New Delhi, May 11 (PTI) The Railways today said the maintenance of its vast network would remain its top priority so as to ensure zero mishaps, even as it partially blamed the ongoing works for punctuality-related complaints. “Maintenance is our top priority today and there is a maintenance backlog in the network. While we are focussing on this aspect, infrastructure creation is also happening simultaneously. All these could lead to punctuality issues,” they said.

However, the Railways is ensuring that the time taken for maintenance in a particular stretch is used optimally and efficiently, sources in the Railway Ministry said.

The ongoing work is expected to take a year for completion.

Sources said the exponential rise in the trains running on the network is huge today and “infrastructure has not created the pace to accommodate the growing traffic”. While 1,000 trains ran on the railway network in the year 2000, the number has now risen to 2,600, outstripping the network capacity.

According to official figures, almost 30 per cent of trains ran late in financial year 2017-18, Indian Railways’ worst punctuality performance in three years.

From April 2017-March 2018, the punctuality of mail and express trains was 71.39 per cent, down from 76.69 per cent in the corresponding period of 2016-2017.

In 2015-2016, 77.44 per cent trains ran on time.

In 2016-2017, railways put in over 15 lakh maintenance blocks in 2,687 locations, resulting in delays in both the mail and express trains. The number of blocks rose to 18 lakh in 2017-2018 with maintenance work being carried out in 4,426 locations.

Indian Railways is undergoing a phase where upgrading, modernisation and renewal of track is going on in a big way.

Meanwhile, IRCTC, a Railway PSU, today said five lakh registered IRCTC users have linked their Aadhaar to the IRCTC account. This will let them book 12 tickets a month instead of six.

The IRCTC has about 4.5 crore registered users.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.