The Railway Ministry has asked drivers to hit the top permissible speed only if trains are running late to make up for lost time, instead of trying to speed throughout the journey, a source in the ministry said.
The new directive replaces an order issued in 2000 in which the ministry had said that trains are supposed to run at maximum permissible speed (MPS) even when they are on time, subject to speed restrictions, but they rarely do so.
The decision was taken after it was found that punctuality of trains suffered because loco drivers were wary of driving at MPS due to the fear of being detected overspeeding, which is punishable, the source said.
In the new time table to be released on August 15, trains having an MPS of 110 kmph will be showed having a normal prescribed speed (booked speed) of105 kmph and those with 120 kmph MPS will have115 kmph.
The MPS of mail and express trains is 110 kmph, but they maintain an average speed of 40 to 50 kmph. Elite class trains such as the Rajdhani and the Shatabdi, having an MPS of 130 kmph, run at an average speed of 80 to 90 kmph.
The source said with 30 per cent trains running late this year, the railways has now decided to ask drivers to run at the booked speed, but speed up to the MPS when they are running late.
"While we want our trains to run at their maximum limit, drivers have the tendency to run them much slower so as to not get penalised for overspeeding, which is going over the MPS," a serving loco pilot said.
"Now, with the limit set at a lower speed, drivers can normally drive at 105 kmph and also have the cushion to push the speed upwards to the MPS just enough to gain lost time. The order also means we do not have the pressure of running at MPS all the time,? the driver explained.
So, in the new timetable, perennially late running trains such as the Raigarh-Gondia Jan Shatabdi Express, the Durg - Ambikapur Express will have a new booked speed, lower than the MPS, but will gain punctuality.