Close to 17% of all passenger trains were running late leading to over 1.10 crore lost minutes in 2022-23, according to a Right to Information reply received from the Indian Railways, on punctuality performance of trains.
In 2022-23, up to 1,42,897 passenger trains were delayed leading to a cumulative 1,10,88,191 lost minutes. “One year comprises 5,25,660 minutes. By that measure, the time lost (theoretically) by the Railways due to delay is nearly 14 years for passenger trains,” said RTI activist Chandrasekhar Gour, who had sought the reply.
Punctuality performance of the passenger trains ranged at 83.69%, much below the ideal railway board targets of 95%.
After the June 2 Balasore train tragedy, the Indian Railways has come under the spotlight for balancing both punctuality and safety when it comes to train movement across routes.
For Duranto trains, the punctuality performance was the worst, standing at 68.31%, with 2,132 Duranto trains delayed by 3,45,640 minutes. Shatabdi trains on the other hand, were the most punctual, with punctuality performance standing at 91.76%, with only 1,081 of them getting delayed for a total of 75,715 minutes.
The Railway Board under the Department of Signalling and Telecom maintains reports on the punctuality of trains and their average speeds. “Logging of punctuality in right earnest, is equally important for system improvement,” said a railway official.
The official further said, “Trains may get delayed due to external factors beyond railways control, for instance, constraints on account of inadequate infrastructure, or increasing passenger and freight traffic, adverse weather conditions, or heavy road traffic at level crossing gates. There could also be law and order issues, or theft of railway assets and mid-section run over cases including cattle and humans.”
The Railways constantly works on improving punctuality by removing infrastructural bottlenecks; end to end running of some trains with diesel locomotives to avoid detention on account of loco changing from diesel to electric; conversion of conventional rakes of mail/express trains to newer Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) rakes; rationalising time-table to make a group of similar speed trains; curtailment of stoppage time at major terminals and so on.
Also, while the Indian Railways is setting ambitious targets for chugging up the speed of Vande Bharat trains to up to 160 km/hour, the average speed of all types of trains ranges from 36 kilometres per hour (kmph) to 71 kmph at the most, the RTI reply stated.
Passenger trains plied the slowest at 35 kmph in 2022-23, while the average speed of mail/express trains (which include Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duranto, Jan Shatabdi, Garibrath, Vande Bharat, Suvidha, Tejas) was 51 kmph.
The highest operational speed recorded by the Vande Bharat trains was 96 kmph including that on the Delhi-Varanasi route. Close on the heels was Tejas trains which ran at an average 73 kmph in 2022-23.
“Trains may get delayed due to external factors beyond railways control, for instance, constraints on account of inadequate infrastructure, or increasing passenger and freight traffic, adverse weather conditions, or heavy road traffic at level crossing gates”OfficialIndian Railways