In 2020, Indian Railways Proved To Be Lifeline Of The Country

New Delhi: The year 2020 proved that Indian Railways is the lifeline of the country as the national transporter played a significant role in transporting lakhs of stranded migrant workers back to their homes and also took up the task of maintaining supply of essential commodities amid the nationwide lockdown triggered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The railways also took the maintenance work of its infrastructure amid the lockdown as train operations across the country were very minimal.

According to Railway Ministry officials, in the beginning of the year, the national transporter had started the procedure of merging all cadres into one.

The officials said that the merger was required to do away with department rivalry.

The railways also started the process of allowing private players to run passenger trains and corporatising all production units in 2020, an official said.

After the train services were stopped in the last week of March due to the outbreak of the pandemic, the railways continued to run freight trains which helped maintain the essential supply chain across the country.

The national transporter then started Shramik Special trains from May 1 to transport stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students. Following the success of the Special trains, it started 15 pairs of special air-conditioned trains from May 12, followed by 100 pairs of trains from June 1 and 80 more pairs from September 1.

The railways also started runing 20 pairs of clone trains from September 12.

The railways ran over 4,600 Shramik Special trains and ferried over 63 lakh people across the country. However, according to a written reply in Rajya Sabha, 97 passengers died while travelling on Shramik Special trains between May 1 and September 9

Amid the pandemic, railways converted over 5,000 coaches into isolation wards for the Covid-19 patients to meet the extra demand of the beds in remote areas.

On the freight loading front, the railways transported over 834 million tonnes of goods till December.

The national transporter ferried foodgrains, fertilizer, milk, medical equipment, cement, coal, PPE kits and medicines among others transported across the country.

Due to the Covid pandemic and sudden halt of the passenger, mail and express trains, the railways estimates passenger earnings of Rs 15,000 crore in the current fiscal as compared to Rs 53,000 crore in the last financial year.

The railways managed to earn only Rs 4,600 crore in this fiscal from the passenger train operations.

Till now, over 1,089 trains are running for passengers out of the 1,768 trains, besides suburban services operational in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi regions.

The railways meanwhile, took the opportunity of maintaining its assets including rail bridges and tracks during the lockdown.

A railway ministry official said that the maintenance of the railway assets was much required exercise to strengthen the rail infrastructure for safety of train operations.

The railways this year also offered 109 routes to private players for operating 151 modern trains across the country. The process of the selection of the companies are underway.

The officials said that the private train operations is expected to enhance the passenger operations with customers getting best in-class service at competitive price. The project would entail private sector investment of about Rs 30,000 crore.

The year also witnessed major activities on the Dedicated Freight Corridor front as about 600 km of routes were commissioned with trial runs being operational.

Even Alstom, which entered five years ago with the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways, the national transporter gave permission for the world’s most powerful electric locomotive to run freight trains at a speed of 120 kmph in October this year.

Alstom’s 12,000 HP electric locomotives, which have been manufactured along with the Madhepura Electric Locomotives Pvt Ltd was officially approved by the ministry of railways and the research design and standards organisation (RDSO) to run freight trains at a maximum speed of 120 kmph.

The Indian railways began inducting the WAG 12B e-locos in May this year.

The national transporter also conducted successful trial runs of two fully-loaded freight trains on the 343 km long Bhaupur-Khurja section of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) at a speed of 100 kmph.

Alstom won the contract in 2015 worth over 200 million euros to provide the electrification, signalling and telecommunications system for the 343-kilometre-long eastern portion of the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC).

As part of the contract, Alstom has also supplied state of the art signalling system, telecom system, construction of traction sub stations, station buildings and other civil works and has constructed one of the world’s largest Operations Control Centre (OCC) at Prayagraj monitoring operations on the entire eastern stretch of DFC.

Alstom India and South Asia Managing Director Alain Spohr said, “Alstom is proud to partner in India’s growth story. Today, as we look back at an eventful five-year journey, it gives me immense pride to state that we have made progress across a spectrum of spheres – technological, infrastructural and socioeconomic – alike.”

The year 2020 also witnessed disqualification of Chinese Joint Venture from the tender to manufacture 44 Vande Bharat train sets worth Rs 1,800 crore. Another Chinese company was also disqualified from one of the projects of the DFC.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), which is looking after the work of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) or Bullet train project awarded civil contracts for the construction of 64 per cent of the alignment which includes five HSR stations at Vapi, Billimora, Surat, Bharuch, Anand/Nadiad, train depot at Surat and one mountain tunnel of 350 metres.

The NHSRCL also signed the second contract agreement with Larsen and Toubro Limited for the design and construction of 88 km of viaducts between Vadodara and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, including the construction of elevated high speed rail stations at Anand/Nadiad.

The NHSRCL has till date awarded civil contracts for the construction of 92 per cent of MAHSR alignment in Gujarat (325 km out of 352 km in Gujarat), which also includes five HSR stations — Vapi, Billimora, Surat, Bharuch, Anand/Nadiad, a train depot at Surat and one mountain tunnel of 350 metres.

In November this year, the NHSRCL had signed a contract agreement for 237 km length of viaduct between Vapi (Zaroli Village on Maharashtra-Gujarat Border) and Vadodara for 508 km of MAHSR.

The year also saw the finalisation of Draft National Rail Plan 2020 which envisages three more dedicated freight corridors and several high speed corridors in the Indian rail network.

According to the Draft National Rail Plan, several cities across India will be connected via bullet trains. Railways needs a capital expenditure of Rs 2.9 lakh crore for the 2024 vision document.

Meanwhile, the NHSRCL has started the work to prepare the detailed project report for seven high speed corridors.

In August this year, the Indian Railways started Kisan Special Parcel Trains to transport perishable goods, a promise made in the Union Budget 2020-21.

The railways has developed a new design of refrigerated parcel vans with the carrying capacity of 17 tonnes for the transportation of highly perishable parcel traffic. It was procured through Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala.

The Indian railways currently has a fleet of nine such refrigerated vans and they can be booked on a round-trip basis.

According to railways, the Kisan Rail train with frozen containers is expected to build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, inclusive of fish, meat and milk.

Railways has 98 Reefer (Ventilated Insulated) rail containers with a carrying capacity of 12 tonnes per container which were procured through CONCOR for movement of fruits and vegetables to different parts of the country.

The temperature-controlled perishable cargo centres were commissioned at Ghazipur Ghat in Uttar Pradesh, New Azadpur in New Delhi, and Raja ka Talab again in UP, as a pilot project under the Kisan Vision Project by CONCOR through a CSR initiative while another project is under construction at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra’s Nasik.

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