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Modernisation of Signalling and Telecommunication System

1.    Introduction

Indian Railways serve as the principal passenger and freight carrier in the country. To cope with the increasing freight and passenger traffic needs and to ensure adequate safety standards, it is necessary for the Indian Railways to steadily modernise its signalling and telecommunication system. With a view to bring about substantial improvement in productivity and efficiency of Railways, Indian Railways Corporate Plan (1985-2000) assigned top priority to the technical upgradation of the signalling and telecommunication systems.

The Planning Commission in its IX Plan identified strengthening of line capacity of Indian Railway system as the main thrust area. The Plan in its investment strategy observed that the highest priority for taking up new projects should be given to projects, which augment the capacity of the Railway system in the high density corridors, apart from investments needed to ensuring safety and reliability of services.

Modern signalling and telecommunication systems help in achieving these twin objectives of augmentation of line capacity at comparatively lesser cost and at the same time improve the safety and reliability of services. The main objective of modernisation of signalling and telecommunication system on Indian Railways, thus is (i) to improve safety by providing modern safety devices such as track circuiting, block proving by axle counter, auxiliary warning system, etc., (ii) to provide cost effective solutions to increase line capacity by introducing systems such as Centralised Traffic Control (CTC), Automatic Block Signalling, Intermediate Block Signalling (IBS), etc. and (iii) to achieve operational efficiency through modern signalling systems such as Panel Interlocking, Route Relay Interlocking, etc., and modern telecommunication systems such as Digital Electronic Exchanges, Digital Microwave, Optical Fibre Communication, Railnet, etc.

2.    Organisational Structure

At the Railway Board level, Signal and Telecommunication Directorates function under Additional Member (Signal) and Additional Member (Telecommunication). These Directorates are responsible for taking policy decisions on matters relating to Signal and Telecommunication.

At the Zonal Railway level, Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer (CSTE) is responsible for the efficient and economical working of the Signal and Telecommunication Department. CSTE is assisted by Chief Signal Engineer (CSE) and Chief Communication/ Telecommunication Engineer (CCE/ CTE). The major construction activities related to signal and telecommunication are under the administrative control of Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer (Construction) who is assisted by a team of officers.

At the Divisional level, Senior Divisional Signal and Telecommunication Engineer (Sr.DSTE) is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the installations under his charge.

3.    Scope of the review

In this Review, stress has been given more on operational efficiency and cost effectiveness, rather than on safety aspects on which a detailed Review had been conducted and results commented upon in Para 5.3 of Report No.9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (Union Government - Railways) for the year ended March 1998. This review covers areas such as planning, investment decisions, allotment and utilisation of funds, implementation of works and performance of systems related to modernisation of signal and telecommunication. The review covers 5 years period from 1996-97 to 2000-2001.

4.    Highlights

  • The Standing Committee on Railways (1996) viewed that the modernisation of Signalling and Telecommunication System on Railways should be made a thrust area for investment in IX th Plan (1997-2002). However, during the period from 1996-97 to 2000-2001, out of the total allocation of Rs.58010.96 crore on nine Zonal Railways for Grant No. 16 - Assets, Acquisition, Construction and Replacement, the allocation for S&T was only Rs.1482.02 crore, a mere 2.55 per cent.
(Para 6)
  • Modernisation of points and signals through Panel Interlocking (PI), Route Relay Interlocking (RRI) and Solid State Interlocking (SSI) had not been completed. Out of 5244 signalling stations, only 1812, 180 and 13 stations respectively were provided with PI, RRI and SSI and 3093 stations were still being operated mechanically. In 431 out of 1075 stations on ‘A’ route, points and signals are still being operated through mechanical means.
(Para 7.1)
  • Out of 6746.73 route kms., automatic signalling was in use only for a limited length i.e., in 560.34 route kms. on ‘A’ route and work was stated to be in progress on 170 route kms. No concrete steps had been taken to introduce modern signalling system on remaining 6016.39 route kms. of ‘A’ route.
(Para 7.2)
  • In 523 sections on the ‘A’ route covering 3807.40 route kms., of five Railways, where the utilisation of line capacity is more than 100 per cent, automatic block signalling has not been provided to de-congest the traffic.
  • Sanction for construction of 3rd line was accorded during the review period in 8 sections on three Zonal Railways at a cost of Rs.761.34 crore to increase the line capacity. The line capacity increase could have been achieved by provision of automatic block signalling at an estimated cost of Rs.61.42 crore.
  • Due to line capacity constraints, traffic on 17 routes is being moved through longer routes for more than five years. In respect of 8 routes, rationalisation orders were in force for more than 10 years. No efforts to de-congest the shortest routes were made by providing automatic block signalling etc.
  • Khanna Accident Enquiry Committee recommended (1998) that block proving axle counters be installed on ‘A’ route within a time frame of 3 years. However, only on four Zonal Railways (Central, Northern, South Eastern and Western) 210 block proving axle counters covering 867.52 route kms. on ‘A’ route had been installed as on 31 March 2001. Even before provision of axle counters on ‘A’ routes, 418 axle counters were provided at a cost of Rs.20.75 crore in other than ‘A’ routes.
(Para 7.4)
  • On five Zonal Railways, during the review period, there were 158480 cases of failures of signalling and telecommunication equipments. 57.21 per cent of the total failures were on Eastern and Northern Railways. The maximum failures were due to failure of signal gears.
(Para 7.6.1)
  • The Railway Reforms Committee (RRC) had felt the need for Railways to develop its own infrastructure for telecommunication, independent from BSNL. As on 31 March 2001, Railways have leased from BSNL 43126.93 route kms. for its operational requirements and 17267.31 route kms. for its administrative use.
(Paras 8.1 and 8.2)
  • Due to lack of clear policy for laying Optical Fibre Cables (OFC), the progress in laying OFC for both its own needs and for commercial exploitation was very slow. Out of 15491.83 electrified route kms., OFC have been laid only in 3337.07 route kms. (21.54 per cent) as on 31 March 2001. For 5306.74 electrified route kms., OFC works were in progress.
(Para 8.3.1)
  • Out of 668 sanctioned/ on going works, 165 works were completed and 476 works were in progress as on 31 March 2001. Remaining 27 works were dropped/ frozen after incurring Rs.26.73 crore on 20 works.
(Para 9.1)
  • As against a training capacity of 66977 officials in 10 training centres, training courses were organised for 64206 personnel, of which only 41901 attended the training courses.
(Para 11)

