Train commuters from north travelling to the eastern region of the country were the ones who are said to be most affected by train delays in the month of May, 2017. The official data, collected by The Indian Express, stated that of the 19,450 trains that failed to report to its destinations on time (between May 1 to May 30), around 11,600 – or 59.64 per cent – where from UP’s North Central Railway, Bihar’s East Central Railway, North Eastern Railway, Kolkata-based Eastern Railway and the New Delhi-based Northern Railway. When inquired about the prime reasons behind these delays, records said that these trains were halted due to causes within the control of the Railways department such as collateral damages, track issues, operational glitches and the ongoing maintenance works.
Even best considered trains of the country including Rajdhani trains, which runs of priority of path, were affected by these delays. Compared to the same period last year, the punctuality rate of Rajdhani trains are said to have dipped by 8.61 per cent to 78 per cent in April-May.
The report also listed some other prominent trains catering to the east were hit by these delays in April-May. The names include:
i. Shramjeevi Express – one of the most opted superfast train connecting New Delhi to Rajgir in Bihar via Varanasi and Patna, was delayed by more than one hour some 22 days in May, clocking a punctuality rate of 4 per cent.
ii. Magadha Express – considered to be one of the oldest trains linking New Delhi to Islampur in Bihar, logged almost a ‘zero percent’ punctuality rate during this period.
iii. Not just in May, but the situation were similar in June, too, with the Northeast Express, connecting New Delhi to Guwahati via Bihar running 14 hours behind schedule on June 8. On the same day, the Anand Vihar-Bhagalpur Garib Rath Express reached its destination 10 hours late.
Speaking to Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, Railway officials said that these delays, which often stretched to 15 hours, marked the worst performance by the Indian Railways in the recent year, excluding the fog-hit months of winter season. Justifying the delays, Railway Board Member (Traffic), Mohammad Jamshed said that the east-bound trains ran late because of the speed restrictions imposed due to a lot of planned work on the tracks related to maintenance and capacity augmentation.
“Trains, especially to eastern India, are getting delayed. That’s why our overall punctuality has taken a hit. But that’s mostly because a lot of planned work of doubling of lines as well as maintenance are going on for which trains have to run as slow as 20 km per hour at various stretches,” Jamshed said.
“This pain is temporary as work on capacity augmentation and maintenance are necessary and cannot be taken up once the monsoon sets in,” he added further.
The Railways has 33 categories of reasons for delays and seven out of them are not in its control. These reasons are alarm chain being pulled, protests on the tracks, bad weather, accidents, and law and order. The report further stated that in May only 8 per cent of the delays were due to the planned work, whereas 10.22 per cent of the delays were due to track related issues which include maintenance and safety-related speed restrictions
“Then there are causes over which we have no control, like when the Maoists called a bandh in the Dhanbad division for 10 days. Security agencies advised us to run at reduced speeds in those areas. Once a train gets delayed, it has a rippling effect on all other trains, creating a loop of late trains,” Jamshed said.
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However, the data reflects that in May only 3.04 per cent trains were delayed due to law and order problems. According to Railways rules, a user can see train-running status of only up to two days, but records examined shows that the worst graph during the April-May was that of Hajipur (Patna)-based East Central Railway, which services Bihar and Jharkhand. As per the arrival data of this region, the punctuality rate dipped to almost 50 per cent during this time which means every second Bihar- Jharkhand train was running late.
Here is the punctuality details of other sectors in the east for April-May period:
i. Kolkata-based Eastern Railway marked a punctuality rate of around 69.8 per cent, which is a 7.9 per cent dip compared to the same period last year.
ii. Gorakhpur-based North Eastern Railway, which includes Lucknow and Varanasi divisions, dipped by 7.9 per cent to clock 63 per cent punctuality.
iii. Guwahati-based Northeast Frontier Railway’s punctuality rate was clocked at 74 per cent which is again a dip of 8.4 per cent from this period last year.
East Central Railways general manager, DK Gayen Indian Express, “Yes, there are delays. But whenever capacity augmentation work takes place, various speed restrictions come in because of which trains have to run at low speeds. It’s temporary. If you see, the situation has started getting back to normal in the past two-three weeks.”