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Bibek Debroy: Stationary stations

I doubt that you have heard of or Barahkalan. These are on the Jind-route. and Panipat are reasonably well connected by train. I think the villages of Sultanpur and are also reasonably well connected. Sultanpur is in Gurgaon district and is quite close to Gurgaon and Farrukh Nagar. Barahkalan (the name originates from a temple to the Varaha incarnation) village is in Jind district and is quite close to Jind. But obviously residents of Sultanpur and Barahkalan didn’t think so. They wanted a railway station catering to needs of both villages. Since IR (Indian Railways) wasn’t building it, villagers got together, collected the money (Rs 25 lakh) and built a railway station along that Jind-Panipat stretch. All have codes. This one has SPBK. I still don’t know whether any trains actually stop at SPBK. It doesn’t show up in schedules. There is yet another such railway station in Haryana, Lakhan Majra, with a code of LNMA. LNMA is on the Delhi-Bathinda route and passenger trains do stop there. Originally, there was no railway station. However, residents of nine villages got together, crowd-sourced resources, provided labour and built a station. Nor are such instances restricted to Haryana. There is a similar story about Sankhapur village in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh, though Sankhapur is really a halt, not a proper railway station.

These collective Dashrath Manjhi type stories are about building railway stations. There are instances of maintenance too. For instance, with IR sanction, an NGO named adopted King’s Circle station in Mumbai, primarily for cleaning and beautification. The station was transformed. Though not in the same category (because the initiative was driven by the local IR health inspector and because the intervention is limited), I should mention Aluva railway station in Kerala. Passengers chuck empty plastic bottles on tracks. Pick them up, plant China Roses in them and create blooming barricades between the tracks. Less litter, prettier station, fewer people cross tracks (they use overbridges) and as an unintended consequence, fewer accidents from crossing tracks.

There are problems with counting the number of railway stations. 7,500 is a rough figure. Largely based on revenue, there is a gradation of railway stations from A1 to F. Measured in terms of that static revenue, A1 and A are important stations and their number is roughly 400. All of us would like better stations, though most of us are interested in A1, A and C (the suburban lot). Since 2009, there has been a detailed manual of standards and specifications for railway stations, with every passenger utility you can think of. If we can adhere to those standards, most passengers will be happy. I can give you a long list of Railway Budget speeches that promised better stations. There was a model station scheme, which then became an Adarsh station scheme. There are supposed to be 1,000-odd Adarsh stations, which fall far short of the template. Had those models worked, we wouldn’t have complained about stations today. Since that IR-driven attempt failed, or because IR doesn’t possess resources, there is now talk of the private sector coming in, domestic as well as foreign, with the expression “passenger terminal” used instead of station. The private sector can construct, develop or maintain.

Using examples of T1 and T3 terminals from Delhi airport, I think it is useful to think this through. Strictly speaking, there was no “development” in T1. An existing terminal was upgraded, no different from what was done in the new airport terminal in Kolkata. T1 is hardly greenfield. T3 (and Mumbai) represent development, because land was tapped and developed. T3 is essentially greenfield. The point is simple. Private sector costs of capital (both debt and non-debt) are higher than public sources. Passenger and freight services from terminals will never offer adequate revenue options. That’s only possible with real estate development, a lesson from other countries too. Many station-related services are already outsourced to private parties, except they tend to be disaggregated piece-meal fragmented contracts. There is a case for private management of entire terminals, with long-duration integrated contracts, but revenue sources will primarily have to be annuities paid by government. Nor do I see how narrow upgradation is possible without public funding. Development is a different matter. But there, the critical test is whether land is available for real estate development, not whether a station is A1 or A. Sure, this will be reflected in bids, or lack of bids, by private parties, when stations are opened up for bidding.

To dampen our optimism a bit, figures on IR owning vast quantities of land can be misleading. Strict vacant land, available for commercial use, is around 600 hectares, now with Railway Land Development Authority. Unfortunately, not all of this is around attractive stations. My offhand guess is that around 40 stations (out of 7,500) possess enough land for some kind of development and no more than 20 will possess attractive revenue streams. Think of Chandigarh, Habibganj, Shivaji Nagar, Bijwasan, Anand Vihar, Surat and Bhopal. Developed, even those will bring a whiff of change. But the larger problem remains.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bibek-debroy-stationary-stations-115092101264_1.html

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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State aid for developing 6 rail stations

A small beginning has been made by the State towards Railway’s request for cost-sharing of projects by extending Rs.9.95 crore for developing and improving passenger facilities at six stations.

The Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam North, Thrissur, and Kozhikode railway stations will benefit from the assistance given by the State as part of a Central scheme to implement development works on the rail network.

Tenders had been awarded for the selected works at these stations. Official sources told The Hinduthat Rs.7.98 crore had been made available to Railways through the District Collectors of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

Cost sharing

Officials said Railways had been urging the State to share the cost of projects for several years. The State was first asked to share 50:50 cost of the ambitious Sabari project that had been dragging on for years.

Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu had opted for the cost-sharing concept by signing an MoU with Railways for improving rail infrastructure.

Under the financial cooperation extended by the State, passenger facilities would be improved at each station at a cost of Rs.1.99 crore.

A retiring room, platform, and parking facilities had been proposed at the second entry to the Kollam station. Other works had commenced and tenders for parking facilities would be floated again, the sources said.

At the Kottayam station, a foot overbridge would be set up at the Ernakulam end, and platform one would be widened.

The circulating area at the second entry to the station would be improved.

A foot overbridge, building for PRS at the second entry, improvement of platforms one and two, and mini-shelters would come up at the Thrissur station.

An executive lounge, renovation of second class waiting hall, and improvement of the circulating area would be taken up at Ernakulam Junction while extension of platform two for accommodating 24 coaches and construction of retiring and dormitory rooms would be carried out at Ernakulam North under the scheme.

 The Hindu
 
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Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Railway stations to get makeover as MNCs promise big bucks

Soon many of the railway stations in the Thiruvananthapuram division will get a new look including beautiful gardens to welcome commuters and new infrastructure like coach indication boards on the platforms.

The divisional authorities are effecting the beautification drive by inviting sponsorships from MNCs and other interested parties.

“The response has been good with many evincing interest. Oil major BPCL has agreed to renovate the Thrippunithura station. A small plot will be handed over to BPCL temporarily where they will set up a garden. Similarly, coach indication boards will be set up on platforms and the infrastructure there will be given a fresh coat of paint. In return we will allow the parties to display their names,” said a senior railway officer.

Another station that now boasts a garden and other trappings is Kollam, done with the help of ‘Chungam’ Jewellers.

“With lakhs of commuters passing through the stations every day, the MNCs are interested in such sponsored beautification work. Also,they have to utilise their corporate social responsibility funds. The Aluva railway station already boasts of a garden and an LED plasma aquarium. The dilapidated untidy looks that stations have is set to change,” the officer said.

The station beautification drive comes after a similar initiative to improve amenities for passengers in partnership with reputed private players.

As a pilot project, M/s Cadell Traders, the authorized distributor of M/s. Coffeeday, has been roped in to re-furbish an old storeroom at Chengannur Railway station into a waiting lounge with facilities such as Wi-Fi, Magazine Stand, modern mobile charging points, well designed sofas and chairs.

Deccan chronicle

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Executive Lounges to Come Up at 50 Railway Stations

To provide a comfortable experience to passengers waiting for their trains, executive lounges offering a range of modern facilities such as TV and Wi-Fi connectivity will come up at 50 major railway stations across the country.

“We are in the process of setting up executive lounges of international standards at 50 busy stations and tenders have been floated for it,” said a senior official of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

The air-conditioned executive lounge will have several facilities such as recliners and sofas for seating arrangements, meals, newspapers, magazines, TV, Wi-Fi connectivity, luggage racks and clean washrooms, among others.

“The aim is to provide passengers with a comfortable experience while they are waiting for their trains,” he said. “The facility will be available on payment basis.”

While an executive lounge is already operational at the New Delhi station on a pilot basis, 50 more stations including Mumbai, Howrah, Bangalore, Lucknow, Patna, Guwahati have been identified to have such facilities.

Meanwhile, IRCTC is installing 4,500 water vending machines at 1,200 stations.

Each machine will be equipped with an automatic dispensing system which will facilitate passengers to buy clean chilled water in different quantities at very low cost.

“This will generate employment to the extent of 10,000 people as most of these machines will be manned,” the official added.

NDTVIndian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Introducing competition in Indian Railways

n a major initiative, the Bibek Debroy committee has proposed to invite private players to compete with the Indian Railways by running sleek, brand-new coaches replete with high-tech gadgetry zipping through the countryside at 200 kmph or above, providing a new level of experience to the discerning railway users.

The committee has extensively documented the experience of European nations where a large number of such private operators have set up shop and have changed the way people commute by train.

The committee, in its 323-page report, has cited the example of opening up of the civil aviation and telecom sectors which has given millions of Indians freedom to choose from varied service providers and has also made significant advances in standards of service in these sectors.

Unfortunately, unlike airlines which can access the open skies as long they pay licence fees, obey the ATC’s instructions and stick to the slot allotted at the airports, and the way telecom operators handle traffic on the wave length exclusively provided to them, the rail track needs a single entity directing trains onto it. Hence, these new trains need to access the same tracks being used by the Indian Railways—13,000 passenger trains and 8,000 freight trains—over its vast 64,000-km network.

According to the report, of the total 1,219 sections on the Indian Railways, 576 or almost 50% carry traffic at 100% or above the designed capacity. And of the 247 high-density sections—most of them routes which the private train operators would like to run their trains on to obtain maximum occupancy—161 or over 65% are already saturated, having over 100% utilisation.

