Samachar Manthan | Weekly CA Enforcer + Writing Assessment Program- Starts 17th December

Know more click here | Non Flagship students Join here | Flagship TS subscribers  Join here

Railways appoints IRSDC as nodal agency for station redevelopment plan

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the IRCDC

Mains level: Infrastructure development is an important part of the Mains Syllabus


News

Attempt to expedite the revamp of Railway Stations

  1. Indian Railways has decided to appoint its joint venture company Indian Railway Station Development Corp. Ltd (IRSDC) as the nodal agency for its ambitious station redevelopment programme
  2. Under the Rs1 trillion station redevelopment plan, Indian Railways plans to revamp 400 railway stations by monetizing 2,700 acres of spare railway land

Particulars of the IRCDC

  1. The Railway Board took the decision to appoint IRSDC following recommendations by a three-member expert committee
  2. IRCDC is a joint-venture firm of Ircon International Ltd and Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA)
  3. The company had vast experience of station redevelopment planning, execution and monitoring, which is not available with other departments and officers of the railway ministry

Budget details of the project

  1. the total project cost for the revamp of 400 stations will be around Rs107,000 crore
  2. Of this, Rs28,000 crore will be for station redevelopment, Rs68,000 crore for commercial development
  3. And the remaining Rs11,000 crore would be surplus with the Railways following monetization of land

Railways eyeing 2022 launch for hi-speed network interconnecting four metros

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the project “Golden Quadrilateral”

Mains level: Infrastructure projects are crucial for the Indian Economy. Also, the topic is specially mentioned in the Mains Syllabus


News

Ambitious project of Indian Railways

  1. Indian railway is planning, for the launch of a high-speed network of trains running at 160 kmph, in 2022
  2. The plan is to interconnect four major metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata
  3. The current average speed of trains on this network is around 88-90kmph

“Golden Quadrilateral”

  1. The project is named as “Golden Quadrilateral”
  2. the project envisages creation of a 10,000km network of semi-high speed routes connecting the four major cities and is likely to be launched on 15 August 2022
    (to coincide with 75 years of Independence)
  3. The project has been appraised by Niti Aayog and is awaiting cabinet sanction

Budget for the project

  1. The Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah routes were included in Budget 2017-2018 at a cost of Rs11,189 crore and Rs6,975 crore respectively
  2. the estimates for the other four routes are under process for inclusion in the works programme 2018-2019
  3. An extra budgetary allocation of around Rs36,000 crore will be required for the project.

[op-ed snap] One giant leap, for all

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) project, dedicated freight corridors, Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh

Mains level: Modernisation of Railways and related issues


Context

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) project

  1. This project is the most ambitious and largest rail project envisaged in India
  2. It will propel India to the elite league of nations that run high-speed trains and is, therefore, also a project that would symbolise and instil national pride
  3. At over 300 kmph, it would also mark a paradigm shift for the Indian Railways (IR), which still has average speeds in the range of 50 and 23 kmph for passenger and goods trains respectively

About High Speed Rail (HSR)

  1. HSR, defined in terms of speeds above 250 kmph (MAHSR is designed for maximum speed of 350 kmph and operational speed of 320 kmph), does not represent an incremental improvement over conventional systems, but combines technologies to take rail travel to new dimensions
  2. Presently, only 15 countries have HSR

Benefits of HSR

  1. Wherever HSR has been built, it has brought about profound development over corridors in terms of economic opportunities, employment and environment-friendly transport
  2. In all cases, a massive shift away from air travel and automobiles has also been noticed
  3. Closer economic linkages will convert the entire corridor into an economic cluster
  4. Other benefits that would come with the project are generation of employment of about 40,000 persons during the construction phase, skill upgradation of local residents who will engage with the project and that of railway personnel who would be trained at the state-or-the-art High-speed Training Centre
  5. The project would generate demand for transport and warehousing due to high cement and steel requirements

Poor safety record of railways

  1. There have been multiple rail accidents in recent past
  2. This has been due to:
  • surface crossings
  • habitations close to tracks and
  • the low margin for maintenance

Initiatives by Indian Railways to improve safety

  1. Major upgradation efforts comprising of two dedicated freight corridors, improvements to signalling, new coaching and freight stock and over 20,000 km of doubling, quadrupling, gauge conversion, etc, are in the offing
  2. To improve safety, a Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore to be spent over in five years, has been set up with a focus on asset renewal and elimination of unmanned level crossings

Way Forward

  1. MAHSR is a futuristic project
  2. India can’t remain satisfied with average speeds of 50 kmph for passenger trains forever
  3. IR shuold look at a leap of technology

Government may have to foot bill for rail safety fund

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims: RRSK

Mains level: Not much, RRSK fund can be mentioned in GS answers.


News

Context

  1. The Ministry of Railways may ask the Finance Ministry to fund its share of the railway safety fund that is, Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) this year as the public utility is has an earnings shortfall of at least ₹10,000 crore in 2017-18.
  2. The actual income of the Indian Railways was 8.45% lower than the targeted earnings.
  3. Although the Railways’ passenger and goods earnings had increased this year compared with the last year, its sundry earnings had declined sharply by during this period.
  4. Income from non-fare revenues, including land lease, advertising, PSU dividends and catering department, form part of the sundry earnings.

Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh- The Safety Fund

  1. Finance Minister had announced the setting up a special safety fund with a corpus of more than ₹1 lakh crore over a period of five years in Budget 2017-18.
  2. In the first six months of the current financial year, the Indian Railways had utilised a quarter of the safety fund.
  3. The Finance Ministry advised the Ministry of Railways to prioritise deploying RRSK funds on areas that reduce chances of human error and ensure training of safety staff.


