Prime Focus Technologies enters South Africa

Digital content specialist, Prime Focus, forms strategic alliance with ISP giant LaserNet

Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), the global digital content specialist, has entered into a strategic alliance with South African ISP giant LaserNet. The agreement will see LaserNet bringing PFT’s CLEAR unified content operations platform and supporting services to its substantial media and entertainment sector client base in the region.

This alliance reflects a synergy between PFT’s technological innovation and content operations expertise, and LaserNet’s established client relationships and network infrastructure. The merging of these complementary strengths will accelerate the already growing pace of digital transformation in the South African marketplace.

PFT’s CLEAR platform will allow content owners in South Africa to add new revenue streams, drive efficiencies, reduce cost and exploit content by enabling them to migrate to file-based workflows and capitalize effectively on new multi-platform opportunities.

With the dynamic combination of PFT’s technology and experience and LaserNet strong local foothold and infrastructure, the strategic alliance will result in new growth and development opportunities for the media and entertainment industry in South Africa.

In the late afternoon, Prime Focus was trading at around Rs49.10 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 1.45% up from the previous close.

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Essar Oil commissions diesel hydrotreater unit at Vadinar refinery

Essar Oil will achieve the addition of nine new units that will expand capacity to 18 MMTPA (375,000 barrels per day)

Essar Oil has successfully commissioned its diesel hydrotreater unit I (DHDT-1) at its Vadinar refinery. With the phase-wise commissioning of three additional units slated for the end of this month, the refinery is now firmly on track to complete the Phase I expansion by March 2012. This entails the addition of nine new units that will expand capacity to 18 MMTPA (375,000 barrels per day). The 4-million-tonne DHDT-1 at the Vadinar refinery will upgrade diesel quality by treating the sour diesel streams and achieving reduction in sulphur as well as an improvement in the cetane index. The DHDT-1 will thus ensure that the diesel produced at the refinery will be capable of meeting Euro V specifications.

The market for low sulphur content fuel is rapidly expanding with top 20 Indian cities requiring retailing of only Euro IV compliant fuels. In the European Union, the Euro V standard has been applied since 2009.

LK Gupta, MD and CEO, Essar Oil said, “We have now commissioned two key units that will help us produce gas oil (diesel) and gasoline (petrol) conforming to international standards. We are very close to realizing the scale that we had set out to achieve for the Vadinar refinery. The increased complexity that we will have post expansion will give us greater flexibility to produce higher value fuels that have a growing market both in India and overseas.”

In the late afternoon, Essar Oil was trading at around Rs59 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 2.16% up from the previous close.

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Rail Budget: What Mumbai wants?

Over 40% of the country's total railway passengers are from Mumbai and yet they get a 'damn' in every railway budget. As usual there is a demand for increasing frequencies of local trains, more coaches, hygienic conditions across stations and safe travel

With increasing number of people travelling on the local train network in Mumbai, one would expect so many things from the railway minister. However, looking at the past experiences, daily commuters are not expecting any miracle from railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, who will submit the budget for 2012-13 on Wednesday. Over 75 lakh (7.5 million out of total 20 million passengers across the country) commuters who travel daily on Mumbai's suburban train network expect an increase in train frequency, more coaches (15 from current 12) and hygienic environment at stations and in trains.

“A visit by Mr Trivedi to Mumbai before the railway budget has certainly raised the bar of expectation. We demand that there should be 12-coach trains on the Harbour Line. We also demand speedy implementation of the fast corridor on the Harbour Line and adequate allocation for it in the rail budget. Last year the railway minister had promised a committee to overlook the working of various projects and its timely implementation. But so far nothing has materialised. We expect the committee, Central Organisation Project Implementation, should come into force immediately,” said Subhash Gupta, president of Yatri Sangh Mumbai.

Almost every commuter, whether male or female, complains about lack of cleanliness and hygiene in local trains as well as on all stations. According a report, commuters throw over 2.5 tonnes of garbage everyday inside and outside the trains. There are no toilet facilities on platforms and even if one finds it somewhere in a corner, it is never in a hygienic condition. This creates a big embarrassment for female commuters, as there are lesser facilities for them. “Women have fewer toilets at all stations and they are maintained ‘horribly’. Why can’t we have a simple, clean and hygienic loo for women at every station?” asked Sukanya Shetty, one of the commuters, who travel daily from Kalyan to Churchgate.

Another passenger, Hemangi Rawte, who commutes between Dahisar to Dadar, feels that there is a need give more space for female passengers as the current compartments cannot accommodate them and many of the times, they have to travel in dangerously on the foot-boards. “Over the years, the number of female passengers has increased at a very fast speed, however, there still are fewer compartments for ladies,” she lamented.