5.    Sample Size

Apart from a general review at macro level, detailed review at micro level was undertaken as per sample size adopted as indicated in Annexure LIX.

6.    Budget Allocation and Actual Expenditure on Signalling and Telecommunication System

The detailed Zonal Railway wise position of allotment of funds under Capital Works Grant No.16 vis-à-vis funds allotted for Signalling and Telecommunication is given below:

Budget Allocation and Expenditure incurred on Signalling and Telecommunication by Indian Railways during the period 1996-97 to 2000-2001

(Rs. in crore)


Budget Allotment

Actual expenditure on S&T


Percentage of Col.6 to Col.3

Grant No.16


Percentage of Col.3 to Col.2


















































(Annexure LX)

Review of allotment of funds to the Zonal Railways and actual expenditure incurred by them during the review period revealed that all the Zonal Railways had exceeded the budget allotment for Signalling and Telecommunication.

The Standing Committee on Railways (1996) had emphasized installation of modern signalling devices at all stations systematically by making signalling and telecommunication as a thrust area for investment in IX Plan (1997-2002). However, from the table above, it will be observed that out of the total budget allotment of Rs.58010.96 crore for the five years (1996-97 to 2000-2001), the allocation for Signalling and Telecommunication was merely Rs.1482.02 crore (2.55 per cent) and the actual expenditure on signalling and telecommunication was Rs.1525.94 crore. This was not commensurate with the objectives enunciated by the Standing Committee that Signalling and Telecommunication should be a thrust area.

Though the total budget allotment for Eastern Railway under Grant No.16 increased from Rs.1087.50 crore in 1996-97 to Rs.2139.09 crore in 2000-2001, the total funds allotted for Signalling and Telecommunication got reduced from Rs.38.07 crore in 1996-97 to Rs.29.31 crore in 2000-2001. Correspondingly, the expenditure on Signalling and Telecommunication came down from Rs.37.56 crore in 1996-97 to Rs.31.44 crore in 2000-2001. This is a cause for concern as 50 per cent of the over-aged signalling equipments existing on the Indian Railways were owned by Eastern Railway. In Northern and South Central Railways, there was no perceptible increase in the budget allotment and expenditure for Signalling and Telecommunication over the five-year review period.

(Annexure LX)

7.    Signalling system

7.1    Operation of Points and Signals

Earlier, signals and points at most of the stations were mechanically operated from 2 cabins, located at either end of a station, or from a central cabin. With the use of electrical signalling equipment such as panel interlocking (PI), Route Relay Interlocking (RRI), Solid State Interlocking (SSI), etc., there is no limit on the distance up to which points and signals could be operated from a centralised location. SSI is the most modern interlocking system. It is a microprocessor based interlocking and provides better reliability and consumes less power than PI/ RRI.

Review of the position of route-wise data of operation of points and signals on nine Zonal Railways as on 31 March 2001 revealed that, out of the total number of 5244 signalling stations, 1812, 180 and 13 stations were provided with PI, RRI and SSI respectively. Points and signals in 3093 stations were still being operated mechanically and in 146 stations (Auto stations), no interlocking was considered necessary by the Railway Administrations due to absence of points and crossings.

(Annexure LXI)

Out of 1075 stations on 'A' route of seven Zonal Railways (excluding North Eastern and Northeast Frontier Railways), 479, 73 and 12 stations, respectively have been provided with PI, RRI and SSI. While 80 stations on 'A' route do not require any interlocking, remaining 431 stations are still operated through mechanical means.

(Annexure LXII)

As on 31 March 2001, out of 5244 stations with points and signals, SSI had been provided on only two Railways, viz., Central (2 out of 714 stations) and South Central (11 out of 563 stations).

(Annexure LXI)

7.2    System of train working

System of train working mainly used on the Railways is known as block system. This system is based on the principle of maintaining a fixed minimum space interval between trains on a section. The types of system for train working in the Indian Railways are Token/ Tokenless Instruments, One Train Only System, Intermediate Block Signalling and Automatic Block Signalling.

