IRFCA Mailing List Archive
Messages 601 - 620
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <>
Subject: Re: Ramble
Date: 28 May 1991 18:42:00 -0500
I agree with Pushkar that Railways are best left to governments.
Regarding the environmental effects of planes, trains and automobiles,
I was reading an article somewhere (I believe Indian Railways some
issue of last year) which had compared the environmental costs of
these thre modes of transportation. I would agree that IR is a biased
magazine, but the numbers were greatly in favour of trains. There was
another article on the same topic in Washington Post recently (there is
a war going on between people who want suburban train services in Northen
Virginia and those who don't). It suggested that A double line between
two points is equivalent to 5 additional highway lanes in terms of
its carrying capacity. It costs lot more to build and maintain those
highways and amount of fuel spent per person is extremely low on trains
compared to cars. In another article in praise of higspeed links being
planned in Texas, it was mentioned that the total area occupied by
TGV tracks between Paris and Lyons is smaller than the aera covered by
Charles deGaulle airport. (Of course, the comparison does not make
any sense to me since the airport doesn't only serve Lyons route. But
comparison with highways is good.)
From: jis <email@example.com
Date: 29 May 1991 08:00:00 -0500
> On the other hand in this country we have a privately operated
> system: Amtrak that, in my honest opinion sucks (with the sole
> exception of the D.C.-N.Y. corridor).
Amtrak is the trademark for the National Rail Passenger Corporation,
which is wholly owned by the US Government. It was formed after the
private railroad corporations failed to run passenger service even in
areas where it was essential because in their opinion it was not
sufficiently profitable to make it worth their while.
> Also, I have heard rumors that corporations such as G.M.
> actually bought and SHUT DOWN public transport systems in
> cities like L.A. to promote car use.
That is not a rumor. That is a fact that has been established in court.
From: apte <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Texas TGV
Date: 29 May 1991 15:01:00 -0500
Today's N.Y. Times carried an interesting article on the so-called
Texas TGV. I read it in a hurry, so someone can correct me if I make
any mistakes. The contract seems to have been awarded to a French
consortium (ia?), chosen over competing German offers. For some
reason, the Japanese declined to bid. The money is to be raised by
1997 and the first rail line (Dallas-Houston) to be completed a year or
two after that. Now for the interesting part: the trains will have a
max. speed of 200 mph, and are expected to run the Dallas-Houston
distance (240 miles) in 90 minutes. (That gives the avg speed to be
160 mph - pretty impressive). It is planned as a triangle linking
Dallas-Houston; Houston-San Antonio and San Antonio-Austin-Dallas for
the final leg.
I wish all possible luck to this project - in this country its going to
need it. Already Southwest Airline which flies *83* flights between
Dallas and Houston downtowns is crying foul. American has so far
maintained silence on the issue (American RULES Dallas-Fort Worth Intl.
Airport). But on the other hand if the Texas TGV does succeed, it
could have a significant impact on the future of high-speed rail
transportation in the U.S.
I guess one of the reasons, I have not been fascinated by railways in
general in the U.S., is the fundamental concept behind them. I like to
think of trains as clean-lean-mean-speed-machines (whew!) swiftly
getting people where they want to for their work. I, personally like
the train journey for itself, but when the basic purpose of the train
becomes carrying old people around for sightseeing at
bullock-cart speeds - i.e. Amtrak; the system loses its charm for me.
Maybe the Texas TGV and similar projects, if ever implemented, can
change that. However, I doubt if rail systems can be effective for
long-distance travel in the U.S. in the forseeable future
(for instance coast-to-coast, North-south etc.): the
distances are simply too much.
From: Sourav Bhattacharya <email@example.com
Subject: IR and Private Sectors
Date: 29 May 1991 20:51:00 -0500
yeah, railways if totally owned by private sectors would have many strange
things - such as closing down branch lines which incur heavy loss. Sometimes,
it is better to let loose (little though) the sense of $ :-). In this sense
I am not sure if private sectors could effectively own and maintain a railway
network covering the "entire" country. They would probably like to operate only
a select few trains which make good money. If I am not wrong, goods trains
make more money than passenger trains. So, it would not be surprising if in
future privately operated railway refuse to carry human beings.
However, having govt. in every sort of place is not a good idea. Try Sealdah
south section (in Calcutta) if you have not experienced it. Try traveling in
any train (other than very prestigious ones like Rajdhani or may be Kalka)
passing through Bihar.
There is a fundamental difference between India and US regarding air travel.
The difference comes from the buying power of $. While the middle class here
can easily afford an air ticket from NY to LA (may be 300$, less than 1/15 th
monthly salary for an average Engineer), in India a return air ticket from
Calcutta to Bombay is close to a typical monthly salary (or may be 30%, 50%..).
This makes air travel kind of either "emergency" or "luxury" or "office
sponsored" in India. And it is unlikely that the situation is going to change
also. IR comes into effect here, and its role is much more important than
Amtrak in US.
The only objection about trains could be "time and strain". I have had some
of the most wonderful moments of my life in IR compartments, but not sure how
much people enjoy it on an average. Also, for business trips such long journeys
are not welcome. I feel that private sectors can come in here with technology
from the west (and of course management with less relaxation for the celebrated
unions etc). It might be an effective idea to subcontract certain super-fast
(and may be expensive) trains connecting major cities in India. Time can be
reduced a lot by avoiding stops in between (which IR cannot do due to political
influence...). Coach can be much better and well maintained. Private companies
can lease (time based) IR owned tracks, but maintain their own coach, engine,
driver, guard, ticket checker, reservation centers and may be signalling etc.
The reason private sector would do better probably is improved, well maintained
equipment and managing people. Could someone in this group tell us why many
trains run late :-). Is it because drivers arrive late, or guards do marketing
at the stations in between. Or, may be my experience is limited. Certainly due
to track speed limitations we cannot run a 6-hour journey from Madras to Delhi.
But, it can be a lot faster than what it is now. And this can be offered at a
much higher ticket price, though lot less than the air fare.
Just as some private organizations run speed post services between select cities
in India (at a higher cost than govt. postal dept, but better service) we can
have Tata owned "overnight special super fast trains between major cities".
