1. 2014 saw Prabhu’s push to put Railways back on track

2014 saw Prabhu’s push to put Railways back on track

Reeling under cash and staff crunch, Railways saw reform-oriented Suresh Prabhu taking over charge of the ministry at the fag...

By: | New Delhi | Published: December 28, 2014 10:55 AM
Suresh prabhu, Railways Minister, Indian Railways

Suresh Prabhu called for investors’ meet and decided for holding rail roadshows in the US, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, France and Belgium, a first in the railway sector. (PTI)

Reeling under cash and staff crunch, Railways saw reform-oriented Suresh Prabhu taking over charge of the ministry at the fag end of the year and seeking innovate ideas and futuristic vision to bail out the ailing PSU behemoth.

Rising number of deaths on railway tracks, fall in passenger bookings, unhygienic platforms and tracks and poor standard of food are some other issues which kept railways in the news.

The national transporter is also mulling a hike in passenger fares in the Rail Budget next year to tide over the loss in passenger sector.

During the year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the inaugural train from Katra in Jammu, the base camp for Vaishnodevi shrine.

Expressing serious concern over the Railways’ financial health, Prabhu said it is “too close for comfort” and highlighted the urgent need for massive investment to the tune of Rs 6-8 lakh crore to complete ongoing projects for meeting the safety requirement and upgrade in the overburdened rail infrastructure.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, who had assumed charge as Modi government’s first Railway Minister, however, failed to make the right start though remaining at the seat for six months, necessitating a replacement at the crucial ministry.

While the cross-subsidisation in passenger sector is hovering around Rs 26,000 crore, there is a fall in passenger bookings, causing concern for railway financial management.

Passenger bookings came down during April-November by 1.43 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year.

The fuel adjustment component-linked tariff revision due in December will be now effected in the Rail Budget in February and there is a need for upward revision as energy cost has gone up by over 4 per cent in the recent months.

Hinting at the possibility of raising train fares to meet the growing expenses, Prabhu has maintained “passenger service should be improved before increasing the fares. Safety cannot be compromised. There is a need for big investment. Some burden has to be shared by people”.

Right from the word go, Prabhu set the ball rolling for bringing transparency in the system and decided that no tendering-related files will come to him and delegated those powers to general managers and officers below them. He also announced reward for railway officers for showing results.

Aiming at attracting investment, Prabhu called for investors’ meet and decided for holding rail roadshows in the US, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, France and Belgium, a first in the railway sector. These events will be showcasing opportunities for investment in the rail sector here.

With the death of five children this month at an unmanned level crossing in Mau in Uttar Pradesh, the number of such deaths this year across the country rose to 94 raising question mark over the slow pace of work of putting an effective mechanism to prevent these mishaps.

According to data prepared by safety wing of the national transporter, railway tracks have claimed 18,735 lives till October. At present, Railways have 11,563 unmanned level crossings.

Though Railways have decided to eliminate all unmanned level crossing in a phased manner by constructing rail overbridges and underbridges, the process of closure is not as fast as expected.

Currently, the posts of Member (Electrical), Member (Mechanical) and also four General Managers at zonal railways are vacant. Since these posts are cutting edge positions in Railways, vacancy at these levels are considered as not a good sign for the public behemoth.

Railways is awaiting the recommendation of Debroy Committee, constituted for suggesting restructuring in Railway Board.

Besides Sreedharan Committee and Mittal Committee have been formed to suggest transparency in tendering process and to recommend ways to improve finances in Railways.

Continuing with the dream of running bullet trains, pre- feasibility study is being undertaken between Mumbai and Ahmedabad section by Japan, while China is being given to study the Delhi-Chennai route.

The semi-high speed train between Delhi-Agra is likely to be launched next month.

Railways earned Rs 1,00,622 crore during April-November as compared to Rs 89,341.26 crore during the same period last year, registering an increase of 12.63 per cent.

It carried 713.11 million tonnes (MT) of freight traffic during April-November, registering an increase of 5.24 per cent from last year.

Beginning October 2, cleanliness drive was launched by Railways across the country. The Railways selected 50 stations to be outsourced for cleanliness drive. These include New Delhi, Varanasi, Howrah, Sealdah, Mumbai Central, Bhubaneswar and Patna. Integrated cleaning contract will be awarded through tendering process.

Stepping up efforts to improve passenger amenities, Railways will set up about 70 base kitchens to provide better catering service at rail premises.

As many as 5670 complaints were received by Railways from passengers regarding unhygienic conditions, cockroaches, non-functioning of lights, fans and other electrical equipment and catering services including substandard food during April 2012-October 2014.

In order to prevent malpractices in Railway examinations, Prabhu decided that railway recruitment exams will henceforth will be online.

The government has opened up 100 per cent FDI in more areas in rail sector to woo investment. Besides, high speed trains, dedicated freight corridors and suburban trains, FDI was opened in trail cleanliness, setting up laundry service and installing bio-toilets also.

Bio-toilets remain a focused area for Railways with more and more coaches having this environment-friendly toilets.

Railways recently introduced Wi-Fi service at New Delhi station to provide hassle free connectivity. The facility is to be launched on a trial basis at Agra, Ahmedabad and Varanasi soon and also at Howrah, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Secunderabad.

