In what should come as a relief to railway passengers frustrated by delays in services, trains are now likely to run on time as any deviation from the schedule will cost officials of the national transporter their promotions.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has warned heads of zonal railways that delays in train services will defer their appraisal proportionately, giving them a month to improve punctuality.
During an internal meeting last week, Goyal lashed out at zonal general managers and said that they cannot hide behind the pretext of maintenance work to explain delays in train services, a senior railway ministry source told PTI.
In 2017-2018 fiscal, 30 per cent trains were running late on the railway network, with the numbers failing to pick up even during the holiday season this summer.
The general manager of Northern Railway bore the brunt of Goyal's wrath, with the region recording an abysmal 49.59 per cent punctuality performance till May 29, a 32.74 per cent dip compared to the same period last year.
"While the minister has taken a lot of flak for the delays, he knew it was a price he had to pay for the large-scale renewal of tracks. However, the punctuality figures are way worse than what we had expected. Clearly, the zones are using maintenance work as an excuse to hide their inefficiency," the source said.
During the meeting, the minister called out every zonal head individually and asked them to explain the poor punctuality figures, the source said.
Goyal, who faced Prime Minister Narendra Modi's queries on punctuality of trains at the Pragati meeting last month, was particularly harsh on the Northern Railways chief as the zone was placed lowest on the punctuality index.
It was followed closely by the Northeast Frontier Railway and the Eastern Railway - which recorded 27 per cent and 26 per cent plunge respectively.
Goyal quoted reports to explain how misusing resources have led to delays. He recalled a recent incident when engineers apparently wasted Rs 25 lakh in a failed attempt to replace a girder at Nizamuddin railway station in New Delhi.
"The minister demanded accountability from the GMs and said such wasteful blocks should not be taken. He was aghast that such unnecessary delays were happening during the holiday season when trains are in high demand," the source said.
"He has now made it clear that by June 30, if he doesn't see improvement, the respective GMs will not be considered for promotion. He also said that their performance ratings will depend on where they figure on the delay list. The lower they are, the worse for them," the source, who was present during the meeting, said.