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Train Stuff in India

everything you need to know about train travel in India

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Avoiding trains that will probably be late (and badly-maintained)

As I've repeatedly emphasised on this website, not all trains are created equal. Different types of trains have different average speeds and enjoy different levels of priority.  Some trains also have a peculiar tendency to get delayed by hours, sometimes even days(!) on almost every run.  Even more peculiar is the tendency of unaware passengers to gravitate towards the most erratic train on the route.  What is interesting is that trains that tend to run late also tend to be poorly maintained, using the oldest coaches that are often infested with insects and rodents.  This is possibly a result of the low priority they get, both at the maintenance yard and during the run.

There are a set of indicators that suggest whether a train will be well behaved - neat and punctual - or misbehave.  I'll probably discuss these in a future article, but for now, here's the easy way to avoid erratic trains, and it involves using India Rail Info.

Note:  North India experiences heavy fog in the winter (Mid-December to the beginning of February).  This often throws train schedules way out of gear, with delays of over 4-6 hours fairly common.  Do not plan any tight connections during this period, unless you want to ruin your itinerary.

Note 2:  This isn't an exact science.  It is quite possible for a generally "reliable" train to run late on a particular date due to operational reasons, or an erratic train to get priority the day you decide to travel on it.  What constitutes a punctual and clean train vary from person to person.  At best, this guide is indicative.  

Step 1:  Log on to www.indiarailinfo.com and enter the name or number of the train you want to check in box highlighted in red:

 

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

Let's assume we want to see how punctual the Jaisalmer - Delhi Express (#14660) is.  On entering the train's number or name, India Rail Info will start to provide suggestions.  Click on the correct option.

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

On selecting a particular option, it will turn into a grey box.  Hovering your cursor over this box will give you a further list of options.  Select Time-Table.

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

Look at the "Avg" columns.  These are after both the "Arrival" and "Departure" columns in the train's schedule (I've highlighted them in green).  These columns indicate the average delay of the train at the station.  If there's a number in red in the column (like +7), it means that the train, on average, is that late.  If there's a number in green in the column (like -10), it means that the train is usually early by that amount of time at that station:

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

So, in this case, this train on an average day leaves Jaisalmer on time and gets seven minutes late by the time it reaches its first halt.  It gets fairly delayed until it reaches Phulera (its 17th stop), where it recovers time to arrive on schedule.  

Please don't take these figures as the gospel truth, of course - they are merely indicative.  Here, the Jaisalmer - Delhi Express is an average train in terms of punctuality - not the most punctual, but not too bad either.  On the other hand, you have trains like the ironically-named Toofan Express:

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

When the average delay at some stations is five hours, you know you'd rather be on a different train.

Another useful feature of India Rail Info is the Forum for each train, where you can see what other people have to say about it.  If there are several comments about how badly-maintained or late a train is, you know to avoid it.  Here are some examples:

[Magadh Express, New Delhi to Islampur]

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

[The same Toofan Express, Howrah to Sriganganagar]

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

[The Trivandrum - Guwahati Express]

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com 

Last updated on 17 November 2013.