Ministry of Railways, India, has asked the public to submit their ideas and suggestions to be included in the Indian Railway Budget for 2016-17. Here are some suggestions that can be implemented. You can also give your suggestions to be included in the budget though this online portal here.
Integration of all Consumer IT Initiatives onto a Single Platform
Indian Railways’ consumer IT initiative platforms that include online ticketing, enquiry, grievance registration, train tracking etc are like none other in the world. However, as of now all these services are highly fragmented. We have one platform for online ticketing (IRCTC), another for train timetable/accommodation availability enquiry, another for train running status, another for grievance redressal, a plethora of apps and platforms for various Unreserved and Suburban systems and so on. We also have the Official Portal, Railway Board Website, IRCTC, NTES, PRS, CRIS, CONCOR, IRFC, IREPS, RVNL, RDSO, Konkan Railway and then all the zonal railway websites and production unit websites and so on and so forth. And most of these websites look as if we are still in 1998. They should all be revamped to give them a modern, contemporary user experiences.
It would be great if there were a single big Indian Railways portal which would primarily cater to consumer initiatives: seat/route enquiry and booking, announcements, running status, grievances and so on and a sub portal for all enterprise activities. This should go for apps also. All those UTS apps should be integrated into one platform and a single app along with IRCTC, where anyone could book a ticket on any system from anywhere from the same app. We should be able to enquire and book tickets from the front page itself, like airline websites. In short, enquiry and booking should be rolled into one same portal.
Non-Conventional Energy Initiatives
- Solar panels integrated into the roofs of all passenger coaches would be a great idea, to power various electrical needs of individual coaches. This is already in the pilot stage and could be made more widespread.
- Can solar panels be installed atop OHE catenaries also? Power generated so could be fed into the grid to reduce atleast some amount on the power bill.
Apply Garib Rath chair car fare structure for Double Decker AC Chair Cars, since their seats have less leg space and are quite uncomfortable as compared to full size Chair Car seats. All Double Decker trains will run full and will earn more revenue than they do now.
Introduce more Double Decker type (or Garib Rath type) “Economy” Chair Cars in short distance day trains.
No initiative or individual can survive on a single revenue source. This is why Indian Railways need to look at revenue streams other than ticketing revenue, like monetizing all that land available to the Indian Railways and also a concept of taxing fossil fuels to provide revenue for Indian Railways.
Transit Cess – Making Private Transport Subsidize Indian Railways
This is a concept that will make private car owners and drivers pay for development of public transit in India. The idea is to levy a variable transit cess on retail petrol and diesel prices. This cess will replace the current VAT charged by the government and will vary from 2% to 10% on the retail petrol price, increasing proportionately as and when crude oil prices in the market decrease. 50% of this cess charged will go into a fund for the development of Indian Railways, while the rest will go to a state-level corpus fund to be used to develop public transit and facilities in the state where the tax is collected from. This will have two advantages: Indian Railways will get a continuous stream of revenue provided by people who do not use public transport and will also discourage driving. Of course, this would require intervention from many other ministries and possibly from the Prime Minister himself.
Commercial Utilization of Land and Station Development
- Lease out railway land to interested private parties for any commercial purposes and/or leisure on the line of parks etc., especially in cities where the railways own huge tracts of land.
- Station Development already in progress through PPP should be extended to all classes and types of stations in India and not just A and A1, to any interested parties.
- Railway stations should be developed as huge commercial/leisure hubs on the Swiss/Japanese model.
Other PPP Initiatives
- Open Indian Railways API to private developers to build various types of applications.
- Allow private freight operators to run their own trains on the lines of CONCOR.
- Allow private vendors (preferably catering companies themselves to avoid any conflict of interest) to set up kiosks inside trains, maybe one per two coaches, to sell stationery, snacks, water, soft drinks, newspapers, magazines, books, mobile recharge and other items necessary for passengers while traveling. This will prevent nuisance created by vendors continuously walking through coaches and will also ensure quality of items sold.
- Allow private tourist operators to run tourist trains along selected routes. Some contenders could be the Araku (Kirandul-Kothavasala) line and various Himalayan and Rajasthan railway lines.
- Integrate IRCTC tourism website with the IRCTC general website.
Safety and Crime Prevention, Safety in Train Running
- Create a single point of contact portal (both through voice and online) to report safety incidents and complaints. Presently there are two number 182 and 138 for crime and other complains respectively. Both should be integrated into one and should be given wide publicity.
- All locomotives should mandatorily be fitted with Anti-Collision Devices (ACD) to prevent collisions.
