Four out of ten trains in the country are being delayed not because of fog, vagaries of nature or accidents, but because of railways’ large scale repair work, according to official data. Passengers it seems are paying the price of heavy track maintenance work which has seen a 43 per cent increase in the period between April and December, 2017 as compared to the same period in 2016. While during that period in 2017, 1,09,704 trains were delayed, in 2016, the number was less by 16,092 trains. While 5 per cent of these trains were delayed due to accidents, including those in which cattle were run over, 20 per cent was due to asset failure and 40 per cent due to repair work. The rest has been attributed to inclement weather conditions. Officials say that given that safety is the top priority for railways in the coming year, passengers have to bear the brunt on account of repair and maintenance work. A senior official of the railways told PTI that on an average, between April-November 2017, railways have increased the block hours for maintenance by 18 per cent as compared to the previous year, resulting in delays across the network.
Indian Railways is slated to spend Rs 1,000 crore a month over six months starting October 2017 to replace old and out-of-date tracks with new ones. Rail minister Piyush Goyal has set a target of track renewal for the current fiscal at 3,600 km, an 80 per cent jump over the average 2,000 km of tracks renewed by railways every fiscal. In fact railways have completed a record 476-km track renewal in the month of December and expects to touch 3,500-km of track renewal in 2017-18, officials said. “Safety is our topmost priority. Repair and maintenance work is the only way we can ensure that”, said a senior official of the railways.
While punctuality of trains has suffered due to repair work – from April to December in the current fiscal, punctuality was recorded at 74.5 per cent, which was around 3.73 per cent lower compared with the same period in the last financial year. Railways have increased the hours given for repair works per day all over the country from around 3,000 hours per day to around 5,000 hours per day.