Suresh Prabhu asks zonal railways to improve punctuality, safety

New Delhi: In a performance review of the Indian Railways after six months in office, railway minister Suresh Prabhu gave a four-point agenda to Mumbai’s railways. He has asked both the Central and the Western Railway to improve punctuality, safety, freight earnings and finally to bring in more passenger traffic for outstation trains.
An official said, on condition of anonymity, that the review was specifically an exercise by the minister to see exactly where the divisions have done well and where there is still need to improve. “The minister had taken office on November 9 last year so this was six-month review of our performances. For Mumbai, punctuality and safety have been some of the primary concerns as far as our suburban traffic is concerned. We deal with more than 75 lakh passengers in our local trains daily, so this was specifically mentioned,” the official said.
The Central Railway (CR) has seen a number of derailments in this period, although very few. The officials have been warned about the safety aspects as the CR has been trying to make up for maintenance gaps that have increased significantly in the last two years. The other issue, punctuality, has been a cause of concern on the Western Railway (WR) with an average delay of at least 10 to 20 minutes during peak hours. “Both the divisions have problems with punctuality and safety, so we have been told we need to improve,” the official added.
The minister has also asked WR and CR to increase their earnings from freight. Although the earnings haven’t been below that estimated in the budget, Mr Prabhu has said that this isn’t good enough.
“We have been told that freight needs to improve by leaps and bounds. Unless we get money from this section, we won’t be able to generate enough revenue to get enough funds allocated in the long run. As far as passenger traffic is concerned, we have seen a decrease in the number of people who travel in and out of Mumbai using trains, the fear is that alternate modes of transport will become too popular and trains will run empty,” the official said.
Officials have been asked to report back about the improvements made in May and have been warned that anything less than what was asked of them will not be acceptable.