Back2basics

Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh

  1. It has been set up on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee under Dr. Anil Kakodkar.
  2. The fund is utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system, and safety work at level crossing, among other things.
  3. It is a non lapsable safety fund over a period of five years.
  4. The Finance Ministry would contribute ₹15,000 crore annually towards the fund, the Ministry of Railways would fund the balance ₹5,000 crore every year.

[op-ed snap] Waiting for a signal

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Not mcuh

Mains level: ‘Safety of passengers’ has become a hot topic of discussion due to recent railway accidents


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the current issues that railways is facing these days. It also suggests some solutions for the same

Issues with Indian Railways

  1. For decades the lack of consistent political direction has affected the Railways
  2. The country lacks civilian expertise on railway matters and only a few politicians are interested in the railways
  3. But the Railway officers are professional and have the expertise

Importance of Ministry-Railway Board relationship 

  1. Policy results are determined by the Ministry-Railway Board relationship
  2. And how much the Minister is willing to follow professional advice, especially when it does not compatible with the political compulsions of pleasing constituencies

Issues aroused due to unwanted interference in railway projects(by the politicians)

  1. Unplanned introduction of trains
  2. Subsidising passenger fares by overcharging freight
  3. Investment in unwanted new facilities
  4. Modernisation and induction of new technologies without a plan

What can we learn from the recent train accidents?

  1. The accident shows that the numbers of trains have now reached a level where field staff are unable to carry out maintenance

Reasons behind frequent accidents

  1. The situation is the outcome of pursuing three inconsistent goals at the organisational level
  2. These are
    (1) moving more people by continuously adding trains even when sections are saturated
    (2) focussing on increasing speed and punctuality
    (3) diverting freight earnings to subsidise passenger fares

The way forwards

  1. Railway has to make difficult political decisions such as cutting back on trains on saturated sections, at least until the system can recoup its capacities
  2. There is also a need to restore the well-established practice of field inspections at all levels to grasp what is happening in the field
  3. Ministry needs to ensure money for maintenance and replacement of aged assets
  4. This should be done by freeing freight from subsidising passenger fares through a subvention from the general Budget

[op-ed snap] Covering The Tracks

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: The article touches an important issue of over utilisation of railway tracks which is the most probable reason behind the trains accidents in India.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the over utilisation of the Railway Tracks

Important Question

  1. Why is Indian Railway not able to safely carry trains at 100 to 130 km/hr when railways elsewhere are carrying trains at a much higher speeds of 160 to 200 km/hr?

Possible reason behind the recent accident near Khatauli station on 19 august

  1. One of the most possible reason behind this accident is the excessive over-utilisation of the lines
  2. The section where the accident occurred carries 35 trains a day against a capacity of 25 trains
  3. Reportedly, block (temporary suspension of traffic) for carrying out repairs to a broken rail was refused
  4. The maintenance staff started the repairs just when the train approached the site at full speed and derailed

Data on excessive Utilisation

  1. According to the latest data, utilisation exceeds the capacity on 65 per cent of busy routes
  2. It is 120 per cent to 150 per cent on 32 per cent of the routes, and utilisation exceeds 150 per cent on 9 per cent of the routes
  3. For optimal performance, utilisation should be 80 to 90 per cent of the capacity

Consequences of the Excessive Utilisation

  1. Over-utilisation is leaving little time for safety inspections and essential maintenance of track and other infrastructure as well as the rolling stock

Issues with IR working

  1. The focus of IR has shifted to somehow keep trains running, leading to all sorts of maladies like inter-departmental tussles and low morale
  2. Arguably, IR has one of the highest incidences of accidents due to material, equipment and human failures

The Way Forward

  1. Indian Railways has remained stuck at 130 km/hr since 1969
  2. It’s time to shift focus to the core network that carries more than 80 per cent of the total traffic
  3. The upgrading the trunk routes which were repeatedly deferred should be undertaken on a priority basis so that the entire nation can realise the benefits of faster and safer travel
  4. Else, safety on Indian Railway will only worsen

[op-ed snap] Going off track

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Q.) “PPP model has not succeeded in metro rail projects. New policy overlooks lessons from past ventures.” How can government counter this challenge from past?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Important step for improving the condition of Indian Transport System.


News

Context

  1. The article is related to new Metro Policy of the government

New Metro Policy

  1.  The Union Cabinet has approved the new Metro Rail Policy 
  2. It focused on on development of projects, collaborations, participation, standardising norms, financing and creating a procurement mechanism
  3. With this, projects can be implemented effectively
  4. Also, it allows respective states to formulate rules and regulations and it empowers them to establish permanent fare fixation authorities

Conditions under the new policy

  1. According to the new policy, the Metro rail projects will be approved and aided by the Central government only in one condition
  2. If their is private participation and the projects ensures last-mile connectivity for commuters

Better Rate of Return

  1. The projects, under the new policy will now be cleared on the basis on economic internal rate of return of 14%
  2. This is considered one of the widely followed best practices
  3. It will alter the system that runs on the current financial internal rate of return of 8%

Three models outlined in the Policy
(All three models have a mandatory requirement of private participation)
(1) Public-Private Partnership with Central assistance

  1. It will be part of the Union Finance Ministry’s viability gap funding scheme

(2) Grant by Centre 

  1. 10% of Metro project cost will be provided by the Central government as lump sum amount

(3) Equity sharing

  1. 50-50% Equity sharing model taken between the Centre and state

Issues with PPP Model

  1. The capital-intensive nature of such projects does not allow private players to get a return on their investments unless they hike their fares steeply
  2. And the metro has several issues that make it crucial for the government to subsidise it
  3. Private players look for a return of around 12-15 per cent, while no metro project has yielded an investment return of more than 3 per cent

The way forward

  1. As Indian cities expand, the metro will be an important constituent of the transport mix
  2. The new policy can be good for Indian Transport system, but the issues should be dealt with caution

Subsidise railway losses, directs PMO

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Capital-at-charge

Mains level: The issue arose due to merger of Normal and Railway Budget. Hence, important for UPSC.


