Railway Reforms

What did it take for the Indian Railways to achieve 100% punctuality?

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.
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