Out of the above systems, Automatic Block Signalling (ABS) is the most modern system. In this system, signals are cleared automatically for the passage of a train after maintaining a specified distance behind preceding train.

In nine Zonal Railways, 4205 sections out of 6036.50 sections are being operated with single line token/ tokenless instruments.

(Annexure LXIII)

ABS has been introduced only on 560.34 route kms. (8.31 per cent), covering 128 sections out of 6746.73 route kms. (943 sections) in ‘A’ route in seven Zonal Railways, except North Eastern and Northeast Frontier Railways. In 170 route kms. [Northern (106 route kms. covering 18 sections) and Western (64 route kms. covering 7 sections) Railways], two works were stated to be in progress as on 31 March 2001. Out of the remaining 6016.39 route kms. yet to be provided with automatic signalling, the maximum route kms. were on Central Railway - 1827.98 route kms. (225 sections), followed by Western Railway - 1117 route kms. (146 sections), South Eastern Railway - 971 route kms. (113 sections) and Northern Railway - 645.96 route kms. (113 sections).

(Annexure LXIV)

7.2.1    Augmentation of line capacity through Automatic Block Signalling (ABS)

Indian Railways Corporate Plan envisages that it is possible to achieve wide range of increased line capacities with different types of signalling. For example, tokenless block working increased line capacity from 17 to 21 trains each way on a single line section. Computer aided Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) can further increase line capacity on a single line section to about 35 to 40 trains each way. Intermediate block signalling (IBS) can increase sectional capacity to 65 trains each way on a double line section and ABS can increase it further upto 100 trains each way. The areas where introduction of ABS could have improved the operational efficiency of the Railways and reduced the expenditure on augmentation works were reviewed in Audit. The following observations are made:    Easing of saturated routes

It was observed that as on 31 March 2001, there were 617 sections on ‘A’ routes, where the utilisation of line capacity was more than 100 per cent. However, out of these automatic block signalling has been provided for only 94 sections covering 412.66 route kms. Thus, 523 sections covering 3807.40 route kms. on five Railways still remain to be de-congested through provision of automatic block signalling system.

(Annexure LXV)    Construction of 3rd line vis-à-vis Automatic Block Signalling

With the objective of increasing the line capacity, three Zonal Railways had sanctioned construction of 3rd line covering 8 sections on Eastern Railway (3 sections - Sonnagar - Mughalsarai, Chandanpur - Gurup and Gurup - Saktigarh), South Eastern Railway (4 sections - Bilaspur - Urkura, Urkura - Sarona, Sarona - Bhilai and Goelkera - Manaharpur) and Western Railway (1 section - Surat - Kosamba - Phase I) during the review period. On the basis of per km. estimated cost of providing automatic signalling in other works undertaken on these Railways during the period of review (which ranged between Rs.0.09 crore to Rs.0.26 crore), it was observed that while the cost of providing automatic signalling on these routes worked out to Rs.61.42 crore provision of third line cost the Railway Administrations Rs.761.34 crore. The objective of increasing line capacity could have been achieved by providing ABS instead of going in for a more expensive option of providing a third line.

Out of the four works of South Eastern Railway mentioned above, the Railway Administration, in October 1998, made a detailed study on enhancement of line capacity by providing automatic signalling vis-à-vis construction of third line in respect of three works viz., Bilaspur - Urkura, Urkura - Sarona and Sarona - Bhilai sections and recommended to the Railway Reforms Committee (RRC) that automatic signalling was not only a feasible and economical option but also creates more line capacity than provision of third line. But Railway Administration resorted to construction of third line ignoring the recommendation made by Chief Signal Engineer.

The fact that automatic block signalling increases line capacity to a greater extent than construction of 3rd line was observed by Audit in South Eastern Railway. While the line capacity of Bilaspur - Naila section increased only by 36.73 per cent on provision of a 3rd line, the capacity of Panskura - Kharagpur section provided with ABS at a much lesser cost and in a shorter completion period had increased by 40.35 per cent.

(Annexures LXVI and LXVII)    Diversion of traffic by longer route

Owing to line capacity constraints and traction constraints on some saturated routes, it becomes necessary for the Railways to divert traffic from such routes to a longer route. In order to minimise the loss to Railways on carrying traffic through longer routes and to enable zonal railways to collect charges from the parties for the actual distance hauled for movement of traffic, orders for rationalising such longer routes are issued by the Railway Board from time to time. Due to such diversion of traffic via. longer route, the consignee incurs higher freight cost and Railways suffer loss of traffic as a result of higher transportation cost and loss of revenue due to longer turn round time of its rolling stock.

As on 31 March 2001, 17 routes were rationalised and traffic moved through longer routes. It is noticed that out of these 17 routes covered by the rationalisation orders, in respect of 8 routes rationalisation orders were in force for more than 10 years. No efforts to de-congest the shortest routes were made by providing automatic block signalling etc.

(Annexure LXVII)

Had the line capacity constraints been resolved by providing modern signalling system, it could have helped in increasing the line capacity, improving the turn round of rolling stock, besides the consignors being charged less for the goods carried. Railway Administration has also failed to assess the quantum and value of traffic lost to road transport due to rationalisation of these routes.