News

Background

  1. Every year, the Ministry of Finance reimburses the Indian Railways operational losses incurred on six strategic lines and railway lines in hilly, coastal and backward areas
  2. But after the Budget merger, the Ministry of Finance argued that since the ‘capital-at-charge’ of the Railways, would be wiped-off
  3. And thus the subsidy payment in the form of reimbursement of losses on strategic lines and other concessions will be discontinued
  4. What is ‘Capital-at-charge’: It represents the total investment made by the central government in the Railways

PMO decision

  1.  The PMO found the above argument by Ministry of Finance, unviable
  2. Now, the Railways will get around Rs. 1,200 crore as reimbursement for operating such loss-making routes(for 2017-18)

Some way to go before the finish

  • The Railway Ministry’s plans to allow private companies to run freight trains from their own private terminals
    may lead to faster evacuation of cargo, but the proposed move is faced with multiple challenges
  • As per the plans, companies and manufacturers that transport bulk of their produce through the railway
    network would be allowed to set up their own private terminals from where their own trains would ply to
    delivery centers.
  • These private trains will run on Indian Railways’ tracks and the operations of the trains will remain with the
    railways.
  • This is as per the provisions of the Special Freight Train Operations Scheme of the Ministry of Railways.
  • As per existing rules, the approval from the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) of the Railways is required for running any non-standard rake.

Back2Basics:

  • RDSO is the sole R&D organisation of Indian Railways and functions as the technical advisor to Railway Board Zonal Railways and Production Units and performs the
    following important functions –
  1. Development of new and improved designs.
  2. Development,adoption, absorption of new technology for use on Indian Railways.
  3. Development of standards for materials and products specially needed by Indian Railways.
  4. Inspection of critical and safety items of rolling stock, locomotives, signalling and telecommunication
    equipment and track components.

[pib] Adarsh Station Scheme of Indian Railways – Updates

  1. Development/modernization of stations is presently taken up under ‘Adarsh Station Scheme’.
  2. The expenditure on development of stations under ‘Adarsh’ Station Scheme is generally funded under Plan Head –‘Passenger Amenities’.
  3. ‘Adarsh’ stations will have facilities such as toilets, drinking water, catering services and waiting rooms
  4. Note: There are many Adarsh yojnas which aim to achieve an idealistic state of affairs wrt. some existing infrastructure – Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY), Adarsh Smarak Yojnas etc.

[pib] Yatri Mitra Sewa at Railway Stations. What’s that?

  1. Yatri Mitra Sewa is being provided at major railway stations for enabling passengers viz. differently-abled, ailing and old aged persons to book wheel chair services cum porter services.
  2. Responsibility of providing Yatri Mitra Sewa has been entrusted to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)
  3. Note: Don’t need to mug up all these schemes but make a mnemonic to link them up in your head. Yatri Mitra Sewa might be confused with some friendly passenger scheme but its not!

[op-ed snap] Overhauling Indian Railways

  1. Past trends: Reaction from someone high up in railway hierarchy immediately after the accident “those responsible will not be spared”
  2. Already concluded it was a “who” and not a “what” responsible for the accident
  3. 70% accidents are attributed to staff failures
  4. Accidents in any field are the result of the cumulative failures of procedures and systems over the past involving some “near misses”
  5. Loopholes: Bureaucratic organisational structure where information flow is strictly regulated along ‘departmental’ routes
  6. Need to enable free flow of information from lowest to highest levels about any deviations from accepted norms or practices so that corrective action can be initiated promptly
  7. Aim should be to correct, not punish
  8. There is very little discussion or analysis of the results of investments made in the past and whether any lessons have been learnt therefrom
  9. Accident enquiry reports are treated as confidential documents
  10. There is no reason why the summary of the findings of major accidents and the follow-up action taken cannot be put in the public domain, like US

[op-ed snap] Restructuring the Indian Railways

  1. Indian railways need to be benchmarked to the Japanese railway system, Shinkansen, which, since 1964, has been carrying millions of passengers with zero fatality
  2. Problems of railways: Organisation is on the verge of bankruptcy. Very soon, Indian Railways may need to borrow money to pay salaries as it is likely to report a net loss of Rs. 25,000 crore
  3. Depreciation Reserve Fund (DRF) and Development Fund (DF) are getting depleted
  4. Railways, not generating enough operating cash surplus to even meet daily operating expenses
  5. To replace an old asset (tracks, rolling stock or signalling systems), you need to put money in the DRF
  6. Railways have lost their focus from operation with safety, to peripheral activities like catering, Wifi, bullet trains, etc.
  7. Freight loading is 15% lower than last year and 25% below target
  8. Passenger traffic is also down by millions
  9. The quality of maintenance isn’t being monitored, replacement of LHB coaches is very slowly — if Indore-Patna Express had LHB coaches, casualties would have been less
  10. Continuous track circuiting (CTC) is needed on all tracks to detect rail fractures. With CTC, derailment of Indore-Patna Express would not have occurred

Coming soon: Smarter railway stations

  1. More than 500 railway stations in the country will ‘smarten up’ with better passenger amenities, easy access and integrated public transport hubs
  2. An MoU was signed between the Urban Development Ministry and the Railways
  3. The MoU will help redevelop railway stations and surrounding areas under the Smart City plan
  4. Initially 100 railway stations and an adjoining area of 300-800 acres would be redeveloped in the Smart Cities and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) Cities plans

[op-ed snap] Railways innovation

  1. Theme: An independent budget for the railways was a colonial legacy. Good that we have combined the two now. What next?
  2. The railways will now hopefully be able to get more money from the general government budget
  3. Moving the power to price railway tickets and freight rates to an independent regulator would also be a good idea
  4. It’s likely that we will now have a combined estimate of new investments on road and railway projects. So what?
  5. That’s important because now we will be looking at the concept of logistics in a holistic manner!
  6. Suggestion: Can we merge the road and railways ministry into a new transport ministry?

