Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jul 28 2016 : The Times of India (Mumbai)   ManthanK Mehta   Mumbai:

Creaking Infra, Derailments Hobble City's Rail Network
Lata Argade is the typical Mumbai train commuter. For 32 years, the government official has relied on the CST-Dombivli suburban train service to cover the 55km distance from home to office, day and night, back and forth.

A member of the Upnagriya Railway Pravasi Mahasangh, she continues to depend on the railways for her daily commute, but bemoans the fact that its famed reputation for timings has taken a knocking. “Trains were rarely late five years ago but punctuality has definitely come down drastically due to poor maintenance,“ she said.

The increase in number of train services is one of the reasons that margin for error in operations has reduced. It is difficult for locals to make up for lost time in case of failures, she said.

The point Argade makes is underlined by an audit undertaken by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India which shows that percentage of trains late by 10-15 minutes or more on Central Railway (CR) has gone up from 3% a few years ago to 5% in 201415. This has coincided with an increase in average number of trains per day on CR from 1,446 in 2010-11 to 1,519 in 201415, a rise of 5%. Similarly , total number of passengers on the network has also increased in this period by 6 per cent.

Likewise, on WR, average number of trains per day has increased from 1,180 to 1,279 in the same period, showing an increase of 8 per cent. Number of passengers in a year too has increased by 3 per cent.However, WR's punctuality has not dipped; in fact, it has improved (see graphic).

Reasons for variations in performance between the two performance between the two divisions can be primarily at tributed to differences in infrastructure and other legacy issues leading to mishaps, derailments and deaths which cause traffic to be held up.

With higher frequency in services, overcrowding has somewhat reduced in WR, but on CR the average number of passengers has only increased, even if marginally .Number of passengers per rake has come down by 5 per cent since 2010-11 on WR. On CR, the number of passengers per rakes has increased by 1 per cent.

Peak hour travel on both remains a hazardous proposition. CAG notes, “...passen ger fatalities are very high in CR and WR. Analysis of data (January 2010-December 2014) of death cases reported by GRP revealed that out of 33,445 deaths, a total of 2741on CR and 1261 on WR occurred due to falling from running trains in both these zone, respectively . The CAG has pointed out that, “number of services is not sufficient to cater to needs“ on CR and WR. The CAG also cited that an inquiry report on derailment of a suburban train at Titwala station in March 2014 to drive home the point on safety being compromised because of poor track maintenance. The Commissioner of Railway Safety stated that speeding train derailed due to poor track maintenance and breakage of couplers that connect coaches.

Top officials of CR and WR were tight-lipped about the CAG disclosures. However, an official said, “We will study the CAG report in depth and examine the findings.“


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