Thrissur Railway Passengers' Association, TRPA is the confluence of all the stake holders who are interested in the development of Railway facilities in and around Thrissur. Naturally, all the people who avail Railway facilities from Thrissur and other neighbouring stations are automatically the members of this association. Due to the historic reasons, commuters from Thrissur towards Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Palakkad sides form the active group. TRPA always stands for meeting the public demands and this process is well supported by Railway Men, Political Leaders and the Media in Thrissur. The tireless efforts by TRPA in achieving the long standing basic requirements of Thrissur are well recognised and appreciated by one and all. TRPA is committed to continue its service to the society at large, cutting across all divisions. "Our prime focus is on the sustainable improvement of rail service in the country to world class levels with special emphasis on Thrissur"

Friday, 27 February 2015

City Suburban service

(Malayala Manorama Kochi Metro dt 28-2-2015)

RAIL BUDGET - State should be open to sharing project cost

The rail budget, presented on Thursday, is in fact a great relief for Kerala, a state where the occupancy of railway tracks is over 120% and the doubling works on the Ernakulam-Kottayam-Kayamkulam and Ernakulam-Alappuzha-Kayamkulam routes are delayed for decades.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had accorded top priority to gauge conversion, adding tracks, electrification, preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey works in his budget. However, there is a need for a change in the attitude of the state government, people's representatives and people to realise the ends.
“The state government and MPs are opposed to the idea of sharing the project costs when almost all other states are doing it. We are actually playing negative politics,“ former minister of state for railways O Rajagopal said.
Planners point out that the state's share in Central taxes has been increased from 32% to 42%. “The state will receive Rs 9,519 crore during the 14th Finance Commission period of 2015-20. This amount is actually meant for development activities but we spend it on salaries and other government expenses,“ a senior officer with the finance department said.
The state had recently agreed to share the cost of the 72-km rail link between Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad and Nanjangud in Mysuru, but is tight-lipped about the doubling, electrification and signalling works.
The MPs had turned down a proposal for spending a portion of their funds for railway-related works. “Forget the main works, the works of 19 rail overbridges started five years ago are yet to be completed. The other states lay new tracks and even the entire network in two-five years,“ a senior officer pointed out.
(P.V.Shyam, Times of India dt 28-2-2015)

New Helpline

(Mathrubhumi dt 28-2-2015)
(The Hindu dt 28-2-2015)

Budget Views

(Mathrubhumi dt 28-2-2015)

Dreams without a vision
For the first time in Indian parliamentary history, to my mind, no Railway budget was presented. It was only a budget speech by the Railway Minister with a statement of intended, pipe dreams. In normal circumstances, a budget must have a vision, a policy, destinations, and achievable targets with timelines. Unfortunately, none of this found mention in Mr. Suresh Prabhu’s speech. And, Mr. Prabhu has left the road map and achievability to “Prabhu”, God, Ishwar, call it by any name or faith!
A Railway budget is essentially a huge opportunity for any government to push forward GDP growth by at least 2.5 per cent. So, this government, in its second budget, has lost the opportunity again. There was huge expectation not only in India, but also across the world for a completely new orientation and a path-breaking budget from this government and Mr. Prabhu in particular. For a government which has come to power with such a thumping majority and promises of “Achhe Din”, these expectations were not unfounded. It’s been a big disappointment, to say the least.

Funding plan

The Minister proposes to invest Rs.8.56 lakh crore over the period of 5 years, from 2015-2019, but does not provide a plan of how the projects are going to be funded. First, the financial condition of the Railways is pitiable. With an operating ratio of 92 per cent in 2014-15 (which implies less availability of capital for investments in infrastructure), it is difficult to finance any projects from its own revenues. The budget places high importance on institutional finance and long-term debt instruments as extra budgetary resource, but this supposition falls apart on a simple premise: how does one expect these “multilateral and bilateral institutions” to invest, solely based on rhetoric, in an organisation which is mired in a financial crisis, thereby undermining its financial credibility in terms of non-availability of a revenue model? There is nothing called a free lunch.
His four goals for the transformation of the Indian Railways, viz. , improvement in customer experience, safety, expansion of capacity and making the Railways self-sustainable in terms of finances, are each lacking in a definitive road map and are thereby unrealistic and just sound like good intentions.
Let’s start with the first: customer experience. Mr. Prabhu has very succinctly detailed his ideas of cleanliness, entertainment, catering, etc, but what he is forgetting is that such measures, while important in themselves, require massive efforts not only in maintenance, but also in creating state-of-the-art infrastructure. Mr. Prabhu forgets that the majority of the poor struggle to get into a compartment. They queue up sometimes a day in advance just to get into a compartment. Compartments are overcrowded by twice their capacity. In other words, poor people still travel in unreserved compartments in inhumane conditions. Customer experience cannot be limited to the Shatabdi and the Rajdhani trains alone. Customers on these trains would be more vocal perhaps, but the real help should be for the poorest of the poor.

