Today’s railway can take inspiration from the train which ran punctually to the minutes and covered its 635 km long journey without incident to bring ashes of Mahatma Gandhi on his final journey from Delhi to Prayag, in spite of the crowds of thousands gathered to pay tribute to the mortal remains of ‘Father of the Nation’ at stations of Khurja, Aligarh, Tundla, Etawah and Kanpur.
As per railway records, ‘Asthi Special’ pilots covered the route 20 minutes ahead of the schedule arrival and arrived Allahabad at 9 am on February 12. The train which left Delhi with National Leaders, press representatives and officials at 6.30 pm on February 11, 1948 took 14 hours 30 minutes which is nearly two and a half hours less than what today’s modern superfast express takes to cover same distance.
Similar rue about trains operations were reiterated in a recent meeting held with 16 General Managers of Zonal railways with MoS for railways Manoj Sinha who were brainstorming on the loses of 150 million passengers in first five months of Financial year 2015-2016. Several officials in the meeting claimed that, “passengers preferred road journeys to the unwelcoming railways. They prefer to pay more to save time than to wait for low fare, unpunctual and crowded trains.”
Speaking to TOI, Hemandar Chaturvedi senior lawyer in the district court of Agra who also possess good grasp on the Indian railways history said, “During emergency (1975-1977) under the leadership of the then railway minister Kamalapati Tripathi, only handful of incidents of train delays were reported across India. Moreover, not a single report of train accidents were reported.”
He said, “The Asthi Special which stopped at all important stations en-route to enable the millions of people waiting at the stations to have a final darshan of the remains of the Gandhi, still managed to reach Prayag before schedule time and without any incident. This was a fitting tribute by the railway men of India to Mahatma Gandhi, who value punctuality and orderliness highly….which was also said by then then Chief Commissioner of Railways K C Bakhle who was in-charge for the arrangements for conveying the Asthi from Delhi to Allahabad.”
Speaking on anonymity, senior official of railway said, “What Asthi special train achieved on February 12 was remarkable, but one has to understand that number of trains since 1948 has increased several folds. Today railway operates nearly 21,000 trains of which about 13,000 passenger trains ferry more than 23 million passengers and freight trains carry around 3 million tonnes of freight per day.”
“Considering this mammoth operations of transportation, one is bound to get delay now and then or may even face accidents,” he claimed.
As per railways, in last two years rail accidents killed at least 174 people and injured 658, while 21 trains accidents have been reported since early 2014.