AFTER YO-YOING WIDELY, AC LOCAL BACK IN WR LAP

The Central Railway, after months of static trials, has officially given up on Mumbai’s first air-conditioned local.

In a letter written to the Railway Board, the Central Railway has said that it will not be possible for it to run the local because of the presence of a series of bridges between Kurla and CST that are too low to let the AC local pass. The AC local is a few inches taller than the other locals currently running in Mumbai.

The Railway Board in turn has now written to the Western Railway, asking it to take charge of the AC rake. The Western Railway has also been asked to identify a stretch on which the AC local could be deployed.

While earlier, when the AC train was first proposed for Mumbai, there was a race between the Central Railway and the Western Railway to run it. Months later, it seems both don’t want it.

However, on the night of March 16, 2016, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced that the Central Railway (CR) would get the AC train, upsetting Western Railway users who, after a long wait, had hoped for a cool commute. Confirming that the AC local is now back in Western Railway’s lap, Chief Public Relation Officer Ravinder Bhakar said: “The Central Railway proposed to the Railway Board that the AC local should be transferred to the Western Railway. The Railway Board has now asked us to identify the sections where this AC EMU rake can be run.”

Source

I am appalled at the poor planning & execution of this project. In spite of so many delays, they have royally messed up the whole thing. In this era when India has reached Mars, the railways cannot even ensure they build a rake in sync with the dimensions of the section where it will be used? How difficult is it? The gimmicky Rail Vikas Shivirs are of no use if IR displays such low levels of technical proficiency. The saddest part is that these mistakes are being repeated in every new project.

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CR not keen on cashless tickets at Airoli?

One branch of the organisation where I work is located at Airoli. At times I need to visit this branch for work. The office is located in Airoli east, which is a hotbed of IT parks. Everyday, thousands of employees working in these offices use Airoli station to reach their respective workplaces. Considering the heavy footfall it receives everyday, one would expect the eastern entrance to have all the amenities required at a station. To my surprise, I found that the east side was devoid of even basic amenities. Forget a ticket booking office, CR has not provided even an ATVM at the eastern side! In order to use an ATVM, one needs to walk all the way to the booking office on the other side of station. In all, it is a 5-6 minute walk from east to west and back to platform. That beats the whole purpose of providing convenience of ATVM!

Everytime when I used the ATVM on west side, I could see many passengers coming from east to the ticket booking office at west. This means that there is definitely a strong case for providing an ATVM at east itself. I decided to do something about this. At that time, Railway Minister had recently announced that passengers could post their suggestions/grievances on Twitter. Every zone & division had a dedicated twitter handle to whom passengers could tweet their problems. This new initiative was getting a lot of attention & praise. Putting forward the request for ATVM at Airoli East would be easy due to this new initiative, I thought.

So, some time in August/September, I tweeted to CR & Railway ministry to install an ATVM at Airoli east. I waited with bated breath for their response…. And kept on waiting. The response never came. Over the next year or so, I sent several reminders at regular intervals. I tweeted to all possible authorities including GM, DRM Mumbai, Railway Ministry & the railway minister himself. However none of the tweets managed to catch the attention of authorities.

Slowly I realised that Twitter will not be helpful for this. I decided to take another method – RTI. On 15 September I submitted an RTI Request through the online portal rtionline.gov.in to the Ministry of railways. I asked for the reason why there was no action on my tweet, whether there was any plan to put up ATVM at Airoli east Thane end and whether a feasibility study was carried out for the same. There was no response in the deadline of 30 days, hence I filed first appeal. After filing appeal, the request was transferred to CR headquarters. On 20th October the request was transferred to DRM Mumbai. Again, there was no response in the stipulated 30 days. I filed first appeal for it on 22nd November. As of 8th December, there was no response to the first appeal, neither to the request itself.

So that is the whole story in a nutshell. The ATVM is nowhere in sight. In spite of IR’s claims of becoming passenger friendly, this is the struggle I am going through just for getting an ATVM installed at a location which would benefit thousands. It is no rocket science, and the work will take not more than 1 week. In today’s post demonetisation era, this is even more important to enable cashless transactions. However CR is just not bothered.

I’ve tried all possible means to get my valid demand heard by CR. I tweeted patiently for a year. When slight frustration creeped in, I said I will travel ticketless from Airoli in protest (As a responsible citizen I haven’t done this till date, but my patience is coming to an end now). Then I took the RTI route. But all these efforts have been futile. I have started losing all hopes of getting any response from CR on this matter.

News Roundup from the last 2 months

Due to some reason, I was unable to post in the last couple of months. Here is a summary of the important news from this period.

  1. It was proposed that last 10-12 Bombardier rakes should be allotted to CR.
  2. It was discovered that the new air conditioned local cannot run between Churchgate & Dadar on WR. Confusion over where the rake will operate still prevails.
  3. MUTP-3 was sanctioned
  4. Bombardier rake manufacturing continued at a steady pace. 63 have been despatched as of today
  5. CR’s proposal for getting 10-12 Bombardier rakes was not accepted.
  6. Air conditioned rake’s field trials likely to begin in December

How delayed is Mumbai’s first AC local?