Talking about safety

Second, nothing exceptional has been announced with regard to safety. The Kakodkar Committee which was commissioned during my tenure and whose recommendations the Ministry plans to examine in April 2015 gave its final report back in February 2012. Why was this report gathering dust all these years? The precious loss of time and consequently the huge cost overrun, has meant that safety standards (or the lack of them) have remained in an “as-is” state.
Third, with regards to enhancing capacity of Railways: the Minister has by his own admission, stated that 492 sections of the Railways are running at a capacity of more than 100 per cent. And 228 are running between 80-100 per cent. Further, The Golden Quadrilateral and the diagonals connecting the four major metros constitute less than 16 per cent of the route, but account for more than 50 per cent of the passenger and freight traffic. These routes have reached over saturation levels of capacity utilisation and are strained to breaking point at present. What is the remedy provided by the Minister? Fast tracking of sanctioned projects of doubling, tripling lines, and priority to last mile connectivity projects, without any timeline. In the Railways, “fast-track” can be a deceptive word: there are currently 360-odd pending projects in the Railways’ kitty, some ranging from 30 years to 2 years.
Finally, the fourth goal to make Bhartiya Rail financially self-sustainable is stated as follows: “Generate large surpluses from operations not only to service the debt needed to fund our capacity expansion, but also to invest on an ongoing basis to replace our depreciating assets.” With an operating ratio, even if Mr. Prabhu achieves 88.5 per cent next year, the Railways is left with less than 12 per cent of revenues and in order to replace the depreciating assets, which itself will cost the Railways Rs.12,000-15,000 crore. What kind of large surplus is he talking about, and how on earth is he going to service the debt if he genuinely finds some generous but unrealistic businessmen to fund a loss-making project?

Lost opportunities

Looking at the budget announcements, there is an intent of 77 new projects (doubling/tripling lines, etc) worth Rs.96,000 crore, but does he really have the Railway Board with him? Where is the sanctioned and funded plan to break the cycle of “underinvestment”? Instead, there should have been a focus to improve the operating ratio to get cash generation going. Yes, there is stated goal to get it down to 88.5 per cent but there are no defined plans for improving asset utilisation, reducing turnaround times of wagons (which has taken a turn for the worse), improving system velocity by upgrading signalling, powering-up underpowered freight trains, converting all local trains to MEMU or DEMU, and implementing modern technology such as distributed power, all of which is needed to get the operations in order and get cash generation going. There is no plucking of such low-hanging fruit. Instead, the focus is on expensive high speed trains and train-sets which they cannot afford or justify economically. Such white elephant projects will suck out all the investment oxygen from the smaller projects that will actually improve the performance. For instance, train sets would cost almost double those of conventional trains. The train sets cannot run on the given infrastructure as you would have to have total fencing of the entire route and ensure not a single animal, leave alone people, would have access to the track. So, the fact is, even Delhi-Agra, on a high speed track, in present conditions, will I think take another 2 years at least.

