Why Are Indian Trains Always So Late?


2017-2018 has seen the highest number of Indian trains come into the station late in three years. A whopping 30% of all trains were recorded to have arrived at their platform later than scheduled. To find out what the systemic issue behind these delays were, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India commissioned a study.

This latest report, which was tabled in Parliament, points to a single big problem with the government’s 1 lakh crore station redevelopment plans. There is not enough space at stations for all the trains that need to stop at the the platforms or enough tracks for express trains to bypass certain stops. The government plan to redevelop the stations is not doing enough to solve this problem.

CAG’s report said, “the station development/redevelopment plans mainly address on facilities for the passengers on the station premises and facade of stations only and not on removing constraints and bottlenecks for ensuring timely arrival and departure of trains to/from the stations, which should be one of the most important parameters of the quality of service being provided to the passengers.”

CAG studied 15 stations in 10 zonal railways with heavy passenger traffic routes for audit. It analysed the data for March 2017 to understand how insufficient infrastructure affects delays of trains at adjoining stations, en route and on platforms. Of 164 platforms, only 100 had the capacity to handle trains with 24 or more coaches.

An additional holdup in the system was the lack of available washing pit tracks. All trains have to be washed before they are scheduled to start a new trip, and a lot of the stations studied did not have enough tracks to efficiently wash the trains. In some cases, the queue for cleaning was so long that it even affected departure times.

To compile this problem, CAG realised that while more and more numbers of trains were consistently being introduced into the system over the last decade, there was a disproportionately low number of platforms, tracks and washing pits built in the same time period.


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