The rail tariff authority’s proposed mandate

  1. Mandate: Setting passenger and freight fares, ensuring fair play for private investments in railway infrastructure and setting efficiency and performance standards
  2. Policy-making, operations and maintenance, financial management and compliance of safety standards would not fall under the purview of the regulator
  3. Why a different mandate than other regulators? The regulators in other sectors have to deal with various industry players but the Indian Railways is a public monopoly

PMO puts the brakes on rail tariff regulator plan- II

  1. It may be a major setback for the Railways on this front, as it was banking on creating the independent regulator this year
  2. Purpose: To perk up its worse-than-expected financial performance in the first half of this fiscal year
  3. The Railways’ estimated losses in passenger segment mounted from Rs.6,159 crore in 2004-05 to over Rs.30,000 crore in 2015-16
  4. Reason: Primarily due to sharp increase in input costs and no commensurate increase in fares over the same period

Discuss: The setting up of a Rail Tariff Authority to regulate fares will subject the cash strapped Indian Railways to demand subsidy for obligation to operate non-profitable routes and services. Taking into account the experience in the power sector, discuss if the proposed reform is expected to benefit the consumers, the Indian Railways or the private container operators. [Mains 2014]

PMO puts the brakes on rail tariff regulator plan- I

  1. The PMO has asked the Ministry to follow the legislative route to create the regulator rather than push it through an executive order
  2. Background: The Ministry had proposed Rail Development Authority by an executive order & subsequently strengthen its powers through the legislative process
  3. Why? To bypass possible hurdles in Parliament

Yatri Mitra to the aid of rail passengers in need of assistance

  1. What? The Ministry of Railways has announced the launch of Yatri Mitra Seva
  2. Why? To simplify access to wheelchairs, battery operated cars and porter services
  3. To improve the railway travel experience of elderly, differently-abled and ailing passengers
  4. Where? The scheme will be operational at all major railway stations
  5. When? It can be availed at the time of booking tickets online
  6. How? Accessing an app to be developed by the CRIS, calling or messaging 139 IVRS, or by dialling a dedicated mobile phone number
  7. Who? IRCTC Ltd. has been entrusted with implementing service
  8. IRCTC may provide the service free of cost through some NGO, charitable trust, PSUs, etc.
  9. However, if this service cannot be provided ‘free of cost’ due to lack of response, IRCTC may arrange this service on payment basis through a service provider or on its own

Single budget will save Railways Rs. 10,000 crore

  1. Context: A joint committee set up to finalise the modalities for the merger of Rail Budget with the General Budget has submitted its report to the Finance Ministry
  2. Rec 1: Waiving off of payment of dividend by railways
  3. Benefit: Railways will save about Rs 10,000 crore annually as it will no longer have to pay dividend if the separate Rail Budget is scrapped
  4. Railways pays about Rs 10,000 crore as dividend a year after getting about Rs 40,000 crore
  5. Rec 2: However, the practice of getting gross budgetary support (GBS) from the exchequer will continue
  6. Rec 3: The General Budget to be presented by the Finance Minister will also have a separate annexure with details of plan and non-plan expenditures to be incurred by the Railways

Railways of India Development Fund (RIDF)

  1. News: The railway ministry is in advanced stages of finalising a proposal to create this fund
  2. It will be a $5 billion fund to finance its various infrastructure projects & will be of seven years
  3. It is expected to be anchored by the World Bank
  4. Nearly 20% of the fund will come from the Finance Ministry and we expect the balance from pension funds and sovereign funds

Railways draws up holding firm blueprint

  1. What? The railways ministry is planning to set up a holding company for all central public sector units (PSUs) under its charge
  2. Why? The idea behind such a move is to ensure that the holding firm retains proceeds from disinvestment in Railway PSUs and use them for development work
  3. The chairman of the Railway Board would serve as the chairman and managing director
  4. The only railway PSU that may not come under it is the Indian Railway Finance Corporation, since it is a financial company that raises funds

Real time video monitoring of crowds at railway stations

  1. What? In a first, the Indian Railways has deployed ‘intelligent video analytics’
  2. Why? To assess crowd density at major railway stations and initiate crowd control measures when the number of passengers exceeds a prescribed limit
  3. How it works? The technology will be incorporated in the integrated security system will give an automatic alert to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel
  4. Then, they can set in motion certain Standard Operating Procedures that include a temporary ban on the issue of platform tickets and closure of parking lots till normalcy is restored
  5. Advantages: Timely alerts- to security agencies when large crowds build up in the station premises
    Help implement preventive protocols
  6. Visuals stored on CCTV system would be of immense help in identifying miscreants and in ensuring effective legal action

Types of trains introduced

  1. Antyodaya Express: A long-distance, fully unreserved, super-fast train service, to be introduced for the common man, will operate on dense routes
  2. Deen Dayalu Coaches: To be added to some long-distance trains for unreserved travel to enhance the carrying capacity
  3. Humsafar: A fully third AC train
  4. Tejas: Will run at 130 km an hour with local cuisine, Wi-Fi and other amenities on board
  5. UDAY: (Utkrisht Double-Decker Air-conditioned Yatri) will be overnight trains plying on the busiest routes to increase capacity by 40%

Suresh Prabhu announces four new trains

  1. News: Railway Ministry announced four new categories of trains, one for unreserved passengers and three for reserved ones, which will be operational in the next couple of months
  2. Why? The reason behind starting new train for unreserved passengers is to ensure that those belonging to the Antodya class (very poor people) can also travel by train
  3. It is in an attempt to enhance railway services across the country

What is Maglev?

