INDIAN INFRASTRUCTURE SERIES – VI : INDIAN RAILWAYS

INDIAN INFRASTRUCTURE SERIES VI – INDIAN RAILWAYS

Since the first train that ran on 16th April 1853 from Bombay to Thane, Indian Railways (IR) has come a long way. So long that it now has a running track over a route of more than 67,000 kilometers. Indian Railways has become so vast that it is now the largest employer of India, employing more than a staggering 1.6 million people. 

The Indian Railways has this unique, yet cherished nostalgic effect on whosoever travels on it. Ever since India’s Independence, Indian Railway has always tried to become a better version of what the Britishers had left us with.

This article is a complement to Indian Railways’ continuous efforts to better itself, and that too within a deadline this time – 75th year of Independence is nearing. We take a look at a few of the important projects that the Indian Railways are working on.

The points covered in this article are only the major ones, but a lot of projects of various sizes are currently in progress which includes but not limited to Refurbishments, Rail Display Networks, Railway University, Railway Investment & Planning Organization, Rainwater Harvesting, Bio-Toilets etc.

The voluminous growth in railway network was warranted and absolutely necessary to accommodate the traveling requirements of India’s ever-growing population. At 1.324 billion people as of 2016, India houses the second highest number of people in the world after China.

Figure 1: Population of India (Source – WorldBank)

In 2010, the Railway Minister of India, Mamata Banerjee unveiled the ‘Vision 2020’ of Indian Railways which aimed to attain a high growth trajectory. The Vision 2020 envisaged:

  • Network Expansion, which would require laying of new lines;
  • Capacity Creation, which aimed at doubling and quadrupling of existing lines;
  • Train Safety Mission, which stated a zero tolerance for accidents;
  • Reducing the Carbon Footprint;
  • Bold and Innovative Measures, which would involve High Speed Rail Travel, Reinvented Freight Services, Mobilizing other sources of revenue, Technological Innovations among others;
  • And an overall growth of the Indian Railway System.

Vision 2020 noted that at the time, share of IR towards the GDP of India was 1.2% over the last 10 years. One of the visions was to see this share go up to 3% in the coming decade.

The figures after 2010 are as such:

Figure 2: Share of IR Revenue as a percentage of Indian GDP (Source – Indian Railways Statistical Yearbook)

The right scale measures the share of IR revenue to the Indian GDP at constant prices. As can be seen, the share has not crossed the 1.22% mark in any of the years and in fact, it fell 11 basis points in FY16.

To get things back on track, the government envisaged an investment of Rs. 8,50,000 crores over the next 5 years, i.e., up to FY21 effectively averaging the outlay of Rs. 1,70,000 crores per year.

Figure 3: Plan Outlay (Source – Indian Railways Statistical Yearbook)

Although the outlays have not touched the Rs. 1,70,000 crore mark, the sharp bump up from FY15 to FY16 portrays the government’s intent in achieving the slated vision. The government has also been increasing its outlay amount since, achieving a CAGR of 45.90% from FY15 to FY18.

The government is undertaking a lot of projects wherein to utilize the aforementioned investment bump.

Infrastructure

  • Electrification

Figure 4: Percent of Electrified Tracks (Source – Indian Railways Statistical Publication 2016-17)

Government has been increasing the percentage of electrified tracks over the years and it saw a major bump in FY17 wherein the percentage of electrified tracks shot up from 47.1% to 51.4%.

The government plans for IR to be fully electrified by 2021, an endeavor for which Rs. 35,000 crores have been estimated.

Electrification is essential as it would cut down on fuel costs, especially Diesel which makes about 65% of energy costs – The rising oil prices makes it imperative to speed up the electrification process.

At present, 2 major electrification projects have been commissioned:

  • Pune – Guntakal Railway Electrification – 641.37 Kilometers – Rs. 800.97 Crores
  • Raninagar Jalpaigudi – New Bongigaon – Guwahati – 221 Kilometers – Rs. 655.55 Crores

 

  • Dedicated Freight Corridors

Dedicated freight corridors were envisaged in 2006 which was aimed to provide better traffic movement of freight on key routes, i.e., east and west, and thus the plan of Easter and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors was propped up.

Presently, the average speed of freight trains is 26 kmph which is envisioned to be increased to 70 kmph. This would have huge economic benefits and would also provide respite to the passenger trains which get into bottlenecks because of slow freight trains rolling over their tracks. A dedicated line would solve these problems.

In March 2018, a trial run was conducted on Ateli-PhuleraA section of the western corridor and the train attained a maximum speed of 100 kmph and completed the journey in 3 hours and 52 minutes.