The objective of augmentation of line capacity, improved safety, reliability of service etc by provision of automatic block signalling, thus, largely remained unfulfilled.

7.3    Signalling indicators

Following types of signalling are presently in use on the Indian Railways.

1.    2 aspect lower quadrant signalling (LQ).

2.    Multi-aspect upper quadrant signalling (MAUQ).

3.    Multi-aspect colour light signalling (MACL).

MACL is the most reliable type of signalling in use on Indian Railways. Colour light signals with powerful and penetrating light provide better visibility and drivers are able to sight them from far away and act upon their indication. Besides, these types of signals are more reliable and require less maintenance.

On nine Zonal Railways, out of 4840 stations of Broad Gauge (BG), only 3078 stations had been provided with colour light signals as on 31 March 2001. Out of remaining 1762 stations, 399 stations were on ‘B’ route and 593 stations on ‘D’ Special and ‘D’ routes and 672 stations on ‘E’ and ‘E’ Special route (excluding Western Railway).

(Annexure LXVIII)

7.4    Provision of Axle Counters

Axle Counters are electronic devices employed for detecting presence of a vehicle on a defined length of a Railway Track. This can also be used as a substitute for conventional track circuiting even in locations where steel sleepers are used. Axle counters also help in reduction/ elimination of block operation time thereby contributing to increase in line capacity.

In Indian Railways, Axle Counters are mainly used for block proving (Section of Railway track between two adjacent stations is called block section. The process of proving that there is no vehicle in the entire length of block section is called block proving.). Khanna Accident Enquiry Committee, in its Report (1998) recommended that Block Proving Axle Counters should be installed section-wise and not spread out to various sections in a random and haphazard manner. The Committee recommended that Block Proving Axle Counters be installed in ‘A’ route within a time frame of three years and in ‘B’ route in 5 years after ‘A’ route.

On four out of seven Zonal Railways having ‘A’ routes (Central, Northern, South Eastern and Western), 210 Block Proving Axle counters covering 867.52 route kms. had been installed in 108 sections as of 31 March 2001. 5260.51 route kms. in 703 sections on the ‘A’ route have not yet been provided with an important safety device recommended for block proving by the Khanna Accident Enquiry Committee. The maximum route kms. where axle counters were yet to be provided was on Central (1675.51 route kms. - 206 sections), followed by South Eastern (926.40 route kms. - 106 sections)), South Central (747 route kms. - 82 sections) and Northern (686.51 route kms. - 119 sections).

(Annexures LXIX and LXX)

Even before provision of block proving axle counters on 'A' route and in 455 sections covering 3153.55 route kms. on 'B' route where superfast trains like Rajdhani Express are being operated, Railway Administration provided 418 axle counters at a cost of Rs.20.75 crore on other than 'A' and 'B' routes on Northern, North Eastern, Southern, South Central, South Eastern and Western Railways. The maximum expenditure incurred on provision of block proving axle counters in other than ‘A’ and ‘B’ routes was Rs.13.19 crore in South Eastern Railway (305 axle counters in 106 sections) and Rs.3.01 crore in Western Railway (38 axle counters in 19 sections).

(Annexures LXXI and LXXII)

It is also noticed that on three Railways (Central, South Central & South Eastern), the installation of 52 block proving axle counters (Central-38, South Central-5 and South Eastern-9) covering 212.25 route kms in 29 sections had not been taken up in continuous stretches as recommended by the Khanna Accident Enquiry Committee. It was actually taken up in a random and haphazard manner. The maximum number of axle counters installed haphazardly was on Central Railway (38 over 19 sections with 152.47 route kms.), followed by South Eastern Railway where 9 axle counters were provided haphazardly in 7 sections covering 44.60 route kms.

(Annexure LXXIII)

7.4.1    Audio-Frequency Track Circuiting (AFTC)

Indian Railway’s Corporate Plan (1985-2000) envisaged introduction of Audio frequency/high voltage impulse track circuits which allow greater length of track circuit for automatic block signalling devices which would permit substantial improvement in reliability.

On four Zonal Railways, it was observed that during 1996-97 to 2000-01, only 7 works (Central-3, Eastern-1, Southern-2 and Western-1) for provision of AFTC on 49 sections covering 184.91 route kms. were completed. As on 31 March 2001, 11 works of provision of AFTC (covering 270.43 route kms. and 8 yards (Central-7 and Western-1) were in progress.

(Annexure LXXIV)

7.5    Monitoring of Signalling Equipments through Data Loggers

Data logger is a microprocessor based equipment which monitors the health of the signalling equipment and logs the events occurring in the signalling function of yard through the energised contract of relays. It acts like a ‘Black Box’ which can scan, store and process the data for generating various users friendly reports and also envisaged reduction in signalling failures.

On comparing the signal incidences, which had occurred prior to and after installation of data loggers on 11 sections over Central (2), Northern (1), Southern (3), South Central (1), Western (4) and 3 yards on Kharagpur Division on South Eastern Railway where data loggers were installed during the review period, it was observed in Audit that in Andul and Sankrail yards of South Eastern Railway, signalling incidences had increased from Nil in 1999-2000 to 21 and 17 respectively in the year 2000-01. Thus, inspite of regular input on the health of the signalling equipments through data loggers, Railway Administration had not taken effective steps through preventive maintenance for reduction of signalling incidences.

