India’s railways is the world’s largest rail network and in the past two years have significantly addressed global issues. Under the Paris climate agreement, India pledged to reduce its carbon emissions intensity by 35% by 2030. Since then, the Indian government has been pushing to green the country’s vast railway network by installing 1,000 megawatts of solar energy and working towards having at least 10% of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020 as set out in its Vision 2020 strategy.
Despite a plethora of obstacles, including, but not confined to, delays in the tendering process for new projects, maintenance issues, difficulties in managing performance of devices and regulations of prohibiting cross-border transport of power, Railways are converging efforts with various sectors to translate hard core action plans into real life outcome. Here is a look on how they have planned it out :
Solar power tariffs have plummeted in India in recent months. The Economic Times recently reported that solar tariffs had fallen well below those of power from thermal plants using new coal, suggesting that renewable energy sources could very well be on their way to becoming a cheaper alternative to coal overall in the near future.
The solar generation potential for India’s railways is enormous and the government has plans to install 500MW of solar power from roof-top solar installations on railway stations, administrative buildings and vacant land.
According to Climate Home, 7,000 stations have been targeted for solar panels so far, 90% of which are smaller rural stations where solar energy could be a game-changer as grid-connected panels are not always viable. It is also thought that the benefits could be wider-reaching as any excess solar energy has the potential to be sold to local business and residents.
Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh has one of 300 railway stations where work to green the railways has begun. From August 1 2017, a 1 megawatt solar roof-top will power LEDs for the platforms, two locomotive sheds, a hospital, and numerous offices and smalls shops. Besides lowering carbon emissions, the pioneering project is expected to save the station as much as Rs 20 lakh every year compared to running on grid electricity.
Green Railways Corridor
First Green Rail Corridor was inaugurated by Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday. It is the 114 km long Rameswaram-Manamadurai track in Tamil Nadu.
Till March 2016, 35,104 bio-toilets were installed in various trains and the number increased by 7,000 since then till last week. The ministry’s target is to provide 30,000 new bio toilets in the year 2016-2017.
This is another step by the Ministry of Railways towards the `Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and to meet its ambitious target of providing bio-toilets in all coaches by September 2019.converting it into methane and water, discharged further to the desired surface.
Stated by the Indian Express, India is making efforts to equip all trains with bio-toilets by 2019. In recent years, Indian Railways and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have partnered to develop environment-friendly bio-toilets for its passenger coaches where human waste is collected in tanks below the toilets and decomposed by a consortium of bacteria, as opposed to being released directly onto the tracks.
At last count, the railway network had almost 49,000 bio-toilets in over 900 operational trains across India. Last year, the 141-km-long Okha-Kanalus route and the 34-km-long Porbandar-Wansjaliya sections in Gujarat became waste disposal-free when all trains passing through these lines became equipped with bio-toilets. 10 passenger trains consisting of 286 coaches moving over the 114-km long Rameswaram-Manamadurai section of Tamil Nadu were also provided with bio-toilets.
As many as 2,428 rainwater harvesting systems have been installed by the railways at different locations, including station buildings across the country. In place of steel sleepers on steel bridges, environmentally friendly composite sleepers made of recycled plastic waste are being used over all girder bridges to collect rainwater, which is mainly used for maintenance of wagons/coaches and cleaning of stations.
Indian Railways has a target of planting a total of 5 crore trees across along the track and rail land across the country. In 2016, the Forest Department of Haryana & Punjab along with the Union Ministry of Railways signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for planting around 5 lakh trees alongside railway track land. The Haryana government also decided to team up with the railways to take up an afforestation drive on vacant land along the railway lines in the state.
Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system
“We are also doing Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system, which is a complete digitisation process and will be an IT-based platform for system-wide integration and planning. All rail operations will be online. We’re aiming at saving about ₹60,000 crore, according to industry estimates,” Prabhu said.
An ERP is a business process management software that enables any organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources.
Stressing on the various issues plaguing the national transporter, the Railway Minister also mentioned that organisations like the railways, with a vast and complex network, must have a vision.
