A pongal gift. A Beach–Tambaram–Chengalpattu-Kancheepuram–Arakonam–Beach circular surface rail system has been a long-cherished dream for the Chennai commuter. Though mooted decades ago, it suffered due to issues of acquisition of defence land belonging to the naval base near Arakonam.
“This problem has been sorted out. A circular train system can as well be a Pongal gift,” said Southern Railway (SR) General Manager, R K Kulshrestha.
More such gifts appear to be on the cards.The Unified Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority is to materialise soon. The State Transport Minister is to be the Chairman, the Chief Secretary will be the convenor and the General Manager – SR among the prominent members of this authority. This authority will soon be established as a special purpose vehicle that will manage the suburban metro transport system.
SR is passenger rich. During 2017-18, it carried 883 million passengers and 5.50 million tonnes of freight. For SR, 55 per cent of the income comes from passenger movement, 36 per cent from freight, and the rest from sundry earning: “we have excess capacity for which there is not adequate traffic offering: we have traffic carriage of 70 million tonnes while we can carry 100 million tonnes. We have erected double lines in most of the important corridors and have a record of efficient capacity utilisation,” said Kulshrestha.
OptimiSation of capacity utilisation
The SR has been optimising capacity utilisation in different corridors. With three major ports at Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin and three private ports at Ennore Krishnapattinam and Karaikal, SR has been effectively serving the needs of power plants and other industrial units. SR is prospecting the potential for power plants like the one contemplated at Melamarudur that can bring an additional 2 million tonnes of freight, the GM said.
SR has set up a car terminal at Cheyyar. Kulshrestha referred to the elegant and economical method of transferring cars from this terminal to Changsari near Guwahati, to Kathuwas near Jaipur and Sanand in Gujarat. Load for this facility has been picking up. We are endeavouring to employ more rail rakes, he said. The General Manager pointed to plans to increase loading of automobiles from the present 26 a month to 40 a month. SR is also hoping to commission the road-cum-rail project. In this road trailers that will have the ability to ply both on the road and on the rail will move high-value commodities.
Safety and energy saving measures
Safety at Level Crossings is a major concern. To enhance this safety Railways set the deadline for complete elimination of unmanned level crossings(UMLC) across Indian Railways by September 2018. SR has become UMLC-free during the first quarter of the current year itself.
SR has planned 4 MW solar plants in the roofs, of station buildings and platforms in 25 railway stations. An additional 4 MW is scheduled to be commissioned at 48 stations to manage the existing load. Five windmills of 10.5 MW will be commissioned by January 2019.
Railways has indeed caught up with technology. The Rail Partner mobile app is a one-stop solution for all the rail-related issues, travel information, ticketing, complaints and grievances. The UTS Mobile App, launched in 2015 for ease of unreserved ticketing has been extensively used in SR.