Expo Rail has extended its luxury services to Vavuniya from Colombo with passengers having the option to board the carriage from any stop on the journey, on any day of the week. The train departs from the Fort Railway station in Colombo at 4.20 PM and arrives in Vavuniya at 9.10 PM. The departure from Vavuniya is at 05.45 AM arriving in Colombo at 10.25 in the morning. The journey is so much more enjoyable as this luxury journey takes approximately only 5 hours while it will take a passenger on average 7-8 hours on a good day to reach Vavuniya by road in private transport and even more by bus.
Speaking on the journey Expo Rail has been on so far, Group CEO, Hanif Yusoof said,"Expo Rail commenced its journey as the first luxury compartment in the Kandy intercity train on October 1, 2011 and added Badulla to its list of destinations on December 10, 2011 with the first train to Vavuniya flagged off on January 31, 2012 making it the fastest growing luxury train service provider in Sri Lanka. The Colombo – Kandy intercity operates daily from both destinations while the Colombo –Badulla train operates on alternate days. Expo Rail is set to further expand its operations, with Trincomalee set to be the next destination"
Expo Rail ensures it’s passengers a unique travel experience, with each and every facet of the luxury train compartment designed with their comfort in mind. The onboard crew meets and greets each passenger welcoming them to the fully equipped state of the art carriages ranking among the most up-to-date modes of trail transportation facilities.
Luxurious reclining seats for spacious comfort and relaxation, the fully air conditioned carriages with individual power outlets per seat and free Wi-F along with Wide Screen LCD Televisions are set up to enhance your journey with comfort and entertainment, as the mealsservedon board adds a new dimension to service standards in rail travel. Some of the other facilities include spacious overhead compartments, ‘First Aid’ treatment on hand and clean Wash Rooms with a cabin crew onboard offering you a personalized service.
Rio Tinto has unveiled a A$518m ($558m) investment plan for a project to run an automated long-distance heavy-haul rail network in Western Australia.
Rio Tinto's share for the automated train programme, touted to be the world's first, will be A$478m ($515m).
The UK's global mining company said the first driverless train will be rolled out across its 1,500km rail network in 2014, as part of its AutoHaul automated train programme due for completion a year later.
Rio Tinto chief executive Australia and iron ore Sam Walsh said the organisation is leading the way in large-scale use of automation, with plans to deploy 150 driverless trucks and plans for AutoHaul.
"Expanding Pilbara iron ore production is a high-return and low-risk investment for Rio Tinto that will enhance shareholder value. Automation will help us meet our expansion targets in a safe, more efficient and cost-effective way," Walsh added.
"Automation also helps us address the significant skills shortage facing the industry, providing a valuable opportunity to improve productivity."
Rio Tinto currently runs 41 trains from mines to ports, comprising of 148 locomotives and 9,400 iron ore cars. The company noted that automating train operations will allow it to expand Pilbara production capacity without the need to make a substantial investment in additional trains.
The company says the removal of driver changeover will result in flexible train schedules, helping in creating extra capacity in the rail network.
It said the introduction of driverless trains will enable more efficient fuel use, resulting in lower energy costs and a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for each ton of iron ore produced.
AutoHaul train project is being undertaken as part of Rio Tinto's Mine of the Future initiative that already has driverless trucks and autonomous drills.
The programme, launched in 2008, introduces next-generation technologies for mining operations that aim to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve health, safety and environmental performance. AutoHaul and the overall expansion of rail operations are subject to a number of State Government and other approvals.
Image: The company has a 1,500km rail network and currently runs 41 trains from mines to ports. Photo: Rio Tinto.
