The wait for trains is becoming longer. The average delay on all trains was 53 minutes in 2017, up from 45 minutes in the prior year, according to independent estimates. The Indian Railways data states punctuality has dipped to 65 per cent during the week ended June 3.
The Howrah division in West Bengal is worst in punctuality at 34 per cent, followed by the Lucknow division at 39 per cent. Among zones, South East Central is the worst performer with punctuality of 43.8 per cent.
According to Mohammed Jamshed, member, traffic, railway board, the number of daily speed restrictions for trains has doubled from 2,500 last year to 4,200 now. Though most trains can run above 100 kmph, their average speed in April was 44 kmph.
While setting the timetable for a train, the railways factor in delays like switching from diesel to electric, locomotive change, crew changing stations and watering stations. Margins for maintenance and mandatory safety examinations are also built in.
“The timetable does not factor in over-congested sections. Major routes are congested up to 150 per cent. Around 60 per cent of tracks are above 100 per cent in terms of capacity utilisation,” Jamshed added.
This is evident in the last three months’ data from analysis platform RailYatri, which shows an average delay on the Howrah-Patna section of 253 minutes, Delhi-Dibrugarh 232 minutes, Mumbai-Amritsar 62 minutes and Mumbai-Delhi 16 minutes.
“Our annual report suggests there has been constant increase in train delays in the past years, which has been affecting passengers in almost all stations,” said Manish Rathi, chief executive officer and co-founder of RailYatri.
The railways also factor in a 15 per cent chance of locomotive or wagon failure, signal problems and electrical defects during a train journey. In April, locomotive and wagon failures rose by 416 per cent and 313 per cent, respectively, over the same month a year ago.
But what is hurting railways the most is track maintenance blocks leading to speed restrictions. “We now have over 5,000 hours of blocked tracks due to various reasons, which used to be in the range of 4,000 hours last year,” Jamshed said. He added that a small signal failure on busy routes like Allahabad-Ghaziabad would lead to cascading track and terminal congestion.