With more and more trains running late in the country, a slew of measures is being taken to curb delays.
The Railways' punctuality rate in the April 1-16 period was 5 per cent lower than that in the corresponding period last year, down from 84 per cent to 79 per cent.
"The Railways accord a very high priority to the punctual running of trains. Improving train operations is a continuous endeavour and several initiatives are being undertaken to improve timings," Railway Board Member Mohammed Jamshed said.
Capacity constraints and adverse weather conditions are some of the reasons for the delays. About 15,000 trains were affected because of fog from November last year to February, 2017.
"The entire northern belt was under the grip of an intense fog during this period throwing train operations off gear in 10 zonal railways," Jamshed said.
Though most trains continued to run despite the fog, about 3700 trains were cancelled in 2016-17.
The new measures include capacity enhancement projects, including construction of additional loop lines at stations (so that more trains have parking space) and doubling or trebling of track lines.
Steps are being taken to remove bottlenecks, with the help of automatic signalling, construction of low height subways replacing level crossings, rail underbridges and overbridges.
A performance analysis of zonal railways reveals that punctuality registered a sharp drop in the North Eastern Railways (down by 11 per cent, when compared to the corresponding period last year), South East Central Railway (- 11 per cent), East Central Railway (-10 per cent), Eastern Railway (-8.9 per cent), West Central Railway (-8 per cent) and Konkan Railway (-6.9 per cent).
Another reason for the delays is congestion, for while traffic has increased considerably over the years, track lines haven't. As compared to 1950-51, the running track kilometres had increased only about 1.5 times, whereas the freight and passenger traffic had grown almost 15 times since then.
The situation has been exacerbated by an imbalanced distribution of trains over networks and the fact that freight and coaching trains run on the same track.
Jamshed said speed restrictions and cautions imposed because of construction activities along the tracks also adversely affected timings.
He said trains traversing through quadrilateral routes such as the Delhi-Howrah, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai corridors have been adversely impacted as these sectors face severe capacity constraints because of the lines' inability to handle any more traffic.
Some IT measures have also been initiated to ensure punctuality.
"We have put in place an IT enabled Integrated Coaching Management System which helps the on line monitoring of punctuality of passenger-carrying trains. This module continuously monitors the running of trains, enabling zonal railways and their divisional controls to take prompt decisions in according priorities to train movement," he said.