THE RAILWAYS has launched a crackdown on what senior officials believe is “fake data” being recorded in its systems over the years by staff, leading to under-reporting of inefficiencies.
Recently, the Railway Board issued instructions to zonal units that all asset failures must be “truthfully reported” so that a “correct picture of the state of affairs is available for informed management decisions”, according to documents reviewed by The Indian Express.
The Board has made clear that all asset failures must now be recorded in the online platform called Integrated Coaching Management System.
Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani has instructed general managers and divisional railway managers that manual feeding of system data will no longer be allowed. Besides, officials will not be allowed to edit the data retrospectively, as is now possible, thereby taking away the scope of window-dressing the figures later.
Another set of instructions mandate that in 34 locations across India, where trains cross from one zone to another, known as interchange points, punctuality figures will only be fed into the system through automatic data loggers — a marked departure from the current system.
Data loggers — machines fitted in various locations in tracks — are able to catch the movement of trains automatically. The mandate now is to integrate that data with the online platform called Control Office Application, taking away the scope of manual feeding. There are around 6,000 data loggers across the railway network capturing train movement statutes, such as time and speed.
A vast amount of data on punctuality of trains, breakdown of all assets, and failures of its complex engineering assets are recorded daily and compiled monthly for measurement of system efficiency and planning in the rail network. According to sources, what raised eyebrows within the Railway Board was the monthly statistical compilation of system data from all zones. In that report, zonal railways were showing signs of under-reporting of inefficiencies.
For instance, a large and busy sector like Eastern Railway had only four instances of diesel locomotive failures and eight electric locomotive failures in December, and one instance of train parting — when a train gets detached into two or more portions. “There is wide range of disparity in the pattern represented in the numbers of these failures in all 16 zonal railways,” said a senior official.
Since mid-January, when the mission to weed out manual feeding of data began, the percentage of manual feeding of information into the Control Office Application decreased from up to 100 per cent to around 10-20 per cent in February. In some smaller divisions, manual feeding has completely stopped while in some larger divisions it has come done to as low as 10 per cent.
A fallout of right reporting and automatic capture of system data will be that punctuality figures may fall, while asset failure figures may go up, said officials. “This is to guard the system against data fudging and even if the figures go up or down, the main thing is truth. The true picture needs to come out,” said Ajay Shukla, former Railway Board Member (Traffic), who initiated the “right reporting” of punctuality data during his tenure two years ago.