NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission to transform the Indian Railways is not confined to the bells and whistles such as fancy amenities in coaches. Changes are happening even in the aging, colonial-era infrastructure that not only looks shabby but also creates safety challenges. Below are 10 major ways the railway infrastructure is being transformed:
Railways is connecting India at a faster pace with a 59% increase in the average pace of commissioning new lines from 4.1 km (2009-14) to 6.53 Kms per day (2014-18).
1) Avoiding Collision
Remember the Kushinagar accident in which 13 schoolchildren were killed after their van collided with a passenger train at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh? To avoid such accidents, the railways has been working to eliminate all unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) by March 31, 2020. In the last four years, the national transporter has eliminated more than 5,500 unmanned crossings. Recently it announced that 11,545 kilometers of broad gauge lines falling under four railway zones have been made free of UMLCs.
2) On the right track
The railways has been replacing its aging tracks to increase safety. It has claimed that there is 50 per cent increase in rail track renewal from 2,926 kilometers in 2013-14 to 4,405 kilometers in 2017-18. The commissioning of the new lines is also being done at a faster pace, it says.”Railways is connecting India at a faster pace with a 59% increase in the average pace of commissioning new lines from 4.1 km (2009-14) to 6.53 Kms per day (2014-18),” the public transporter claims. The allocation of mega blocks for repair of tracks is one of the reasons behind several trains running late and many cancellations. “Punctuality in the short-term has been impacted due to giving priority to infrastructure and safety works but in the long-term this would enable faster and safer train movement,” railways has said.
3) Foot overbridges
The railways has included foot overbridges (FOBs) in its list of safety items. It claims that there is 221% increase in the construction of (FOBs) per year from 23 per year during 2009-14 to 74 during 2014-18. It has built three FOBs at Elphinstone Road-Parel, Curry Road, and Ambivalli in Mumbai with the help of Indian Army. The public transporter also claims that there is a three-time increase in average construction of road overbridges/road underbridges/subways per year from 415 per year between 2004 and 2014 to 1,220 per year between 2014 and 2018.
4) Out of the fog
No more train delays and accidents due to fog. Last December, the railways had distributed over 500 GPS-enabled FOG PASS devices to loco pilots to run trains smoothly in foggy weather. The device displays a map of tracks, signals, stations and level crossings and alerts loco pilot 500 meters ahead, helping him increase or decrease the speed of the train.
5) Modern signalling system
The railways has invested Rs 1,299 crore to improve signalling system during 2017-18. The new system eliminates the need for manual signalling. The new automated system reduces congestion in the rail network, improves punctuality by increasing line capacity, and gives real-time information on train movements. The transporter had also provided state-of-the-art electronic interlocking system at 208 stations in 2017-18 which is 26 per cent higher than 2016-17, it claims. Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has said that the railways would bring the most modern European train control system tech in India and implement it across the country.
6) Water-proof engine
Flooded tracks during rains stall local trains every year. Normally, four inches of water can bring a locomotive engine to halt and force the train to stay put until the water recedes. However, the modified water-proof engine can wade in through 12 inches of water. Central Railways will use the engine to move the local and long-distance trains that get stuck on tracks due to water-logging.
7) Ticketing and catering
The transporter has so far installed 9,100 point of sale (POS) machines at about 4,000 locations including rail ticket counters to promote cashless transactions. To improve catering services, it has upgraded 16 base kitchens in 2017-18.
8) Airport-like station
The railways is working towards giving a complete makeover to high-footfall stations. While the revamped stations will feature local art and culture in the design, they will also have modern facilities such as escalators, lifts, subways, ramps, AC VIP lounge, AC waiting room and rest rooms and shopping malls on the lines of modern airports. 68 stations are slated for improvement by March 2019. 60 have already been beautified using local arts. As proposed in Budget, a total of 600 stations may get a makeover. Over 40 per cent of redevelopment work of Madhya Pradesh’s Habibganj railway station has already been completed to make it a model airport-like railway station.
9) Swachh rail
Dirty platforms and tracks are becoming a thing of past. The railways had started Swachh Railways mission to promote cleanliness in and around the stations. Punjab’s Beas and Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam have been ranked the cleanest among 407 stations. The railways has now integrated mechanised cleaning system at 488 stations and plans to extend it to all suburban and major stations by March 2019. It has also started using an automatic rail-mounted machine to keep its tracks at platforms clean. The machine is currently being used in Delhi and the system will be replicated across India. To tackle careless cleaning by housekeeping contractors, a feedback-based payment method has been started. The feedback/rating will be collected from passengers and payments to the contractor will be made accordingly.
10) Connecting the unconnected
Boosting PM Modi’s ‘Act East Policy’, the railways has given a connectivity boost to Northeast India. It has converted entire NE rail network to broad gauge. Railways now also connects Meghalaya’s Dudhnoi and Mendipathar, Tripura’s Kumarghat and Agartala, and Mizoram’s Kathakal and Bhairabi. Work on 1,397 kilometers of new rail line project costing Rs 51,428 crore is in progress.