2017-18 Was Indian Railways' Worst Punctuality Performance In 3 Yrs, CAG Finds Out Why
Indian Railways is notorious for rampant train delays and failure to be punctual. In fact, in the financial year 2017-2018, the punctuality of mail and express trains was 71. 39% and hence by official records 28.61% trains in the previous fiscal ran late. This was the Indian Railway’s worst punctuality performance in the last three years, as reported by Business Today.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report which was tabled at the Parliament on August 7, has slammed the Indian Railways for lack of adequate infrastructure at the railway station as the reason for repeated train delays. It has also found a number of flaws in the government’s station redevelopment plans which costs Rs 1 lakh crore.
CAG finds infrastructural gaps at Indian Railway stations
The CAG report states that the ongoing redevelopment and other infrastructural projects mainly focus on providing facilities to the passengers and changing the facade of the railway stations, instead of removing constraints for ensuring timely arrival and departure of trains at the railway station. The report read, “The station development/redevelopment plans mainly address on facilities for the passengers on the station premises and facade of stations only and not on removing constraints and bottlenecks for ensuring timely arrival and departure of trains to/from the stations, which should be one of the most important parameters of the quality of service being provided to the passengers.”
To prepare the report, CAG took into consideration 15 railway stations across 10 zones in India with heavy traffic which included stations like Allahabad, Kanpur, Mathura, Mughalsarai, Chennai Central, Howrah, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and New Delhi railway stations. It analysed a one-month data to understand how stations with lower infrastructure lead to train delays. It found that only 101 out of the 163 platforms that CAG examined had the capacity to handle a 24-coach train. Trains with 24-coaches have to be accommodated in shorter platforms, which causes inconvenience while boarding and deboarding.
Lack of washing and pit lines
Additionally, lack of washing pits lines and stabling lines have been cited as two other major reasons for train delays. The washing pit lines are tracks with open dumping pits which are used for cleaning and maintenance purposes to prepare a train for the next trip. Whereas, stabling lines are running lines where empty trains are stabled upon their arrival where they wait before going to the washing lines. The CAG report finds that only 35 pit lines and 20 stabling lines out of 79 pit lines and 63 stabling lines have the capacity of handling 24 coaches. It also found out that the infrastructure has not been tweaked in tandem with the growing number of trains and their coaches.
Recommendations of CAG
CAG in its report has also recommended a seven-step process to ensure that such unnecessary delay does not occur in the future. It includes measures like creating a master plan for all major railway stations that experience heavy traffic. It also recommended increasing the platform length to accommodate trains with 24 coaches. Other recommendations include revamping the infrastructure at the railway stations, construction of additional pit and washing lines where ever possible and removal of empty rakes.
The Logical Indian take
Reports of trains getting delayed have surfaced again and again. The national carrier has to take into account the findings of the CAG report and implement them in an effective manner to improve the quality and punctuality of Indian trains.