The Indian Railways has announced that it achieved 100 per cent punctuality of its passenger trains on July 1, a never-before feat.
Try this question:
Q.Discuss various issues crippling the punctuality of the Indian Railways.
A big achievement for Railways
- Usually, the Indian Railways run over 13,000 passenger trains and over 8,000 freight trains every day.
- It is important to remember the context – very few trains are running now, and the punctuality of the Railways can hardly be compared with its own performance on this count in pre-COVID times.
- The 100 per cent punctuality has been achieved when the network is running just 230 passenger trains – along with about 3,000 loaded freight trains and 2,200 empty ones.
- This is no mean achievement – it is indeed not an easy task given all the constraints that the Railways usually face while running a train on its designated path and time slot.
Why do trains get delayed in India?
- There are a number of reasons, which is also why the achievement of the Railways is significant.
- There are unforeseen situations such as a failure of assets like the signalling system and overhead power equipment.
- Several types of breakdowns can occur, related to rolling stock, tracks, etc., that make a train lose time along the way.
- Then there are external unforeseen problems like run-over cattle and humans, agitations on the tracks, and the like.
And what have the Railways been doing right?
- The maintenance of tracks was carried out in a quick time during the COVID period in various critical sections, so the average speed increased, and stretches of slowing down were minimized.
- Better and modern signalling is also making an impact.
- Another reason is better planning and operations analysis.
How do the delays impact the overall system?
- In normal times, these failures take away a lot of scheduled time when the train is detained even for a short time because making up the lost time during the remainder of the journey is a tricky business.
- It’s not as though a train can just run faster to make up for a lost time. In a network chock-a-block with trains, a train hardly ever has such leeway built into its pre-set path.
- Any train that gets delayed inordinately due to whatever reason during the journey theoretically eats into the “path” – or time slot allotted on the track – of another train.
- It then becomes a matter of which train to prioritise. Conventionally, Rajdhanis and premium trains get priority of path over ordinary mail/express trains.
- Freight trains, whose runs are not exactly time-sensitive, are usually held up to make way for passenger trains.
But why do the Railways have to juggle operations in this way?
- It’s a constantly dynamic scenario in which railway operations professionals take calls all the time.
- At the heart of the problem are network capacity constraints. It basically means that there are more trains than the network can handle in a given time bracket.
- Around 60 per cent of all train traffic is on the Golden Quadrilateral, even though it represents just about 15 per cent of the total network.
- There are projects to enhance capacity by building additional lines and modernizing signalling systems, etc.
Minimizing the delays
- The Railways are working on what is called a “zero-based timetable”.
- In this concept, which is to be introduced soon, every train that enters the network is justified based on needs and costs.
- It is expected to make train operations more seamless.