Indian middle class would be able to afford visiting family friends at the other
end of the country during a long weekend, without causing a serious monthly
budget cut. Any comments to my dream of this evening?
From: Shankar Subramanian <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: rail vs road
Date: 29 May 1991 19:32:00 -0500
Yes, it is true that GM et al bought up and tore up the suburban train
system in California. The Bay Area had trains linkin all the cities and
trains used to go over the bay bridge. The last trains across the bridge
were in 1950, I think. Los Angeles had about a thousand miles of light
rail network, also destroyed by the likes of GM, and later replaced by miles
of freeway. And now they are rebuilding a light rail system in LA at enormous
cost. If they had left the rail system in place, there would be no smog
Speaking of rail vs road, I think it was in one of Dheeraj's postings that
I read that RITES has done a study for a 4-lane freeway to link Bombay and
Pune. What madness! There's a perfectly good rail link which is underutilized,
I believe; they had put in a third line but haven't been using it. The last
thing we need is freeways for the urban rich to careen about in their damn
Marutis. Freeways and car travel are extremely expensive and highly
Travelling on the bombay-pune line will convince anyone that IR is
not concerned with making money. THe trains on this route are always
jam-packed. Yet IR doesn't run additional trains on this route. During
the day, for example, there are no trains from Pune to Bombay between 10 am
and 5 pm. Even if they were to raise the fare 100% they would still have
more than full coaches even if the two superfast trains on this route
were all first class. What's strange is that it is cheaper to take a train
than to take a bus on this route. One would think that instead of doing
something stupid like building a freeway, they would use the rail route
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <email@example.com
Subject: Re: rail vs road
Date: 30 May 1991 01:00:00 -0500
> There's a perfectly good rail link which is underutilized, I believe;
Are you sure about it. There is very heavy goods traffic on that
> they had put in a third line but haven't been using it.
Does anyone know if the construction is complete for the third line.
> Travelling on the bombay-pune line will convince anyone that IR is
> not concerned with making money. The trains on this route are always
> jam-packed. Yet IR doesn't run additional trains on this route.
I can say that about lots of corridors. It is almost impossible to get
reservations from Delhi to Bombay even in the non-rush period, just
a couple of days in advance. Despite having a very large number of
trains between Delhi and Kanpur, trains are always full. We need
more trains on lots of routes. Yet, there are constraints. IR only
has 2 coach factories, only one wheel and axle plant, only 2 facilities
to make engines, doesn't have money to lay more tracks.
> During the day, for example, there are no trains from Pune to Bombay
> between 10 am and 5 pm.
Deccan Express leaves Pune at 3:15 PM
Koyna Express leaves Pune at 4:30 PM
Udyan Express leaves Pune at 4:18 PM
> Even if they were to raise the fare 100% they would still have
> more than full coaches even if the two superfast trains on this
> route were all first class.
The demand is quite inelastic, and railways are a monopoly. Hence,
yes, even if the fares were to be raised by 100%, the coaches would
still be crowded.
> What's strange is that it is cheaper to take a train than to take a
> bus on this route. One would think that instead of doing something
> stupid like building a freeway, they would use the rail route
> to capacity.
2nd class travel is subsidised by the freight operations of IR. Buses
are running to make a profit, or at best no-loss in case of state
transport buses. That is why 2nd class travel is cheaper than buses.
While I would whole-heartedly agree that trains are less polluting
and cheaper to maintain and operate etc., it does not imply that it
is stupid to build freeways. The roads also are important part of
the transportation network, and while cars etc may be discouraged,
I am not too sure how would buses compare to trains in terms of
costs, pollution etc. Similarly, trucks have some advantages over
trains too. The bad aspect of highways is the increased car traffic,
which in my opinion can be discouraged by having stiff toll charges.
(Will it be politically possible to have high tolls is another
> Shankar Subramanian
From: jis <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: IR and Private Sectors
Date: 30 May 1991 11:14:00 -0500
"Sourav Bhattacharya" writes:
> There is a fundamental difference between India and US regarding air travel.
> The difference comes from the buying power of $. While the middle class here
> can easily afford an air ticket from NY to LA (may be 300$, less
> than 1/15 th monthly salary for an average Engineer), in India a
> return air ticket from Calcutta to Bombay is close to a typical
> monthly salary (or may be 30%, 50%..). This makes air travel kind
> of either "emergency" or "luxury" or "office sponsored" in India.
> And it is unlikely that the situation is going to change also.
Air fares like $300 for NY - LAX is found in this country because
airlines have more capacity than demand, and they use
"yield-management" to set fares in order to fill empty seats on their
planes. The regular Y class fare between NY and LAX is higher than
that by a factor of two to three!
If Indian Airlines happened to have more capacity than demand
and had the freedom to offer special discount fares for limited number
of seats to manage yield it is possible (see below) one could expect
to see somewhat lower fares (say by a factor of two) for those
limited number of seats on IA too. I hasten to add that those lower
fares would still represent a larger chunk of an average Indian
middle-class income. The reason I use the "it is possible" above is
because I don't know to what extent IA fares cover short term
avoidable cost of operation at present. It is entirely likely that IA
is substantially subsidized in order to hold all fares at the present
level. In that case my argument for the possibility of lower fares do
> IR comes into effect here, and its role is much more important than
> Amtrak in US.
The real importance of IR lies in the fact that it provides subsidized
affordable and reasonably efficient transportation to the masses of
India i.e. its second class (non-AC) passengers. In this it's goals
are entirely different from that of Amtrak which was constituted as a
separate corporation which is ultimately supposed to pay for itself
purely from passenger service. Almost two thirds of its service is on
corridors where it competes directly with airlines and does rather
well in luring business clientale from airlines onto its trains. In
those corridors it postpones, if not eliminates the need for airport
and highway expansion (and hence increase of pollution) and in that
sense it plays a very important role.
