Time table is a schedule in a table form, showing details of arrivals and departures at every station of all trains carrying passengers. These time tables are issued by every zonal railway, generally every six months. However, with effect from 1st July 1991, new time table is issued once a year in July only. On Indian Railways there is another time table, "Trains at a Glance", which is issued by the Railway Board and carries stoppages of important trains at important stations only all over the Indian Railways, as against the Zonal Time Table which indicates stoppages of all scheduled trains at every station on the railways. The objectives of passenger time table are as under:

1. information for intending passengers regarding

i. schedules of arrivals and departures;
ii. through sectional and suburban trains;
iii. connections at various stations;
iv. and the amenities and facilities available to the passengers at stations;

2. a guide to the railway staff

i. in arranging trains crossings, precedence,
ii. receipt and despatch at terminals, and
iii. provision of motive power, crew, maintenance and other facilities;

3. a guide to postal services for transmission of mail;
4. a data base for calculating the requirements of rolling stock; locomotives and running staff;
5. To satisfy statutory requirements. Section 65 of the Indian Railway Act lays down that railways must exhibit time tables for the guidance of the public.

The origin of Railway time table is very interesting. Railways in Great Britain, where the railways started first, were hesitant to issue time tables and advertised fixed schedules of trains they were running. With the teething problems galore, they were not sure whether they would be able to live up the commitments after they tell the public fixed schedules of their trains. At that time, one Mr. Bradshaw used to sell maps. In order to increase his sales of maps, he also started publishing schedules of the trains which could take people to the places of which he used to sell maps. Railway companies consented to his publishing the time tables as it did not involve any commitment on their part. Soon, however, they realised the usefulness of advertisements of the fixed timings as their clientele went up and the companies started issuing the time tables themselves. With the passage of time, teething problems were also taken care of. Today, there is statutory obligation in some of the countries, for the Railway companies to publish their schedules. Indian Railways are required to do so under Section 49 of Indian Railways Act, 1989.


Time Tables can be divided into two categories:

(1) For passengers

(a) Zonal Time Table and Guide - This time table is published annually by each of the zonal railways. In addition to the train timings, there is additional information which is useful for the passengers. This mainly relates to rules regarding reservation, refunds, and cancellations of confirmed booking, fare tables and other facilities which Railway administrations provide for the convenience of passengers. Copies of these time tables are available for sale at the booking offices and book stalls.
(b) Trains at a Glance - This is an abstract form of time table for all Indian Railways. Important trains are shown with time of arrivals and departures at important stations right from the originating station to the terminating station in one table only. Users have, therefore, not to refer to a number of tables to find out the schedule of a particular train. Main points of information for passengers are also given.
(c) Military Time Table - This time table is not made available for general public. Defence is one of very big users of rail infrastructure and a number of special trains for Defence are run by Railways. In order that these trains can be run at short notice, we have detailed timings of such trains worked out, which are also revised along with revision in the public time tables from time to time. These timings are kept secret.

(2) For Railway staff

(a) Staff copy of public time table - Train timings portion of zonal time table, without the additional pages for guidance of passengers and advertisements, is bound and copies given to staff dealing with passengers for their guidance.
(b) Working Time Table - Large amount of information is required to be conveyed to the railway staff connected with running of trains and maintenance of the infrastructure on the railways. They must not only know the timings of the trains but also a lot of information about the track, signals and other facilities and this information is conveyed to the staff through the working time tables. These time tables are printed division wise, separately for passenger and goods trains. It is desirable for all railway officers to familiarize themselves with these time tables.
(c) Graphic Time Tables - These time tables are in the graph form and are prepared for the guidance of the Control staff. These time tables are prepared section wise, indicating over a graph not only Mail, Express and Passenger trains, but also Goods trains that can be run during 24 hours. These are also called 'Master Charts'. These are generally displayed in the front of the Section Controllers in their cabins, so that they can constantly relate actual running of trains to the fixed schedules laid down in the time tables.


As seen earlier, time tables are for the benefit of users as well as railways. Factors that influence framing of a time table can also be broadly classified into two categories:

