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Railways in 2018: Herculean missions, missed deadlines and project 2019

Having tarnished its image many times, Railways seems to have launched a massive effort for an image makeover as it has to face the elections next year.

Abhijeet Anand | New Delhi |


Everything seems to be herculean for the Railways. So much so that the transporter prefixes Mission to all the projects undertakes. For example, it is ‘Mission’ Raftaar and ‘Mission’ Electrification. But missing of deadlines as with any other government project is usual. Bogibeel railroad in Assam, the foundation of which was laid in 1997, was finally inaugurated on Tuesday.

A train mishap which dampened the spirit of Dussehra occurred in Amritsar this year. With political pressure mounting on the Centre to get to the bottom of the incident, an inquiry into the incident was ordered. However, initially, the Railways was reluctant to launch a probe as it was feared that the blame could not be pinned on the Railways.

The accident came as a jolt to the Railways as the transporter has been saying off and on that it will eliminate all unmanned crossings. But railway officials say urbanised areas have the largest number of unmanned crossings and eliminating them presents a challenge.

READ | PM Modi inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest railroad bridge

Having tarnished its image many times, Railways seems to have launched a massive effort for an image makeover as it has to face the elections next year. It has begun a project of refurbishment of around 640 mail and express trains. The refurbished rakes are called ‘Utkrisht’ rakes. In addition to this, the Railways announced a change in the colour scheme of the rakes. In the new avatar, the trains will have a cream hue. But all this seems to be mere eyewash as late arrival of trains and even cancellation is the norm.

Flexi fare system which has kept the Railway coffers ringing has been rationalised by the transporter. This is also being seen as a decision taken because of the 2019 election. The maximum cap of flexi fare has been reduced to 1.4 times.

Apart from the renewal of railway tracks, laying of new lines has also been high on the agenda of the railways. The cabinet has approved a new line between Bahraich and Khalilabad in Uttar Pradesh. Railway officials say it is the longest stretch ever on which a new line will be laid.

Electrification of rail tracks is also a priority for the Railways. While being environment friendly, this will also minimise the expenditure on fossil fuel. Also, this is expected to increase the speed of trains by around 10 per cent. By 2022 under Mission Electrification, it plans to complete electrification of all the tracks.

While Railways want to decrease the travel time as part of its ‘Mission Raftaar’, speed restrictions, traffic blocks and stoppages put a strain on the transporter. Outdated signaling system also brings down the average speed. These only take a toll on punctuality of the trains.

There were reports over Japan annulling the contract of High Speed Rail with India as farmers in Maharashtra are protesting. Railways denied such reports and said that the High Speed Rail Corridor will not miss any deadline. Nonetheless, Railways is facing problems in land acquisition, mainly in Maharashtra.

More rakes of Train 18, the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) made train sets, are going to be manufactured. The trials of Train 18 have been successfully done. The Railways is also planning to manufacture Train20 rakes. These rakes are designed to touch a speed of 200 kmph.

These train sets which have electric propulsion system are said to be the future of the Railways. As these are not loco-hauled, they have a fast acceleration and deceleration. These are state-of-the-art train sets with revolving seats which have been indigenously manufactured in Chennai. Railway officials say that these could even be exported to other countries. Railways had plans to procure loco-hauled Talgo from Spain. But it went ahead with the plans of indigenous manufacturing Train 18 at ICF.