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India-Bangladesh railway project to be ready by December 2017

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Agartala: NITI Aayog has decided to commission the proposed 15-km India-Bangladesh railway project along Tripura by 2017, a top state official said on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina discussed about the Rs.575-crore ($90 million) railway project, during the former’s visit to Dhaka on June 6-7.

It was finalised in January 2010 during Hasina’s meeting with the then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

“NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog on Thursday decided in a meeting in Delhi to put in place the vital railway project between India and Bangladesh by December 2017,” Tripura transport secretary Samarjit Bhowmik told IANS.

Bhowmik, who returned here on Friday after attending the NITI Aayog meeting, said: “The alignment and other technicalities of laying the track to link Agartala railway station with Bangladesh’s Akhaura railway station would be changed. A final report on the new alignment will be submitted to the centre by June 30 for sanction of funds.”

NITI Aayog’s advisor Animesh Singh presided over the Delhi meeting, where officials of Ministries of Railway, Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) and External Affairs and the Tripura government participated.

The NITI Aayog meeting was held to remove the roadblocks on the Agartala-Akhaura rail project along Tripura capital Agartala. Of the 15 km, 5 km fall in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh.

“On the Indian side, some portion of the track is likely to be elevated,” the official said.

“The central government is yet to provide funds, resulting in delay in land acquisition and subsequent works,” a top state government official, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

He said the state government recently approached the Railway Ministry again to allocate funds. “No funds were allocated in the railway budget for 2015-16, even for land acquisition,” the official said.

The project cost was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore was needed to acquire around 91 acres of land in India for laying the track.

Bhowmik said that India’s External Affairs Ministry would provide funds to lay track in the 10-km Bangladesh territory.

“Earlier DoNER ministry had committed to provide funds to lay tracks on the Indian side. But in Thursday’s NITI Aayog meeting, the DoNER ministry categorically expressed its inability to give funds. Railway ministry is now likely to provide funds for the Tripura part of the project,” the official added.

State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border. The Northeast Frontier Railway is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were earlier finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.

Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said: “The new railway connectivity between the northeastern state and Bangladesh will boost socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries. After the commissioning of the railway project, Tripura would act as a corridor to the southeast Asian countries.”

Dey told IANS: “It would become cost-effective to ferry men and material between the two countries and between mountainous northeast region and other parts of India via Bangladesh once the railway project is completed.”

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 515 km once the rail track is constructed through Bangladesh. (IANS)

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Indian Railways to use artificial intelligence

Earlier, railways used a manual maintenance system

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Railways to use AI
Artificial Intelligence will also reduce the probability of delays and accidents to a great extent. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi. November 21, 2017:

Aiming to reduce the possibilities of signals failing, Indian Railways has undertaken remote condition monitoring of the system, a new approach for the national transporter, to predict failures through the effective use of Artificial Intelligence.

The Signalling system is vital for safe train operations and the railways completely depend on the health of its signalling assets along with real-time information.

Currently, the railways follow a manual maintenance system and adopt find-and-fix methods rather than predict-and-prevent approach.

“Now, we are introducing remote condition monitoring using non-intrusive sensors for continuous online monitoring of signals, track circuits, axle counters and their sub-systems of interlocking, power supply systems including the voltage and current levels, relays, timers,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the project.

The system entails the collection of inputs on a pre-determined interval and sending this to a central location.

As a result, any flaws or problems in the signalling system would be detected on a real-time basis and rectified to avoid possible delays and mishaps.

The failure of signals is one of the major reasons for train accidents and delays.

Currently, remote monitoring of signalling is operational in Britain.

The system envisages data transfer through a wireless medium (3G, 4G and high-speed mobile) and data based on these inputs will be utilised, with help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for predictive and prescriptive Big Data analytics.

This will enable prediction of signalling asset failures, automated self-correction and informed decisions on intervention strategies, said the official.

The railways have decided that trial is taken up in two sections of Western Railway and South Western Railway at Ahmedabad-Vadodara and Bengaluru-Mysuru.