> I feel that private sectors can come in here with technology from
> the west (and of course management with less relaxation for the
> celebrated unions etc). It might be an effective idea to subcontract
> certain super-fast (and may be expensive) trains connecting major
> cities in India. Time can be reduced a lot by avoiding stops in
> between (which IR cannot do due to political influence...). Coach
> can be much better and well maintained. Private companies can lease
> (time based) IR owned tracks, but maintain their own coach, engine,
> driver, guard, ticket checker, reservation centers and may be
> signalling etc. people too.
Some would call what you are proposing is known as "cream skimming".
In effect it boils down to taking the profitable portions of the
business and giving it to the private sector while leaving the rest of
the system - the portion that provides the most important portion of
the "social" service to the government. The net result of this tends
to be to increase taxes in general to cover the losses of the section
left with the government while providing good service to the elite and
(possibly) good profits to the operators of the elite service. That
may or may not be a good idea, but it certainly is something that is
not without its pitfalls.
Since the voter of the country and the MPs are no fools they are
likely to take a relatively dim view of such schemes and make sure
that the lease charges for such operation are set at a level at which
they at least recover everything that they get from these trains now,
and perhaps a bit more to cover the cost of maintenance of
infrastructure, which the slower trains operated by the public sector
operation do not need.
The way in which such a scheme may work is to charge the (private
sector) operators of the trains the true allocated cost of
infrastructure for their operation. Unfortunately historical evidence
seems to suggest that doing so causes the return on equity of the
private operators become low enough for them to get out of the rail
> The reason private sector would do better probably is improved,
> well maintained equipment and managing people.
Private sector will do all of this only if they can see sufficient
return on equity at the end of the line. After all one must never
forget that it is the private sector in the USA - the home of
capitalism - that ran rail passenger service into the ground, and it
is a number government owned companies that have managed to restore
rail service to some semblance of respectability with significant
infusion of capital and operating subsidies. In many countries the
railways were intially built by private companies and then later
nationalized when the private companies failed to operate them.
> Could someone in this group tell us why many trains run late :-).
> Is it because drivers arrive late, or guards do marketing
> at the stations in between. Or, may be my experience is limited.
> Certainly due to track speed limitations we cannot run a 6-hour
> journey from Madras to Delhi. But, it can be a lot faster than what
> it is now. And this can be offered at a much higher ticket price,
> though lot less than the air fare.
I am sure that tardiness on part of operating staff is a factor, but I
suspect it is not the overriding factor. More likely root causes are
lack of resources and infrastructure to run trains on time.
Insufficient resources spent on signalling systems and track
infrastructure has more to do with delays than other causes.
> Just as some private organizations run speed post services between
> select cities in India (at a higher cost than govt. postal dept,
> but better service) we can have Tata owned "overnight special super
> fast trains between major cities". Indian middle class would be
> able to afford visiting family friends at the other end of the
> country during a long weekend, without causing a serious monthly
> budget cut. Any comments to my dream of this evening?
I have shared many of the dreams that you have. However, consideration
of realities often causes some of these to turn into nightmares. The
way in which the operation of premium speed post systems is different
from operation of fast trains is as follows - Setting up a speed post
system has relatively small startup and capital cost since it uses an
existing transportation infrastructure. After it has grown in size it
may acquire its own planes etc. but it still uses the existing
infrastructure of airports that do not require significant
augmentation for providing that service. In contrast, to run a
significantly faster train the infrastructure needs to be constructed
and maintained at a significantly higher standards. This cost
significant amount of money. Secondly, running faster express trains
tends to slow down the already slow good (freight) trains on the same
route because they have to spend more time in sidings waiting for the
express train to overtake them. So that is an added cost of operating
faster express trains on tracks shared with goods traffic.
The fact that these things happen is illustrated in the USA where most
of the tracks are owned by private railroads whose main business is
carrying freight, and Amtrak leases trackage rights to run passenger
trains over those tracks. In general freight railroads, barring a few,
have been reluctant to keep higher standard infrastructure - like cab
signalling and automatic train stop - in place for the sake of
passenger trains. Equipment that was already in place has been taken
out of service by freight railroads thus slowing down passenger
trains. I suspect that a similar tension between the owners of the
track i.e. IR in India, and the operators of the hypothetical
privately operated passenger trains will exist in India, and the
effect of it will tend to favor the larger cause of carrying large
number of poor people and slow freight trains i.e. IR's basic
operation over carrying a few rich people at a higher speed.
Naturally, except for the portions where I cite facts above, the rest
From: Shankar Subramanian <email@example.com
Subject: Re: IR and Private Sector
Date: 30 May 1991 10:38:00 -0500
I'd like to thank Jishnu Mukerji for pointing out the problems with
privatization of rail services and I agree entirely that allowing the
private sector to run some of the services could well result in greater
losses for IR and deterioration of the services that IR does provide.
A major problem with IR is that it is unable to invest enough. I seem
to remember somewhere that IR's investment budget barely covers depreciation.
What IR has done recently is raise capital from the public, but this
presents two major difficulties. Firstly, it's expensive to borrow
at 15% or 14%, secondly IR's financing arm is said to be incredibly
inefficient so the cost of raising funds is much too high. In this
context, IR would be able to operate much better and invest more
were it able to generate a larger operating surplus. What IR could
do is operate more premium services on which the operating margins
could be larger. Some indication of the large unfulfilled demand
at a high price can be had from the fact that Indian Airlines flights
on the Bombay-Delhi route are always sold out. An overnight train
service on this route would certainly pick up a very large chunk of
the air travel market. What is the general feeling about the
possible benefits from this? Would this be a real money-spinner for
IR? Presumably, new lines would have to be laid solely for
passenger service in order to reach average speeds of 100 kmph or
From: Ajai Banerji <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Privatization etc...
Date: 31 May 1991 15:30:00 -0500
While on the subject of privatization of railways, one situation which may
arise is that of different agencies operating trains on the same track. This
is not as strange as it may seem. Amtrak owns the locos and coaches but
generally does not own or maintain the tracks. These are still owned by
the railroads like Southern Pacific. These railroads continue to run
freight trains on the same tracks.
