Massive maintenance works for upgrading, modernisation & renewal of tracks resulted in worst Punctuality rate in 3 years

NEW DELHI: In good news to railway passengers, the Indian Railways claimed that it has taken measures to improve its trains’ punctuality. Union Railways minister Piyush Goyal is of the opinion that certain investments in the short run will affect safety and punctuality, and in the long run, the investments are expected to reduce the number of accidents that cause delays. Goyal also said in a tweet that passenger safety will be given the highest priority.

Goyal added that the railways is striving to avoid train delays. He mentioned that his ministry has instructed all zonal railways to monitor arrival and departure timings, with data loggers. This will help record data, and will see the use of built-in and external instruments, as well as sensors.

Currently 41 railway stations across India use these devices. The punctuality of 80% of mail or express trains are assessed by the system. Goyal said that the Indian railways is working to improve real-time monitoring and information processing of train movement to reduce delays.

Among a host of other reasons, trains can be delayed due to track obstructions. Goyal mentioned that the railways is also ensuring that obstructions on tracks are reduced. To do this, the railways is planning to cordon off tracks. Unmanned level crossings might be done away with, as the railways looks to further reduce train delays.

Along with such measures, the Piyush Goyal-led industry is also planning to streamline organisational capabilities. The railways also plans to ensure that the timetabling of trains is improved by seeking planned maintenance blocks, according to the Financial Times report.

Here’s what happened

On May 3, it was reported that the Indian Railways had registered the worst punctuality rate in three years. According to the report, the punctuality of mail and express trains between April 2017 to March 2018 dropped to 71.39%, as compared to a rate of 76.69% recorded during the 2016-17.

Officials said the railways’s punctuality was affected due to the considerable amount of maintenance work it had undertaken. The report also mentioned that the railways was “undergoing a phase where upgrading, modernisation and renewal of track is going on in a big way.”

Rajesh Dutt Bajpai, director of media and communication at the Ministry of Railways, told, “We are also making efforts to improve punctuality of trains without compromising with safety and upgrading of tracks.”

In 2017, the-then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, demanded that officials improve punctuality rates, threatening “severe action” in the event of failure to do so.

Why is this important?

Although the railways plans to tackle delays might be an upside, it remains to be seen how and when these plans will be implemented. Another positive development could be that the railways is planning to tap into technology to improve its services. The railways can also use better technology to prevent delays.

If the railways is successful in reducing delays, the state-run transporter may reaffirm its position as a publicly favoured transportation service, and it may lead people to switch to travelling by train for longer journeys. However, reducing train delays is just one aspect of improving the railways. Other aspects have to be considered so that a holistic development is ensured.