Depending on the feedback, the system would gradually be extended to other sections. (IANS)

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India-Pakistan Ties: India Grants Medical Visa to another Pakistani National

The action was termed "highly regrettable" by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

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Sushma swaraj addressing a press conference. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : India on Friday issued a medical visa to another Pakistani national following a promise made by the Ministry of External Affairs on Independence Day.

“Amna – We have approved medical visa for your father Mr Shamim Ahmed,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted in response to a request from one Amna Shamim through the Twitter handle of Karachi’s Muhammad Talha.

Shamim also posted a reference letter dated October 9 from a doctor in Sri Ganga Ram Hospital who stated that the patient was being considered for a liver transplant.

On Independence Day, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced that India would provide medical visas to all bonafide Pakistani patients.

As ties between the two countries soured over various issues, the ministry had announced in May that only a letter of recommendation by then Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz would enable a Pakistani national to get a medical visa for India.

The action was termed “highly regrettable” by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

However, a patient from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, seeking treatment in New Delhi for liver tumour, was given a visa on July 18.

Sushma Swaraj then said that he needed no recommendation from the Pakistani government for a medical visa because the territory “is an integral part of India”.

Since August 15, however, Pakistani nationals seeking medical treatment have not been denied visas. (IANS)

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Will India be able to travel in the Bullet Train Soon? Yes, Say Railway Officials; Indian Railways Target Completing the Project Before the August 2022 Deadline

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14

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Railway Board Chairman held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman. (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : Unfazed by opposition criticism, Indian Railways is working overtime to push ahead with the much-talked about the “Bullet Train” project, aiming to complete it ahead of the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who has a reputation of a turnaround man, has taken up the task of monitoring and chairing the periodic review meetings of the project that is estimated to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion).

Lohani held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Central government officials, Principal Secretary-rank officials of Gujarat and Maharashtra, officials of NHSRCL (National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited), officials of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the General Manager of Western Railway.

A senior railway board member, requesting anonymity, told IANS, “The railways is in no mood to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Lohani will now hold a review meeting once every three months… And even on weekly basis, if required.”

Emphasising on the government’s intention, the official said, “The attendance of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the Japanese Ambassador and the CRB in the review meeting is a clear signal that the government is taking the project seriously and there is no scope for any delay.”

“The CRB wants Indian Railway officials to take lessons from their Japanese counterparts about meeting deadlines,” he said.

The opposition has attacked the government for taking up a project at a huge cost instead of focusing on safety, a dire need of the time, and on schemes to improve passenger amenities.

The official said it was also decided at the meeting that “a road map for consultancy and civil engineering works will be prepared by January 2018”.

A ministry official associated with the Bullet Train project said a report on the signalling system and electrical reports would be ready by April 2018. According to him, the tracks and most of the signalling system would be brought from Japan.

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14.

Of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent for 50 years. And the repayment will begin only after 15 years.

The railway official said that to encourage the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, “an appeal will be made to Indian and Japanese companies to make use the opportunity to work together”.

Meanwhile, the officials of the government of Maharashtra and Gujarat assured the railways of their help in land acquisition and smooth shifting of raw materials to construction venues.

A three-level monitoring committee was also constituted, including the Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog and Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister.

A working group led by Managing Director of NHSRCL Achal Khare and consisting of representatives of the ministries concerned, and the representative of JICA, has been formed. Besides the two committees, a technical expert committee led by the Managing Director of NHSRCL has also been formed.

Of the 508 km stretch, 92 per cent (468 km) of the route will be elevated, six per cent (27 km) will be in tunnels and the remaining two per cent (13 km) will be on the ground .

The high-speed train would also pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Twelve stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance will be covered in two hours and seven minutes if the train stops at four stations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. If the train stops at all 12 stations, it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

According to Railway Ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train would be 320 kmph and the maximum speed would be 350 kmph.

 

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Anand K. Singh and was first published by IANS. Anand can be contacted at can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)