Partnering with Google for showcasing Railway heritage
Railways will collaborate with Google for digitizing and showcasing its heritage on digital platforms. Google has agreed to partner with Railways to digitise its heritage assets and help create a digital repository for universal online access free of cost, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
Indian Railway has a huge list of heritage assets including bridges, steam locos, buildings, artefacts and museums which can be showcased for global audience. An agreement in this regard will be signed soon between National Rail Museum and Google Cultural Institute (GCI).
GCI is a non-profit organisation that partners with cultural organisations to bring world’s cultural heritage online. GCI builds online tools and offers them to institutions for showcasing and sharing cultural assets. The official said collaboration will not only make NRM accessible online and offer virtual tours but also help digitise the national transporter’s entire heritage inventory which includes more than 20 museums, hundreds of steam locos, coaches, station buildings, bridges among others. “Once these are placed online, it will act as a great tourist attraction,” he said.
GCI generally works with government organisations and not for profit groups to provide digital collection management systems and storeytelling tools free of cost. Various ministries and institutes of the government have already collaborated with GCI for displaying and preserving India’s cultural heritage digitally.
Currently Google is working with the railways in providing free Wi-Fi service at 100 stations. Indian Railway is preparing a comprehensive conservation management plan to preserve and promote its heritage assets. Besides, a dedicated rail heritage website under Railway Board’s website is operational for dissemination of information.
The Indian Railways is firming up plans to join hands with Malaysia to redevelop about 20 stations in Tier-II cities across the country. Aimed at attracting nearly Rs 1 lakh crore private investment, the station redevelopment project envisages infrastructure revamp at platforms and circulating areas.
It also entails commercial exploitation of station areas for constructing hotels, eateries, multiplexes, shopping malls and office complex among others for the use of developers for a period of 45 years.
Accident-Prevention and Disabled-Friendly Facilities
The first is a BoC (battery operated car) service named ‘Sarathi Seva’, which will make it much easier for disabled and elderly persons to move around the stations. The service will be available in 75 major stations across the country at a nominal fee.
The second new feature is the TRI NETRA (Terrain Imaging for Diesel Drivers – Infrared Enhanced Optical and Radar Assisted) accident prevention device.
Currently, the train driver has only his eyes to inform him of any impending dangers. This is a major drawback, especially during times of limited visibility. In such cases, TRI NETRA can be a lifesaver.
The device uses infrared and radar technology to collect signals up to a distance of 2-3 km, and then displays the information on a screen fitted inside the locomotive. This will give ample time for the driver to apply the brakes.
As of now, the device will be procured from countries such as Japan, France, etc., but efforts are underway to implement an indigenously developed system (Train Collision Avoidance System- TCAS) too. Moreover, TCAS has already been tested on the 250 km Secunderabad railway line and has returned positive results.
Non-fare revenue policy
Railways have embarked on a Non-fare revenue policy. The policy includes includes selling outdoor spaces at railway stations to media buying agencies for installing advertising hoardings and billboards, leasing out spaces to ATMs , allowing FMCG companies or Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or consumer packaged goods (CPG) are products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost. Examples include non-durable goods such as soft drinks, toiletries, over-the-counter drugs, processed foods and many other consumables. Provoding radio and video content through wifi. Railways estimate that revenue generation from these activities will be to the tune of 18,000 crore.
Ola and Uber are expected to help drive non-fare revenue for the Indian Railways, which is eyeing minimum revenue of Rs 500 crore a year through leasing parking lots at stations and the adjoining vacant land to the cab aggregators.
The concept is called Green Transportation and its genius may lie in its simplicity. Through a method called Roll-on Roll-off (RORO), heavy commercial vehicles will be boarded onto flat wagons at beginning of the city limits and will be offloaded at the other end of the city.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu was at hand to flag off the pilot project, which will try to figure out if such a concept can be implemented in other regions too.
RO-RO service aims to reduce carbon emission and congestion on the roads of the national capital region (NCR) as about 66,000 diesel-guzzling trucks pass through Delhi and its adjoining areas in a day.
