing railway properties while making it mandatory for all vendors and hawkers to make necessary arrangements to keep containers or waste baskets for collecting litter and calls for proper disposal of its contents.

The notification imposes a fine of Rs 500 on the offenders and authorises the Station Master or Station Managers and other authorised officers to collect the fines.

The court was dissatisfied with the railways’ plea that it was unable to enforce seriously any such ban on its own and that a legal ban on open defecation by trespassers on or around railway tracks could be formulated by state governments and enforced by them and the local bodies.

“We see no reason as to why the railway administration, which has its own police force, station master, cleaning staff and supervisory staff, veers around the question of lodging an FIR, while law empowers them to act and collect fines from the offenders in accordance with Rules 2012,” the court observed, directing the general manager of the Northern Zone to reveal by December, 24 on how many offenders have been booked under the rules so far.

“Railways transport 14 million passengers on 9000 trains every day in which 3,980 metric tonnes of human waste is generated per day.

“About 6,758 kg of plastic waste is generated at three railways stations in Delhi alone, as per a 2009 RITES report,” said A.K. Singh, counsel for the petitioner, Delhi residents Saloni Singh and Arush Pathania.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Railways opens up more than Rs 90,000 cr of FDI opportunity

Foreign investors can put in as much as Rs 90,300 crore in India’s rail infrastructure through the foreign direct investment (FDI) route, suggests a list of projects released by the railway ministry.

The Rs 63,000-crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor project is the single largest. The other big ones include the Rs 14,000-crore CSTM-Panvel suburban corridor, to be implemented in public-private partnership (PPP), and the Rs 1,200-crore Kachrapara rail coach factory, besides multiple freight line, electrification and signalling projects.

“We are going to hold two investor meets to apprise potential investors of the kind of models and projects on offer for participation,” Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said. The ministry had earlier this month held an investor meet that saw participation of about 150 top executives from 65 private companies.

Railways Minister had said the ministry would put in place an “investor-friendly framework to transform the national transporter into an efficient organisation, attract investment on a long-term sustainable basis and in three years make the railways better than what it is today”.

 The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor stretches 534 km and will be implemented on a design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) basis, with government-to-government cooperation. For the Kachrapara rail coach factory, the ministry has finalised the lowest price per coach as the bidding parameter. The factor is being planned to roll out 500 such coaches annually.

According to the Railway Board, the discussions at the previous investor meet surrounded the overview of five models of participative policy, framework of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts and sectoral guidelines for foreign and domestic investment. The ministry’s brass has also deliberated on a new model concession agreement under the model and new projects like station development to be rolled out under PPP with investors.

Among the companies that have so far expressed interest in the ministry’s PPP initiative are Reliance Infrastructure, Larsen & Toubro, Siemens, Adani Ports, GMR, Tata Infrastructure, Gammon, Jindal Steel and Power, JSW, Bombardier, GE, Alstom, Electromotive Diesel, Bharat Heavy Electricals, NMDC, HSBC and JPMorgan.

 

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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Central Railway ticket sales at counters up by 13 %

The Central Railway (CR) has seen an increase in sales at its ticket counters by 13 per cent since April when railway staff working as facilitators on the Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) were told to stop issuing tickets.

The Railway Board had asked the Railways to stop the facilitators from June 27. As a direct result of this, ticket counters have seen a steady rise in the number of commuters.

A senior Railway official said, on condition of anonymity, “We have an average sale of 9.15 lakh tickets per day, and until April, ATVMs were taking the rush away from our counters. In April, via facilitators, around 2.70 lakh tickets were sold. But as of November we have sold only 1.60 lakh tickets via ATVM, with an almost 13 percent increase at the counter.” “We have gone from selling 51 per cent of tickets at the counters to 64 per cent, due to which queues are getting longer and our window clerks are having a hard time handling the crowd at stations like CST, Dadar, Thane and Kalyan,” added the official.

The CR earlier had 702 facilitators across its Mainline and Harbour line, which are now limited to only 81 retired employees, due which buying a ticket has become a tiring exercise for commuters.

Many of the commuters still do not own ATVM cards or find it difficult to operate the machines. The official said, “We are going to put up ATVM card rates on the counters itself as we found many commuters do not know them. This way we want to encourage commuters to start using the ATVM cards so that they spend less time in queues and we are able to dispense tickets at counters faster.”

Asian Age

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Suresh Prabhu: Finish projects on time, claim 2 per cent of cost as reward

To ensure that rail projects do not languish for years and officers find a way to complete them within targets, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who took charge this week, has decided to give two per cent of project cost to the project teams and their chiefs as reward. But if projects miss the deadlines, adverse comments will be entered in the Annual Confidential Report of the officials concerned.

The decision has been communicated to the Railway Board and Board members are currently working out a way to prepare this policy, according to documents accessed by The Indian Express.

Depending on the nature and size of the project, the incentive can be lower but never more than 2 per cent. The money will be worked out as part of the project cost. “The system of reward and penalty should be introduced,” Prabhu told Board members in a meeting.

The decisions, taken at top speed, over the course of just two meetings, have made Prabhu’s intentions and style of functioning clear to top officers in the Railways, sources said.

As availability of funds remains a problem area, Prabhu has also evinced interest in “securitizing” railway land for sourcing funds from external sources. The Railway Board has been asked to provide “details of encumbered land and its value” across the country.

Even before restructuring of the Railway Board takes place formally, Prabhu has directed Board members to carry out complete delegation of powers to field officers with proper checks and balances in a way that “Railway Board should only monitor closely”.

It has been instructed that tenders and such commercial matters will be decided up to the level of zonal General Managers only and do not require the ministry’s interference. The Board is now to prepare a formal revision of delegation of powers policy.

For a complete turnaround of the Railways, Prabhu has directed that each area of rail operations should come up with a global benchmark which should be on a par with global standards. The task given to each department is assess their performance against such spelled out benchmarks every year for a period of five years.

The Board will now prepare a White Paper on its finances to be presented before the Consultative Committee on Railways on December 1. The White Paper will be discussed in Parliament, before presentation of Prabhu’s first rail Budget next year.

As Prabhu heads to the G-20 summit to assist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Railway Board will be busy preparing a presentation for the minister focusing on a three-year plan based on “benchmark of global standards in respect of Safety, Projects and Customer Satisfaction”, documents reveal.

In the past 30 years, as many as 676 projects were sanctioned worth Rs 1,57,883 crore. Of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs 1,82,000 crore.

Last Rail Budget, 30 priority projects (which include all types of projects) were selected as per need and availability of funds.

– See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/prabhu-incentive-finish-projects-on-time-claim-2-pc-of-cost-as-reward/99/#sthash.c3ioFfEM.dpuf

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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