Indian Railways often faces criticism for train delays and its recent record of 70% punctuality highlights the infrastructure problems that the network faces. In a recent report, the CAG of India has slammed Indian Railways for lack of adequate infrastructure at the rail stations.
Indian Railways passengers often complain of train delays – in fact, in the gone financial year, Indian Railways reported its worst ever punctuality of 70%. The national transporter has even increased the run time of many of its trains to make sure that the punctuality record is maintained. However, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its recent report has highlighted several crucial factors that lead to train delays. CAG has slammed Indian Railways for lack of adequate infrastructure at the rail stations. This, CAG feels, is one of the biggest reasons for train delays. According to CAG, the ongoing exercise of redeveloping and revamping Indian Railways stations focuses mainly on providing facilities and changing the stations facade instead of easing bottlenecks and addressing constraints in train operations.
In its report, CAG reviewed 15 major Indian Railways stations and noted that washing pit lines, platforms and stabling lines have not in the past years been augmented according to the increase in the number of trains handled by these stations. CAG has slammed Indian Railways for the non-availability of adequate washing pit lines and stabling lines. This has caused movement of empty trains to other depots for maintenance purpose and has as a result led to blockage of the line due to such movements.
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CAG has said that detention of trains at outer signals or adjacent stations just before the station leads to the track being occupied for a “considerable” period. Not only that, trains which did not have a scheduled stoppage at adjacent stations were also detained due to want of path for the train to move further. At some stations trains were detained for excess period than that allowed in the time table. Late start of trains from the stations was also noticed by the CAG. The reasons attributed for the same were lack of crew, locomotives and want of clear path.
Additionally, platforms were engaged because of platform return trains over and above the prescribed period of 75 minutes that is allowed for cleaning and watering. Audit also noticed detention of empty rakes of terminated trains at platforms beyond the reasonable period of 30 minutes. This has led to further delays of incoming trains.
While citing lack of adequate infrastructure at stations as a big reason for train delays, CAG has recommended the following 7 steps that can be implemented to avoid such unnecessary delays:
1. CAG advocates that all major stations where traffic is high should prepare a comprehensive master plan to handle the increasing load. The plan should take into account availability of pit lines, length of platforms, number of platforms, stabling lines and yard etc.
2. CAG is of the view that Indian Railways’ plans to either expand or redevelop stations should take into account infrastructure capacity augmentation. The plans should focus on construction of additional platforms, stabling and washing pit lines, remodeling of yards etc as well.
3. So that trains of more than 24 coaches are accommodated on all major stations, the platforms length should be increased. This would not only mean no inconvenience for passengers who have to deboard and board outside the platform but also reduce the train time at the station.
4. Additional platforms and pit lines should be constructed wherever possible and in case of space constraints alternative terminals and stations should be developed to decongest the existing stations.
5. CAG is of the view that time norms should be prescribed for removing empty rakes of terminated rakes from platforms. This, it feels, will lead to more optimum utilisation of the platforms.
6. CAG has also recommended expediting the infrastructure work on the stations, especially those that will augment the station line capacity.
7. CAG feels that prevent detention of trains at outer signals/adjacent stations/en-route Indian Railways should look at other bottlenecks such as route relay interlocking, yard remodelling, etc. Traffic facility works for removal of these constraints need to be taken up and completed on priority basis, states CAG.