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Indian Railways Trying to Improve Punctuality of Trains

Crisis ridden Indian Railways (IR) is cash starved. Whenever you book a ticket on IRCTC web site you will be welcomed by a statement :

Are you aware that 43% of your fare is borne by the common citizens of the country?

IR is presently struggling with a number of problems. One such serious problem has been :– run trains on time, observe punctuality. At present, many trains, including premier services like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi, run late regularly.

According to the data available with the IR, 890 superfast trains had run late during July, August and September this year.

Number of late running trains

> 3 hours late 31 37  
1 - 3 hours late 129 145 183
30 min - 60 min late 196 186 240
15 min - 30 min late 326 287 267

The overall punctuality of trains, at present, is hovering around 73% which is not a good performance.

Delays are widespread in the IR system. Most trunk routes like Delhi-Howrah are already heavily congested and a slight delay causes a ripple effect on the entire network. Trains run late ranging between one hour and 15 hours or more in many sections due to various reasons.
IR lists 33 categories of reasons for delays, of which seven, it says, are outside its direct control, such as the alarm chain being pulled, protests on the tracks, bad weather, accidents and law and order situation.

According to IR norms, a train that is up to 15 minutes late is considered to be on time.

According to information available with the Directorate of Safety, IR had undertaken repair works of tracks, including renewal of aging rails, in almost all regions. Due to this, trains do not run at high speeds in these sections. Moreover, there are also capacity augmentation works going on to de-congest over-saturated routes.

Up till now, delays in project completion, as per the IR, were mainly because of non-completion of a land acquisition process.

In view of this serious concern, IR is coming up with a number of improvisations. Letters have been dispatched to the General Managers of all railway zones on 30 October saying that the Railway Board has decided that issue of tenders or commencement of physical work for new line projects shall be taken up only after completion of land acquisition.

As per the new policy, the GMs should invite tenders only when they are reasonably certain of the possibility of land acquisition in a time frame. A written assurance from the state government in this regard can be considered by the GMs as adequate.

Besides, IR has upgraded 48 mail and express trains to super fast, raised their designated average speed by 5 kmph from 50 kmph according to the new time table wef 1st November, 2017. This has been introduced just ahead of the dreaded winter foggy season when all north-bound trains will be severely hit. Thus, the total number of trains designated as super fast has now become 1,072.

The new superfast trains include Pune-Amravati AC Express, Pataliputra-Chandigarh Express, Visakhapatnam-Nanded Express, Delhi-Pathankot Express, Kanpur-Udhampur Express, Chhapra-Mathura Express, Rock Fort Chennai-Tiruchirapally Express, Bangalore-Shivmogga Express, Tata-Visakhapatnam Express, Darbhanga-Jalandhar Express, Mumbai-Mathura Express and Mumbai-Patna Express.

IR did not forget to increase the fare of these trains. Passengers will be asked to pay Rs 30 more for sleeper, Rs 45 for second and third AC and Rs 75 for first AC class as super fast charges. IR will not provide additional passenger amenities in trains upgraded as super fast. In this way, cash starved IR wants to raise an additional Rs 700 million from these levies and expects to avoid a hostile response on passenger fare increase in future.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in its last report in July, had made critical observations about the super fast levy. The CAG had found that passengers paid for super fast charge though the trains were not running at designated speeds. It also said that rules for refund of super fast surcharge to passengers, in cases where super fast services have not been provided to the passengers, have not been framed by the Railway Board.

The rail traveler in India knows very well there have been a number of such up gradations in the past. The latest Rs 700 million mobilisation may not necessarily ensure that trains would start running on time !!