Earlier, the Pullman Car Co. used to own and maintain the sleeper coaches
on most long-distance trains in the US. Similarly in Europe there are
companies like Mitropa. While travelling in East Germany about 10 years
ago, I saw that most long-distance trains had Mitropa sleeper coaches
and restaurant coaches, which did not seem to be part of the government
Anyway, it is therefore conceivable that one could have a private company
running luxury trains(say on the Delhi-Bombay route) on the same track as
the rest of the IR traffic. Even if the private companies could acquire their
own locos and coaches, it is unclear if they would be able to run more or
quicker services as they would be subject to the same limitations of
path availability. Unless we talk about dedicated tracks for high speed trains-
but then the capital investment will be so high that no private company will
I read in the Railway Gazette some months ago about private luxury expresses
coexisting with existibg trains on the Thai railways. Perhaps the traffic
density there is not as much as in India.
In the Indian context, at best we can hope for better coaches(like the
Pullmans) being attached to the existing trains.
There has been talk of the railways selling wagons to private companies-
although it is not clear whether it will improve operations.
From: Sourav Bhattacharya <email@example.com
Date: 01 Jun 1991 18:23:00 -0500
Sorry guys for being late in responding, I was out of town for some days.
Thanks to Jishnu Mukherji and Ajai Banerji for participating in the discussion.
So, here is my response to the points you have raised.
> From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue May 28 18:31:44 1991
> > celebrated unions etc). It might be an effective idea to subcontract
> > certain super-fast (and may be expensive) trains connecting major
> > cities in India. Time can be reduced a lot by avoiding stops in
> Some would call what you are proposing is known as "cream skimming".
> In effect it boils down to taking the profitable portions of the
> business and giving it to the private sector while leaving the rest of
> the system - the portion that provides the most important portion of
> the "social" service to the government. The net result of this tends
> to be to increase taxes in general to cover the losses of the section
> left with the government while providing good service to the elite and
> (possibly) good profits to the operators of the elite service. That
> may or may not be a good idea, but it certainly is something that is
> not without its pitfalls.
Well, running inter-city superfast trains is not the *only* profitable thing
of IR. Freight makes maximum profit, and we are not talking of privatization
of that. In fact, inter-city superfast trains may not be profitable at all.
So, my suggestion was to let private companies run this *efficiency-seeking*
part of IR. Ticket charges might increase (to allow the superfast trains earn
their own expenses and not depend on subsidies), but we will have faster trains.
The rest, such as freight trains, passenger trains and most of the long-distance
express trains can remain under IR authority. IR can continue to have its
present revenue and help not increasing the tax structure and etc. etc.
Also, this is not designed for the *elite*, as you said above. IMHO, the elite
can afford air tickets and fly anywhere they want. Its only the middle class
and upper-middle class Indians who will be benefitted by such services. See,
at present we have two kinds of services in India - air (for the rich, or for
the sponsored) and train (for the poor). Since, the first class, A/C class of a
train run at the same speed with the second class we have in essence tied down
the demands of the middle class to a level which they don't deserve, i.e., to a
level much lower than what they can *afford*. The only difference between the
first class and second class unreserved coaches is the comfort (if any). I feel
this should be the *speed*. Since, all coaches run together [ :-) ] it might be
an interesting idea to make separate trains. Today the Indian middle class have
an option of paying more (about 4 times?) and traveling with more comfort
(buying a first class ticket). But, they do not have the option of paying more
and traveling faster (unless they pay 10 times and buy an air ticket).
When Calcutta-Delhi Rajdhani was first introduced it had very few (one?) stops
in between. Gradually, because of political demands, "rail roko" etc. etc., it
started having stops at other places. This led to the overall speed degradation.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
> From email@example.com Thu May 30 03:10:50 1991
> Anyway, it is therefore conceivable that one could have a private company
> running luxury trains(say on the Delhi-Bombay route) on the same track as
> the rest of the IR traffic. Even if the private companies could acquire their
> own locos and coaches, it is unclear if they would be able to run more or
> quicker services as they would be subject to the same limitations of path
> availability. Unless we talk about dedicated tracks for high speed trains-
> but then the capital investment will be so high that no private company will
> be interested.
It is not exactly "luxury" I was talking about, it is the speed. So, you can
say it is kind of a luxury (how much time you have to be in the train) and that
too for the major city janta.
One major reason private companies can run trains faster is the fact that they
don't have to listen to any MP (his home town demands) and make the super-fast
trains stop at almost every city in between. Limiting the number of stops could
be one sure way to reduce the time.
Let us have little arithmetic about how fast can we make our trains *without*
requiring dedicated tracks. I have traveled the Howrah-Madras section may be
30+ times and on *different* sections of the track many times seen the train
running at about 100 kmph. So, if I am not wrong assuming the entire track to
be fit for 100 kmph speed -->
* 1 stop for engine change and water etc - 1 hour at most
* around 1650 miles (1642? 1678?) - 17 hours
give me a total of 18 hours. Cormandal used to take 30 hrs. The difference would
be much more if the max-track-speed is higher than 100.
Calcutta-Delhi is 1400+ kms. This should make the journey 14 hrs + 1 hr stop
over (at most). Rajdhani was initially 17 hrs, I am not sure how many hours
it takes now.
Madras-Bombay scene is much worse. Bombay-Calcutta shows the same scene. How
about Bombay-Delhi, Madras-Delhi? Can someone quote figures about the average
speed of our superfast trains (including stops). Such a figure and the maximum
allowed track speed could tell us how much we can improve using the *existing*
Indian Airlines has two different flight categories between Calcutta-Delhi.
One takes about 3 hrs and it is direct. The other touches two airports
in between and takes nearly half a day. IR's superfast trains almost always
start with the motivation of the former category, but within a few years land
up being converted to the second category. This is where private sector can
I am aware that if superfast trains do not stop at smaller cities then many
people there would be inconvenienced. I am not trying to say that the value of
time to a person in big cities is more than that of a small town. Also, Indian
middle class is not only the big city people. But, as it usually happens there
are more number of people with time-critical demands in large cities. There are
more people in big cities who travel across the country. By providing these
non-stop superfast trains one can satisfy the demands of major cities. At the
same time we can have IR's superfast trains which stop every 200 or 300 miles.