Freight

Looking at the freight business of the Railways: freight has grown at an abysmal 3 per cent over the last year, and coupled with an increase in freight rates, there are possibilities of freight revenue migrating to road. Already, competition from roadways has resulted in the share in total transport output for road at 50 per cent, while rail stands below it at 36 per cent. Passenger traffic volume has in fact gone down by 3 per cent from last year. The turnaround time of wagons has increased over the past 3 years, while it should have decreased. There have been no steps initiated to improve this parameter, and accelerating the growth rate of freight which is the bread and butter of the Railways.
Budget estimates for 2015-16 – Gross traffic receipt is expected to grow by 15.3 per cent to Rs.1,83,578 crore, passenger earnings will grow by 17 per cent and incremental freight traffic is 85 million tons, i.e. a growth of nearly 8 per cent. All these lofty dreams are extremely difficult, if not impossible to achieve unless there is a quantum jump in the productivity of the existing assets and overall operational efficiency. Appropriation of pension fund has gone up by Rs.6,000 crore but provision for depreciation continues to languish at Rs.7,900 crore only as against Rs.6,800 crore in 2014-15. Similarly, appropriation to development fund is Rs.5,750 crore as against Rs.7,800 crore in 2012-13. In brief, the budget estimates for 2015-16 present a grim picture of the financial health of the Railways.
One of the most important inputs which Mr. Prabhu cannot avoid is the 7th Pay Commission, knocking at the door, and which could go as high as double that of the 6th Pay Commission: anywhere to the tune of Rs.25,000-Rs.30,000 crore per annum, crippling the finances of the Railways even further. The total Plan outlay is stated as Rs.1,00,011 crore, out of which institutional financing is targeted Rs.17,136 crore, which is doubtful.
It seems the much hyped dream run of the bullet train has ended as reality has finally sunk in, as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai track is still in the final stage of surveys of about Rs.300 crore per kilometre, and would take at least 7-8 years in completion (being highly optimistic), after 2-3 years of the process of land acquisition.
It is quite evident from the budget proposals that inputs that use the experience of the Railway Board have not been reflected. In the official box where the Railway Board members were seated, it was no surprise to see the disinterest and lack of concern for the Railways reflected all over their faces.
(Dinesh Trivedi, The Hindu dt 27-2-2015)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Response to Budget

(Mathrubhumi dt 27-2-2015)

Hey Prabhu, It's A Dampener Again!

Despite Rail Ministry's Stress On Doubling And Modernization, Actual Allocation For State Falls Much Lower
Even though the stated priorities of the railway budget like doubling, enhancing of speed and modernization are in sync with the developmental concerns of Kerala, the actual allocations in these areas seem to be far below the requirements.
Railway development in Kerala has been crippled for several years mainly due to delays in completion of doubling of tracks and lack of initiative to enhance the capacity of existing lines through measures like automatic signalling.There was actually no real possibility of introducing new trains in Kerala unless doubling work was completed and the speeds of existing trains enhanced.
So hopes naturally went up among passengers and officials in Kerala when the railway minister announced that doubling, enhancement of capacities and speed of passenger and goods trains through modernization would be his priorities, earmarking over Rs 96, 000 crore for these areas.
However, Kerala failed to receive a proportionate increase from this quantum leap of allocation. Even according to the most optimistic assessment, Kerala has got only around Rs 450 crore for doubling works, which is the most vital requirement for the state and for which at least Rs 1,000 crore would be required. In the new lines, only the Angamaly-Sabari line found mention with an allocation of Rs 5 crore, while the project is estimated to cost over 1,559 crore.

Introduction of automatic signalling which would have entailed an investment of Rs 200 crore was essential for speeding up existing trains, but the budget doesn't even mention it. Experts point out that development of mass transport systems like trains for short distance travel is vital for a state like Kerala where land acquisition for road development is next to impossible.
Allocation for Kanjikode rail coach factory is a meagre Rs 10 lakh, as against its estimated cost of Rs 514 crore .Similarly , the proposal to set up a railway yard at Nemom also finds no mention. The number of railway overbridges (ROBs) sanctioned is less than 10 whereas there are about 100 ROBs between Alappuzha and Ernakulam alone. Another setback will be the hike in freight charges, but the decision not to enhance passenger fares is welcome. Increased allocation for enhancing security of women is also a good move.
The major challenge for Kerala will be the budget's emphasis on participation of states in railway projects.
However, with its massive non-resident population, the state will be able to facilitate private participation in railway projects through innovative schemes, experts opined.

