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For Railways, the threat is ‘in the air’

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on May 17, 2018 Published on May 17, 2018

Ashwani Lohani (left), Chairman, Railway Board, and Sudhanshu Mani, General Manager, Integral Coach Factory at the International Rail Expo in Chennai on Thursday   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Railway Board chief wants to stop AC passengers from taking to air travel

 

The biggest threat to the Indian Railways is the rising trend of rail passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches shifting to airlines. “We need to arrest this shift,” Ashwani Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board, said here today.

Today, passengers have options and choices. The threat is from the air. There is a massive shift of passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches to air.

Cheap flights

“We have to get them back,” he said at the inaugural of the International Rail Coach Expo, a three-day event on rail coaches and train-sets, hosted by Integral Coach Factory in coordination with CII and RITES Ltd.

Lohani’s statement comes in the wake of many no-frill airlines offering cheap air fares. For example, the first class AC train fare from Chennai to Madurai on May 31 is ₹1,940 while it is ₹2,050 by a private airline.

“Change is in the air and the Indian Railways is right now in the process of change. Major changes come with challenges that are not difficult, but they need to be addressed,” he said.

The Railways is looking at improving its track network of 65,000 km to grow in a big way. This includes the dedicated freight corridor, high-speed rail, electrification and improvements to signalling. According to Lohani, another major challenge is how to improve the culture of Human Resources (HR). “Our employees are more important than trains,” he said.

In the last few months, ICF has brought about a significant change in its HR culture. A similar thing should happen with the Indian Railways, he said.

100 exhibitors

The three-day expo, which provides a platform to bring together suppliers and stakeholders under one roof, will conclude on May 19 at ICF, the world’s largest rail manufacturing unit and part of of the Indian Railways.

About 100 exhibitors from nearly ten countries are participating in the expo, a press release from ICF said.

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit was the chief guest at the event. Major brands, including Escorts, Jindal Stainless Steel and Alstom, displayed their products that focus on innovation and future technologies.

Sudhanshu Mani, General Manager of ICF, said that unlike other events in the past that focussed on every gamut of the railways, the event here centres around coaches and rails.

On ICF, Mani said that while the annual production has crossed 3,000 coaches, the only challenge is “to challenge ourselves”. While the numbers are fine, a lot needs to be done on quality and technology, he said.

According to R Dinesh, Managing Director, TVS Logistics and Chairman, CII Southern Region, ICF provides business worth nearly ₹2,500 crore a year to the industry.

There is scope to increase this by nearly five times. Like telecom, ‘Indianising’ the rail sector is the future, and ICF can take the lead in this, he said.

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Published on May 17, 2018
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