Needless to say those will continue to serve the smaller city people also. I am
not talking of taking away some benefits from one community to benefit another
community. I am only talking of an additional service to the top ten city people
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <>
Subject: Privatizing parts of railways.
Date: 02 Jun 1991 15:25:00 -0500
Well, now we are talking very different things. I would agree with
Sourav that certain aspects of railways can be contracted out to private
individuals/companies for greater efficiency, though I suspect that
our differences would be substantial when we talk about exactly what
aspects are these.
I would have no problem if IR allows private sector to compete in the
manufacture of infrastructural stuff, like coaches, engines, wheels,
tracks and so on. IR can then buy these things from whoever provides
them at the right price. I would have no problem if private sector gets
contract for building the bridges, laying of tracks, constructing the
stations etc. Private sector can provide meals on trains too. But
the ultimate decision of new projects (new lines, gauge conversion,
doubling of tracks, electrification), new trains, time-table, fares,
etc must lie with the Railways. I consider IR as providing essential
social services and I have no problem if parts of IR operation have to
be subsidized by other parts of IR operation which are profitable.
I do feel that there be some kind of intermediary service between
the usual 2nd class and the 1st class. Most large cities are connected
by superfast trains, and these trains run at a speed close to what is
allowed by the track conditions. So, giving private people right to
run fast trains is not going to make the trains faster.
I would like to see superfast trains as a separate class of trains
distinct from Mail/Express. The fares should be much higher, not just
some superfast charges, but say 50% more than the 2nd class in Exp.
trains. All Superfast trains should be completely reserved. The absence
of unreserved coaches would discourage people without reservations,
and a separate and higher fare structure should allow IR to provide better
services such as cafetaria, library, or at least newspapers etc.
The tickets for superfast trains should be for a certain minimum distance,
say, 400 KM on BG. This would discourage people from using it as local
trains between say, Delhi and Aligarh, or Delhi and Mathura. Only those
trains can be classified as superfast who maintain a certain average
speed, say 70 KMPH, and whose stops are no closer than say 200 KM.
Coming to some specific examples by Sourav, Rajdhani still has only 3 stops
between Delhi and Calcutta. Its maximum speed was decreased around 1980(?)
because there were a spate of accidents in that year or two. In many a
cases, the contributing factor was the lack of maintainance of the
infrastructure. Many bridges needed repairs. Large portion of track needed
to be renewed. Since these shortcomings could not be removed in a short
period, Railways decided to slow down all trains. Maximum speed of
Rajdhanis was reduced from 130 to 120 KMPH, and of the other fast trains
from 120 to 110 KMPH.
In your measurements for time taken by maxm speed trains between two points,
the assumption of 100 KMPH all through the track is not correct on most
source-destination pairs. In any case, additional time has to be given for
unforeseen circumstances. Vijay had posted details on this some time ago.
And yes, we can run faster trains on the current tracks. e.g. Frontier Mail
takes 5 hours more than Rajdhani running on the same tracks, and not all
5 hours can be attributed to the additional stops. But running a faster
train often disrupts goods traffic, and other slower trains. We have to
consider that too before we start running all trains at a speed that is
safe for the given track.
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <>
Subject: Energy use by various modes of transportation.
Date: 02 Jun 1991 16:04:00 -0500
>From April 1990 issue of Indian Railways.
Energy Intensity of Different Modes of transportation.
(In British Thermal Units used per passenger KM.
Mode occupancy energy
single occupancy automobile 1 3817
avergae automobile 2 1909
main line rail 600 1294
scooter 1 625
urban bus - diesel 50 184
regional bus 50 168
main-line rail (diesel) 900 135
main-line rail (electric) 900 46
suburban rail (electric) 890 27
While I would take the numbers with a pinch of salt (which car
have they considered, e.g. is not clear) but still it is quite
clear that train travel saves a lot of energy. The third line
above should probably be steam traction.
Actually, to have a more fair comparison, one should also consider
overheads of each system. How much energy does it take to make one
scooter or car, comapred to a coach or an engine. How much energy
does it take to control the train operation than to control the
road traffic. In one case, it seems, we just need signals, while
in the other case, we need facilities for reservations, ticketing,
and host of other things.
There is another table in the article on energy intensity of different
tractions per tonne KM.
Diesel truck 1587
Barge 328 (we must develop our waterways??)
Even though IR magazine is govt propaganda and they generally try to
put up a united face, like no internal squabbling in the railway
management, sometimes it is obvious that some people don't see eye
to eye with others. One of the points of contention is whether to get
rid of all steam engines by year 2000, as decided in 1972, or to do
it faster or slower. If one reads an article by someone who is a
mechanical engineer or has spent time in steam loco sheds etc, there
will be powerful arguments as to why we still need steam locos. They
paint the picture of the dooms day when suddenly the electric traction
would loose electricity, conveniently ignoring the diesel traction they
inform us that the steam engines can run on the non-coking coal found
abundantly within our borders and will be able to haul a few trains at
that time. On the other side, we see statistics such as above to push
the view that steam engines should be disbanded as soon as possible.
They tell us that their highest speed is much lower, their "range" is
smaller (they need more water every 300 KM or so), they can't haul
trains with 100+ wagons, conveniently ignoring that there are places
where none of these arguments would hold. Why can't they haul passenger
trains with frequent stops, low maxm speed, etc. They also embrace
the environmentalist garb to push their point, though I doubt how many
of them would choose paper over plastic bags if such a choice were to
be offered to them.
From: apte <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Dedicated tracks
Date: 02 Jun 1991 11:27:00 -0500
Since I initiated this discussion on private vs public, I must butt in
with my 2 c worth :-). I think some very interesting points have come out
from Sourav, Dheeraj, Jishnu and Ajai. The original proposition was
the ownership of an entire railway system, which included an entire
Railway SYSTEM ( including building, operation and maintenance of
tracks, stations, rakes, locos, signalling systems; technology updating
such as superfast services, electrification etc..; and miscellany, such
as reservations, etc..)
The original argument was that such a SYSTEM seems best
operated by Governments and there seems to be consensus on that point.
