NEW DELHI: In what could affect the Indian Railways' efforts to ensure safety of its passengers, about 13 of 16 zonal railways have failed to achieve targets for rail and sleeper renewals so far this year.
Another area of concern is slow progress of commissioning of new line, gauge conversion and doubling target for 2018-19 due to shortage of rails.
Incidentally, the poor maintenance of tracks and pending track renewals are one of the major reasons for train accidents. Over 50 per cent of train accidents in last five years were due to derailments.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has emphasised on rail track renewals be given top priority, with the target set at 3,900 km for 2018-19. The "not satisfactory" progress of thorough rail renewal, through sleeper renewal, turnout renewal and some other renewals were flagged during an infrastructure review meeting by Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani.
The thorough track renewal is lowest in East Coast Railway (26 per cent), followed by North Central Railway (27 per cent) and Eastern Railway and North Western Railway (30 per cent). Also, there has been poor progress in deep screening turnouts and through sleeper renewals.
As many as 12 General Managers have flagged shortage of rails, cables, sleepers and other items as reason for delays in meeting their targets.
The shortage of rails has been bothering Indian Railways for quite some time. After SAIL failed to provide rails to the public transporter, Jindal Steel was roped in to meet the demand. There is still a lot to fill up as against the demand of 15 lakh tones of rails, the availability is only half.
"A majority of GMs raised issue of shortage of rails as a primary reason for delay in commissioning of new line targets. They said targets will only be met if rails are supplied in time," said a senior railway official.
Track renewals involve the replacement of existing rails or sleepers, separately or together with new or second hand serviceable material. "The Chairman directed all GMs to ensure that targets are met and share month-wise planning with the Railway Board. There is a proper monitoring and tracking of the targets. We expect to achieve it," the official added.