Narrow Gauge Railways back in Action again in Sri Lanka
February 14, 2012, 12:00 pm
By Asela K. Kulatunga
Secretary/ Sri Lanka Rail Fans Society
For the second time in the history of Sri Lankan Railways, narrow gauge Railways back in action from 4th of February at Oyamaduwa, Deyata Kirula exhibition premises, Anuradhapura. Originally, narrow gauge railways were used in three sections of Sri Lanka where sharp curves were available due to the geography of the region. The main difference of narrow gauge was the width of the track: for narrow gauge the standard was 2 feet 6 inches while for broad gauge it was 5 feet 6 inches. Originally these type of railways were used way back in 1906 connecting broad gauge from Nanu Oya to Ragala via Nuwara Eliya, popularly known as Uda-Puswellawa or UPR line. However, among the narrow gauge lines the longest line was laid along Kelani valley lasted for a long period for closer to a century and popular one. This line had two stretches. The main line was from Fort to Openayake via Avissawella and Ratnapura. In addition, there was a branch line from Avissawella to Yatiyantota. Except , the Openayake line, Avissawella to Yatiyantota and UPR lines were removed during the second world war period by the British due to lack of revenue. The Openayake line also was shortened to Ratnapura sometime back and in 1974, even terminus of KV line was further shortened to Avissawella and later to Homagama. The main reasons behind the extinction of Narrow gauge railways were due to the lack of speedy operations. This was due to the sharp curves occurring regularly along the tracks. In order to overcome this problem during the latter part of the 1990s, Fort to Avissawella stretch was converted to a broad gauge track. During this transformation, for a short period, both lines were kept available using one rail in addition to broad gauge track. The completion of this conversion took place in 1997 and after that rolling stock of narrow gauge were restricted to a shed only and some of them were sold as scrap and only few locomotives of steam and diesel and one steam rail car were kept in the running shed at Dematagoda and did not even start the engines of these locomotives afterwards.
However, due to keen interests by the present GMR, Mr. B.A.P Ariyaratne and with the blessings from Honourable Minister for Transports, Mr. Kumara Welgama, team of railway technical staff under took this massive project to restore two locomotives to be operated in Deyata Kirula exhibition nearly 10 months before the exhibition. The original plan was to restore two diesel locomotives (serial numbers 530 and 732) which were lying at the running shed and to build two carriages using the old narrow gauge under frames. The major portion of this project was undertaken by Mr. Sanath Wickramaratne, the workshop manager and his team of shop 26, Dematagoda. Under his purview two carriages and diesel mechanical locomotive 530 were restored as planned and diesel mechanical locomotive 732 was restored by shop foremen of Lalantha Fernando of shop 19. The restoration works were completed early January this year and the rolling stock was road lifted to Oyamaduwa from Dematagoda via A3 route on 21rd of this month.
The initial trial runs on 750 m stretch at Oyamaduwa exhibition premises were done on 22nd January. This was the first time narrow gauge train service was in operation in Sri Lankan soil after they were restricted to sheds in 1997. The two locomotives used in this project also have their inherent significances. The loco number 530 was imported in 1950 and this was the only remaining locomotive of this class in Sri Lanka. The loco number 732 Kawasaki was imported in 1974 for Plywood cooperation to transport logs from Sinharaja forest to Kosgama. However, after Freedom Front government lost the subsequent election this project was abandoned and 732 were handed over to Sri Lanka Railways. The Sri Lankan community, especially Railway Fans, will have the privilege of travelling in Narrow gauge railways again from 04th of February during the exhibition period. There are discussions going on currently to permanently operate them aiming at tourists. Sri Lanka Rail Fans Society salute all those behind this project, specially to their President Mr. Sanath Wickramarate who spear headed the project to a successes.
Having said all these it is pertinent to highlight the significance of the narrow gauge travel not only to foreign tourists but also to local enthusiasists and as a means for daily travel to commuters easing the current difficulties in travel in Sri Lanka. It should be reminded that countries like India and in some countries in Africa and Latin America have availed themselves of this facility to provide services to normal travel as well.
Timeline of Narrow Gauge Railways in Sri Lanka
1898-Intial discussions of KV & UPR lines
1903-Opening of UPR line to Nuwaraeliya
1904- Extention of UPR line to Ragala
1902-KV line first stretch up to Avissawella was opened
1903-KV line Yatiyantota stretch was opened
1912-KV line was extended up to Ratnapura
1919- KV line extended to Openayake
1941- Last passenger train operated in Yatiyantota stretch
1948- UPR line was abandoned
1975- KV line was operational only up to Homagama
1978-Again KV line was operational up to Avissawella
1993-Broad gauging was started in KV line
1997-Broad gauging was completed up to Avissawella & Rolling stock of narrow gauge was stationed to sheds.
