A bitter truth of Indian Railways passenger traffic : How the country’s premium trains are being jammed on the saturated routes of the rail network!!

03 April 2023, Monday, Chaitra, Shukla Paksha, Trayodashi, Vikram Samvat 2080

Vande Bharat premium trains are thriving across the country. On an average, a new Vande Bharat is being inaugurated every month. So far, 11 Vande Bharat trains have started and more are expected to hit the tracks about coming days. Railway administration is preparing to run mini i.e. 8 coaches Vande Bharat on those routes where passenger response is expected to be less. The way, the railway administration is launching this premium train with all ecosystem at work, something is not right in the mind of the common railway passenger.

If the country-made Vande Bharat Express offers state-of-the-art, comfortable and advanced passenger amenities, what can be the problem? Who doesn’t want super luxury in railways? Who can be against increasing passenger amenities, making travel comfortable, but there are some unresolved questions, which hardly any railfan or Vande Bharat lovers may answer.

To understand these things, we have to go back to era before Vande Bharat Express took over. Remember, the lockdown period all the trains were stopped, especially passenger trains. It was as if the oxygen of the railways had stopped. It need of the hour. What could have been a better step to stop the spread of infection? But there was another event of the Railway Department on the cards, A little before the trains stop, it was an exercise to introduce a “zero-based timetable”. The Railway Administration had decided to adopt the revolutionary use of ZBTT zero based time table to restructure passenger trains from the beginning, replacing the timetable that had been going on for years.

In the name of ZBTT, proposals were imposed on ordinary passengers, literally cancelling thousands of stoppages and passenger trains that had been running for years. It was shocking. It is a coincidence that at the same time, the news of cancellation of passenger trains and then the restriction of facilities in passenger trains for months due to covid came, the rail passengers did not realize the shock of zero-based timetable. The reason behind the cancellation of trains and stoppages was said to be the saturation of the specified rail route. A railway route remaining saturated means that more trains are being operated than the capacity of that route.

There was a time when announcements were made in the railway budget with a lot of new trains, extension of existing trains, increase in frequency, etc., in the railway budget, the announcements of trains to the common passengers were more important than the revenue figures of the railway department. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the general public used to see Budget only for that reason. It was during the Railway Budget that political cries were heard. Generally, there was a lot of passenger amenities around the area from which the Railway Ministry was represented. As the separate presentation of the Railway Budget stopped, the attraction of the railway budget was lost.

We are talking about this past because then there was a planned time for any major change in the railway schedule, the announcements related to trains, that was the Railway Budget speech. But now the entire rail operation seems to be irregular. From 2019 to 2022, there was no proper railway timetable. A circular used to come and the change was issued from the date of change. This is still going on. Recently, the 100-minute preponement of the train of April 2 was announced just 18 to 20 hours ago, is it not a big surprise?

Let us come back to our point, when the rail route is saturated, regular trains are cancelled by the railway administration, then how can these premium Vande Bharat trains get slots? How do about 80% of stoppages are re-established under so called pressure from passenger demand, even if they are on experimental basis for six months? How are regular trains moved to make a slot to make a place for Vande Bharat? Is it advisable to reschedule common trains overnight?

The development of rail infrastructure across the country is at its peak. Where there is a single track, its doubling, where there is a double rail, it is being tripled and quadrupled. Almost all the railway routes are being electrified. The rail signalling system is becoming state-of-the-art. Dedicated freight corridors for freight trains. Where there is no DFC, separate tracks are being laid for freight trains. Station building passenger amenities are being improved on the lines of the airport. Passenger trains are being made memu express. Non-air-conditioned coaches are being removed day by day. The speed of the trains has been increased to 130 KMPH and is going to be 160 KMPH.

But what is the status of passenger rail traffic, even though the speed of trains has reached 160 kmph, the average speed is the same, which is still not more than 40/50 kmph. Even today, the average 55kmph train is being measured in the category of superfast in our country. Though air-conditioned coaches have increased in trains, even today passengers are traveling in worse conditions than animals in non-air-conditioned coaches. Monthly pass holders are traveling in the desired trains by paying pennies per kilometer. What dream is the railway administration showing to the common passengers? Years ago, just as new trains were thrown in the prevailing time table, premium trains are still being introduced in the same way.

Premium trains should be launched, they should run, but is there any arrangement for common passengers? What kind of premium trains are these that sacrifice the facilities of ordinary passengers? Has the railway administration forgotten the ambitious ZBTT, zero-based timetable programme of restructuring, in pursuit of an improved rail operating system? The common railway passenger is now paying higher fares for passenger amenities. Along with senior citizens, many fare concessions have been discontinued by the railway administration. It is not known whether the passenger trains will be operated again or not, at the moment it is missing. In such a situation, the railway administration should bring in the number of common passengers, intercity, DEMU, MEMU, low-distance trains before premium trains.

It has been heard that at present, rakes of Vande Bharat are being made at full capacity in the railway factories where DEMU and MEMU trains were to be produced. What is the rush to bring premium trains, which is being achieved keeping away the daily demand of common railway passengers? There is no harm in increasing passenger trains, but it is expected that the public facilities going on employment first will get priority, what else! 😊


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