OTHER (INNOVATIVE?) IDEAS
Revamping Mumbai’s Suburban Railway Under a Single Corporation
Mumbai’s suburban railway system should be run as a single unit by an independent corporation Greater Mumbai Suburban Railway Corporation (GMSRC) in which the Government has a majority stake (like the Konkan Railway) and not as two disjoint units under the control of the Central and Western Railway. This corporation should be allowed to carry out day-to-day operations on its own terms independent of the railway Board, to which it should report only in matters of capital, national security issues, big-ticket acquisitions, technical integration, scheduling, ticketing/billing systems etc. Read more about this here.
Using Technology to Eliminate Paper Charts, Corruption and to Bring Transparency
It is high time we abolished the system of dot-matrix paper charts, which is also the biggest source of corruption in the Railways. All charts should be uploaded online to the cloud, accessible by the TTE though a handheld (or tablet) to manage seat allocation. To bring in more transparency and curb corruption, an option should be provided in the IR/IRCTC app to enable passengers to view berth allocation status in their coaches (without revealing any personal details of passengers). Payments in difference of fare etc could be made online through a credit/debit card PoS system attachable to the handheld/tab. Receipts can be printed using an attachable printer. TDR payments can be made directly to the IRCTC wallet or credit card/account used to book the ticket.
Passengers should be able to upgrade by paying difference in fare to the TTE onboard (by cash or credit/debit card) in case of availability in higher classes.
Design and Development of Trains
- Replace coached model in all premium trains with trainsets.
- End production of old model ICF coaches, produce only LHB coaches with interiors outfitted as per the new “model rake” that was recently rolled out.
- Introduce automatic doors on all trains. This is will vastly enhance safety in all trains.
- Make the window design of Jan Shatabdi coaches standard for all non-AC coaches.
- Introduce vaccuum toilets and high-capacity garbage bins in all coaches in all trains.
Model Trains and Other Souvenirs
Tie up with or tender a reputed organization to create and roll out model train systems (or just model coaches and locomotives) to be sold the general public through railway stations or online. This will generate a lot of interest in the railways and will also generate revenue as there will be undoubtedly a lot of takers for it. Tourists, Railfans, children, model railway enthusiasts, or anyone who wants a souvenir to remind them of Indian trains :). This can be extended to t-shirts, stickers, mugs, key chains, towels and any such souvenir items.
Implement the Bibek Debroy Committee Report
TRAINS, LINES, ELECTRIFICATION AND SUCH BUDGET GOODIES
It again makes no sense in introducing more trains into the already over saturated Indian Railways network. However, there are two routes in India which are crying for more trains. In fact, there are absolutely no practical train connections between these cities, which are among the biggest Metros in the country! Yes, they are to Mumbai from Chennai and Bangalore.
Bangalore City – Mumbai LTT – Bangalore City Daily AC Duronto Express (CR)
Leaves Bangalore City SBC at 1430 everyday to reach Mumbai LTT at 0630 the next day. Leaves Mumbai LTT everyday at 1900 to arrive at SBC at 1100 the next day. Stops at YPR, YNK, GTL, RC, GR, SUR, PUNE. 02 1AC, 06 2AC, 10 3AC, 01 Pantry, 02 EOGs (22 coaches).
Chennai Central – Mumbai LTT – Chennai Central Daily Duronto Express (SR)
Leaves Chennai Central MAS at 1830 everyday to reach Mumbai LTT at 1230 the next day. Leaves from Mumbai LTT at 1600 everyday to reach Chennai Central MAS at 1030 everyday. Stops at AJJ, RU, HX, GTL, RC, WADI, SUR, PUNE. 01 1AC, 02 2AC, 04 3AC, 11 Sleeper Coaches, 01 Pantry Car, 02 SLRs: 21 coaches
Dedicated Freight Corridors
- Howrah – Kharagpur – Bhubaneshwar – Visakhapatnam – Vijayawada – Chennai.
- Dhanbad – Bokaro – Jamshedpur – Rourkela – Bilaspur -Raipur – Nagpur – Bhusawal – Nashik – Mumbai.
- Chennai – Katpadi – Bangalore – Guntakal – Gulbarga – Solapur – Pune – Mumbai.
- Tundla – Gwalior – Jhansi – Bhopal – Nagpur – Ballaharshah – Ramagundam – Warangal – Vijayawada.
- Kazipet – Secunderabad – Guntakal – Bengauru.
- Mangalore – Shoranur – Podanur – Salem – Katpadi (Dedicated 3rd line for freight).
- Connect all Ports to these Dedicated Freight Corridors by existing lines or dedicated spurs if traffic is heavy.
Proposing Electrification of Lines
- Siliguri Jn – New Jalpaiguri – New Cooch Behar – New Alipurduar – Kokrajhar – Rangiya – Kamakhya – Guwahati.