...COMMUTERS HAIL IT AS PRO-DEVELOPMENT

Various passenger associations reviewed the Rail Budget-2015 as a pro-development one. P Krishnakumar, general secretary, Thrissur railway passengers association, said that the budget focuses on basic infrastructure development by giving top priority for electrfication, track doubling, gauge conversion, etc. “At the same time, there is no mention about the automatic signalling system which would have been a real boost for speeding up the railway services in the state,“ he pointed out.
Edappally railway passengers asoociation convenor R D Manikandan said that the announcement of ensuring punctuality will be really helpful for regular passengers. “Also, the decision to improve passenger amenities in small stations is a welcome move,“ he said.
(Times of India dt 27-2-2015)
(Deepika dt 27-2-2015)
(Mangalam dt 27-2-2015)
(Mathrubhumi Kochi Nagaram dt 27-2-2015)
(The Hindu Kochi dt 27-2-2015)

Railway Budget 2015

(The Hindu dt 27-2-2015)
(Mathrubhumi dt 27-2-2015)
Just doubling? Time to think of a third line
There is some good news for railway passengers and goods dealers in Kerala. An amount of Rs 15.1 lakh has been sanctioned for conducting preliminary engineering-cum-traffic surveys (PETS) for laying a third line in the Ernakulam-Shoranur (84 km) and Shoranur-Mangalore (327 km) routes. The PETS is conducted to find out the detailed engineering possibility and feasibility of a new track, said railway authorities.
“A survey for constructing the third track was carried out when the Vallarpadam International Container Terminal (VICT) project was planned years ago. But its possibility was ruled out saying that the present two tracks can accommodate more trains if required. However, at present, the occupancy levels of both the tracks are nearly 130% and it is high time we constructed a third line,“ said a senior officer from the Thiruvananthapuram railway division.
Officers said that once the doubling work in the Kayamkulam-Kottayam-Ernakulam and Kayamkulam-Alappuzha-Ernakulam stretches are over, the train density in the Ernakulam-Shoranur stretch will be difficult to manage. Also, if the third line is ready, the freight movement till Ernakulam from Mangaluru, Bengaluru and Chennai can be accelerated. “More importantly, at present the maximum possible speed on the Ernakulam-Shoranur stretch is 80 km per hour.This is due to the geographical conditions of the area. However, the third line can be constructed with all the modern civil, mechanical and signal-telecommunication facilities and we can have a dedicated line where we can attain speeds up to 130 kmph,“ said the officer.
It was in 1902 that a metre gauge was commissioned in Shoranur-Ernakulam stretch. In 1938, it was converted to broad gauge. The second line in the Shoranur-Ernakulam stretch was commissioned in 1987. The electrification was completed in 1999.

WE STILL HAVE ROOM FOR MORE FACILITIES, CONNECTIVITY
The state definitely has the legitimate right to argue for higher railway density, said Centre for Socio Economic and Environmental Studies, Kochi director N Ajith Kumar. “Kerala's raildensity, defined as total length of lines operated (km) per 1,000 sq km, is only 0.03 against the national average of 0.05.The railway route length of Kerala is just 1.6% of the total route length in India. This is less than the share of the state in country's population and country's geographical areas,“ said Kumar.
“The state definitely has the legitimate right to argue for higher railway density. But in the absence of vast tracts of land and high land value in the state, increasing the length of railway tracks has always been a problem. It is in this context that we need to view the new priority setting by the Indian Railways,“ he added. “As the railway density is low, most of the tracks are running beyond capacity, Kumar observed. “The track doubling work is at a slow pace. The automatic signalling system and other changes for quicker movement of trains will help the passengers not only in the form of faster travel but also by facilitating the running of more number of trains,“ he said.
“In the short run, we need to think of projects for improving the current track capacity utilization along with track doubling.It is heartening to note that the budget has announced track doubling in ChengannurChingavanam stretch, Amabalappuzha-Haripad stretch and Ernakulam-Kumbalam stretch and nominal allocations for a few other stretches“ said Kumar. Once the track doubling in Thiruvannathapuram-Ernakulam stretch (both via Alappuzha and Kottayam) is completed, it may be feasible to start a suburban train service in this stretch. Kerala, being a state with hardly any distinction between rural and urban areas, is fit for starting suburban service. Suburban train service is going to be more cost effective than the monorail project, he pointed out.
The Kerala government should liaison with other states to get more long distance trains to the state, Kumar said. “The Union railway minister has postponed the decision on new trains and new tracks. In the argument for new long distance trains to Kerala, we need to liaison with other states through which it passes. For instance, Kerala has been facing large inflow of migrants from Assam, West Bengal and Odisha. Trains from any of these states may be equally beneficial to these states. Already, the trains from these states are running in full capacity. The state should jointly lobby with these states for new trains,“ he said.
(Times of India dt 27-2-2015)
(Malayala Manorama dt 27-2-2015)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Hindu reports

