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Plan for faster trains is moving slowly

NEW DELHI : A plan by Indian Railways to speed up passenger and goods trains by this year has got delayed, and the national transporter is yet to firm up a fresh deadline.

Two people privy to the development said that doubling the average speed of goods trains and raising passenger train speeds by 50% may now be completed only by 2024. They said covid disruptions and recessionary pressures on industrial suppliers have delayed specific projects intended to quicken the railway system.

Under the ‘Mission Raftaar’ launched in 2016-17 following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to increase the average running speed of freight and passenger trains, the Railways set a deadline to increase the average speed of goods trains from 25 kmph to 50 kmph and that of mail and express trains from 50 kmph to 75 kmph by 2021-22.

However, the deadline has passed, and there is only a tiny increase in train speeds. The people quoted above said that with projects under the Dedicated Freight Corridor getting completed, more space would become available in the railway system to accommodate faster trains and reduce travel time.

“Mission Raftaar is on course despite a few bumps on its path due to covid disruptions. Various works programme going on in country including track renewal and improved signalling and the development of Dedicated Freight Corridor project would certainly help to speed up railways systems quickly,” said one of the persons cited above.

Questions sent to the ministry of railways remained unanswered till the time of going to press.

The need for speed for Railways has also come in for a review by the official auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). In its report tabled in Parliament in April, the auditor rapped the Railways for failing to improve on mobility outcomes despite investing 2.5 trillion on track infrastructure during 2008-19.

The CAG said the average observed speed of mail/express and freight trains until 2019-20 was still around 50.6 kmph and 23.6 kmph, respectively. Out of 478 superfast (SF) trains, the scheduled speed of 123 SF trains (26%) was less than the specified speed of 55 kmph.

Another important observation of CAG is that though Railways has missed targets for increasing speed of its trains regularly, it has adopted rolling stock with a rated capacity of 100-160 kmph and tracks capable of handling trains with speeds of 100-130 kmph.

Even then, the auditor analysed that 97.9% of 2,951 mail and express trains were running below 75 kmph while the flagship high speed trains Rajdhani and Shatabdi were running at the same maximum speed of 130 kmph for years.

Globally, there are more than two dozen countries where passenger trains run at 200 kmph speed or more. Trains have been running at these speeds in some countries for decades.


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