The railways have seen 2,650 train delays between April and October this year, an over threefold jump as compared to last year, primarily because of cattle hits. Delays due to cattle and human run over instances was just 875 for the similar seven-month-period last fiscal.

In FY22, there were 2,115 delays.

Across 17 divisions of the Railways, there were 459 delays in October (the highest so far this fiscal) because of cattle runover instances, an over 100 per cent rise versus October 2021 (222 delays).

Data from the Railways, accessed by businessline, shows the Northern Railway zone, which passes through the country’s cow belt, to be the worst hit, with 1000-odd trains being delayed in these seven months – an over 200 per cent rise y-o-y. Last year, there were 325 delays in the zone.

Formally established in 1952, the Northern Railway Division is the largest zone in terms of route kilometers and consists of five divisions, namely Ambala, Delhi, Ferozpur, Lucknow, and Moradabad.

In terms of monthly numbers, October has seen the highest instance of delays at 205 for the Northern Railway, almost double of what was reported in the same month last year.

Other zones of concern

The next most hit-prone zone is the North Central Railway (NCR), which came into being April 2003 onwards and covers the union territory of Delhi and the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana. It covers 3,522 km and has three divisions – Prayagraj, Jhansi, and Agra.

From April through October), there were 717 train delays, up 200 per cent on a y-o-y basis. In the year-ago period, there were 239 delays.

As per a report by the Railways, October saw 118 train delays – an 84 per cent jump in delays y-o-y in the zone.

The South Central Railway (SCR) and Western Central Railway (WCR) zones are the other two zones that have since a significant increase in delays.

The SCR reported 181 train delays (versus 18 in the year-ago period), up 900 per cent YoY; while the WCR saw delays go up by 205 per cent. There were 134 reports of delays in the WCR zone versus 44 in the same seven-month-period last year.

“The NR and NCR are predominantly passed through the cow belts of India. And there is a problem of stray cattle that has led to increased instances of cattle runovers and subsequent delays in these zones. Also, these two areas cover the most routes in terms of kilometers, so naturally, the number of incidents here is higher compared to the rest of the zones,” a railway official said.

Some sources say there were 13,000-odd cattle run-over incidents till June end across the country.

Boundary wall experiment

In view of the high number of cattle run-over cases and the back-drop that Vande Bharat trains face similar problems, the Railways have decided to build 1,000 km of boundary walls over the next five to six months in some sections.

Walls will come on “some sections of its network” that have witnessed high incidents of cattle being run over by trains, the Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently said. At least two designs were looked into by the Railways, he said.