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Maitree Express: মৈত্রী এক্সপ্রেস - দুই বাংলার সংস্কৃতি ও ভাতৃত্বের মেলবন্ধন - Joydeep Roy

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Oct 15 (17:58) Smoky haze shrouds Delhi-NCR; air quality enters ‘very poor’ zone (

News Entry# 421482  Blog Entry# 4747068   
  Past Edits
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A layer of smoky haze lingered over Delhi-NCR on Thursday with the air quality in the region hitting ‘very poor’ levels, even as stricter anti-air pollution measures, including a ban on electricity generators, came into force under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

NASA’s satellite imagery showed a large cluster of farm fires near Amritsar, Patiala, Tarn Taran, and Firozpur in Punjab, and Ambala and Rajpura in Haryana.

However, the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said its impact on the capital’s air quality was marginal.

The city recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 315 at 11:10 am. The last time the air quality hit such a poor level was in February.

The 24-hour average AQI was 276 on Wednesday, which falls in the ‘poor’ category. It was 300 on Tuesday, 261 on Monday, 216 on Sunday and 221 on Saturday. ITO (AQI 372), Vivek Vihar (AQI 370), and Shadipur (AQI 359) recorded the highest pollution levels on Thursday morning.

Air quality in the neighbouring cities of Faridabad (317), Ghaziabad (326), Greater Noida (344) and Noida (314) was also in the red zone.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’. A senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department said the dip in the air quality can be attributed to low wind speed which allowed accumulation of pollutants.

PM10 levels in Delhi-NCR rose to 300 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m3) at 9:30 am — the highest this season so far. PM10 levels below 100 µg/m3 are considered safe in India.

PM10 is particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers and is inhalable into the lungs. These particles include dust, pollen and mold spores.

The levels of PM2.5 — finer particles which can even enter the bloodstream — were 151 µg/m3. PM2.5 levels up to 60 µg/m3 are considered safe.

GRAP — a set of anti-pollution measures followed in Delhi and its vicinity towns according to the severity of the situation — comes into force on Thursday.

It was notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2017 for implementation through the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority.

The measures under GRAP include increasing bus and metro services, hiking parking fees and stopping use of diesel generator sets when the air quality turns poor.

When the situation turns “severe”, GRAP recommends closure of brick kilns, stone crushers and hot mix plants, sprinkling of water, frequent mechanised cleaning of roads and maximising power generation from natural gas.

The measures to be followed in the “emergency” situation include stopping entry of trucks in Delhi, ban on construction activities and introduction of the odd-even car rationing scheme.

EPCA, however, had earlier told Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh that they “should try and avert the need to take other emergency measures for pollution control as the economy is already under stress post-lockdown. Therefore, our combined effort is to ensure that there is no further disruption”.

The Delhi government on Wednesday issued directions implementing the anti-air pollution measures under GRAP, including a ban of electricity generators, barring essential services such as hospitals and railways.

Delhi’s Power Minister Satyendar Jain has also requested the Centre to shut down 13 coal-fired power plants within 300 kilometers of Delhi which have missed two deadlines to meet the pollution control norms.

The Central Pollution Control Board also said it has set up 50 teams which will keep an eye on violations leading to air pollution during winters.

With Delhi-NCR bracing for months of poor air quality, experts have warned that high levels of air pollution can aggravate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Severe air pollution in Delhi is a year-round problem, which can be attributed to unfavourable meteorological conditions, farm fires in neighbouring regions and local sources of pollution.

According to an analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a Delhi-based think tank, transportation contributes the most — 18 to 39 per cent — to Delhi’s air pollution.

Road dust is the second largest source of air pollution in the city (18 to 38 per cent), followed by industries (2 to 29 per cent), thermal power plants (3 to 11 per cent) and construction (8 per cent).
Oct 15 (17:53) On track for privatisation? India must keep British Rail’s privatisation disaster in mind to avoid similar pitfalls (
Commentary/Human Interest

News Entry# 421480  Blog Entry# 4747059   
  Past Edits
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The mega plan for privatisation of passenger trains unveiled by the Railway Board a couple of months ago involves a total of 151 trains in 12 clusters, with a minimum of 16 coaches in each train running at 160 kmph. Eventually covering 109 routes, compared to the 9,000-plus passenger trains that had been time-tabled to run every day prior to the Covid-19 lock down, this may not be much, but it is a good beginning.

Over 120 RFQ from 15 parties is an indicator of the project’s popularity. The bidders are to
be short-listed by November 2020 for the final round, contracts placed by April 2021, and the first lot of private train sets to arrive by April 2023.

Reportedly, the operator may be allowed to import three trains in each of the 12 clusters while the rest are to be manufactured in India. The bidding is to be on a revenue-sharing basis; the one that pays the Railways the most, wins.