  1. Maglev is a transport method that uses magnetic levitation to move vehicles without touching the ground
  2. A maglev train floats above the tracks on a cushion of magnetic field
  3. A vehicle can travel along a guideway using magnets to create both lift and propulsion, thereby reducing friction by a great extent and allowing high speeds
  4. Magnets on the track push and lift the train up in the air by about 1 inch to 6 inches
  5. These track magnets are controlled by a computers which keep shifting forward the magnetic force of the track magnets so that the vehicle is pulled forward

Indian Railways to run magnetic trains soon

  1. News: Trains that can travel 500 km an hour may soon become a reality in India, as the Indian Railways is mulling options to run trains on magnetic tracks
  2. Ministry of Railways has floated a tender to explore opportunities of maglev trains in India, which can hit 500 kmph

Railway Budget to be merged with General Budget from 2017

  1. News: Finance Ministry accepted Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s proposal to merge Railway Budget with the General Budget ending the 92 year old practice
  2. Finance Ministry has constituted a committee to work out the modalities for the merger & the report is expected by August 31
  3. Impact: If the merger happens, Indian Railway will get rid of the annual dividend it has to pay for gross budgetary support from the Govt every year
  4. With the merger, the issue of raising passenger fares, an unpopular decision, will be the Finance Minister’s call

    Analysis: Genesis of this news starts from the recommendations given by Bibek Debroy. He was of the opinion to merge RB with UB for the simple reason that government ends up spending more money on RB as it is separate.

Indian Railways to plug into National Power Grid

  1. News: Indian Railways (IR) is mulling options to buy power directly from the national grid
  2. For this, Railways’ arm Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) will tie up with Power Grid Corporation of India
  3. Dual benefit: Reliable power supply and reduced purchase cost
  4. Fact: IR is the biggest consumer of electricity, consuming about 18 billion units per year
  5. Cost: Currently, it sources power from states and through power plants, paying commercial rates which are usually high (Rs 6-7.5 per unit)
  6. Buying power from the grid would help the railways save at least Rs 3 per unit
    The spot market price has dipped below Rs 3 per unit
  7. Reliability: Power supply from states is dependent on intra-state grid capacity
  8. Power cuts and grid tripping hurt the supply to the Railways as it is not a part of any scheduled power supply

Railways set to make revenue out of garbage

  1. News: Railways is finalising proposals to sell the garbage generated at stations across India
  2. Aim: To generate non-fare revenue from various sources
    The waste management company will collect the garbage from stations round-the-clock
  3. Risk insurance cover for workers involved in garbage collection will be the responsibility of the waste management company

Recovery of rail freight stalled

  1. News: The recovery of over Rs 29,000 crore by the Railways from freight-evading iron ore exporters is struggling
  2. Issue: The key investigators who exposed the scandal in the South Eastern Railways have all dispersed from the task, the latest being the principal investigation officer
  3. Rail Budget: Railways abolished the dual freight policy in iron ore transportation, 8 years after it was implemented
  4. Background: A CAG audit report estimated during the global iron-ore boom during 2008-13, Railways lost over Rs 29,000 crore from the exporters
  5. The exporters transported iron ore meant for export on the same freight charges as that of domestic consumption movements
  6. The exporters were supposed to transport iron ore at a rate of 4-5 times than that of domestic consumption movements, under dual freight policy

Railways to stop footing bill on passenger travel concessions

  1. Indian Railways provides more than 50 concessions as a part of social service obligation, incurring huge losses every year
  2. The concessions include those for senior citizens, differently-abled and patients
  3. Railway Ministry: The financial burden should be borne by the ministries concerned such as social justice for senior citizens, home affairs for freedom fighters and so on
  4. The Parliamentary Affairs Ministry already pays the full ticket fares for Members of Parliament travelling on railway concession passes

New food packaging in trains soon

  1. Context: Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has got technological assistance by Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) for food processing
  2. Packaging: In retort pouch in the form of ready to eat & in special flexible polymeric film
  3. Advantage: More hygiene and acceptability than traditional canning system
  4. DFRL’s technology can also help IRCTC check wastage in its kitchens and save input expenditure

A background to Railway Directorates

  1. Indian Railways has set an aim to increase the average speed for freight trains by five kilometres per hour this year
  2. At present, the average speed of freight trains is 25 km per hour, passenger trains 35 km per hour
  3. The same for mail express is 50 km per hour and super fast express trains 70-80 km per hour

Indian Railways sets up directorates

  1. Indian Railways established two new directorates as announced in Rail Budget 2016-17
  2. Under: Direct supervision of Railway Board Chairman
  3. Aim: To deal with mobility and non-fare revenue issues
  4. Focus: Enhancing the average speed of trains and boost non-fare revenues by 10 to 20%
  5. Mobility Directorate: Identifying train corridors where speed can be increased on a priority basis and monitoring capacity enhancement measures
  6. Non-fare Revenue Directorate: Generating non-fare revenues through advertising, monetising land along rail tracks and manufacturing

Dual freight policy for iron ore goes

  1. Indian Railways has abolished its dual freight policy for carrying iron ore
  2. Aim: To boost freight traffic volumes
  3. It was a long-pending demand from industry players
  4. The freight rationalisation will help both Railways and the iron ore sector

What is Dual Freight Policy (DFP)?