Sourav's point of letting private companies operate "super-services"
especially in India, is an interesting one. Some of the problems with
this approach have been pointed out by others. Running trains on
EXISTING tracks, would imply trains running at approximately the same
speeds as regular IR trains, IMHO. For one thing, the maximum track
speed is usually about 30-35 kms higher than the average speed.
Stoppages do contribute to this speed, but there are several other
components too. Trains cannot run at their maximum speed continuously
- - they must slow down for stations (yes even the ones they don't stop
at), they must slow down for track repair work (at any given time on any
sector, some repair is always going on) and they must slow down a bit at
least when they catch up with a slower train (be it a slow passenger
train or a goods train). If you eliminated all the stops of the
Bombay-N.Delhi Rajdhani, (Baroda-Ratlam-Kota), you would ct down the
time by 30-40 minutes, which is not that spectacular an achievement to
make it worth anyone's while to pay, say 1.5 or 2 times the Rajdhani's
However, the idea of a dedicated track, one which I have pondered on
myself for a while, I think bears much merit. Once again, as pointed
out before, laying a dedicated track from Bombay to Delhi would require
a significant capital outlay, but the advantage could be that
significantly better tracks and signalling systems could be laid down
for a high speed of maybe 200 kmph and the trains running on that track
would not have to worry about the regular trains. Whether such a
venture is worthwhile, can only be determined by an extensive market
survey: i.e., will it pay for its own costs eventually?
Bombay-Delhi is 1384 Km, really long -> implying really high costs.
A quicker and possibly more efficient way of testing the dedicated
track principle could be to apply it to short routes which see huge
traffic between two big neighboring cities. The example I'll give is
if Ahmadabad-Baroda: both booming industrial centers with an incredible
amount of traffic between them, and a mere 100 kms apart. So much
traffic, that they have got a world bank loan to build a *FREEWAY*
between the two cities. I have not doubt that a dedicated rail track
for super-fast inter-city expresses would pay for itself quite soon:
the capital investment for 100 kms ought not to be that much.
Moreover, it doesn't even need to be hi-tech, a train with a max. speed
of 130 kmph (Rajdhani speed) would be able to make the distance in 60
mins as opposed to the 110 mins or so which is currently the best option.
here is a project in which the private sector could be easily involved.
If IR floats an autonomous corporation, with itself as the
major shareholder, to build and maintain the track and its services, it
could convince the business communities and the companies in the
two cities to become shareholders in the corporation.
The businesses wouldn't be doing
it out of altruism: better communication between the two cities
improves their own competitiveness. Also, my hunch is that such a
project would break-even and start making a profit in 2-3 years. If
that is indeed shown in a market survey, then the companies that invest have
some idea that they will be making profits on every rupee they have
invested. Of course the big IF in this process is the legendary
goovernment mismanagement and corruption, which is bound to keep honest
investors away. But that is a social problem, not a problem with the
concept as such.
Whew, thanx for bearing with me! :-)
From: Ajai Banerji <email@example.com
Subject: Railway news
Date: 02 Jun 1991 14:36:00 -0500
NEWS (From Railway Gazette-May issue)
Govt has sanctioned two new projects in Orissa. One is a 360-km project
to link Khurda Road with Bolangir(which is on the Sambalpur-Titlagarh
route). Another is a branch from Lanjigarh Road to Janagarh. The former
station is between Rayagada and Titlagarh.(Sounds like an election stunt.
However, the deputy minister who is from Orissa should do something for
Pakistan railways has resumed services from Quetta to Zahidan in Iran.
For the past few years the trains were terminating short of the Iranian
Amtrak has announced changes in the route of the Chicago-Seattle
"Pioneer". Earlier, the Pioneer used to be combined with two other
trains between Chicago and Salt Lake City. These were the Zephyr to
Oakland and the Desert Wind to LA. Now the Pioneer will not touch
Salt Lake City but will run through Laramie and Rock Springs in Wyoming.
This will put Wyoming state on the Amtrak map. At present 5 states do
not have Amtrak service;apart from Alaska and Hawaii, these are Maine,
Oklahoma and South Dakota. New Hampshire has only one station.
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <>
Subject: Re: Dedicated tracks
Date: 02 Jun 1991 23:00:00 -0500
Well, let us do some numbers. To lay, ordinary tracks (which go upto
Rajdhani speed), single line, non-electrified, on a more or less
plain field, costs about 1 crore Rs. per KM for BG. This includes
the cost of stations, signalling etc. For very high speed trains,
we definitely need double tracks, we need electric traction, and
we need better tracks than standard 52 KG per meter, concrete
sleepers, and thicker and deeper ballast and all that. We would
need better signalling, lots of safety features and what not.
For speeds of Shatabdi itself, we would need money of the order
of 2.5 crore Rs. per KM. For Ahemdabad - Vadodra corridor, that
comes to Rs. 250 crore. This is assuming that state govt. will be
generous enough to procure land and right of way, and give it to
the Railways free of cost. Let us consider trains with capacity
of 1000 people. They will consist of 15 coaches of various kind,
and an engine. We will probably want three train sets. The cost
of three sets could be close to 50 crore. (I have no idea about
the costs of coaches and engines, I am just guessing coaches at
1 crore, and engine at 2-3 crore.) With 300 crore at todays prices,
you want to start a railway. You surely are not going to get all
the raw material and labour etc. at once. The project would definitely
take 3 years (more like 6, but let us be optimistic). Let us
assume that the expenses are equally distributed. At the end of
3 years, you would also have interest obligation on 100 crore
for 3 years, 100 crore for 2 years, and 100 crore for 1 year.
With 13 per cent cumulative, that would be 100 crore in interest.
So you are 400 crore in negative when the first train leaves
ALD. To just pay up the interest charges, you need a PROFIT of
52 crore per year. Let me assume a very huge traffic potential
between the two cities. I would run a train in each direction
every hour, say 15 trains in a day in each direction. Approx.
200,000 passengers per week on the trains. I want a profit of
1 crore per week. That means a profit of Rs. 50 per passenger.
If you have to pay off the principle, the profit margin need
to be even higher, but I guess in the most optimistic scenario,
we can manage all the money as equity and we need to pay 13
per cent dividend for the rest of its life. No principle to be
Assumptions so far:
Extremely quick execution of project.
