Kerala disconnect-tion


Monday, December 10, 2007

pliability of Railways officialdom

text of the letter sent to the press:

The candid admission by Sri Laloo Prasad Yadav that the private bus operator lobby had been holding up the progress of the Bangalore-Mangalore train services all these years, is most intriguing. It has raised far many more questions than have been answered as of now.

Very obviously the Railways officialdom had known this from years ago. Why is it then that they failed to act on it until now? How much has been the revenue loss to the Railways on account of the neglect of this lucrative route, over so many years? Can anyone be held accountable for it? If not, isn't it also quite clear that the Railways have not been, and are not, quite equipped to go by compelling commercial considerations?

Simultaneously, though, neither have they been going by social considerations, subjecting as they have been such large sections of the lower middle class population belonging to this region, who form the core of the railway passengers, to hardships and financial loss, while pandering to the whims of the various influential lobbies.

Further, it requires no expert study by a Harvard MBA (on which programme, the honourable minister appears to have become an honorary faculty member) to unearth similar cases of neglect of other equally or even more lucrative sectors, Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram perhaps topping the list.

Also, when government-run operations can be so easily hijacked by influential private sector lobbies, isn't the best way to counter it, privatisation of the train services itself (Railways retaining the network and infrastructure), in order to allow for market forces to come into play on a level playing field? May be a beginning could be made with the superfast expresses.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

super-slow trains

text of the letter sent to the Times of India:

I refer to the editorial captioned 'slow train coming' published in your columns on the 3rd Sept.

Leave aside comparing our Rajdhani's (averaging 90 kmph speeds) with the Japanese/ European bullet trains (averaging 200 kmph), we have, in this modern day and age, the so-called Bangalore - Kanyakumari "Express", linking the two southern capital cities of Bangalore and Trivandrum, recording a dismal 49.45 kmph on an average. And, in response to repeat appeals from the public for atleast one regular overnight fast train of the like of a Rajdhani, all that the Indian Railways, can come up with is a set of so-called 'specials' on odd days and at odd timings, serving very little purpose. And, as if to add to the injury caused to the regular travellers in this segment by this step-motherly treatment, they go on label some of them that barely manage to average 55 kmph as "superfast" and levy a surcharge in addition.

Not surprising at all that there are some four flights a day now between Bangalore and Kochi, and the number is growing. That much for the business acumen of the Railways minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and his recently acquired 'management guru' status.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Brand baaja or swan song?

Text of the letter sent to Times of India:

I refer to the report captioned 'Brand Baaja for trains' in your columns on the 14th instant.

Now, while it reflects a release from the old mind-sets amongst the Railway officialdom, one fails to understand how an AIRTEL or a Brittannia can bother to associate itself with the stinking toilets and bug-ridden berths that are the order of the day in our trains, particularly the so-called summer specials, which besides are always accorded the lowest priority for movement ending up literally as torture chambers.

There is a long way for the Railways to go, and unless they can gear themselves up to think like Capt Gopinath, the MD of Air Deccan, he, and the likes of him, will cream away all their business, and the 'brand baaja' turns into a 'swan song'.

Friday, January 19, 2007

'special' gimmick

text of letter sent to press:

The traffic between Bangalore ant Thiruvananthapuram is so huge today that the Railways are forced to announce 'special trains' every now and then. However, they steadfastly refuse to regularise them into daily services for reasons quite unknown, but certainly not commercial. I now have a new hypothesis - perhaps that is another way to keep themselves in the news!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

sarkari maai-baap railways

Sri Laloo Prasad Yadav has reportedly flagged off yet another weekly train (supposedly superfast) between Kochuveli (Thiruvananthapuram) and Bangalore, with another set of (train) numbers, timings, combinations & permutations of types of accommodations. All that this is going to achive is to add to the existing confusion.

The situation, off-season, was bad enough. Now, with the onset of the tourism season, the miniscule bit of accommodation available has been booked up months in advance, leading to a near riotous situation out there, with the irate members of the public holding up trains almost on a daily basis. And, whereas any person with the silghtest business sense would have done his best to grab such an opportunity with both hands, and possibly run some five regular superfast overnight trains on a daily basis, the railways' response is typical 'sarkari maai-baap' approach as if they are doing the people a big favour.

Indeed the biggest favour they can do is if they can get out and let others do the job. Even with such a lackadaisical approach, if the railways are supposedly reaping such huge profits, imagine the kind of potential the sector holds out for business and attendant prosperity for everyone associated.

Perhaps, that ultimately is the answer.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bangalore - Thiruvananthapuram Overnight Superfast Daily Express

The following is the text of the 'on-line petition' ( put out by me, in 2003, which went on to collect close to 3,000 signatures, and get listed amongst the 10 most popular petitions, world-wide, for a while. All the same, Bangalore - Thiruvananthapuram continues to remain amongst the most neglected of Indian rail routes.

To: Chairman, Railway Board, New Delhi, India

From close to 10 years, I have been representing repeatedly to the Railway Ministers, as also officials at various levels, about the woefully inadequate rail services between Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram, the respective state capitals, even as there exists fairly good services between Bangalore and Chennai, and even Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram.

The only daily train linking Bangalore with Tiruvananthapuram, the 6526 Bangalore-Kanyakumari Express, takes a whole of 18 hrs to cover the distance of 803 km, averaging a speed of 44.61 kmph. This would easily make it eligible for an entry in the 'Guiness' records as the slowest express train in the world. On a comparison, the Shatabdi express between Bangalore and Chennai averages 72 kmph, and even the Brindavan express, with 7 stops, averages a creditable 63 kmph. At the Brindavan Express speed, the Bangalore –Thiruvananthapuram journey can be completed in less than 13 hrs.

Considering the number of daily overnight private buses plying between Bangalore and various parts of Kerala, all of which invariably go full, there is more than adequate scope for atleast one overnight superfast daily service between Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram, completing the journey in less than 13 hrs, and that is what the present demand is for.

Over the last year, I have in addition been posting messages on the Railway Bulletin Board, alongwith some 200 others, the highest number for any single subject. The officials have been responding with blatant excuses like inadequate demand, route cluttering, etc. I therefore thought that I will mobilize the voices of the entire lot of people traveling regularly along this route to make this collective demand.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

text of letter sent to press

By their permutation and combination exercises with terms (bi-weekly, tri-weekly, superfast, special, etc, etc), numbers ( 0641/0642; 0637/0638; etc), timings ( inconsistent, and most inconvenient at both ends), types of accommodation ( 2AC, 3AC, 2/3 tier, etc), days of journey (unless you are an expert, you will never know on which days it is operating, and according to what timings) etc, on the Bangalore - Ernakulam run, all that the South-Western Railways is achieving is to confuse the travellers and driving them away to the waiting arms of the alternate service providers (Volvo bus operators, and now airlines).

The need for atleast one regular overnight superfast daily service between Bangalore and Ernakulam (in fact Thiruvananthapuram) has existed from decades. However, even with any number of representations made by various groups of people at all kinds of levels, all that the South Western Railways has responded with is this dose of confusion.

Customer orientation and government are antonymous. Yet another fit case for privatisation.