(Annexure LXXV)

7.6.1    Performance of signalling and telecommunication equipments

Review of failures of signalling and telecommunication equipments over nine Zonal Railways has revealed that there were in all 464372 failures during the review period. Of these, 57.75 per cent were attributable to Eastern (138931) and Northern (129238) Railways.

Details of category-wise failures for all the five years of the review period were available only on five Zonal Railways viz., Central, Southern, South Central, South Eastern and Western Railways. Details are given in the following table:

Sl. No./ Railway

Signal gear failures

Bad mainte-nance

Defective design

Block instru-ments

Track circuits











1. Central








2. Southern








3. South Central








4. South Eastern








5. Western
















In respect of Eastern and Northern Railways, where maximum number of failures were reported during the five year period, category-wise failures were not made available relating to the period 1996-97 and 1997-98 for Eastern Railway and 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 for Northern Railway. Similarly, on North Eastern and Northeast Frontier Railways, the category-wise failures were not made available to Audit. Hence, no analysis could be made in these cases.

Category-wise analysis over the above five Zonal Railways indicated:

(i)    Maximum number of failures were due to ‘Signal gear failures’ (57418), followed by failures of ‘Block instruments’ (31827).

(ii)    There was increasing trend in failure due to ‘Bad maintenance’ on Central (171 in 1996-97 to 226 in 2000-2001), Eastern (3635 in 1998-99 to 4648 in 2000-2001) and Western (256 in 1996-97 to 468 in 2000-2001) Railways.

(iii)    On Eastern Railway, there was increasing trend in ‘Signal gear failures’ (from 12768 in 1998-99 to 15304 in 2000-2001).

(iv)    ‘Track circuit failures’ had also increased on Eastern Railway from 3996 in 1998-99 to 5988 in 2000-2001 and on South Eastern Railway from 722 in 1996-97 to 895 in 2000-2001.

(Annexure LXXVI)

7.6.2    Signal failures due to interruption in power supply

As per Railway Board’s policy in non-electrified sections colour light signalling should not be introduced without ensuring reliability of power. To ensure uninterrupted power supply for colour light signalling in non-electrified sections, apart from the reliable local power supply, stand by arrangements by means of DG sets are to be made.

On three Zonal Railways (Central, Eastern and South Eastern), out of 112 stations (Central-51, Eastern-1 and South Eastern-60) in 10 non-electrified BG sections (Central-7, Eastern-1 and South Eastern-2) having colour light signalling, stand by arrangements for power supply were not made on 23 stations (Eastern-1 and South Eastern-22). Signal failures for want of power supply on these stations of Eastern and South Eastern Railways were 49 and 112 respectively during the review period. The maximum failures were on South Eastern Railway - 65 during 1999-2000 and 47 during 2000-2001.

(Annexure LXXVII)

8.    Telecommunication system

Telecommunication is an essential input for operating a rail transport system efficiently. The telecommunication facilities created in Railways serve two main purposes (i) operational viz., for controlling and monitoring day-to-day train movements and (ii) administrative viz., for collecting basic data from Activity Centres like stations, marshalling yards, interchange points, goods sheds, parcel offices etc., for planning train movements, giving instructions to these centres for deployment of rolling stock, locomotives and crews and transmitting data in respect of passenger reservations, meal messages and other customer services. Railway Reforms Committee (1983) in its Report recommended inter alia that:

  1. On such routes where the alignments provided by the Post and Telecommunication Department (erstwhile name for BSNL) are exclusively used or can be segregated for Railways exclusive use, the alignments should be transferred to Railways; and,

  2. On such routes, where such segregation is not possible, the Railways should erect their own departmental wire alignments.

Thus, the Committee clearly felt the need for Railways to develop its own infrastructure for telecommunication independent from BSNL.

8.1    Operational Telecom facilities

The operational requirements such as control, block, traction power, traction loco, emergency and other circuits are catered through departmental and BSNL underground cables, overhead alignment, microwave, optical fibre cables, quad cables.

Railways had in use a total of 75713.36 route kms.*(Figures in respect of Northern, Southern and South Central Railways are in cable kms. as the respective Railway Administrations could not furnish them in route kms.) for operational requirements as on 31 March 2001. Railways own operational telecom infrastructure accounted for 32586.43 route kms. (43.04 per cent). Out of this, 11760.12 route kms. were underground cables, 15701.88 route kms. were departmental overhead alignment, 2950.47 route kms. OFC and 2173.96 route kms. quad cables. As against this, the Railways had leased 43126.93 route kms. (56.96 per cent) from BSNL.

Out of 43126.93 route kms., the maximum dependence on BSNL alignments was on Southern Railway which had 12131.68 route kms. (28.13 per cent) provided with BSNL alignment, followed by Northern Railway - 9139.19 route kms. (21.19 per cent), South Central Railway - 6979 route kms. (16.18 per cent) and Western Railway - 6200 route kms (14.38 per cent).