  1. DFP: The tariff for transportation of iron ore to ports for the purpose of exports is three times the rate charged for transporting the same commodity for domestic use in steel and cement industries
  2. CAG report: (Tabled in Parliament in 2015) The freight business suffered losses of around Rs 29,000 crore in 2008-13 due to the dual pricing system for transporting iron ore
  3. Also, the iron ore was carried at lower domestic rates but was diverted for exports resulting in huge losses to the exchequer

Railway catering towards ending licensing raj

  1. News: Govt-appointed panel led by Central Railway Chief Commercial Manager RD Sharma has recommended catering services to be given back to IRCTC from Indian Railways
  2. Why? To end licensing raj
  3. How? IRCTC is increasing its income earned by licensing out catering services to private players, its departmental losses have ballooned
  4. What are the Recommendations?
  • IRCTC to be prohibited from completely licensing out catering to private players and enhance revenue
  • IRCTC may outsource operations like support staff, service staff, cooks, transportaion, packaging etc. but its managers will be on board to
    supervise services
  • Present private licensees to be given out 2 options: Exit out contract without liability or accept new model of catering

Railways ties with ISRO for route surveys

  1. Why? To leverage space technology for providing passenger information in all trains, map railway assets and help survey new route alignments
  2. Context: Railway Ministry requested ISRO to conduct a study to find ways to ensure smooth rail traffic during the foggy season
  3. At present, Indian Railways uses space technology
  4. To provide connectivity to passenger reservation counters, unreserved ticketing system in remote areas, and emergency communication using satellite phones during disaster

Surat cleanest railway station; Varanasi among the dirtiest: survey

  1. Context: Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation survey on cleanliness status at major railway stations
  2. News: Surat is the cleanest railway station in the country, followed by Rajkot and Bilaspur
  3. The survey was conducted at 407 railway stations, which included 75 A-1 stations and 332 A-category stations
  4. Future: To make the entire rail network clean, including stations, tracks and other railway premises

IT Enabled Applications For Transparency in Indian Railways

  1. Context: Railways have introduced several IT enabled applications to bring transparency on the sidelines of Digital India initiative.
  2. Computerised Passenger Reservation System: helps in computerised booking of reserved accommodation on trains in a transparent manner
  3. Computerised Unreserved Ticketing System: For issuing unreserved tickets across counters. Mobile application for unreserved ticketing has also been launched in suburban sections
  4. Computerised booking of Railway Retiring Rooms: Passengers can book retiring rooms online
PIB

Financial reforms for railways

  1. Context: Rail ministry is on a drive to reform financially struggling railways through a range of initiatives
  2. Step: Importing crude oil and procuring refining capacity from oil marketing companies on lease
  3. Benefit: Cost optimisation & reduce diesel inventories by a third to a mere 5 days
  4. Other steps: Raise additional revenue by focusing on export of rolling stock, expanding the freight basket and monetising its vast data bank

Railways to use drones to monitor projects

  1. News: Railway budget outlines various technology-led initiatives for the improvement of railways and passenger amenities
  2. The latest drone and geo-spatial-based satellite technology for remotely reviewing the physical progress across major projects
  3. Agencies: Proposal to set up a R&D organisation for developing strategic technology and bringing in holistic advancement
  4. Research Design and Standards Organisation: It will now focus only on day-to-day issues
  5. SRESTHA: Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement would drive long-term research

Better Rail connectivity to North East and J&K

  1. Context: Indian Railways have opened the long-awaited Broad Gauge Lumding-Silchar section in Assam, thus connecting Barak Valley with rest of the country.
  2. It also brought Agartala, the capital of Tripura on to the Broad Gauge network
  3. Connectivity with N-E states: Mizoram and Manipur are set to come on Broad Gauge map soon with commissioning of the Kathakal-Bhairabi and Arunachal-Jiribam Gauge Conversion projects
  4. Progress in J&K: Despite difficult terrain and uncertain geology, work on Katra-Banihal section of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project is progressing satisfactorily
  5. 35 Kilometers of tunneling, out of total of 95 Kilometers has been completed successfully
  6. Way ahead: Decongestion work on the Jalandhar- Jammu line, an important link to the valley, is going on in full swing
PIB

Customer takes first class seat in Prabhu’s plans

  1. Context: Railway Minister Mr. Prabhu presented his second Rail Budget
  2. Announcements: India’s first rail auto hub to come up in Chennai
  3. Revamping internal audit system with view to bringing in efficiency in working practices
  4. All new Railway stations to be built as per Accessible India guidelines
  5. Long distance superfast train Antyodaya Express for unreserved passengers
  6. Cabinet decision: to allow JVs with States for rail projects opens new vistas for ownership in railway sector
  7. New freight corridors: Delhi-Chennai, Kharagpur-Mumbai, Kharagpur-Vijayawada
    .