(The Hindu dt 26-2-2015)
(The Hindu dt 25-2-2015)
(The Hindu dt 23-2-2015)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

After Metro, it's a Memu service

Renovation Of Old Railway Station, Cochin Harbour Terminus On Cards
Commuters, keep your fingers crossed as the railways is preparing a proposal to reintroduce services to the Cochin Harbour Terminus Station (CHTS) and Ernakulam Railway Goods station, also known as the Old Railway Station. A Memu-service will link Ernakulam South to CHTS and ERGS to Aluva soon, officials said. The project cost would be Rs 30 crore. While no activities are taking place at ERG, CHTS is used for freight transport.
Sources said that railway would require Rs 9 crore to restore and complete electrification of the single track rail route to ERG. “Considering the growth of Kochi and the ever-increasing congestion at Ernakulam Junction station, we should introduce a local area service here. Once ERG is revamped and electrification work is carried out, passenger congestion during peak hours (from Aluva side to Ernakulam city) will be reduced. Similarly , if CHTS is turned into a transport hub, it will be highly beneficial for the people of Willingdon Island and Fort Kochi who depend on other forms transport,“ said a senior railway officer from Thiruvananthapuram railway division.
At the same time, railway authorities said permission from the Indian Navy authorities are required to electrify the Ernakulam Junction-CHTS route as the aircraft landing funnel is situated near the railway station. “Electrification of the 1.5-km-long line is must to operate Memu service. Same is the case with 7km-long Ernakulam Junction-CHTS and electrification of the route would cost around Rs 15 crore,“ said a source in Ernakulam, adding that railways may have to spend on restoring existing tracks.
The tentative plan is to operate a continuous Memu service connecting ERG, Aluva, Ernakulam North, Tripunithura, Ernakulam Junction and CHTS. “If the traffic pattern of Kochi is closely monitored, one can deduce that most people come to the city from places like Aluva, Tripunithura, Mattancherry , Fort Kochi, Kumbalam and Nettoor. The local area service proposal will entail an expenditure of Rs 30 crore and connect all these places. At the same time, the Rs 5,000-crore Kochi Metro Rail project will not connect most of these places,“ said a senior railway officer.
(P.V.Shyam, Times of India dt 22-2-2015)

Mangalam Report

(Mangalam 18 & 19-2-2015)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Survey Results

(Mathrubhumi dt 21-2-2015)
(Mathrubhumi Kochi dt 18-2-2015)
(Malayala Manorama Kochi dt 18-2-2015)
(The Hindu dt 18-2-2015)
Commuters vote for revision of passenger train timings
In a survey conducted by the Edappally railway passengers association (ERPA), over 66% daily commu ters have de mand ed revi sion of pas senger trains (5636164) plying between Shoranur and Ernakulam.
Over 85% commuters have pointed out that they were unable to reach home, office or workplace on time due to the late running of these trains. In all, 1,924 commuters participated in the survey held over the past two weeks.
Association convener R D Manikandan told a news conference here on Tuesday that the results of the survey would be submitted to senior railway officers this week itself.
“Ever since the timing of the passenger trains was revised in 2013, the services are delayed regularly ,“ Manikandan said.
Till 2013, the ShoranurErnakulam passenger used to begin its journey from Shoranur at 4.40am and re ach Ernakulam at 7.10am.However, after the timing was revised, the train leaves Shoranur at 4.20am to reach its destination at 6.50am.
“When the train used to start its journey at 4.40am from Shoranur, it was highly beneficial for passengers en route. Many passengers fails to catch the train, as no buses run services that early ,“ said P Krishnakumar, general secretary , Thrissur railway passengers association, who was also present in the news conference.
They also demanded the railway authorities to allot stops for more trains in Edappally railway station.
(Times of India dt 18-2-2015)
(The New Indian Express dt 18-2-2015)
(Deccan Chronicle dt 18-2-2015)
(Mangalam Kochi dt 18-2-2015)
(Deepika dt 18-2-2015)