Drop to 81% in 2018-19 from 91% in 2017-18
South Central Railway was on top of the charts with regard to maintaining punctuality in running trains by clocking a mean average of 96.32%, when the results were announced a year ago. This was considered the best among the railway zones across the country.
But, that was for the year 2016-17, when punctuality had improved by 4.66% compared to the previous year of 91.66% or in 2015-16. Latest figures available with the railway authorities show an altogether different picture. The punctuality rates have been correspondingly coming down ever since.
For instance, it came down to 91% in 2017-18 and for the current financial year of 2018-19, it has plummeted further to 81%. The saving grace is that punctuality in running trains has shown a downward curve all over the country in other zones as well despite Ministry of Railways and Railway Board directing all of them to pull up their socks in this aspect.
Senior railway officials have a ready explanation for punctuality of trains in a zone that had bagged the best performing shield in several aspects. “Over the last two years, the emphasis of the Ministry and RB has been on safety with priority to maintenance and infrastructure works,” they say.
By ensuring coordination of activities of the engineering wing, handling the maintenance of rolling stock and other assets and running trains by the commercial department, more ‘traffic blocks’ have been notified in different sections of SCR in recent times.
“Traffic blocks are time allotted to take up emergency repair works like track replacement, repairs or ballast, when the trains are not allowed to run. In fact, we had replaced 156 km of track last year alone,” they explained.
Track maintenance, replacement, doubling, trebling or even quadrupling of tracks has become crucial because main trunk lines are running at ‘130%’ capacity, senior officials revealed.
These ‘over-stressed’ trunk routes are between Gudur-Balarshah via Vijayawada and Kazipet sections, Vijayawada to Howrah via Visakhapatnam, Renigunta to Mumbai via Wadi.
Railway officials also cite other issues that led to punctuality getting hit like the mission to do away with unmanned level crossings, the cause of many mishaps.
As many as 150 such crossings had been removed last year, making the entire zone nearly free of such dangerous crossings. Most works like building road-under-bridges, limiting height subways by putting up signalling, manning the gates through gate ‘mitras’, were completed fast to remove unmanned level crossings.
Also, there has been a 50% increase in infrastructure development work, including 400 km electrification work. Other factors affecting punctuality are rolling stock failures, capacity constraints, damages, power failure and fog, among others, they said.
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