According to the 2016-17 Annual Reports of Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. (DFCCIL):

  • Capital Expenditure of Rs. 9915 crores have been incurred as compared to Rs. 8508 crores in 2015-16, an increase of 16.53%
  • Contracts worth Rs. 11,643 crores were signed during the year taking the cumulative to Rs. 49,043 crores.
  • The progress of land acquisition as on 31.3.2018 was 96% (except Sonnagar-Dankuni section) and 91% on overall basis.
  • Cumulative linking of 577 km track has been completed up to 31.3.2018
  • Funding arrangements have been finalized with one major source being The World Bank.

The government’s aim is to complete the corridors by FY20.

 

  • High Speed Train

Bullet Train

In 2016, the government commissioned the High Speed Rail (HSR) project. The corridor would run from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, covering a distance of 508.17 km and a total of 12 stations in between.

This would be India’s first bullet train, effectively cutting the travelling time from 8 hours to 2 hours from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.

The feasibility studies have been done and project is set to begin by June, 2018 and is expected to complete by 15th August 2022, ahead of the 2023 deadline to coincide with India’s 75th Independence Day.

According to the 1st Annual Report of National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL), which is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the total cost of the project has been estimated at Rs. 1,10,000 crores.

Apart from this project, the feasibility studies of other corridors have been conducted such as:

  • The Diamond Quadrilateral
    • Delhi – Mumbai
    • Mumbai – Chennai
    • Delhi – Kolkata
  • Delhi – Chandigarh
  • Delhi – Chennai
  • Chennai – Bengaluru

Train 18

Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai has under the ‘Make in India’ Campaign manufactured trains that doesn’t require locomotives to run. The train would self-propel at high speeds of 170 kmph.

These trains are set to start running from June 2018 and cost Rs. 6 crores per coach, or Rs. 100 crores for the entire train.

The tech-savvy train, if successful, would replace the Shatabdi Trains.

Another set of trains, codenamed Train 20, would start running from 2020 and would eventually replace the Rajdhani Express.

  • Other Projects

Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are a lot of other projects being undertaken to improve the infrastructure of IR. As of 28th February 2018, some of the major projects are:

  • New Lines – Total Rs. 7269.87 Crores
    • Haridaspur – Paradeep New Line – 82 Km – Rs. 1844.47 crores
    • Obulavaripalle – Krishnapattnam New Line – 122 Km – Rs. 1825 crores

 

  • Doubling – Total Rs. 11,192.8 Crores
    • Mathura – Jhansi 3rd Line – 274 km – Rs. 3677.76 crores
    • Vizianagaram – Sambalpur 3rd Line – 265 Km – Rs. 2335.67 crores

 

  • Metropolitan Transport Projects – Total Rs. 13,213.25 Crores
    • Joka – Binoy Badal Dinesh Bagh via Majerhat – 16.72 Km – Rs. 4938.5 crores
    • Dum Dum Airport – New Garia via Rajerhat – 32 Km – Rs. 4259.48 crores

As of 28th February 2018, total worth of projects which are on going is Rs. 36,470.73 crores.

Near Zero Fatalities

Figure 5: Railway Accidents (Source – Indian Railway Statistical Publication)

Although the total number of accidents have fallen over time, falling to a six year low of 103 accidents, derailments and collisions have been increasing.

Figure 6: Railway Accident Casualties (Source – Indian Railway Statistical Publication)

In 2016-17, while the other causes of accidents have fallen, derailments and collisions have increased, and we can attribute this fact in concluding that derailments and collisions are a major cause of increased number of killed passengers as seen in 2016-17.

In the budget of 2016-17, the Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshya Kosh of Rs. 1 lakh crore was created which aimed to provide Rs. 20,000 each fiscal for the next 5 years.

Under this fund, a lot of safety enhancement measures would be taken, some of them include:

  • Train Protection Warning System (TPWS)

In a December 15, 2017 meeting, the IR approved a Rs. 12,000 crore proposal to introduce the latest European Train Control System (ETCS) Level II, to bring the safety of the locomotives at par with world standards. These new systems would provide regular updates about the signals rather than at intervals which the Level I system provided.

  • Linke Hofman Busch (LHB) Coaches

These coaches have anti-climbing features and superior braking which lessens the chances of uncoupling of coaches in case of accidents. IR has said that starting from April 1, 2018, production of traditional coaches would be stopped and in 4-5 years, all Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) coaches would be replaced by the safer LHB coaches. At present, about two thirds of all coaches are ICF coaches and to replace them all, it would take capital expenditure of about Rs. 1.5 lakh crores.