Zonal Railway-wise position revealed that on Western Railway, 64.31 per cent of its operational telecom facilities (6200 route kms. out of 9641 route kms.) were provided with BSNL alignment, followed by Northern Railway - 67.12 per cent (9139.19 route kms. out of 13615.39 route kms.), South Central Railway - 68.63 per cent (6979 route kms. out of 10169.33 route kms.), Southern Railway - 75.19 per cent (12131.68 route kms. out of 16135.72 route kms.). Central Railway depended on BSNL alignment only to the extent of 33.81 per cent of their total telecom facilities for operational purposes.

(Annexure LXXVIII)

8.2    Administrative Telecom facilities

Railways’ Administrative Telecommunication requirements such as control, coordination and collecting data from important activity centres are catered through administrative circuits. These circuits interconnect Zonal and Divisional Headquarters with important activity centres.

Review of the Railways own infrastructure for Administrative Telecom requirements revealed that during the review period, on nine Zonal Railways, the Railway Administrations had in use a total of 40413.78* route kms. for Administrative requirements. Railways own administrative telecom infrastructure accounted for 23146.47 route kms. (57.25 per cent). Out of this, 12655.72 route kms. were analog microwave, 5368.91 route kms. were digital microwave and 5121.84 route kms. were UHF. As against this, the Railways had also leased 17267.31 route kms. (42.73 per cent) from BSNL.

The maximum dependence on BSNL was noticeable on Southern Railway - 5364.95 route kms. (70.15 per cent out of the total administrative telecom facilities of 7648 route kms.) followed by South Central Railway - 5622 route kms. (67.52 per cent out of the total administrative telecom facilities of 8317.98 route kms.) as on 31 March 2001.

(Annexure LXXIX)

8.3    Modernisation in Telecommunication

Optical Fibre cable (OFC) system of communication has several advantages over conventional telecom cables or radio relay communication. It is totally immune to induction effect of the AC traction or interference from thyristor. While providing all the advantages of radio relay communication system, OFC has the potential of making much larger number of channels available as compared to the conventional cable system.

Indian Railway Corporate Plan (1985-2000) stipulated that the existing assets, which had been in use from the 2nd Five Year Plan onwards and 50 per cent of which were already over-aged, would need replacement during the next 15 years. Modernisation of these assets was to be done at the time of their replacement. The Plan specifically covered the following areas:

  1. Replacement of underground cable on electrified routes by optical fibre cables.

  2. Replacement of existing analog microwave equipment by digital microwave.

  3. Replacement of Strowager type telephone exchanges by electronic exchanges.

In respect of item (i) above the position has been explained in para 8.3.1 below.

As regards item (ii) viz., replacement of existing analog microwave equipment by digital microwave, it was observed that on nine Zonal Railways out of 18024.63 route kms., where Railway owned Administrative Telecom microwave facilities are available, only 5368.91 route kms. (29.79 per cent) have been provided with the modern digital microwave system and in 12655.72 route kms. (70.21 per cent) telecommunication is maintained through the analog system.

In so far as item (iii) is concerned, it was observed that 35 Strowager type telephone exchanges were yet (as on 31 March 2001) to be replaced by electronic exchanges.

8.3.1    Formulation and execution of policy for laying OFC

In Indian Railways, OFC communication was installed, for the first time in 1988, on experimental basis on Churchgate - Virar section of Western Railway covering a distance of 60 route kms. at a cost of Rs.10.71 crore.

(i)    After introduction of the OFC system in 1988, the Railway Board/ Administration had neither framed any policy till 1994-95 for laying OFC cables nor any plans for commercial exploitation of spare capacity that would become available on its laying.

(ii)    It was only in January 1996 that Railway Board directed all the Zonal Railways to provide OFC in all future Railway Electrification Projects as well as in sections where copper cables were due for replacement.

Out of 53845.04 route kms., 15491.83 route kms. are electrified over 7 Zonal Railways (excluding North Eastern and Northeast Frontier Railways where there are no electrified routes). In respect of 15491.83 electrified route kms., OFC has been laid only in 3337.07 route kms. representing 21.54 per cent and in respect of 5306.74 electrified route kms., OFC works are stated to be in progress.

(Annexure LXXX)

During the period 1997-98 to 2000-2001, on five Zonal Railways 13 works for electrification were sanctioned covering 287 sections and 2688 route kms. Out of this, in 11 works on 5 Railways covering 274 sections and 2254 route kms., provision of OFC was contemplated in detailed estimate and on 2 works on South Eastern Railway covering 13 sections and 434 route kms., such provision was not made.

(Annexure LXXXI)

On four Zonal Railways, in 29 sections covering 4062 route kms. works for replacement of copper cables in electrified section were sanctioned during 1996-97 to 2000-2001, but only in 20 sections on 4 Railways covering 3513 route kms., replacement of copper cables with OFC was contemplated in detailed estimate. Non-provision of replacement of copper cables by OFC in the detailed estimate for 9 sections covering 549 route kms. was, therefore, against the Board’s directives.

(Annexure LXXXII)

(iii)    In May 1998, Railway Board decided to transfer the Railway’s right of way for its commercial exploitation to (a) M/s Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) for Mumbai - Chennai route and (b) M/s Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) for Delhi - Jaipur - Ahmedabad - Mumbai section.