Netherlands-based information and data communications firm HIT Rail has launched a multichannel interconnected information system which will provide integrated rail message brokering services across Europe.
HIT Rail's new service strategy is designed to meet the demands of a wider European railway community of interconnected information systems across the Hermes rail data network.
HIT Rail managing director Antonio Lopez said HIT Rail's key goal is to assist with the value added utility services needed to link European railway business organisations together.
"In the current climate of change within the European railway landscape and with communications technologies opening new possibilities of integrating and interconnecting systems, we are working towards greater information-sharing to the benefit of passengers and businesses," added Lopez.
The company noted it will also create improved services for freight and logistics organisations seeking to use the railways for the movement of goods.
HIT Rail stated its new message brokering services employ open software standards and security applications to allow end-to-end connection between business partners who want to exchange information to better support passenger sales, timetabling, freight management and a host of other infrastructure services.
The services will be delivered through a new multichannel business strategy, using new communications technologies, from the internet to mobile phones, handhelds and other communications.
HIT Rail is a private Dutch company owned by 12 European railway companies and is responsible for managing international private data communications infrastructure and message brokering services.
The interoperability plans of railway companies will be supported by a service oriented architecture (SOA) approach, based on web services, message brokering, translation and publish-subscribe services that are designed to meet specific needs for utility information. Pilot tests are already underway from the test platform with international tests scheduled for summer 2012.
Few months back it was reported that there had been a major train accident where a train had crashed into the observation saloon of another train, with disastrous consequences.
Apart from the financial loss incurred by the government, lives have been lost and many were injured including the driver and assistant of one of the trains. This is not an isolated incident as far as train accidents in Sri Lanka are concerned. Only major accidents are reported in the local newspapers. There have been interviews from time to time from various people in the media and if the information provided by them is correct, there are at least 8 to 10 minor train accidents per month.
One would find these figures alarming and disturbing. In fact, if we take into account the cost of suffering and heartbreak involved in such accidents, the loss would be immeasurable. Although such injuries are primarily the concern of accident victims and their families, the entire nation should be gravely concerned over such serious tragedies of human and material resources. When it is reported as an accident, the feeling that the general public has is it is unpreventable. But most of these could be minimised and preventable if precautionary measures are used and proper procedures are followed.
Although a committee has been appointed to look into the railway accident that happened sometime back, it might take some time for them to study this matter and report back. At the same time, immediate remedial measures have to be adopted in order to prevent such accidents either in the railway, or for that matter on public roads.
The general cause of accidents are due to driver fatigue, failure in the mechanical system of the engine, carelessness of the drivers, lack of communication, improper signalling system, insufficient warning given by the public authority etc. Therefore, every department must take these criteria into consideration and address them in order to prevent such accidents.
When we consider the railway, the signalling system plays a very important role. Sometime back in our railways, we had a semaphore arms signalling system, and in cities I have observed these have been replaced by the colour light signalling system. Usually, signals are spaced at sufficient distances so that, for instance, a train arriving at a ‘Caution’ signal at the maximum speed for the section, can safely brake to a halt before the next signal which is at ‘Stop’. Older locos, especially hauling vacuum braked rakes, can reach a signal at ‘Attention’ at the maximum speed for the section, and proceed through without slowing down and still brake safely if the next signal is at ‘Caution’. Therefore, spacing of signals is very important while at the same time visibility also plays an important role. In railways, multiple aspect signals providing several intermediate speed stages between ‘clear’ and ‘on’ allows high speed trains sufficient time to brake safely if required. This is very important as when the train speeds by without multiple aspect signals, a ‘Stop’ signal has to be placed very far apart to allow sufficient braking distance which reduces track utilization. As far as the light signals are concerned, unless there is an electricity failure, generally the visibility is better than the semaphore arms signals.
