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We are focussed on improving comfort of commuters, freight revenue: Waltair DRM

Despite challenges, in FY22 (till Dec, 2021) the division saw 605% growth in passenger traffic and 18.4% growth in earnings that fetched Rs 286 cr

Anup Kumar Satpathy, Divisional Railway Manager, Waltair Division

Anup Kumar Satpathy, Divisional Railway Manager, Waltair Division

Waltair division under the East Coast Railway (ECoR) zone has achieved a major landmark by loading 50 million tonne in a short span of 285 days on January 10. The division handled over 50.11 MT in nine months and 1o days, which is more than 13.35 per cent the previous year. The feat was achieved in spite of severe shortage of wagons, pandemic conditions and derailments caused in the critical Kottavalasa-Kirandul line. Ever since he took over in August last year, cleanliness in trains and railway stations, boosting the morale of the workforce and initiating measures for faster evacuation of freight have remained top priority for Anup Kumar Satpathy, Divisional Railway Manager of Waltair Division. An IRTS officer of 1993 batch, who earlier worked as Chief General Manager in CONCOR, told Bizz Buzz in an exclusive interview that they have adopted a multi-pronged approach to improve the overall performance of the division.

What are your priorities after taking over as the Railway Divisional Manager?

Main priorities are safety in train operation, better services to rail users, increased freight loading/ earning and cleanliness in railway premises while maintaining the motivation, morale and welfare of the 18,000-odd staff members under my jurisdiction and their families.

Where the Waltair division is placed in freight traffic and revenue in the Railways in general and East Coast Railway in particular?

Waltair Division has been fifth or sixth in terms of revenue loading and earning in Indian Railway. But having difficult terrains full of ghats, tunnels, curves, jungles and hills, in terms of workload mostly second among all divisions of Indian Railway.

The government has already decided to form South Coast Railway with Visakhapatnam as the headquarters. What is the status of the project?

It is upto the Railway Board and Ministry of Railways. The DPR is under consideration.

Is there any improvement in passenger revenue?

Yes. Despite challenges, good performance showed in the financial year 2021-22. Waltair Division stood in the frontline in all the fields like safety, security, infrastructure development, amenities improvement and innovative measures. There has been 605 per cent growth in passenger traffic and 18.4 per cent growth in earnings that fetched to Rs.286 crore till December, 2021.

What are the main challenges posed to the Railways due to the pandemic? How are you geared up?

During this pandemic the main challenge was to balance our staff health and welfare of their family members on one-side and focus on uninterrupted supply of essential commodities on the other side. We have taken steps to enhance quarantine and isolation beds, paramedical staff to face the pandemic, and put in place all the essential gadgets to combat the spread of infection. Sufficient oxygen supply has been made ready. A dedicated oxygen plant which was commissioned at Divisional Railway Hospital recently will definitely meet the demand.

Covid monitoring group has been set up for better coordination and treatment of patients. Telemedicine helpline reactivated for online advisory to railway beneficiaries through phone call on 8688407745. For uninterrupted supply of essential commodities, the division will run goods trains on priority and in this direction a separate control room has also been planned to meet exigency.

Further, door to door vaccination drives in colonies, workplaces are conducted. Awareness drives at stations conducted through various media for SMS (social distance - mask usage - safe washing of hands) with caution on penalty for not wearing masks in railway premises and trains.

Any progress in Raipur-Visakhapatnam expressway? How will it help in propelling growth in the region?

The infrastructure development to enhance traffic is on the cards. It will decongest Railways but it will propel growth in a big way.

When will the third line project between Vizianagaram and Titlagarh be completed?

The expected completion of this project is 2024-25. The 264.4 km third line was cleared in the Budget 2015-16 and is in progress in a phased manner taking into the consideration of geographical constraints. This financial year we are about to complete a 31.10 km stretch between Titlagarh-Lanjigarh Road, a length of 67.7 km to be completed between Singapur Road-Doikallu in 2023-24 and the remaining part of 156.9 km in 2024-25.

It seems you have completed electrification in almost all the areas of East Coast Railways? Please elaborate.

Yes. Waltair Division has completed 100 per cent electrification in its existing network. All the 2371 km track have been electrified.

How the introduction of LHB coaches made the difference? How is the impact of Omicron?

The LHB coaches are German technology-based coaches which possess more safety norms, passenger convenience, modern technology for passenger comforts, and also provide additional accommodation. Waltair Division converted seven pairs of trains into LHB rakes like Visakhapatnam-New Delhi-Visakhapatnam AP Express, Visakhapatnam-Korba-Visakhapatnam Express, Visakhapatnam-Tirupati-Cuddapah, Visakhapatnam-Nanded Express, Bhubaneswar-Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Special Express, Visakhapatnam-Amritsar-Visakhapatnam Special Trains and Visakhapatnam-Kirandul-Visakhapatnam Train and others in the pipeline. Three LHB Vistadome coaches have been provided to the Visakhapatnam-Kirandul train. In the wake of Omicron or third wave, we are constantly monitoring the safety of passengers through awareness campaigns, frequent announcements in the PA system and advising them to bring their own linen. The impact is not extreme, but in the wake of a steep rise in Covid cases people are avoiding unnecessary travel.

What are the other proposals in the pipeline to improve passenger comfort?

We are providing high class amenities at Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam Road, Rayagada, Koraput, Jagdalpur and Araku which are more than as per norms. We are improvising passenger experience with various innovative measures like relaxing lounges, entertainment zone, robotic spa and high standard food courts, bike and car rental faculties, packaging of luggage and parcels with door to door pickup/drop facility apart from construction of new footover bridges, lifts and escalators.

More Vistadome coaches were added to the train going to Araku Valley sometime ago. How is the response from the tourists?

Keeping in mind the demand of the public, we are running two LHB Vistadome coaches to Visakhapatnam- Kirandul and adding the third LHB Vistadome coach to cater the demand. Apart from this we operated a special express train to Araku during peak season in January and attached the ICF Vistadome coach. All the coaches got a good response.

As part of the grievance redressal mechanism what are the steps initiated to respond at the shortest possible time? What are the ways to contact the authorities concerned?

As you are aware, grievance redressal is the top most priority for railways and we pay utmost attention to it. We are responding to our Rail Madad, CPGrams, emails, and complaints registered through 139-helpline. For swift response we are also available at social media platform - Twitter. We retrieve in a few seconds/minutes the complaints that are received through social media and monitor 24x7.

Santosh Patnaik
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