However, perhaps a short history lesson, from British Rail, would be in order. During the Margaret-Thatcher era, it went for massive privatisation that proved an unmitigated disaster. Treating maintenance of infrastructure, rolling stock maintenance, and passenger and freight train operations, etc, as separate activities were all privatised as distinct business units, and scores of private entities were created for every possible activity of the British Rail.

However, a few years after, all hell broke loose when a serious mishap took place at the Potter’s Bar station involving human casualties. A statutory enquiry revealed that that the new company, called ‘Network Rail‘, that now owned rail infrastructure had been cutting corners, resulting in the mishap.

With stringent conditions for liability and compensation in case things went wrong, the first people to reach an accident site weren’t not relief teams, but lawyers who had to find who and what went wrong to establish the liability, and due compensation!

A public-interest report from the Centre for Research in Socio Cultural Change (CRESC), a think tank based in Manchester, the UK—titled The Great Train Robbery: Rail Privatization and After—had raised the issue that ‘public subsidies are essentially paid out to shareholders as dividends and Network Rail’s large and unsustainable debt, which has negative consequences for physical infrastructure and likely means that rail, will one day have to be bailed out by the public.’ Ultimately, it had to be ‘bailed out’, and then taken over by the government, which mercifully will not be the case with the Railways, as only a few private train operators (PTOs) are to be inducted, and rest of the system is not being privatised!

While the PTO is to introduce coaches or trains with technology superior to that of Indian Railways, the upgrading of track for it to support running of trains at 160 kpmh from existing 120 kpmh will need to be carried out by IR on top priority.

Moreover, the proposed private trains will be sharing track space with other passenger and freight trains, which could lead to disputes for precedence. For the private train to be punctual, it may have to be accorded priority at the cost of other trains, to avoid any penalty for being late.

Anticipating a plethora of such problems that may arise in the PPP initiative, a ‘regulator’ is proposed to be created. With commissioning of the West and East Dedicated Freight Corridors, the private sector may get an opportunity to invest in freight wagons as well and run them, keeping the proposed regulator quite busy.

While investment by the private sector is most welcome, it should not end up with a lot of rolling stock being purchased, and with no matching maintenance facility being created. The operator may simply walk away while banks or investors who would have financed the whole project left holding the baby!

Again, an observation of CRESC on British Rail’s fiasco: ‘Perhaps best known is the systematic gaming of the train operating franchise system. Franchisees—as in the catastrophic case of the East Coast Line—can walk away from the franchise without serious penalties when the ludicrously unreal projections that won the contract in the first place turned out to be fantasies.’

Hopefully, the Indian Railways will learn from the pitfalls of the British Rail privatisation, and be able to carefully avoid them.

The author is Former member, Railway Board
Oct 15 (17:48) Faster trains for Bihar! Indian Railways upgrades track; Some trains running ahead of schedule (
New Facilities/Technology

News Entry# 421479  Blog Entry# 4747058   
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Indian Railways has upgraded a line in Bihar that can now support trains with a speed of 130 kmph. The objective of the national transporter is to accommodate faster trains as well as to ensure the trains are on time. According to an IE report, the main line from Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction railway station (formerly known as Mughalsarai), which travels a distance of 393 kilometres to Jhajha in the district of Jamui, via Bihar’s capital Patna, has been upgraded. For several years, this railway line has been fit for a top speed of 110 kmph. With more train services being introduced on this rail network, the actual average speed on this railway line is often reduced to a crawl in peak seasons.

According to the report, the benefit of this rail line upgradation is that all trains have started gaining about 30 minutes. Also, it is being expected that the time saving will help introduce more trains in the state in the future. During the lockdown, the work on this long-pending Indian Railways project was fast-tracked as the national transporter got an opportunity to upgrade its infrastructure due to the suspension of regular passenger train services. The report further stated that the East Central Railway zone marshalled resources in three different engineering departments in order to upgrade the railway track, signalling as well as traction power apparatus. Over the years, while various development works took place in phases, the last seven months provided the opportunity to Indian Railways to speed up and finish the line upgradation project.

According to the report, the benefit of this line upgradation has already started showing. For example, instead of the usual three hours or more, the Sampoorna Kranti Express of Indian Railways that runs between Patna and Delhi is reaching Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya railway station in just two-and-a-half hours. Also, the Purushottam Express that runs between Puri in Odisha with the national capital via Bihar, is reaching Koderma in the state of Jharkhand around 40 minutes before its scheduled time. Onwards, the train is reaching Gaya nearly 20 minutes early and then to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay railway station about half-an-hour before time.

However, the increase in train speed due to line upgradation has led to a problem. Many trains that are running in this line are now standing idle after reaching their stations earlier than their scheduled time. Since the timetable of trains is yet to be revised, trains are not able to depart from their en-route railway stations before their scheduled time. A senior railway official was quoted in the report saying that the speed gain will be factored in the new timetable and many new train services will be pushed easily in without choking the system because of this line upgrade.