Therefore, a continuous electricity supply or a backup power system has to be maintained. In the highway traffic light signal system, very rarely is backup power provided to activate the signals when there is an electricity failure. Apart from this, ironically the worst thing that could also happen is actually when the signals are active, as quite often the traffic police give manual signals incompatible with the light signals without deactivating them. This could be quite dangerous as sometimes the traffic policeman is not visible to road users, as no proper procedure is being adopted to streamline the system.
In the aforesaid railway accident, it was reported that the driver and the driver’s assistant had died while 17 passengers had also sustained serious injuries. At the same time the loss incurred by the Sri Lanka Railways was in the region of several million rupees. Although it is a fact that the railway lines and signalling system have to be upgraded, the major cause of accidents is due to human error and negligence. In our railway tracks as well as in the public highways the aspect of safety has been badly overlooked. The recently opened near the Parliament is a classic example where a dual carriageway is connected to the Thalawathugoda/Pita Kotte Road and a road running towards Pelawatte. In this road warning signs were erected only after the occurrence of two accidents on both sides of the road, due to excessive speed and lack of visibility while negotiating the exit roads. Therefore, it is evident that the causes of accidents are not solely due only to human error, but a combination of the condition of the road or track.
In the railway accident mentioned earlier it has been reported that the engine driver was driving at a speed higher than that which he should have driven when the signal was at ‘Caution’.
We also have vehicles which are fairly old, and similarly vintage railway engines with a fair amount of wear and tear. Therefore one of the aspects that have to be looked into is to specify the number of years of usage or to have a strict control regarding the mechanical soundness of the vehicles.
It is also extremely important that in modern day travelling there should be proper communication between the engine drivers and the train controllers, guards, station masters etc. so that in case of emergencies prompt action could be taken to avoid drastic accidents. Presently, I have serious doubts whether we do have such proper communication system in Sri Lanka for this purpose and therefore, it is worthwhile investigating this and if necessary to introduce communication equipment to facilitate this.
It is also a fact that some vehicles and also railway engines do not have properly calibrated speedometers and in certain instances they do not have speedometers at all. Therefore, the drivers have to assume speed while driving and sometimes one may get a false impression that one is driving at a slower speed whereas the actual speed that he is driving could be much higher. Therefore, this has to be monitored and strictly supervised and in both cases, such as railway engines and motor cars, some controlling system has to be introduced. In trains and sometimes in long vehicles the driver has to depend on his assistant for support. Therefore, there should be a proper way of communication between the driver and his assistant as drivers do have to be heavily dependant on others when there is a lack of visibility.
Our disciplinary standards have gone down drastically in most of the institutions and our Railway Department is no exception to this. Therefore, structural changes have to be imposed in order to create a sense of responsibility by each person in the team, and it is worthwhile introducing a quality assurance system for this purpose. In any railway, or for that matter even in roads, one cannot maintain the same speed throughout the journey. Depending on the track conditions, maintenance work, seasonal changes etc, traffic speed limits may have to be introduced and although this might be a Herculean task for highways, it should be introduced to the railways with out much difficulty.
In long distance railways there is a signal system built into the railway engine in order to keep the driver alert, as otherwise he would even fall sleep. Sometimes deliberately in order to catch a few winks, in certain engines this signalling system is tampered with. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the railway authority to check the proper functioning of this feature at regular intervals in order to keep the driver alert during the entire journey.
Although it might appear as common sense to maintain railway tracks, visibility of the driver and lights etc. these should be inspected before each and every journey, and even if there is the slightest doubt with respect to the quality of this important criteria it should be rectified before the journey. As the railway carries a large amount of passengers, one should not risk the lives of passengers merely because of the lack of finances or lack of technically suitable persons, spare parts etc. Improvements have to be done to the entire system including quality and discipline of the workers in order to have a safe railway system for the users.
Accidents are unplanned and unintentional events that result in harm or loss of life, property, production, or nearly anything that has some inherent value. Accidents are rarely simple and almost never result from a single cause. Most accidents involve multiple, interrelated causal factors. Accidents can occur whenever significant deficiencies, oversights, errors, omissions or unanticipated changes are present. Any one of these conditions can be a precursor for an accident; the only uncertainties are when the accident will occur and how severe its consequences will be.