In addition, Ms Shetty expects the railway minister to provide more fast trains even after peak hours. She says, “There are fast trains during peak hours but after the peak hours there virtually are no fast locals. Do you expect people to wait for more than an hour just to travel in a fast train at late hours? Either there should be more fast trains or we should be allowed to travel in the mail or express trains.”

As the number of commuters increased, the railways have increased number of bogies from nine to 12 and then for some routes, from 12 to 15. The Western Railway local trains have been running the 15-coach local trains successfully. However, not all stations across the Mumbai's rail network can accommodate 15-coach trains. This is the reason why the Central Railway has yet to start 15-coach trains on its network.

According to Pankaj Raheja, the Western Railways should close down the last remaining gate crossing between Andheri and Jogeshwari. “This manual crossing gate causes lots of delays. When this level crossing is open, it usually takes over 10 minutes before it can be closed and trains can resume their journey,” he said.

Prashant Tongle, one of the commuters, who travel daily between Kalyan to Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai (CST), feels that the Central Railways should introduce more 15-coach trains to reduce the passenger load. “In addition, they (the Railways) should use junctions like Kurla, Thane or Kalyan more effectively to separate long distance trains from locals. Currently, the Central Railway is not using the additional tracks like track no 5 and 6 for fast trains and many times we are struck in local trains as some mail or express train is ahead of us on the same track,” he said.

Another commuter, Nitin Binhani, who travels daily between Titwala and CST, said, “There is a need for more first class bogies or compartments in each local train as number of passengers travelling in these compartments have increased phenomenally over past few years. In addition, there should be super-fast trains between Kalyan and CST with stops only at Dombivli, Thane, Dadar and CST. This will help reduce the load in each train as majority of commuters from Kalyan-Dombivli travel either to Dadar or to CST, so there is no point stopping the train in between and leading to an increase in the load.”

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is a mass transit system serving the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and is maintained by the Western Railway and Central Railway. With over 75 daily commuters using the network, it has the highest passenger densities of any urban railway system in the world. At present, the fast corridors on the Central Railway as well as the Western Railway are shared for long distance as well as freight trains. The Western Railway operates the Western Line and the Central Railway operates the Central and Harbour Lines. These 'lines' are not actually a single line but multiple lines consisting of several routes and multiple terminals.

The Times of the UK calls Mumbai’s local railway network as one of the deadliest in the world. According to a report by the High Level Safety Review Committee set up by the government in September 2011, about 6,000 people die on Mumbai's crowded local rail network every year. The committee, headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the grim situation on Mumbai's suburban rail system need to be tackled on a war-footing. The report said, “Trespassing occurs because of lack of barricading, fencing, lack of adequate number of pedestrian over bridges and lack of facilities such as sufficient number of platforms, escalators, elevators for the disabled apart from insufficient train services."

"Passenger safety is a serious issue on the railways. Construction of many railway stations—extension and increasing the height of platforms are still pending and need to be completed soon in order to reduce the causalities on railway network," added Mr Gupta of Yatri Sangh.

Echoing the same, June Carvalho, who travels everyday between Virar and Dadar, said, “There is an urgent need to improve and create more infrastructure across the stations, especially those far away from the city. In addition, these stations should also have more foot-over-bridges, which will curtail the trespassing attempts.”

Unfortunately, over the years, every railway minister has overlooked the security and safe travelling issues. According to the Kakodkar Committee report, the Railways need about Rs1 lakh crore (Rs1 trillion) for safety provision over next five years. The Railways has not increased passenger fares since the last eight years and all ministers who handled the portfolio during this period have resorted to populism by introducing more trains. However, with increasing expenses and less income, this time around the railway minister may increase the passenger fares across all trains.

Earlier this month, Mr Trivedi, while on a visit to Mumbai, said as much as 30% of revenues in the suburban system could come from commercially developed station complexes in the foreseeable future. The minister listed budgetary support, internal revenue generation, external borrowing and public-private partnership (PPP) as the four options before Indian Railways. With Mumbai’s suburban railway stations occupying prime real estate, the ministry is considering proposals for their makeover with private investments, by making use of vertical space available, Mr Trivedi said.

Mr Binhani says he is fine with a 10% increase in fares, provided that there are more trains to commute especially during peak hours. Even other commuters are not averse to increase in fares provided they get to travel in safe and good conditions and not like cats and dogs. Over 40% of the country's total railway passengers are from Mumbai who contribute maximum revenues and yet are deprived basic amenities every year. Hope, this time the railway minister is listening to the voices from ground level.

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