In March 1999, Railway Board entrusted the work of floating and finalising global tender for laying of OFC on various sections of Indian Railway to Indian Railway Central Organisation for Telecom (IRCOT).

M/s IRCON laid cables and other necessary equipment from Gandhinagar to Pratapnagar (Vadodara) - 145 route kms. and OFC cable from Vadodara - Surat upto April 2000. RITES has not taken up the work of laying OFC on the Mumbai - Chennai route so far (March 2001). As on 31 March 2001, no contract for laying OFC cable has been finalised by IRCOT.

In the Railway Budget presented in February 2000, the decision to form a Telecom Corporation for commercial exploitation of telecom capacity in Railways was announced. In August 2000, the Central Government approved the setting up of a Broadband Telecom and Multimedia Corporation of Indian Railways namely Railtel Corporation of India Limited (RCIL). Other than receiving recommendations from a private consultant for laying of OFC cables in 33000 route kms., no progress in laying the OFC has been made by Railtel.

Though the decision to form a Corporation for commercial exploitation of telecom capacity was announced in the Railway Budget 2000-2001, the Railway Board also accorded sanction for carrying out departmentally 18 works of laying OFC on 6 Zonal Railways (details of 2500 route kms. on three Zonal Railways were available) for commercial exploitation at an estimated cost of Rs.331.16 crore and provided funds amounting to Rs.8.75 crore for undertaking these works during 2000-2001.

(Annexure LXXXIII)

8.4    Non-exploitation of surplus telecom capacity

In July 1998, Central Government authorised Railways to lease excess/ spare capacity for data transmission to BSNL or licensees of BSNL for basic as well as value added services or to any other users including Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In November 1998, Railway Board issued guidelines for leasing/ renting Railway’s communication channels.

During the period 1998-99 to 2000-2001, on four Zonal Railways, 1260 spare channels (estimated potential earnings - Rs.10.06 crore) were available, in excess of Railways’ administrative telecom requirements, the maximum (1140) being on one Railway (Southern) alone. Out of these, only 54 channels could be leased out with estimated potential of Rs.2.24 crore, out of which only 45 channels were actually utilised from which Railways realised Rs.1.37 crore. Since there was no enabling clause in any of the contracts to penalise or levy minimum charges for non-utilisation of all the circuits, no action against the parties could be initiated.

Thus, three Railways could lease out only 4.20 per cent of the total spare capacity (only 54 channels out of 1260) and only 13.62 per cent of total anticipated earnings (Rs.1.37 crore against the estimated Rs.10.06 crore) could be realised.

(Annexure LXXXIV)

9.1    Execution of works

On nine Zonal Railways, 183 works (costing more than Rs. one crore) relating to Telecommunication and Signalling valuing Rs.1370.23 crore were in progress as on 1 April 1996. During 1996-97 to 2000-2001, 485 new works costing Rs.2962.37 crore were sanctioned. Out of 668 sanctioned works, 165 works were completed and 476 works were in progress as on 31 March 2001. Remaining 27 works were dropped (18)/ frozen (9) after incurring expenditure of Rs.26.73 crore on 20 works.

(a)    In Central Railway, one work viz., Bilaspur - Nagpur - replacement of analog microwave link by digital radio relay system was frozen, after incurring expenditure of Rs.1.07 crore on account of taking up OFC work in this section.

(b)    The work of electrification of Udhna - Jalgaon (UDN-JL) section of Western Railway was under serious consideration since 1993-94. Approval for the same was given by Railway Board much later and included in the budget for the year 1997-98. During this period, the work of upgrading the existing Standard III interlocking into Mechanical signalling was under way. Since this standard of interlocking was not of Railway Electrification standard, the work was frozen in 1996-97. However, Railway Administration continued the work and incurred an expenditure of Rs.13.19 crore till 31 March 2001.

(c)    On Southern Railway, four works were undertaken for improvement of signalling system. But these works were frozen after incurring expenditure of Rs.1.45 crore as detailed below:

  1. The work of provision of Second Distant Signal on Rajdhani/ Shatabdi route on Jolarpettai-Shoranur section (estimated cost Rs.7.82 crore) was frozen during 1999 after incurring expenditure of Rs.0.34 crore (cost of cables) due to diversion of Rajdhani Express and cancellation of Shatabdi Express trains on this section.

  2. Three works for provision of standard III interlocking in Tiruparankundram-Tirumangalam-Kallagudi (estimated cost - Rs.1.25 crore), Sattur-kovilpatti-Kumarapuam-Kadambur (estimated cost - Rs.1.57 crore) and 5 stations in Bangalore-Tumkur section (estimated cost Rs.2.10 crore) were frozen during 1996 for want of funds, after incurring expenditure of Rs.0.10 crore, Rs.0.08 crore and Rs.0.93 crore respectively.

(d)    On South Eastern Railway, two works with estimated cost of Rs.11.36 crores taken up in 1996-97 for establishing Emergency communication system with VHF sets in (i) Howrah-Khragpur-TATA-Chakradharpur-Bilaspur-Durg-Nagapur and Bokaro Steel Nagar-Gungrana-Sini Junction-Anara-Adra-Asnsol sections and (ii) Bilaspur-Anuppur-Katni section were frozen by RailwayBoard in 1997-98 as trials with the system were going on and the final decision of the Railway Board were awaited. While one work mentioned at (i) above was frozen after incurring Rs.0.11 crore, the other work was frozen without incurring any expenditure.

