Dec 1 2013 | Focus

Makeover Needed

The Indian Railways is no doubt the largest rail network in the world. The primary focus of railways has been to provide a reliable mass mode transportation at affordable prices meeting environmental norms and giving utmost importance to passenger safety and smooth travel. IR has succeeded in this premise to a greater extent connecting the length and breadth of the country through its rail network. Due to tremendous growth in economic activity and the ever increasing population. The pressure on the deliverables of IR has gone into the next phase which demands not only adding / strengthening of rail infrastructure but stresses more on bridging the time gap between two geographies through high speed rail infrastructure. It is believed that if IR transforms and provides high speed rail services. It is likely to become an engine of growth. Political will, proper policy and plan, flow of required capital, timely decision and citizen’s co-operation can go a long way in achieving the desired transformation.


Indian Railways (IR) have registered an increase of 6.77 per cent growth in terms of freight carried during April - October 2013. During this period, IR has carried 593.25 million tonne of revenue earning freight traffic against 565.27 million tonne actually carried during the corresponding period last year. The freight carried shows an increase of 27.98 million tonne. During October 2013, the revenue earning freight traffic carried was 82.25 million tonne.


IR has registered 12.53 per cent growth during April - October 2013 which stood at Rs 77235.64 crore compared to Rs 68634.26 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year. Out of this, the total goods earnings have gone up by 9.56 per cent amounting to Rs 47350.71 crore. The total passenger revenue earnings registered an increase of 17.93 per cent during April – October 2013 amounting to Rs 21,247.79 crore compared to Rs 18,017.23 crore during the same period last year.


The passenger traffic has declined by 0.60 per cent as evident from the figures released by Ministry of Railways. The total approximate numbers of passengers booked during April – October 2013 were 4967.26 million compared to 4997.36 million during the corresponding period of the previous year. The suburban sector has shown an increase of 2.35 per cent over the corresponding period of the previous year. The number of passengers booked were 2657.16 million as compared to 2596.17 million in the previous year. The number of passengers booked for non-suburban sectors were 2310.10 million compared to 2401.19 million during the same period last year, showing a decline of 3.79 per cent.


Developing high speed rail corridor is the need of the hour. This corridor generally requires dedicated track with fencing. The speed range is between 250-300 kmph. The ideal situation would be to create a dedicated and elevated corridor. To implement such a project in India would require higher amount of capital cost and lots of tweaking in the current infrastructure. The challenge lies in tweaking marginal changes in the existing infrastructure and still achieving speed between 150-200 kmph, thereby saving huge financial cost. Apart from financial constraints, the other challenges would be land acquisition issues, manufacturing / procurement of rolling stock suitable for high speed corridors. The positives of implementing High Speed Rail Corridors include cutting travel time providing impetus to more business activity. It also promises to sort out Real Estate pricing issues. If high speed connectivity is provided. People can commute from far off places where the real estate value is lower and affordable. HSRC will lead to reduction in consumption of petrol/diesel and carbon emission as it is expected that passenger traffic from the road route would shift to energy efficient rail route. In the process HSRC would relieve congestion on highways and runways and lead to overall economic development of the region along the corridor. While addressing a conference held in New Delhi recently on “High Speed Rail Travel: Low Cost Solutions” Arunendra Kumar, Chairman, Railway Board, said that Indian Railways has already conducted pre-feasibility studies of seven high speed corridors. As per the preliminary study conducted for Mumbai-Ahmedabad route, the estimated cost for this project is around Rs. 65,000 crore.


India and Japan have signed an MoU to undertake a joint feasibility study of High Speed Railway system focusing on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. The cost of this study will be shared equally between India and Japan. The study will take 18 months to complete. The study would cover aspects like traffic forecasting, alignment surveys and include comparative study of High Speed Railway Technology and System.


The AC Double Decker train between Habibganj and Indore was flagged off in September. This LHB AC Double Decker is the fifth such train in the country. In addition to this, four other trains are already running between Jaipur-Delhi, Mumbai- Ahmedabad, Chennai-Bangalore and Howrah-Dhanbad.


Multi Functional Complex project offers unique opportunity for railways to unlock wealth from it’s surplus land. Real Estate developers, retailers and hotel chain operators are the ones who have shown interest in MFCs. Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) is established by Ministry of Railways for generating non-tariff revenue from railway land. RLDA plans to fast track the development of 75 MFC sites in the current year. So far, RLDA has invited nine bids in the current year for development of 43 MFCs in Northern, Western and Southern India. Prominent stations include are Dehradun, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Amethi, Ujjain, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Vasai Road, Anand, Somnath, Gulbarga and Vijayawada. So far, around 26 MFCs developed are completed and waiting for being leased out at prominent places including Haridwar, Raipur, Madurai, Udaipur, Allahabad, Jabalpur, Burdwan, Manmad and Guntur.


Despite all odds, Indian Railways is likely to remain the life line of India. Proper planning and execution holds key to unlock immense potential of the rail network in India. It is likely that IR will adopt / develop latest technology and go in for a complete makeover targeting high speed rail travel without compromising passenger safety. International collaboration can help in devising the right plan and tie up funds. Capital can flow through it’s surplus land, freight and passenger traffic and Government investment.

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