‘Mission Raftaar’ was announced in the 2016-17 Budget for the Indian Railways with the objective of doubling the average speed of freight trains and increasing the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kmph by 2022.
Even with the advent of high-speed coaches and locos, electric traction, double lines etc., the overall speed of Indian railways is stagnating, in fact, many people claim that it has actually decreased. Of course, congestion and number of stops need to be taken into consideration before comparing speeds.
However, 44 years ago, in 1974, Brindavan Express with its steam/diesel engine covered Bangalore – Chennai distance in exactly 5 hours.
Today, a premium train, Shatabdi Express (12008), running with high powered electric locos on double track, is able to cover the same Bangalore – Chennai journey in around 5 hours 30 minutes.
41 years ago, in 1977, Vaigai Express with a diesel engine running on metre gauge covered 497 kms, between Madurai and Chennai, in 7 hours and 5 minutes on its inaugural run. Metre gauge trains run about 20% slower than current broad gauge trains.
Then, most metre gauge express trains ran at an average speed of about 55-60 km/hr, and Vaigai used to run, with special consideration, at 110 km/hr. Few key token men (men who stand on the edge of the platform holding the cane ring with the token for the engine driver to snatch it from him) used to run away in fear when Vaigai used to approach the station at 110 kmph. The Vaigai was later slowed down, and the journey time increased to 7 hrs 40 mins.
Today, Shatabdi Express (12008) covers a similar distance between Mysore and Chennai (496 kms) in 7 hours 40 minutes.
For Bangalore-Chennai, Railways still maintain 5 hours as running time in the IRCTC booking site and official online railway timetable for passengers. But in the NTES system, which is the only one used for calculating punctuality by the Railway ministry, they have shown the running time around 5 hours 30 minutes. The scheduled arrival for 12008 in Chennai is shown as 21.55 in NTES, when IRCTC while booking shows it as 21.25.
A train to be classified as Superfast needs to maintain an average speed of 55 kmph. To be classified as Premium/Shatabdi express it has to maintain an average speed of 70 km/hr. Today the 12008 Shatabdi maintains an average speed of just 65 km/hr. Should the railways in all fairness charge Premium Shatabdi fares for this train?
The 12008 Shatabdi is slowed down by 30 minutes. 12608 Lalbagh express is slowed down by 30 minutes. 12676 Kovai Express is slowed down by 30 minutes. All in the past few weeks. And our rail journeys are getting longer!
A move by the Southern Railway aimed at improving the punctuality of 87 trains terminating at Central, Thiruvananthapuram, Kanniyakumari, Ernakulam and Mangaluru has resulted in increased travel time by 30-45 minutes, reported the New Indian Express.
It is perhaps prudent that while booking trains one should cross check with the official NTES site for rescheduled latest arrival times at destinations. Most of these changes are not officially communicated to passengers as of now.