Indian Railways is planning a major overhaul: Here's what's in store


The Indian Railways has received a lot of flak not only from passengers but also from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that lashed out at it for failing to meet the basic hygiene standards and highlighted critical safety flaws in the infrastructure.

And while there are numerous examples of how the railways is trying to spruce things up a bit and get their act together, fact is, apart from the relatively lighter changes like placing cameras in kitchens and acquiring blankets that can be washed twice a month, the railways is engaged in some heavy duty changes that are geared towards safety, convenience and basic timeliness of the trains.

According to a report by the Economic Times, here are ten key changes the Indian Railways is currently indulging in.

  1. Eliminating unmanned railway crossings: A little over two months after the unfortunate Kushinagar train accident when a train rammed into a school van killing 14 children at an unmanned railway crossing (UMLC), the railways is aggressively working on eliminating all unmanned railway crossings. To achieve this it has given itself a deadline of 31 March 2020. In fact, the railways has already eliminated all UMLCs in four zones on broad gauge routes in July — West Central Railway, Central Railway, Eastern Railway and South East Central Railway — and is well on its way to eliminating unmanned level crossings in 11 zones by September 2018.


  2. Giving old, worn-out tracks an upgrade: A Times of India report in October 2017 claimed that almost 53% of the 586 train accidents in the last five years were due to derailments. And ageing and/or defective railways tracks is one of the primary causes of derailments. Therefore, the railways has boosted its efforts to replace its ageing tracks and repair defective ones. In fact, the railways claim that there is a 50% increase in rail track renewal from 2,926 kilometres in 2013-14 to 4,405 kilometres in 2017-18.
  3. Construction of foot-over-bridges: In September 2017, a stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Railway Station foot-over-bridge claimed 22 lives. The cause of the stampede is not clear but it is quite apparent that the bridge was too narrow and clearly not sufficient to handle the daily footfall of the station. In fact, a CAG report in 2006 had flagged that the railways had reduced the width of the bridges and stated that foot-over-bridges should be at least 6 m width at all suburban railway platforms. However, now the railways claims that they have managed to up its game and has constructed 74 bridges per year between 2014-18 which is a 221% jump from 23 per year during 2009-14.
  4. Device to guide train drivers through fog: Come winters, rail travel becomes a massive nightmare. Lack of visibility thanks to extreme fog inevitably leads to delays and accidents. But in December 2017, the national transporter installed 4,920 GPS-enabled FOG PASS devices to help loco pilots navigate through the fog. The gadget displays a map of tracks, signals, stations and level crossings and alerts drivers of approaching signals 500 meters ahead, which in turn helps the driver increase or decrease the speed of the train. Believe it or not, before these devices, the common practice to alert drivers was to tie crackers to the tracks.


    Photo by : Vignesh Moorthy on Unsplash
  5. Improved signalling system: In order to eradicate outdated manual signalling, the government pumped in a whopping ₹12990 million to modernise the system. This new automated signalling system aims to enhance safety and speed up train movement in a congested network. Apart from this, the railways intends to provide electronic interlocking systems, introduce European Train Control System technology and mobile train radio communication systems as a part of its five-year upgradation agenda.
  6. Waterproof engines: Heavy rainfall has historically added to the woes of Indian commuters. Waterlogging not only on roads but also on railway tracks lead to delays and brings cities like Mumbai to a standstill. However, the Indian Railways plans to remedy the issue by introducing waterproof locomotive engines to basically tow stranded trains that. Four inches of water can bring a standard train engine to a standstill, however, these new engines are equipped to operate in 12 inches of water.
  7. Measure to make purchasing tickets easier: To nudge people towards a cashless system, the national transporter has installed 9,100 point of sale (POS) machines at about 4,000 locations including rail ticket counters.
  8. Station facelift: The railways plans to spruce up major railway stations big time. The revamped stations will ape modern airports and will therefore include modern facilities like escalators, lifts, subways, ramps, AC VIP lounge, AC waiting room and rest rooms and shopping malls. Apart from this, the stations will will be beautified with local artworks.
  9. Cleanliness: In order to implement the Swachh Railways mission, the railways has introduced mechanised cleaning system at 488 stations and has started using an automatic rail-mounted machine to keep its tracks at platforms clean. And to keep a check on freelance housekeeping contractors, passengers will be asked to rate the cleanliness based on which the contractor will be paid.
  10. Increasing rail connectivity: The Prime Minister’s ‘Act East Policy’ has given a much-required boost to the infrastructural development in northeast India. The first priority was to convert the entire North East rail network to a broad gauge system which it aims to do by 2020.
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