Indian infrastructure series – vi indian railways p gaskell


Since the first train that ran on 16 th 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.

This article is a complement to Indian Railways’ continuous efforts to better itself, and that too within a deadline this time – 75 th 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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.