15,000 passengers one way every day including weekends, willing
to pay substantially higher fares to save may be 30 minutes.
No principle to be paid back. There would be enough enthusiasm
among the people to invest in this corporation as shares.
Current day fare between the two cities is: Rs. 16 2nd class,
Rs. 43 AC chair car, Rs 70 first class.
The expected avg fare on the new train would be 100 Rs. one way.
The current avg fare is probably close to 20 Rs. I am not paying
5 times as much to save 30 minutes one way.
God forbid, if the number of passengers drop down to say 5000 one
way. The fares would have to be 200 Rs. one way.
The life is not as difficult though. Since a high speed corridor
would immensely help businesses in the two cities, and state in
general, state govt and the two city governments should be asked
to contribute in a major way. They would be benefitting from higher
business and thus higher tax revenue. We can think of more creative
ways of making money, like having a parcel van in every train,
and asking the courier services to use its capacity. These services
now don't have to send someone to the other city with the documents.
IR takes control of them at Ahemdabad and gives them to the right
guy at the other end. IR can charge substantially for this service.
There could be a casino coach also on all trains. :-)
From: vijayb <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Privatization, superfast trains, etc.
Date: 03 Jun 1991 14:04:00 -0500
Here are my commnets on some of the topics discussed recently:
I have always been for privatization of Indian Railways. But it makes
sense to believe that this should be limited to specific spheres of operation
and not the entire network. Private companies should aim to raise the general quality of the services provided by identifying the deficiencies that exist today and eliminate them. IMHO, one of the most acute problems today is
lawlessness. It pains one to learn how people are able to get away with virtually anything. Maybe, this daunting task of law enforcement should be
handed over to private authorities. And I believe that there should be a
decent no. of private companies involved so as to create a healthy competitive (maybe the two don't go together) atmosphere.
The railways do seem to have the adequate infrastructure in order to
satisfy the needs of the common commuter. It is the callouness in
the implementation of set rules that render them inefficient, IMHO.
For example, the effectiveness of a superfast train to travel from point A to point B in an alloted amount of time is diminished by repeated chain pulling,
which brings me to the next topic.
Inability of trains to run on time
Following are some of the possible reasons:-
1. Chain pulling (a MAJOR problem, IMHO)
2. Temporary speed restrictions (track maintenance, seasonal occurences, etc.) 3. Faulty scheduling of precedence crossings
4. Unnecessary delay at service halts (loco. changeovers, catering, etc)
5. Accidents and diversions
6. Improper handling of signalling equipment
The problem assumes chaotic proportions in sections with dense traffic b'caus of the domino effect. Delayed operation of just a single train can screw up traffic in the entire section. Many of you might have been
involved in situations where your train was held up because of the presence of
a goods train ahead of you (you probably realized it when your train overtook it in the station ahead). Doesn't this indicate the amount of groundwork that
must be performed before introducing additional trains?
This then bring me to the third topic.
IMHO, a very fascinating and attractive portion of Indian Railways. I,
personally would like to see dozens of 'em plying on the Indian tracks
(esp. from Bombay and Varanasi:-) ), and I have spent many an hour "creating"
new ones. And I feel miserable to see some past "beauties" being degraded.
Some of them definitely are political stunts, but a majority of them are
probably due to the absence of a well-graded system of passenger traffic on
important routes. I had discussed this in detail quite a while back. To cut
a long story short, many sections have just one superfast train followed by the
average exp. train (with a more prestigious mail train in between, in some cases). This leads to a noticable difference in the halt patterns (of the
fast and slow trains), thus, eventually necessitating additions in the halt
list for the faster train. The Rajdhani Exps. seem to have escaped this
onslaught (the introduction of Kota as a halt for the Bombay Rajdhani Exp. is
a "dirty" political move) b'caus of the presence of other superfast trains
lower down the hierarchy.
As an example, the Gitanjali Exp. is the only superfast train between
Bombay and Howrah. Instead of having it as a daily train, one could run it
for, say, five days a week, and then have an intermediate exp. which falls in
between the Gitanjali Exp. and the Bombay-Howrah Mail. This could run on the non-Gitanjali days. Note, however, that this would complicate the scheduling process as this new train would have its timings staggered from those of the Gitanjali, b'caus of the additional halts.
In short, there are a lot of trade-offs involved in the design of an
efficient arrangement. These are often restricted by the resources
available and, as such, may not fulfill the needs of the areas served by
the projected traffic.
I would tend to agree with Dheeraj that introduction of dedicated "high-
speed" corridors is impratical, when one considers the amount of capital and
operating costs required v/s the returns (in terms of reduction of traveling
time). A better approach would be to reorganize traffic patterns so as to
provide better utilization of available resources. For example, the presence of multiple trains with the same time schedule but different days of operation
reduces the complexity of "time-tabling" and results in uniform
utilization of the route concerned.
This pertains to the entire journey of the train and is the total distance
by total time. When one just considers the four metropolitan cities,
the Bombay Delhi Rajdhani Exp. has the highest commercial speed (~84 kmph.)
and is closely followed by the Howrah Delhi Rajdhani Exp. (~83 kmph).
The Tamilnadu Exp. comes in a distant third with ~72 kmph. The Coromandel
and the Gitanjali Exps. fall in the 60 kmph. bracket.
Commercial speed is definitely affected by the no. of halts, and the temporary
and permanent speed restrictions on various sections. Equally important is
the make-up time alloted for various sections. This is esp. noticable
in the last stretch of the journey (e.g. the Up. Gitanjali Exp. is scheduled tocover the Bhusaval-Bombay stretch in ~8 hrs, which is a cool 40 mts. more than the Dn train).
Some general remarks:-
1. I never came across any third line in the Karjat-Pune section
during my journey on the Chennai Exp. in Jan. 90., although recent mail seems to indicate so.
2. The Bombay-Madras line is largely single line. This has puzzled me no end. There seems to be sufficient passenger traffic, except for the Gooty-
Renigunta section. Maybe, the goods traffic is comparatively low.
