Context: The Indian Railways has announced that it achieved 100 percent punctuality of its passenger trains recently, a never-before feat. 

More on the news:

  • According to the Railways, its previous best on-time performance was 99.54 percent, when just one train got delayed.

Feather in the cap?

  • The reasons that usually cause delays have been systematically eliminated. 
  • It is not an easy task given all the constraints that the Railways usually face while running a train on its designated path and time slot.
  • However, it is important to remember that very few trains are running now.
    • This means that the punctuality of the Railways can hardly be compared with its own performance in pre-Covid times, when it ran over 13,000 passenger trains and over 8,000 freight trains every day.
    • Also, trains that are delayed by up to 15 minutes are considered to have been on time, as per practice.

Reasons behind trains getting delayed:

  • Internal 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.
  • External unforeseen problems: Like run-over cattle and humans, agitations on the tracks, etc.

Impact of delays on the overall system:

  • 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.
  • Eating into the 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 prioritize. Conventionally, Rajdhanis and premium trains get priority of path over ordinary mail/express trains.
    • Usually, in railway operations, a train running on time, maintaining its schedule on its given path, is not disturbed to make space for a train that has suffered irredeemable delays. 
  • Freight trains suffer: Freight trains whose runs are not exactly time-sensitive, are usually held up to make way for passenger trains.

Challenges faced by Railways: 

  • Network capacity constraints: It means that there are more trains than the network can handle in a given time bracket. For example,
    • Around 60 percent of all train traffic is on the Golden Quadrilateral, even though it represents just about 15 percent of the total network. 

Steps taken by the Railways to ensure punctuality:

  • The maintenance of tracks was carried out in a quick time during the Covid period in various critical sections. This led to an increase in the average speed, and stretches of slowing down were minimized.
  • Better and modern signalling is also making an impact.
  • Better planning and operations analysis: This is attributed to better monitoring at the Division level, and the entire organisation at every level was focussed on this.

Way ahead: 

  • There are projects to enhance capacity by building additional lines and modernising signalling systems, etc.

JICA supports India for Capacity Development on Railway Safety

  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Railways (MOR), Government of India (GOI) are coordinating for the Technical Cooperation (TC) project of Capacity Development on Railway Safety. 
  • The said TC project is expected to result in enhancement of the capacities of the Indian Railways (IR), Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) and Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) with regard to safety in railways network. 
  • The Indian railway network is one of the largest in the world, therefore the maintenance of safer and reliable operations is of utmost priority.
  • Zero-based timetable: The Railways are working on this concept, according to which 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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