These new trains would have a problem from day one for priority in running while competing with the Indian Railways’ own need for giving precedence to the scores of Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and super-fast trains, not to mention the freight trains including ConRaj (Container Rajdhani) with a guaranteed transit time of 48 hours between Tughlakabad and the Mumbai port.

Aware of this overcrowding, railway minister Suresh Prabhu placed on priority doubling, tripling and even quadrupling of 1,200 km of such high-density routes in his maiden Budget. Till the additional tracks have been laid and commissioned, perhaps private train operators will have to wait.

However, the scenario may change if the Dedicated Freight Corridor is fully operational, on which, as estimated by the committee, 55% of the current revenue earning freight of the Indian Railway may move, freeing up track capacity and, interestingly, enabling timetabling of freight trains.

The committee has proposed that the Railways Act be amended to allow the levy of tariffs by private operators, which no longer would be administered, but will be left to the market, with a qualification for such passenger on un-remunerative lines, somewhat as for the airlines sector.

The committee finds it necessary to set up a public service costing (PSC) exercise, independent of the Indian Railways, which could be entrusted to the railway regulator. It would determine the costs incurred by the Indian Railways and other rail service providers on construction, operation and maintenance of lines in specified locations and in providing rail services on identified existing branch lines which are purely in the nature of providing social services, and suggest fares accordingly.

Unfortunately, opening up of container business to private operators almost a decade ago has not been a very happy situation for the Container Corporation of India (Concor), with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) mediating on behalf of private players. Some of the charges concern discrimination against private container train operators (PCTOs) by prohibiting transportation of goods such as ores, minerals, coke and coal which constitute almost 65% of freight traffic, arbitrary increase of haulage and stabling charges for PCTOs, unfair advantage to Concor by providing land to it at favourable terms, and denial of terminals and sidings owned and exclusively used by Concor to PCTOs, thus increasing costs for PCTOs and making them less viable.

In the process, it has opened up a Pandora’s box for the Indian Railways, with the CCI establishing its jurisdiction over matters of ‘commercial nature’, as opposed to sovereign functions of the ministry of railways which, in its opinion, were outside the jurisdiction of the CCI.

The private sector entry into the catering business at food courts at major railway stations and recently on running trains has, however, taken place without any major hiccup—at least for now.
The author is former member, Railway Board

Financial Express

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Railways forms task force to use idle space to generate extra revenue

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu has directed to constitute a six-member task force to deliberate on the use of idle space on various Railway items for advertising, publicity and other purpose to generate additional revenues.

The Indian Railways has a lot of idle space in coaches, wagons, trains, railway stations, consumable items, utensils, beddings and others, which could be used for this purpose.

The six-member task force under the Chairmanship of Member Traffic, Railway Board, consists of Advisor, Finance (Railway Board), General Manger, Central Railway, Adviser, Infrastructure (Railway Board), Chairman-cum-Managing Director, RITES (Railway PSU) and Managing Director, IRCTC (Railway PSU).

RITES, again on the directions of Railway Minister, had undertaken a comprehensive study and submitted a concept note to the Railway Board to leverage these resources last week. This concept note will be an import input for the task force

The task force has been asked to submit its detailed report by December 26.

The Railway Minister has also issued directions for formulation of Integrated Policy on Cleanliness at the station, platforms and coaches.

This policy will ensure better and effective coordination among number of departments involved for providing cleanliness.

The sense of responsibility and accountability will also be clearly defined.

This integrated policy on cleanliness would clearly lay down the parameters and benchmarks for cleanliness. It would also lay down structures or procedures for garbage collection, garbage sorting and garbage disposal.

The Zonal Railways have also been directed to constitute a new department for house-keeping using the existing staff strength.

The action plan for the Integrated Policy on Cleanliness is expected to be finalised by January 5. UNI

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Salem Rly Division to generate solar power

Salem Railway Division is according priority to generating solar energy. It has planned to set up a 100-KV solar panel for supplying adequate power so that the entire divisional office will be out of regular power grid. The project will be executed at the cost of Rs. one crore in the next three to four months, according to Railway Divisional Manager Shubhranshu.

He told reporters that it had also been planned to install solar lights each costing about Rs. 10,000 at the level-crossings in the division. A solar water pump was being installed for the railway colony as a pilot project.

The division had also given priority to eliminate unmanned level-crossings in a phased manner. This year, it had planned to eliminate about 20 such level-crossings. They would either be converted into manned level-crossings or sub-ways would be constructed at these sites.

Referring to the achievement of the Salem division in the last seven years, Mr. Shubhranshu said that Salem – Vriddhachalam converted BG section and Salem – Namakkal – Karur new line section were commissioned after the division came into being.

The work on the doubling of Omalur – Mettur Dam section was in progress. Electrification of Coimbatore – Mettupalayam section was nearing completion. This would help in extending more passenger trains between Mettupalayam and Coimbatore.

Mr. Shubhranshu said equal importance was accorded for the development of both major and small railway stations.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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