Besides, the railway tracks were renewed with 60 kg, long-welded rails as well as the concrete sleepers were replaced with the matching 60 kg variety for higher speed. Also, for better cushioning, the layer of ballast, the bed of stones on which the railway track rests, was raised. Along the 400-odd km line, all points, as well as crossings, were upgraded. To allow for greater braking distance for fast trains, extra, double-distancing signals were put up as well. Also, to stop the train at the intended point, signals indicating the driver when to apply brakes have been installed by the national transporter. Additionally, in order to enable higher loads of energy required for higher speed, the overhead equipment that carries the electric wire for traction, have been equipped with more robust insulators.

Rail News
Oct 15 (18:13)
Railway Fan~   4928 blog posts
Re# 4747058-1            Tags   Past Edits
Effects of Speed Upgrade !
• Sampoorna Kranti Express is reaching Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya railway station in just two-and-a-half hours instead of 3hrs or more earlier
• Purushottam Express is reaching Koderma around 40 minutes before its scheduled time.Onwards, the train is reaching Gaya nearly 20 minutes early and then to Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay railway station about half-an-hour before time.
As per article
“”A senior railway official was quoted in the report saying that the speed gain will be factored in the new timetable and many new train services will be pushed easily in without choking the system because of this line upgrade””
Oct 15 (17:45) Faster freight movement now! Indian Railways approves Alstom-built e-locos to run freight trains at 120 kmph (
IR Affairs

News Entry# 421478  Blog Entry# 4747056   
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Soon, 12,000 HP electric locomotives, manufactured by Alstom to run freight trains! Recently, Piyush Goyal chaired Railway Ministry has approved Alstom-built 12,000 HP e-locos to run freight trains across the Indian Railways network at a maximum speed of 120 km per hour. Earlier this year, the national transporter began inducting the WAG 12B e-locomotives, which are said to be the most powerful locos to run on Indian Railways tracks. These e-locos, cumulatively, have already clocked a distance of more than 1 million kilometres, thus providing a noteworthy fillip to India’s freight logistics landscape. According to a press release issued by Alstom, these e-locomotives will allow safer and faster movement of heavier freight train services that are capable to haul around 6000 tonnes freight at 120 km per hour of top speed.

These locos have been planned to be deployed for operations on major freight routes of the Indian Railways network including the Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs). These electric locomotives are expected to increase the average speed of Indian Railways freight trains by at least 20 to 25 km per hour.

According to Alain Spohr, Managing Director, Alstom India and South Asia, these locomotives have been equipped with Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBT) based propulsion technology. Due to the use of regenerative braking, it would lead to considerable savings in the consumption of energy. Also, this technology will help towards making the process of acceleration more efficient by minimizing the heat generation as well as traction noise. In addition to these benefits, this move will also bring down operational costs as well as reduce the congestion faced by the national transporter, he added.

According to Alstom, despite the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, the company restarted significant production at all its manufacturing facilities with the advent of Unlock 1.0, ensuring all permissions that are necessary as well as adhering to government protocols.
Oct 15 (17:42) Indian Railways ups ante in fight against Covid-19! Passengers to be booked for not following guidelines (
Commentary/Human Interest

News Entry# 421477  Blog Entry# 4747052   
  Past Edits
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Indian Railways to charge fines from passengers for not following COVID-19 protocols! Under sections 145, 153 and 154 of Railway Act, 1989, passengers could be booked for not following protocols laid down for the novel coronavirus outbreak, including wearing face masks, observing social distancing norms and travelling after being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the Railway Protection Force (RPF), such passengers may have to pay fines and even face imprisonment. The RPF has issued detailed guidelines for railway passengers, especially for the upcoming festive season. These guidelines include various acts or omissions that railway passengers have to desist from while at railway premises, according to a PTI report.

guidelines include not maintaining social distancing, not wearing a face mask or wearing a mask improperly, coming to railway premises/station or boarding a train after having been diagnosed COVID-19 positive or awaiting results for the medical test or boarding despite being denied travel by the station’s health team. Besides, according to the RPF, spitting or wilful ejection of body fluid or waste in a public area is unlawful as well. Some of the other actions that are not allowed by passengers are indulging in activities which may create unhygienic/unclean conditions or affect safety at railway stations and in trains or public health as well as not following any of the guidelines issued by the administration of Indian Railways for prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

According to the report, section 145 of the Railway Act deals with nuisance or drunkenness and has a maximum one month jail term with a minimum fine of Rs 250 on the second violation. The Railway Act’s section 153 deals with endangering the safety of passengers travelling by Indian Railways by wilful act or omission. This has a maximum of five years jail term with a fine. Section 154 pertains to endangering the safety of passengers travelling by train by rash or negligent act or omission. This section has imprisonment for a term, extendable to one year, or with fine, or with both.
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