  1. K
    Krishna
    Dec 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm
    increase AC coaches in winters especially during festive times. Such times are opportunities for railways which it is consistently missing from some years. There is a ever growing middle cl section willing to pay which slowly and steadily moved to Volvos and personal vehicles because of failure of railways to cater to there needs. This would also explains 1.46 % drop in penger traffic.
    Reply
    1. K
      Krishna
      Dec 30, 2014 at 3:07 pm
      short distance travelers earn more for railways and these are more prone to move away because better services offered by the compeors. There is one more upcoming threat for railways : Fall in AIr fares for long distance travelers. Prepare for a fall in number of long distance bookings in premium trains like rajdhanis. Short distance trains with compeive facilities is the only way for railways to move ahead. They should rethink before launching bleeding long distance trains or think of a better formula of fare calculation for long distance trains
      Reply
      1. N
        Narendra M
        Dec 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm
        (1) It is expected that Shri Suresh Prabhu, our capable Railway minister, would be able to use his financial aen to improve the Indian Railways’ (IR) finances and revamp its management during next four and a half years available to him. (2) Incidentally, it is good that our Prime Minister has clarified that privatization of the Indian Railways (IR) is not the agenda of his government. What we actually need is commercialization of IR, by making it a truly accountable and responsible commercial undertaking. (3) During the past two decades or so we have seen how politicians (as Railway Ministers) did nothing to improve the IR finances. Instead they used the IR to push forward their own agenda, which has actually derailed the IR finances. (4) Hence, only way is to implement long-pending demand for commercialization of the IR by converting it into an Indian Railway Corporation (IRC). Modernization of management of the IR network as also its expansion will then be much easier, with appointment of professionals to work as executive directors, CFO, etc in the new Indian Railway Corporation. Funds for modernization and expansion of IR network can then be raised from the capital market. It is hoped that our Prime Minister and Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister would consider this option of setting up IRC with all seriousness that it deserves.
        Reply
        1. N
          Narendra M
          Dec 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm
          (1) It is expected that Shri Suresh Prabhu, our capable Railway minister, would be able to use his financial aen to improve the Indian Railways’ (IR) finances and revamp its management during next four and a half years available to him. (2) Incidentally, it is good that our Prime Minister has clarified that privatization of the Indian Railways (IR) is not the agenda of his government. What we actually need is commercialization of IR, by making it a truly accountable and responsible commercial undertaking. (3) During the past two decades or so we have seen how politicians (as Railway Ministers) did nothing to improve the IR finances. Instead they used the IR to push forward their own agenda, which has actually derailed the IR finances. (4) Hence, only way is to implement long-pending demand for commercialization of the IR by converting it into an Indian Railway Corporation (IRC). Modernization of management of the IR network as also its expansion will then be much easier, with appointment of professionals to work as executive directors, CFO, etc in the new Indian Railway Corporation. Funds for modernization and expansion of IR network can then be raised from the capital market. It is hoped that our Prime Minister and Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister would consider this option of setting up IRC with all seriousness that it deserves.
          Reply
          1. S
            Sidchasha
            Dec 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm
            It is already known that Shri Suresh Prabhu is one of the rare individuals among the technocrat politicians, who is supposed to be highly workaholic and highly efficient in whatever task is igned to him, the last example being that of his path-breaking blue print for linking of important rivers in the country, which he had been igned to prepare during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government. Having said that, the country, though, is waiting for his initiative in the big-ticket reforms for the railways, the railways needs small corrective measures which do not need much of the financial resources and which could be carried out by sheer attention of the railway administrative officials. The point that is being made out here is about Mumbai local trains, particular harbour line local trains. The Mumbai local trains are the lifeline of conveyance of Mumbaikars apart from being the jugular of the commercial capital, which carry millions of office goers to and from their work places. Being a regular office goer travelling by this notorious harbour line local trains, it has been observed that the local trains on harbour line never run on time despite the time gaps between the trains on routes between Andheri, Bandra and CST or Panvel being quite wide that trains. The time gaps between each of the train could make these trains not only run on time but also run with at least minimum speed that is on par with western railway local trains, but It is often observed that harbour line local train run at least 10 to 15 minutes behind their schedule and sometimes the trains run so slow while the rail tracks are absolutely free, the reason for their slow being highly inexplicably suspect. Of course, the harbour local tracks are close to the slums which have encroached on the railway property, which was once a oft-repeated reason given for their slow speed, but the same reason cannot hold good on the tracks which are absolutely free from encroaching slums and they are not near slum-dwelling people, where the trains could definitely run with minimum speed that could still make the trains run on schedule. It appears that due to some inexplicable reasons, the local trains on harbour line run at low speeds and are always behind the schedule by 10 to 15 minutes even during non-peak hours. It is also observed that these trains not only run at low speeds, but they are quite late in leaving the platforms from the starting point itself though the railway tracks are absolutely clear of traffic. One more thing about these harbour line local trains is that the coaches of these trains are very old, unclean and poorly maintained. When the fares for the train journey are similar between the western railway local trains and the harbour line local trains, the western railway local train coaches are upgraded long back with new coaches with amenities such as train station indicators and public address system apart from these trains relatively being much more punctual in their schedule, while the harbour line local trains carry the same old coaches with poor cleanliness and bad maintenance with some of the overhead fans not working in even first-cl coaches, apart from which these trains running with their unexplained slow speeds and perpetual unpunctuality. This is all being written in the hope that this issue would be looked into by the concerned officials and the appropriate corrective measures are taken, the latter not requiring any extra demands of financial resources or any major demands of drastic overhaul of administrative policies!
            Reply
            1. Load More Comments

            Go to Top