Who dies? - Over the years pedestrians remain the highest victims in road accidents and although this is not directly applicable to railways, the victims are mostly the travellers and property. They will continue to remain vulnerable in our country so long as factors affecting them are not adequately addressed by the relevant authorities. Therefore I wish, before waiting for an eye-opener to occur with another tragic event, it is time to address these issues in a proper, professional and proficient manner.
The writer is the President of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka (IESL). The views expressed herein are the personal views of the writer.
Narrow gauge Railways back in Action again in Sri Lanka
For the second time in history of Sri Lankan Railways, narrow gauge Railways back in action from 4th of February for a short period at Oyamaduwa, Deyata Kirula exhibition premises. Originally, narrow gauge railways were used in three sections of Sri Lanka where sharp curves were to be negotiated due to the geography of the region. The main difference of Narrow gauge was the width of the track and for narrow gauge standard was 2 feet 6 inches while for broad gauge it was 5 feet 4 inches.
Originally these type of railways were used way back in 1906 connecting broad gauge from Nanu Oya to Ragala via Nuwara Eliya popularly called as Uda-Puswellawa or UPR line. However, among the narrow gauge lines the longest line lied along Kelani valley was last long for closer to century and popular one. This line had two stretches. The main line was from Fort to Openayake via Avissawella and Ratnapura. In addition, there was a branch line from Avissawella to Yatiyantota. Execept , the Openayake line, Avissawella to Yatiyantota and UPR lines were removed during the the second world war period by the British rulers due to lack of revenues. The Openayake line also shorten up to Ratnapura sometime back and in 1974, even terminus of KV line further shorten back to Avissawella and later to Homagama. Main reasons behind the extinction of Narrow gauge railways due to the lack speedy operations. This was due to the sharp regular curves along the tracks. In order to overcome the lack of speed of Narrow gauge railways later part of the 1990s Fort to Avissawella stretch was converted to broad gauge. During this transformation, for a shorter period both lines were kept available using one rail in addition to broad gauge track. The completion of this conversion took place in 1993 and after that rolling stock of narrow gauge were restricted to a shed only and some of them were sold as scrap and only few locomotives of steam and diesel and one steam rail car were kept in the running shed at Dematagoda and did not even started these locomotives afterwards.
However, due to keen interest by the present GMR Mr. B.A.P Ariyaratne and with the blessings from Honourable Minister for TransportsMr. Kumara Welgama, team of railway technical staff under took this massive project to restore two locomotives to be operated in Deyata Kirula exhibition nearly 10 months before the exhibition. The original plan was to restore two diesel locomotives (serial numbers 530 and 732) which were lying at running shed and to build two carriages using the old narrow gauge under frames. The major portion of this project was under took by Mr. Sanath Wickramaratne, the workshop manager and his team of shop 26, Dematagoda. Under his purvive two carriages and diesel mechanical locomotive 530 were restored as planned and diesel mechanical locomotive 732 was restored by shop foremen of Lalantha Fernando of shop 19. The restoration works were completed early January this year and the rolling stock was road lifted to Oyamaduwa from Dematagoda via A3 route on 21rd of this month.
The initial trial runs on 750 m stretch at Oyamaduwa exhibition premises were done on 22nd January. This was the first time narrow gauge train service was in operation in Sri Lankan soil after they were restricted to sheds in 1997. The two locomotives use in this project also have their inherent significant. The loco number 530 was imported in 1950 and this was the only remaining locomotive of this class in Sri Lanka. The loco number 732 Kawasaki was imported in 1974 for Plywood cooperation to transport logs from Sinharaja forest to Kosgama. However, after freedom front government loss subsequent elections this project was abandoned and 732 were handed over to Sri Lanka Railways. The Sri Lankan especially railway Fans will have the privilege of riding in Narrow gauge railways again from 04th of February during the exhibition period. In future there are discussions going on currently to permanently operate then aiming of tourists. Sri Lanka Rail Fans Society salute all those behind this project specially their president Mr. Sanath Wickramarate who spare headed the project to a successes.