According to railways, there are about 20,000 trucks which are not meant for the NCR, but enter the region to travel further. There are eight entry/exit routes in the NCR which will be utilised for RO-RO service to take trucks off the road.
Besides the Ro-RO service, a series of initiatives were unveiled today to perk up railways revenue through increase in the freight share and passengers segment.
The business plan envisages commissioning 100 new freight terminals, introduction of double stack dwarf containers and firming up long term agreements with freight customers.Freight earning is two-third of railways total revenue.
“However, despite challenging situation, we have managed to improve in the loadings. We have created capacity of 1.2 billion tonnes for cargo,” he noted.
The new plan envisages long-term agreement with various freight customers like manufacturers of cement, steel and fertilizer and food grains to attract more loadings.
Railways main freight share was depending mostly on eight commodities including coal, iron ore, cement, fertilizer and foodgrains. Now railways has identified many more items like plastics, tiles, sandstones, bamboos.
Prabhu also launched the double stack dwarf containers for the movement of goods from Punjab to Gujarat on the electrified route.
Railways to Implement Maglev Train Project
Indian Railways has instructed Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) to prepare a detailed project report for the same within a period of six months. The first stretch of the project is to be implemented within three years.
Maglev trains run at speeds ranging from 350 kmph to 500 kmph. The Japan Maglev train that reached a speed of 600 kmph holds the current record for highest speed. Magnetic levitation technology allows the train to run without touching the ground and it remains elevated at 1 to 6 inches above the ground through a system of magnets, thereby eliminating friction.
Apps and latest technology
Most likely to be called HindRail, the app will provide users information such as the schedule of trains; the platform number where a particular train is slated to arrive or depart; information on delays; berth availability and more. Additionally, it will also boast a slew of additional features. For instance, users can book porters beforehand! They can also book hotel rooms, taxis, tour packages and other facilities.
IRCTC Rail Connect, to facilitate booking of train tickets in a faster and easier way. Equipped with latest technology, the new App also makes possible booking of tatkal ticket, ladies quota, premium tatkal quota booking and current reservation.
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Limited, which handles online train ticket bookings, has synchronised the new App, IRCTC Rail Connect, with its website.
Indian Railways Auctions Discarded Coaches
Indian Railways will soon be auctioning the coaches of at least six metre-gauge trains that have been pulled out of operation by the Lucknow division of North Eastern Railway (NER) due to gauge conversion of the Aishbagh-Mailani section.
Railways auctions only the waste material after removing useful parts of the coaches. The buyers are usually independent dealers who extract the scrap metal and sell it. But the entire coach is auctioned in case of metre-gauge trains. This is because most trains are now broad gauge and no part of the metre-gauge coaches are useful.
The last metre gauge coach that was auctioned was sold for Rs 1,10,000. And that was about 30 years ago.
Revival of 1,500 Water Bodies
There are a total of 1,561 water bodies in contention to be revived currently that include wells, ponds, dams, reservoirs, step wells and more. While some of them have completely dried up, many are in varying stages of drying up entirely and none of them are in use. The railways wants to change that soon.
This is one among the many initiatives taken by the body as part of their policy to converse water. Recently it was announced that the railways will start buying recycled water from private players. This move will reportedly save the railways ₹400 crore annually. The policy envisages the implementation of a better water management system in order to preserve water.
This move is also to ensure that unnecessary amount of money does not get spent in the process. A senior Railway Ministry official spoke to the Economic Times and elaborated on the policy framework that is being put in place. The official noted, “The water policy envisages buying treated water from water treatment plants for 2 paise per litre, while we now purchase water for 7 paise per litre.”
Currently the government spends a whopping ₹4,000 crore on its water bill alone on a yearly basis. The railways will encourage private players to set up water treatment plants specifically for this purpose and authorities will also ensure that treated water is bought from these plants alone.
According to the official, the new water policy will also be promoting a better water management system that will curtail water wastage and consumption.
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