Budget will be a tough task, Railway Board veterans say

  1. Context: Indian Railway is facing challenge on its financial targets
  2. Expert’s Opinion: The railways should prioritise ways to increase its freight revenue, as it is the major breadwinner of the utility
  3. Focus on the management of rail construction companies so that there are no project delays
  4. Proper research should be done before the railways take up new projects which later prove to be non-viable
  5. Steps such as improving freight business, increasing passenger fares, strengthening network in strategic business routes and forming strategic joint ventures with stakeholders should be taken

Bullet Trains can wait, says Sreedharan

  1. Context: E Sreedharan’s comment on Indian railway’s plan to start bullet trains in the country
  2. Reason: India needs huge infusion of funds to improve and upgrade the present railway infrastructure
  3. Focus: Priority should be given to increasing the speed, increasing the line capacity, giving more facilities and ensuring the safety of trains
  4. Sreedharan strongly advocated state running the railways, as against allowing private companies to operate railway

Learn about 5 investment models in Indian Railways

  1. Context: The govt had framed 5 models to attract private investments in railways, which are listed below.
  2. Non-government private line model
  3. Joint venture model
  4. BOT model
  5. Capacity augmentation with funding provided by customers model
  6. Capacity augmentation through annuity model

Railways to build 3 projects through build-operate-transfer model

  1. Context: As railways is  facing a resource crunch, it is focusing on raising funds through various channels, including the PPP route and forming joint ventures with the state govts.
  2. Background: The Railways has received Rs 14,000 crore worth investment commitments since 2014 after it introduced new models for projects through PPP model
  3. News: The Indian Railways has identified the first 3 projects to be taken up for development through the new build, operate, transfer (BOT) annuity model

MoU signed between India and Sweden on Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector

  1. Context: Union Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation of Sweden have inked a MoU on Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector
  2. Objective: To promote efficiency and sustainability and to achieve concrete results with regard to bilateral trade, research, investment and technology transfer
  3. Key features: Benchmark Railways policy development, organization, regulations and specific characteristics for each country
  4. Exchange of knowledge, innovation, technology, technical expertise, sustainable solutions and research
  5. Training and continuing of education program in maintenance of Rail transport system for Railway engineers and managers
PIB

Indian Railways to hike passenger fares

  1. The railways ministry is said to be mulling an increase of up to 10 % in passenger fares
  2. It is facing a severe financial crunch
  3. If approved, the increased rates will fetch IR an additional Rs 5,000 crore
  4. This will partially offset the impact of the Pay Commission recommendations and the cut in the Centre’s financial assistance or Gross Budgetary Support (GBS)
  5. The ministry seeking to maximise gains from the increased volumes in the peak season beginning March

Ministry signs MoU with Chhattisgarh government for railway development

  1. Context: The Union proposal for formation of JV companies between Indian Railways and state govts
  2. Recent Developments: Indian Railways signed a MoU with Chhattisgarh Government to establish a joint venture
  3. Importance: Chattisgarh needs expansion of rail network to transport its natural resources
  4. Purpose of JV: For laying tracks and expedite implementation of railway projects in the state
  5. Focus areas of JV: Project development and implementation, resource mobilisation, land acquisition and monitor the progress of critical rail projects in the state

Joint Ventures with states for rail projects

The Union cabinet has approved a proposal for formation of JV companies between Indian Railways and state governments

  1. This aims to mobilize resources for executing rail infrastructure projects in multiple states
  2. The JV exercise would ensure greater participation of states in implementation of railway projects both in terms of financial participation as well as decision-making process
  3. The move will also facilitate faster approvals including land acquisition
  4. The JV companies would be formed with equity participation of the rail ministry and the state governments
  5. Each such JV would have an initial paid-up capital of Rs 100 crore, including the rail ministry’s paid up capital of upto Rs 50 crore

400 railway stations to get airport-like facilities

  1. Rail passengers may soon get to see airport-like facilities at 400 stations across the country.
  2. The stations will have separate arrival and departure terminals, easy connectivity with local transportation.
  3. The government plans to adopt the Swiss Challenge mode to invite bids for redeveloping the stations.
  4. The railway stations will be built on ‘design, build, finance, operate and transfer’ model and the developer will meet the entire cost.

Government forms high-level panel on Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

  1. The Union government constituted a 5-member high-level committee chaired by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya.
  2. To monitor the Rs 90,000 crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
  3. Members will look into the overall operations and technical issues of the project.
  4. Its strategic importance for bilateral relation, financial outlay and the ‘Make in India’ component respectively.
  5. Further, a separate committee under Mr. Das has been formed for inter-departmental co-ordination and resolving all issues related to project implementation.

Government launches web-based rail track management

In a major step towards digitization, the Indian Railways launched a web-based system to monitor track maintenance on a real-time basis by replacing more than a lakh registers related to it.

  1. The web-based management of track maintenance will be implemented in all the 68 divisions of the Indian Railways.
  2. Various activities such as track inspection, monitoring and maintenance will now be done on the e-platform.
  3. Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu termed the system as “cost and time saving”, adding that “it has saved about Rs 1,100 crore in a zone.
  4. The system will give alerts through SMS and e-mails to the concerned officials in the Railways.

Let’s know the mandate of Rail Development Authority

  1. To set passenger and freight tariff, which will be based on cost recovery principle and what the traffic can bear.
  2. Ensure fair play and level-playing field for private investments in Railways.
  3. Maintain efficiency and performance standards.
  4. Disseminate information such as statistics and forecasts related to the sector.

What is the need for Rail Development Authority?

  1. To tap the full potential of the railway sector.
  2. The estimated losses in passenger segment has gone up to Rs 30,000 crore in 2015-16.
  3. The losses account primarily due to sharp increases in input costs and no proportionate increase in fares over the same period.
  4. The cross-subsidisation of passenger services has led to erosion of railway’s market share in freight.
  5. The risk or return trade-off is not always favourable for private sector because of excessive govt. control.