- Ahmedabad – Viramangam – Dharangdhara – Maliya – Sukhpur – Gandhidham – Mundra.
- Alwar – Bandikui – Jaipur – Ajmer – Marwar – Palanpur – Mehsana – Ahmedabad.
- Palanpur – Samakhiyali.
- Lucknow – Raebaraeli – Amethi – Prathapgarh – Janghai.
- Unnao – Unchchahar – Rae Bareli | Dalmau – Daryapur.
- Lakhisarai – Kiul – Bhagalpur – Sahibganj – Bonidanga
- Varanasi – Allahabad via Katka.
- Samastipur – Darbhanga.
- Tumkur – Yeshwantpur – Hosur.
- Guntakal – Kalluru.
- Bolarum – Nizamabad – Nanded – Purna – Jalna – Aurangabad – Ankai.
Proposing Doubling of Lines
- Yelahanka – Dharmavaram – Anantapur – Guntakal.
- Madurai – Tirunelveli – Nagercoil – Thiruvananthapuram.
- Tirupati – Chittoor – Katpadi.
- Chikjajur – Davangere – Hubli.
- Bellari – Gadag – Hubli – Dharwad – Londa – Miraj – Pune | Londa – Madgaon.
- Pratapgarh – Janghai.
- New Bongaigaon – Kamakhya Jn. | Guwahati – Chaparmukh Jn.
- Daund – Ahmednagar – Manmad.
- Bolarum – Nizamabad – Nanded – Purna – Jalna – Aurangabad – Ankai.
- Dwarka – Rajkot – Wankaner – Surendranagar.
- Alwar – Bandikui | Beawer – Marwar | Palanpur – Mehsana – Ahmedabad.
- Bachchwara – Hajipur – Muzaffarpur.
- Katihar – Mukuria.
- Chazipur – Chhapra.
- Varanasi – Allahabad via Katka.
Tripling/Quadrupling/Pentupling/Sextrupling of Lines
All lines running above 100% capacity should be Tripled, those above 120% should be Quadrupled (four lines), above 150% should be Pentupled (five lines) and above 200% should be Sextrupled (six lines), no matter what their present configuration is. This can change keeping in mind future capacity expansion.
DOUBLING AND ELECTRIFICATION OF KONKAN RAILWAY
All Meter and Narrow Gauge lines other than heritage railways should be converted to Broad Gauge.
Proposing New Railway Lines
- Nilambur Road – Nanjangud.
- Malur – Hosur | Krishnarajapuram – Chintamani for the Bangalore Suburban Rail project.
- Karchana – Iradatganj (ALD bypass).
- Hubballi – Ankola.
When Indian Railways is facing a cash crunch, we should rather focus on increasing capacity of present lines. Also, there are a lot of lines already announced and many are under construction. Click here to view lines under construction (lines shown in red).
HIGH SPEED RAIL
The proposed Mumbai – Ahmedabad “Bullet Train” should be only a start. This should be developed into a nationwide network of High Speed Trains in the next 20-25 years. Here are those lines:
- Mysore – Bangalore – Chennai.
- Trivandrum – Ernakulam – Mangalore – Konkan – Mumbai.
- Ernakulam – Coimbatore – Bangalore – Guntakal – Hyderabad – Nagpur – Bhopal – Jhansi – Agra – Delhi – Chandigarh – Ludhiana – Amritsar.
- Chennai – Tirupati – Guntakal – Solapur – Pune – Mumbai.
- Bangalore – Hubli – Belgaum – Kolhapur – Pune.
- Ahmedabad – Udaipur – Jaipur – Delhi.
- Jaipur – Ajmer – Jodhpur.
- Nagpur – Jabalpur – Satna – Allahabad.
- Vadodara – Indore – Bhopal – Jabalpur.
- Mumbai – Nashik – Shirdi – Aurangabad – Nagpur – Raipur – Bilaspur – Ranchi – Kharagpur – Howrah.
- Nagercoil – Madurai – Trichy – Tanjavur – Puducherry – Chennai – Vijayawada – Vizag – Bhubaneshwar – Kharagpur.
- Howrah – Dhanbad – Gaya – Varanasi – Allahabad – Kanpur – Agra.
- Gaya – Patna – Purnea – Kishanganj.
- Kanpur – Lucknow.
- Howrah – Malda – Siliguri – Alipurduar – Guwahati – Jorhat – Dibrugarh.
Many initiatives including developing railway stations with private participation are already under progress. There could be more initiatives that can be rolled out to transform Indian Railways as a modern means of transportation. Let us know in the comments if you can think of any!