Indian Railways Under Suresh Prabhu’s Tenure

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New Delhi: Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has offered to quit from his position taking responsibility for the recent train accidents. Here’s a look at his tenure and what all step he took in the last three years:

Accidents: The Railways has witnessed 346 accidents under Suresh Prabhu who was given the charge of Railway Ministry in 2015. Since September 2015, there have been there have been at least 28 major accidents. Altogether, 277 people were killed in those accidents. The Railway Minister released data after the Hirakhan Express accident earlier this year that said 1.42 lakh positions for Railways safety staff had not been filled which is a huge concern.

Anil Kakodkar Committee report: Prabhu didn’t implement most of the Anil Kakodkar Committee report on railway safety. The Committee was set up under the UPA rule in 2012 by Dinesh Trivedi, then Railways Minister. The Committee’s recommendations included fast track replacement of current rakes with the mores secure and advanced LHB coaches. The report was submitted before the NDA came to power but it didn’t draw complete attention from the government. The special corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore recommended for the Railways was only approved in this year’s Railway Budget and it is to be spent over a period of five years.

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Slow redevelopment of stations: Prabhu had proposed redevelopment of 400 stations under PPP mode a year into his tenure. However, till May, contracts for only two stations had been cleared. The PPP project undertaken by the ministry has moved at the slowest pace in comparison to its other initiative.

Tatkal service: The Tatkal service of the Railways was transformed recently. Passengers can now avail book-now-and-pay-later service on the IRCTC ticket booking portal. However, the dynamic ticket pricing for certain trains introduced in Tatkal bookings was an added toll on the passengers. The dynamic ticket fare system is one whereby ticket prices change according to surge pricing principle but subject to proportional caps.

Increasing accessibility: Suresh Prabhu’s ministry, that caters to one of the largest daily passenger force in the world, cut down issue redressal time by massively increasing its social media connect.

Introduction of Tejas high-speed train: The Tejas high-speed train runs at a top operational speed of 130 km/h. The train is part of a project offering train services like high speed WiFi, speedy travel, digital entertainment setup and local cuisines on offer. The Tejas trains come installed with 22 brand new features for Indian Railways including TV screens behind headrests and phone sockets for each passenger, LED boards to display information, sensorised taps, bio-vacuum toilets with water level indicator etc.

Executive lounges of IRCTC: Prabhu pushed ahead with the plan for modernising major Indian Railway stations and upgrading them with swanky executive lounges was a key part of this project. The New Delhi Railway Station was equipped with an uber luxurious executive lounge featuring business centre, family rooms, seating area with recliners, buffet and drinks, free of cost.

Disaster relief: For the first time, the Indian Railways were employed for sending disaster relief supplies at a massive scale. In the midst of massive drought, Railways sent the Jaldoot water trains to drought hit areas of Maharashtra’s Latur. The issue of addressing the fuel crisis in northeastern states was helped with the RoRo service. The Railways also helped in supplying food grains to the northeastern states for relief and ready-to-eat food packets in Assam’s flood ravaged areas.

Namma toilets: As part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Namma toilets were installed at railway stations. These are maintenance-free toilets costing Rs 17 lakh per block and only take 4-5 days for construction. Water ATMs were installed at railway stations that dispense clean drinking water at over Rs 3 per litre.

Deen Dayalu and Atyodaya trains: A boost for passengers without reservations came in the form of Deen Dayalu and Atyodaya trains. Deen Dayalu coaches have the feature of being attachable to any train. The Antyodaya was, on the other hand, brought in for unreserved travellers carrying no extra costs. The coaches are equipped with water purifiers, theft protection system and equipment, coat hooks and luggage racks which are cushioned, LED lights etc.

The Humsafar Expressed introduced under Prabhu was a move to improve AC-3-tier travel. The train’s features include vibrant colourful interiors, odour control systems, information system linked to onboard GPS, CCTV surveillance system, fire and smoke detection system and a specialised security control system.

Semi High Speed Trains like Gatimaan Express were started that run at a maximums speed of 160 km/h. Spanish rake manufacturer Talgo also carried out trials of trains that travel around 180 km/h. India and Japan are jointly developing the Bullet Train network in India. The first line is being developed between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Soil Testing and terrain mapping is currently being done and the Railways plans to complete its Diamond Quadrilateral programme in due time connecting.

Tri Netra program: It was brought for terrain imaging for drivers of diesel trains. It also included infrared enhanced optical and radar assisted systems for the mapping purpose. This is particularly helpful for early identification of obstructions on railway tracks. It will be integrated into the large network slowly.

Guard Cabins: These were introduced in 2016 for goods trains. Earlier, the guards travelled without a fan or night light even during peak summers.

Penalty for littering: One of the issues plaguing public transport has been littering. In a bid to bring in discipline among passengers, the 9-day Swachhta Sapta was observed. During that time, the Railways imposed Rs 500 penalties for littering or spitting.

Railway Insurance: The optional travel insurance facility was also introduced at the time of booking. The cover extends up to Rs 10 lakh while it provided a partial disability insurance of Rs 7.5 lakh. It also provided a hospitalisation cover of up to Rs 2 lakh.

Increasing professional accountability of railways’ employees: The Railways introduced KRAs for employees for performance evaluation. The Railways officials are now evaluated on tangible parameters.