3. A line from Khurda Rd. to Bolangir would most certainly reduce the
effective distance between Puri/Bhubaneswar and Sambhalpur/Raurkela.
The Hirakhand Exp. would no longer need to go all the way till
Vizianagaram and then reverse onto the Vizag-Titlagarh line.
4. Electrification not only creates a pollution free atmosphere, but provides
for increased passenger and goods service by "accomodating" longer trains.
Yet another example of superior resource utilization.
From: Dheeraj Sanghi <email@example.com
Subject: Re: Privatization, superfast trains, etc.
Date: 03 Jun 1991 14:55:00 -0500
> 1. I never came across any third line in the Karjat-Pune section
> during my journey on the Chennai Exp. in Jan. 90., although
> recent mail seems to indicate so.
According to the April, 1990 issue of Indian Railways, the
construction for the third railway line between Bombay and Pune
started around 1981. I myself remember construction work still
going on when I travelled on that section last, in August 1986,
and the local travellers in the train told me that it was for the
From: Ajai Banerji <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Dedicated tracks etc.
Date: 05 Jun 1991 10:15:00 -0500
There seems to be a consensus that no drastic improvement in
train speeds is possible without dedicated tracks. This seems
to be borne out by recent trends. You may have seen newspaper
reports in the last few days about Germany's new intercity
trains with an average speed of 150 mph.
the world leaders in high-speed trains now seem to be the
French who overtook the Japanese a long time ago. As far as
I can see, all these services are on dedicated tracks which
have been built with huge investments.
The fastest regular trains in the US are probably the
Metroliners between Washington, Boston and NY. I am sure that
someone on this net has travelled on them. It would be nice
if they could say something about their speed, no of stops
etc, how they compare with Rajdhani and Shatabdi :-)
Also, whether these trains share teh tracks with other
freight trains etc.
It is also interesting to note that the British railways
have also been able to run inter-city expresses with a top
speed of 120 mph on the existing tracks while sharing them
with regular traffic-perhaps this is the ideal for which
IR should look up to. Some technical details are given in
a book "Two Miles a Minute" by O.S.Nock.
The name of O.S.Nock should be familiar to any of you
who have ever looked for boks on railways in the libraries.
He has written about 100 books, mostly on the history and`
technical details of the British railways. A few are on
other countries;"Railways of Asia and the Far East" has
a long portion on India with interesting historical
details and pictures.
From: Shankar Subramanian <email@example.com
Date: 05 Jun 1991 11:42:00 -0500
Ajai Banerji writes:
>> There seems to be a consensus that no drastic improvement in
>> train speeds is possible without dedicated tracks. This seems
I'm not too sure of this. I remember a French team in India stating
that if we used lighter coaches, we could achieve higher speeds on
existing track. I also remember reading that IR was trying to get
British collaboration for designing a new light coach, with what
success I don't know.
From: jis <firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Dedicated tracks etc.
Date: 07 Jun 1991 11:30:00 -0500
Ajai Banerji writes:
> The fastest regular trains in the US are probably the
> Metroliners between Washington, Boston and NY. I am sure that
> someone on this net has travelled on them. It would be nice
> if they could say something about their speed, no of stops
> etc, how they compare with Rajdhani and Shatabdi :-)
> Also, whether these trains share teh tracks with other
> freight trains etc.
Here is some info of interest about Metroliners. Most Metroliners run
between New York (Penn.) and Washington DC. A few of them run as far
north as New Haven, and even fewer to Boston or Hyannis. The fast
limited stop reserved trains that run between New York and Boston in
3hrs 55mins are not called Metroliners, they are called New England
Expresses. The fastest of the Metroliners cover the distance from New
York to Washington DC in 2hrs 30mins, with one stop. An average
Metroliner does it in 2hrs and 50mins, with 4 stops. Some are a little
slower with a few more stops. The official maximum speed of Metroliners is
125mph, but on occasions they have been clocked at upto 130mph. Each
train consists of upto 7 Amfleet coaches pulled by a single AEM-7
Electric Locomotive (~7000HP) of Swedish design manufactured by
General Motors EMD, with electrical equipment supplied by ABB. There
are 17 hourly Metroliners in each direction on weekdays.
Metroliners share track with non-Metroliner Washington Boston Amtrak
trains as well as other longer distance Amtrak trains. In addition the
same tracks are used by NJ Transit, SEPTA and Metro North commuter
trains, as well as a few Conrail and D&H freight trains including the
Tropicana Orange Juice Express.
The last time I traveled by a Metroliner was about two weeks
back. There are two types of accomodation on Metroliners - coach, and
club. Club class has wider seats (3 per row in 2+1 configuration) and
the fare includes food and beverage service. Coach class has 4 per row
seating in 2+2 configuration. The seats are considerably more
comfortable than on regular Amtrak corridor trains. They have footrest
and recline much further - like in the long distance coaches. Coach
passengers have access to either a Cafe or a Dinette car where food
can be purchased and then consumed either at ones seat or at the
tables in the Dinette.
The clientale of Metroliners is predominently business travellers on
weekdays, and upscale YUPPIE types on weekends. No excursion fare is
available on these trains. All travel is full fare with reserved (but
The trains accelarate smartly and the ride is quite smooth. I have
never ridden a Shatabdi so I cannot compare the ride with it, but
compared to Calcutta or Bombay Rajdhani the ride is much much
smoother. The ride is smooth enough even at full speed for business
travellers tend to pull out their legal pad and start writing on them,
or work on their laptops. Connsequently, even when it is running at
full speed it does not seem to be travelling that fast. The only way
to tell the speed is to time mileposts and watch them go by every 29
seconds or so. When it slows down to 60 mph it seems to be crawling!
The future of Metroliner service on the North East Corridor seems to
be very bright. By the end of the century track realignment and
electrification will be completed between New York and Boston, thus
extending Metroliner service to Boston, with a New York Boston running
time of 2hrs 45mins. There are plans on the drawing board for
increasing the speed on the New York Washington section to 150mph.
This year Amtrak is bringing over a French TGV trainset and a Swedish
X trainset to evaluate their compatibility with the North East