Saturday, June 1, 2019

Mamuni Das New Delhi | May 26, 2019 

Enhancing passenger amenities coupled with adequate fire safety measures, Indian Railways unveiled refurbished coaches

Two major rail freight corridors will hopefully be fully implemented in next two years creating additional capacity

An across-the-board passenger fare hike, though followed by a partial roll-back, technology adoption to improve services, attempts to bring safety back in focus following a sudden increase in train accidents, merging the Railway Budget with the General Budget to insulate Railways from financial difficulties, were some of the major steps taken by the NDA government during its first tenure. The last year also saw the Indian Railways hold the biggest online exam to fill vacancy.
Monetary reforms

Financially, the first half of last five years saw Railways facing difficulties as it struggled withburgeoning staff and pension costs, after implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission, in the back-drop of stagnating earnings. This led the government to merge the Railway Budget with the Union Budget, while simultaneously providing it respite from having to pay dividend. The move ensured fund availability, with the government increasing budgetary support.

Coal, steel, cement, petroleum products companies who move their goods by rail continue to provide Railways with two-third of earnings. The Railways tweaked several policies to hold on to its dwindling share in freight movement, as competing facilities, widening of Highways and cheaper coastal movement of cargo, became cheaper.

Full implementation of the rail freight corridor on two major routes will hopefully happen over the next two years creating much-needed capacity in moving trains. The routes will connect Dadri near New Delhi with JN Port near Mumbai; and Ludhiana in Punjab with Son Nagar in Bihar. The government is yet to appoint a regulatory body — a demand from private participants who want cheaper charges for using the railways.
Modern coaches, safety

For its passenger services, the Railways introduced ‘experience trains’ with all air-conditioned (AC) coaches and slicker interiors.

It also tried its hands at “dynamic fare” pricing, something it partially rolled back. However, making reserved tickets available to all in safe, clean trains continues to be a challenge in this large country, where trains are the cheapest mode for some long distances.

Trains with glass roofs have been introduced in tourist stretches such as Kalka-Shima and the Nilgiri Mountain Railways in the South. Food forms an integral part of any train journey and tech-savvy passengers got wider choices through e-catering.

On the production side, Railways started ‘Made-in-India’ semi-high speed trains.

The Indian Railways had plans to take up station modernisation on a wide scale, something it scaled down following a muted response from private sector. It also partnered with the private sector to make more energy-efficient engines.

Full-scale electrification is another exercise that the Railways has embarked on and as longer routes get electrified, it hopes to lower its diesel consumption and fuel bill.

To ensure cleaner stations, the Railways introduced competition between stations and outsourcing cleaning jobs.

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