  • Level Crossings

The IR has been trying to reduce the number of level crossings by constructing Road Over Bridge (ROB) and Road Under Bridge (RUB). It has also been trying to reduce the number of unmanned crossings which is a major cause of accidents.

Figure 7: Manned and Unmanned Crossings (Source – Indian Railway Statistical Publication)

The percentage of unmanned crossings have been going down while the manned crossings are going up. Also, the total number of level crossings have been tried to be reduced altogether over the years. Since FY14 to FY17, level crossings have been reduced by 3167, while Road Under Bridge and Road over Bridge constructions have been at 4601.

  • Other measures

There are numerous other measures which the government has taken to reduce the fatalities.

  • TRINETRA – Technology to facilitate mobility during fog
  • Broken Rail Detection – Shortlist the technology and implement in the next three years
  • Accelerate Track Renewal – Renewal of overdue tracks of 5100 km
  • Flood Warning System

Technology and Digitization

  • Mobile Train Communication System

To provide the passengers with uninterrupted connectivity on their wireless handhelds, and also to allow seamless communication between the train drivers, guards and the station master, IR is implementing a dedicated communication system on main trunk routes to facilitate the aforementioned tasks.

IR currently employs GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communication – Railways) and is looking to replace it with LTE-R (Long Term Evolution – Railways) and it would cost approximately Rs. 5000 crore.

The system has been implemented in 2541 route km and further work in 3408 km are in progress with a goal to implement the system in 20,000 route km.

  • IR-One-ICTS (Indian Railways One Information and Communication Technology System)

IR in 2017 began to digitize the entire operations of IR by employing an ERP system. The entire supply chain of the railways, including payment and procurement, would be digitized which would reduce corruption to a significant extent as well as lead to cost savings of as much as Rs. 60,000 crores.

  • Alternative Sources of Energy

Figure 8: Diesel and Electricity Consumption (Source – Indian Railway Statistical Publication 2016-17)

Indian Railways relies heavily on diesel consumption. But with the electrification push, diesel consumption is slated to come down considerably, being replace by electricity. From the above chart it is clear that diesel currently dominates the fuel requirements but it’s growth has been falling since FY14 with the growth turning negative in FY17. While the growth has also been falling for electricity – conclusion being the whole railway system utilized less fuel in these years – yet, from FY16 to FY17, while the diesel growth has turned negative, electricity consumption has held its ground.

 But electricity generated from renewable sources would be of real impact.

The government has aimed to source 25% of IR energy requirements from renewable sources by 2025 of 5000MW, majorly through Solar Energy and minorly through wind energy.

IR launched Solar Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (DEMU) in 2017 which is expected to save 21,000 liters of diesel every year.

The total savings to the IR is expected to be Rs. 41,000 crores over a period of 10 years by employing solar panels on rooftops, wind energy projects and DEMU trains.

So far, IR has harnessed about 26MW of solar energy and is aiming for 1000MW of harnessed solar energy by 2020. Tenders for 130MW has already been finalized.

  • SHRESTHA

Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement (SHRESTHA) has been set up by the IR which would be composed of scientists and railway experts, involved in research and development programs which the incumbent Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) was not able to provide. RDSO has been mainly focused on implementation of policies such that indigenous research for innovative solutions has been left behind, a lack of which promulgated the establishment of SHRESTHA.

 

  • SUTRA

Special Unit for Transportation Research and Analytics (SUTRA) has been set up for carrying out detailed analytics on the 100 Terabytes of data collected each year by the IR. The data would be used for optimized investment decisions and operations. A fund of Rs. 50 crores have been set aside for this purpose.

 

  • Other Innovations

Apart from the progresses mentioned above, there are a lot of projects which have been undertaken or are in progress. Some of them are:

  • Software Aided Train Scheduling (SATS)
  • Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS)
  • Freight Operation Information System (FOIS)
  • Passenger Reserve System (PRS)

The list goes on, learning being that Indian Railways has taken considerate steps in improving the services which it provides to its passengers.

Conclusion

The medium term investment plan of approximately Rs. 8,56,020 crore would be utilized as follows:

Figure 9: Utilization of the Funds (Source – Press Information Bureau)

Around 46% of the funds have been allocated towards network decongestion and network expansion because at present, 17% of total rail route is handling 60% of total traffic load. Some of the lines are using 100% capacity and decongesting them by expanding is ever more important.

The sources of the funds would be as follows:

Figure 10: Fund Requirement (Source – Press Information Bureau)

These new initiatives by the Indian Railway and the present Government of India has been named as ‘Vision 2022’, the year 2022 being the 75th Year of Independent India.

-Report by Mr. Piyush Shah  under the guidance of Mr. Janak Shah