Just how delayed is Mumbai’s air-conditioned (AC) suburban train project? If replies given to dna by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai are anything to go by, then the project has been six years in the making. And just about no railway official is willing to hazard a guess on when the project, which comprises making 10 such AC rakes, will be completed.

According to railway ministry documents, the AC suburban rake project started way back in 2010 under the guardianship of the Railway Board’s Electrical Engineering (Development) directorate.

The start was a good one with a Railway Board letter of acceptance way back on November 23, 2010, finalising the purchase of 40 traction motors – the heart of the rake – for all 10 rakes at one go. The cost for these motors – four for each of the 10 rakes – was set at Rs167.47 crore excluding taxes and duties. On the same day, a purchase order worth Rs7 crore for other electrical equipment for the first rake was also finalised.

The delays started soon after. The ICF-Chennai, which built the AC rake, was told to proceed on a project by the railway board to build the rake on June 5, 2012, almost two years after the project was envisaged.

By 2013, the electrical sets for the first AC rake were sent to Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) by Netherlands-based Strukton Rail. However, work on the AC rake started more than a year later in August 2014 at ICF-Chennai. On December 8, 2015 the electrical sets for the second rake was also sent by Strukton to BHEL.

On March 31 this year, almost two years after the physical construction of the AC rake began, the ICF-Chennai dispatched the first rake to Mumbai. It arrived at Central Railway’s Kurla Carshed on April 5. According to ICF Chennai documents, the rake was finally constructed at a cost of Rs51.42 crore.

The AC rake is currently awaiting trial. The future of the AC rake project is now without any deadlines for the future. In a reply to dna on the production schedule for future AC rakes, ICF stated that ‘further manufacturing will be decided based on the performance of the trials’.

Source

Unfortunately, this is the fate of every new development in the Indian Railways. They just seem to lack the ability to bring in improvements in an acceptable time frame. The system is riddled with bureaucracy, red tape, infighting between departments etc.

ICF’s response to quality issues

I had raised a grievance regarding these quality issues on pgportal, as well as on Twitter. CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer) at ICF was very prompt to reply on Twitter. He informed that brainstorming sessions were conducted at ICF for improving paint quality, apart from a few other things.

The pgportal grievance was also forwarded to ICF for resolution. ICF’s reply is as follows:

The grievances of the applicant have been studied in detail with concerned departments. The points given on both Interior Exterior of MUTP(EMU) rakes also thoroughly studied. It is to be mentioned here that, all the item have details specifications drawings. The materials supplied by various manufacturers are based on our drawings specifications which are inspected by M/s.RITES before supply. ICF also strictly following the despatch targets given by Railway Board to Western Railway till date. All the coaches are manufactured as per strict QAP with stage inspections wherever needed. Post despatch, ICF is getting feedback on each rate at the time of commissioning at Western Railway. Board on the commissioning reports all the vendors ICF staff whoever involved in manufacture of MUTP (EMU) rakes have been asked to visit Western Railway and to rectify the defects then there. This is a continuous process and a system is in existence for addressing all the commissioning issues raised by Western Railway. Anyway ICF is taking all the points given by the applicant giving special attention to it. All necessary preventive /corrective action on despatched rakes as well as future rakes are initiated and ensured.

From their reply it is clear that ICF has taken efforts to patiently go through everything before replying. They made a sincere attempt to understand the issues. I would like to thank the team at ICF for the sincere efforts they have taken to resolve the grievance & for devoting time to listen to a layman. I am eagerly waiting to see the positive changes in rakes manufactured from now!

I would also take this opportunity to congratulate ICF for reaching milestone of 50th Bombardier rake. It is definitely not an easy task to manufacture 600 coaches in such a short duration.

Construction of two metro lines to begin mid-monsoon

Hindustan Times reports:

The BJP-led state government has decided to start building two metro lines in the first week of September, bucking the decades-old practice of halting construction during the monsoon.

The reason for this is that the government wants to ensure the two lines are operational by mid-2019, in time for it to showcase them as an achievement in the run-up to elections later that year.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) recently appointed contractors for civil work on Metro 7 (Dahisar East to Andheri East) and Metro 2A (Dahisar to DN Nagar stretch).

“We have to build a metro network spanning over 170 km in Mumbai and surrounding areas. To achieve this goal, we will have to speed up work. So we have asked the contractors of Metro 2A and Metro 7 to start construction in September, which is feasible,” said Pravin Darade, additional commissioner of MMRDA and a secretary in the chief minister’s office.

Link to source.

I hope at least the urge to complete the lines for showcasing in elections will ensure that they stay on schedule. If this reason does not make them complete work on time, nothing ever will.