Indian Railways is failing to tackle the menace of infinite and indefinite delay of trains across all its zones, despite best of efforts. In an internal note to its officers concerned, Railway authorities have described the trend to be on a “downward spiral” instead of an improvement in performance on the punctuality front.
In a meeting of Principal Chief Operating Managers (PCOMs) and Chief Passenger Traffic Managers (CPTMs) of Northern Railway here on Friday, Railway Board member (Traffic) Girish Pillai was livid over the sharp decline in punctuality of trains in the zone to 56%. After the meeting, a note was sent to the Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) and Divisional Operating Managers (DOMs) asking them to make “intensive efforts” to improve the punctuality of trains.
Apart from advising the officers to deal “every case (of delay) carefully”, the note has identified three key areas for monitoring: work on “rescheduling needs”, ensure “right time start of originating trains” and closely coordinate with neighbouring divisions to maintain punctuality of intra-zonal trains. The last one comes in the background of officials complaining of receiving trains late from other divisions.
The authorities are rattled over the innumerable social media posts where commuters are expressing their extreme disenchantment with the never-ending saga of delayed trains. Sharing their bitter experiences on different social media platforms, passengers are articulating their grievances at length and are even hurling the choicest of abuses at the largest national transporter.
All this has made the higher railway circles jittery even though a number of measures have been taken to deal with the problem. Since taking charge of the ministry, Railway Minister Piyush Goel has been personally taking a keen interest in bringing down the number of accidents, maintaining punctuality and providing the best of the amenities to the passengers.
Goel has even gone to the extent of linking performance with promotional avenues of the officers concerned. He has warned the zonal heads that delays in train services will defer their appraisals proportionately, giving them a month to improve punctuality. In a meeting recently, he had lashed out at the zonal general managers saying that they could not hide behind the alibi of maintenance work to explain delays.
The minister pointed his anger particularly towards the General Manager of Northern Railway as the zone was lowest on the punctuality index. The region recorded an abysmal 49.59% punctuality performance until 29 May, a 32.74% dip compared to the corresponding period last year. It was followed closely by the Northeast Frontier Railway and the Eastern Railway, which recorded a 27% and 26% decline respectively.
However, Railway authorities have something to cheer about as there has been an appreciable decline in the number of accidents in the last three years. Data shows that the number of railway mishaps came down from 135 in 2014-15 to 107 in 2015-16. This further came down to 104 in 2016-17, while 73 cases were registered in the last fiscal.