Rail regulator to set fares, ensure fair competition

  1. The Union govt has proposed to set up a rail regulator for fixing fares and ensuring level-playing field for private investments in railway infrastructure.
  2. The Rail Development Authority would be an independent body, housed outside the Ministry of Railways.
  3. The Railways Ministry is planning to set it up through an executive order and later on widen its powers.
  4. It will be authorised to penalise cartelisation, abuse of dominance and other unfair market mechanisms.
  5. An appellate body is also proposed to be formed and the role, structure and composition of the body will be similar to other regulators.

Let’s know about Dedicated Freight Corridor project (DFCP)?

  1. Under the 11th Five Year Plan (2007–2012), Ministry of Railways is constructing a new DFCP covering about 3300 route km long two routes.
  2. The Eastern Corridor from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal.
  3. The Western Corridor connecting Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), will traverse through NCR and the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  4. Upgrading of transportation technology, increase in productivity and reduction in unit transportation cost are the focus areas for the project.
PIB

Rail upgrade to boost economic growth by 3%

The capex plans included Rs 82,000 crore for a Dedicated Freight Corridor project.

  1. The ongoing modernisation of railways may boost the country’s GDP by about 3 per cent over a period of time.
  2. About 103 announcements made in the FY16 railway budget have been implemented with several stations showing marked improvement in cleanliness.
  3. The ministry is also planning to redevelop 400 stations through open bids called the Swiss Challenge method, a form of public procurement.

4th Meeting of “Kayakalp” held in New Delhi

The 4th Meeting held under the Chairmanship of Ratan Tata, Kayakalp (Innovation Council of Indian Railways).

  1. Discuss the safety issues and attempted to identify the causes for accidents on account of manual failures.
  2. The Council looked at approaches towards achieving greater hygiene and cleanliness on railway facilities such as stations.
  3. Council examined the customer focus of Indian Railways at present and ways to make the organization more customer friendly.
  4. All Members agreed on Railways’ need to address customer needs in a more visible and effective manner.
PIB

Japan offers India soft loan for $15 bn bullet train virtually free

Tokyo’s push in India comes just weeks after it lost out to China on the contract to build Indonesia’s first fast-train link.

  1. Japan has offered to finance India’s first bullet train, estimated to cost $15 billion, at an interest rate of less than 1 percent.
  2. Tokyo was picked to assess the feasibility of building the 505-kilometre corridor linking Mumbai with Ahmedabad.
  3. Japan’s decision to give virtually free finance for Modi’s pet programme is part of its broader push back against China’s involvement in infrastructure development in South Asia.
  4. The two projects are part of a ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ of high speed trains over 10,000 km of track that India wants to set up connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Diamond Quadrilateral is a project of the Indian railways to establish high speed rail network in India. This quadrilateral will connect the four metro cities in India, i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. 

Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme – “VIKALP”

It allows wait-listed passengers of a train to opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains.

  1. The Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme (ATAS), aka VIKALP, will be implemented on Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Jammu routes for tickets booked online.
  2. It provides confirmed accommodation to waitlisted passengers and ensure optimal utilisation of available accommodation.
  3. As per the scheme, boarding and terminating station might change to nearby cluster stations.
PIB

Indian Railways develops hybrid vacuum toilets

  1. Development Cell of the Railway Board has come up with a design that combines the advantages of vacuum toilets and bio-toilets to create a new design of a hybrid vacuum toilet.
  2. The concept of a hybrid vacuum toilet is a first ever system of its kind to have been developed and built by any railway system in the world.
  3. The prototype consists of a custom designed Vacuum toilet adapted from a commercially available vacuum toilet that is used in aircrafts which evacuates its discharge into a bio-digester tank which is now successfully proven in the bio-toilets of Indian Railways.

Remember this year’s prelim question on bio digesters!

PIB

Cabinet nod to redevelop 400 major railway stations

  1. The Cabinet approved the redevelopment of 400 major railway stations, under a new method called the “Swiss Challenge”.
  2. A1 and A category stations, generally in metros, pilgrimage and major tourist centres and major cities, would be redeveloped under the method.
  3. The Railways classify the 7000 stations into seven categories based on earnings.

 

Unions reject key proposals of Debroy panel

5 Railway Federation/Associations, representing 13 lakh employees have put up a collective show – “NO”. What do they say?

“We are pained to find that Committee’s main concern seems to be the growth and profit of private players, even if it is at the cost of interests of Indian Railways and nation.

It is also distressing to note that Committee has displayed lack of faith in Railway Board, which is reflected in Committee’s insistence on keeping the ‘Ministry of Railways’ away from implementation decisions.”

[cd explains] Debroy committee bats for radical reforms

 

[op-ed snap] Finding a blueprint for railway reforms & implementing it

  1. The new report by Bibek Debroy talks about a railway regulatory authority – a prerequisite for the restructuring of the railways – allowing more open participation of private players.
  2. Key Fact – 94% of railways’ revenues are spent on operating costs.
  3. Suresh Prabhu, the Railway minister is attempting to set its finances right.
  4. The minister is now engaging more with state governments to get them on board for investments in new projects.
  5. Charting out a plan to run the railways on more commercial lines, dismantling of the present organisational structure marked by a powerful railway board.

Key Points: Restructuring the Indian Railways

  1. The panel on restructuring of the Indian Railways, headed by Mr. Debroy, submitted its final report on Friday.
  2. Improving accountability, decentralising power and setting up an independent regulator are the key recommendations.
  3. Even if the projects are taken up for fulfilling social objectives, they need to be accounted for and clearly quantified and funded out of the Budget.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







Highest Rated App. Over 3 lakh users. Click to Download!!!