Indian Railways seeks IIT help to improve punctuality, shore up freight
New Delhi: Saddled with declining punctuality and revenue from cargo, Indian Railway has decided to seek the expertise of IITs to improve train operations and put in place a better marketing strategy to woo back freight traffic it has yielded to the road sector.
Facing flak over punctuality of passenger trains, the public transporter has initiated talks with IIT Bombay to undertake an operations audit on the high-density Delhi-Mughalsarai route and examine issues plaguing efficiency on this stretch.
"Seventy percent of the problem with regard to train punctuality is from the Delhi-Mughalsarai section, one of the busiest in the country," said an official.
The latest initiative is in addition to the railway conducting its own study about how to improve punctuality on the section, positioning its officials at important stations along the stretch, such as Allahabad, to review rolling stock, signalling, track health and engine failures, he said.
The PMO had earlier sought an explanation from the Railway Minister over trains running late after it received complaints from passengers.
The prime concern is that Railways has been able to meet only 74 per cent punctuality on an average per day with worst coming from the North Central Railway (NCR) and East Central Railway (ECR), which have recorded merely 34 per cent on the punctuality index.
As per an estimate, declining punctuality, agitations and sundry such causes lead to an accumulated loss of over Rs one lakh crore to the Railway annually. Lack of punctuality is also one of the causes for gradual shifting of freight to the road sector.
To woo back the customers and improve its share of freight traffic, IIT Delhi has been roped in to suggest a better marketing strategy that also encompasses recommendations on freight charges.
Observing that freight traffic is more sensitive to price changes than passenger traffic, the Economic Survey for 2014-15 had projected that the share of the Railway in freight traffic will come down to 25 per cent by 2020 from 33 per cent in 2011-2012.
Senior officials of the Railway Ministry have had an initial round of discussion with the IITs on these issues, officials said.
A couple of years back, Indian Railway had involved IIT Kanpur in piloting project SIMRAN, an online application providing live information about train movement and status. An MoU is also slated to be signed with IIT-BHU for technology advancement for better management of Railway's operational needs.