(Annexure LXXXV)

9.2    Cost Over run

During the period of Review 165 works were completed on nine Zonal Railways of which 116 works were completed on selected 18 divisions and 18 Survey and Construction units. Out of these 116 completed works, 67 works were test checked. In 34 cases, cost over run amounting to Rs.33.38 crore was noticed. Out of this, the cost over run was Rs.14.65 crore (1 work) on North Eastern Railway, Rs.6.75 crore (8 works) on Eastern Railway, Rs.2.96 crore (4 works) on Western Railway and Rs.2.88 crore (5 works) on South Eastern Railway.

(Annexure LXXXVI)

The main reasons for cost over run were as follows.

  1. Price escalation (Central, Eastern, Northern, North Eastern and Western).

  2. Increase in cost of establishment (Central, Western).

  3. Due to change in scope of work (Central, Eastern, Northern, North Eastern, Western).

  4. Site conditions (Eastern).

  5. Operation of non schedule items (Northeast Frontier).

  6. Delay in taking up of the works after preparation of the estimate (Southern).

  7. Variation in quantity of works (South Eastern).

9.3    Time Over run

Out of 67 cases test-checked, in 8 works, time overrun was 6 to 12 months, in 19 works 1 to 3 years and in 14 works more than 3 years.

(Annexure LXXXVI)

The main reasons for time over run were as under.

  1. Delay in taking up the works (Central).

  2. Delay on the part of the contractors (Central, Western)

  3. Delay in completion of civil and electrical works by Railway Administration's and other departments (Eastern, Northern, Northeast Frontier, Southern, South Eastern, Western).

  4. Non-receipt of material (Eastern).

  5. Non-availability of adequate block (Eastern, Northeast Frontier).

  6. Non-allotment of adequate funds (Northern).

  7. Non-allotment of funds in one go (South Central).

  8. Due to inclusion of additional works (South Eastern).

  9. Due to natural calamities (South Eastern).

  10. Termination of original contract (Western).

  11. Change in scope of works (Western).

10.    Man power management

While undertaking modernisation works on signal and telecommunication, besides the benefits of increase in line capacity, safety, reliability, etc., the reduced manpower requirements are also being assessed. It was observed in audit that on 8 divisions out of 25 divisions test checked on four Zonal Railways (Northeast Frontier - 4, South Central - 5, South Eastern - 8 and Western - 8) during the period under review, 77 stations were provided with PI/ RRI/ SSI. Consequently, 495 posts (Pointsmen/ Levermen/ Linemen etc.) had become surplus. However, till 31 March 2001, only 367 posts were surrendered leaving a balance of 128 posts in operation. Delay in surrender resulted in avoidable expenditure of Rs.3.27 crore on the four Zonal Railways. The maximum expenditure pertained to Northeast Frontier Railway (Rs.1.56 crore) and Western Railway (Rs.1.17 crore).

(Annexure LXXXVII)

11.    Training of Signalling and Telecommunication personnel

Railway Board has been laying stress on imparting training to Railway staff for improving reliability, quality of service and safety of operation in the Railways. Railway Board had sent several communications to the Railways for improving not only the quality of training imparted in the training centres but also to improve their capacity utilisation to more than 90 per cent.

It was observed in audit that in 10 training centres spread over nine Zonal Railways, during the period 1996-97 to 2000-2001, in all 66977 staff were to be trained. As against this, training courses were organised for 64206 (95.86 per cent), whereas the number of staff who actually attended the training courses was only 41901 (62.56 per cent of the targetted). There was shortfall of 22305 (34.74 per cent) due to staff not attending training during the review period.

The maximum shortfall (63.69 per cent) in attending the training courses vis-à-vis the number of staff for whom the courses were organised was on Southern Railway, followed by Northeast Frontier Railway (48.10 per cent) and South Eastern Railway (41.14 per cent).

(Annexure LXXXVIII)

12.    Overhaul/ repair of Modern Signalling equipments in Signal Workshops

To meet the requirement of manufacturing and overhauling/ repairing of various signalling equipments and their parts, Indian Railways have established several Signalling Workshops.

With rapid pace of modernisation, it is necessary to equip the workshops for undertaking manufacturing/ maintenance works on the modern signalling equipments.

On nine Zonal Railways, out of 10 workshops, facilities for manufacture/ overhauling of the modern signalling equipments have been provided only in 8 workshops. The two workshops viz., Ghaziabad (Northern Railway) and Kharagpur (South Eastern Railway) do not have any facility for manufacture/ overhauling of the modern signalling equipments.

During the period of review in 18 out of 60 divisions test-checked, 9025 items were identified for repairs/ overhaul. Of these, only 4735 items could be repaired/ overhauled within the Zonal Railway workshops. On Southern Railway, while 1829 items (out of 4149 identified for repairs) remained with the Railways unattended, 141 items had been got repaired/ overhauled through private agencies.

(Annexure LXXXIX)