(1) Users Requirement

(a) Departure and arrivals - Train journeys in India are generally long and take a lot of time. It is convenient to the passengers to leave originating station in the evening and arrive at the destination in the morning so that they are able to perform the journey without wasting any working time during the day. No wonder, most of the trains from the major cities leave in the evening and arrive in the morning. Passengers performing journeys to and from important stations enroute also like the trains to arrive at convenient timings and not in the middle of the night. All this is always not possible to accommodate, but efforts are made by Railways to adjust timings in such a manner that this requirement of passengers is kept in mind. With the increase in the number of trains, staggering of departures and arrivals become unavoidable, otherwise a lot
of additional capacity would be required at the terminals and sections to deal with large number of trains in the evenings and mornings. This would also lead to idling of assets for bulk of the time as no trains would be scheduled to leave or arrive around mid day or mid night. Trains should touch important cities and junctions at convenient time.
(b) Connections at junctions - Railway trains run between selected pair of stations. Large number of passengers travel to stations which are not served by direct trains. They have, therefore, to change trains at junction stations. It is, therefore, the requirement of the passengers that the connecting trains should leave the connecting junction station as soon after the arrival of the first train as possible, so that they are not required to waste a lot of time waiting for the next train. It is also necessary that such connections are not so very tight that the passengers miss the previous train. Railways have, therefore, to design their time tables in such a manner that passengers are reasonably assured to connection within about an hour or two of the arrival of the previous train. At certain junctions, staff are authorised to detain connecting trains up to a limit if an earlier train is running late.
(c) Halts for meals, etc. - Since railway passengers have to travel long distances and all trains are not equipped with catering facilities, halts at meal timings are provided at stations having facilities for meals, refreshments. These halts are long enough to buy their requirements from the platform.
(d) Overall speed - Whatever the requirement of passengers enroute, every long distance passenger desires to complete his journey as early as possible. There is, therefore, need to provide fast, long distance trains to cut down journey time of bulk of the passengers. Railways have, therefore, introduced a large number of super fast trains during the last decade or so.
(e) Range of travel distance - From the view point of travel distance, railway passengers can be classified into three categories:
i. Short distance - This category of passengers travel between major industrial commercial centres or capital/district cities and town or villages around such major cities. This group of passengers generally live in surrounding town and villages and commute to the city centre/industrial centres for employment regularly. The travel distance is generally up to about 80 kilometres. In very rare cases, people travel on regular basis for more than 80 kilometres also. These passengers like to reach the cities in the morning hours to be able to
attend offices/factories and want to go back as early as possible after the office is closed so as to arrive at their residence in the evening. These passengers generally travel in groups as they belong to the same place and travel together regularly. Their livelihood is dependent on punctual running of trains. They are very vociferous and do not tolerate changes which do not suit them. At locations where industries work in shifts, there is traffic around such locations both ways. It is, therefore, essential for the Railways to provide stoppages for passenger trains for the category of passengers at convenient timings. At a few places, even
long distance trains are provided halts to enable these passengers to reach their work centres in time.
ii. Medium distance - In this group passengers whose range of travel falls between 80 to 300 kilometres are included. Some of these passengers travel between two important cities and prefer to have over night trains. Alternatively, they use long distance trains which are fast, but finding accommodation on such long distance trains may be a bit difficult. A large number of passengers in this group are those who work in major cities and have roots in places where they are not able to go back every day. They stay at the place of their work and visit their native place frequently, say once or twice a month. Another section of this group are those passengers who travel mainly on social or business occasion from one village/town to another. They require at least one train a day in each direction so that they can travel conveniently.
iii. Long distance - These passengers prefer fast trains with increased level of comfort. They require trains which do not have many stops enroute and are able to cover the entire journey in as short a time as possible.

(2) Operator's Requirement

This has to be kept in mind that the trains are run for the use of passengers and their basic requirements are supreme. Railways make efforts to ensure that they are able to cater to all reasonable requirements of the users. There are, however, certain departmental requirements which influence framing of time table. These can broadly be classified into the following categories:
(a) Infra structural requirements - While continuous exercises to augment infra structural facilities available for running of trains continue, these do act as a constraint to introduction of more number of trains as well as timings when trains can be scheduled. Terminal facilities like platforms, stabling lines, examination lines and repair facilities at the passenger terminals influence not only introduction of additional trains, but also timings of the trains. As there is only a certain number of trains which can be attended to during a given time, departures and arrivals of the trains have to be so spaced as to permit handling at the terminals depending upon the layout at the terminals. Simultaneous departure of one train and reception of another train may also not be possible. While framing time table, therefore, an interval between the two operations would be required.
Availability of coaches and locomotives is another factor which influences scheduling of trains. Since these are costly assets, proper use of them has to be maintained.
Railway line also has a capacity which is provided based on certain requirements. This limits the number of trains that can run and the timing at which those trains can be run. It may be convenient for the passengers to travel at a given time but lack of adequate line capacity may force railways to run the trains at time which may not be suitable to the passengers.
These infra structural constraints can be overcome but this is very costly proposition. Even when adequate funds are available, there is long gestation period between planning and installation of facilities. This problem is particularly acute in developing countries.
(b) Maintenance requirements - The infrastructure required to run the trains also need maintenance periodically. The train services are so time tabled so as to enable the maintenance of rakes and locomotives at terminals as well as at intermediate points. Most of the routine maintenance of coaches and locomotives is attended to at one of the terminals, which is considered as the base and is responsible for proper mechanical condition of the equipment. This is also called 'Primary Maintenance'. Maintenance at the terminal at the other end is called 'Secondary Maintenance'. In addition, routine examination is carried out at important
intermediate stations also.
Another requirement of coaches enroute is cleaning, watering and that of locomotives, watering and fuelling for which time also has to be provided. In addition to the rolling stock, fixed installations like track, platforms, signals and electrical overhead equipment (OHE) also need repairs. Time tables provide a suitable block of time during day light hours for this maintenance. Efforts are made to ensure that no passenger train is scheduled during this block of time so that equipment can be maintained in proper fettle.
(c) Operational requirement - In the running of trains, there are a number of operational factors which have to be provided in the time table. There are some trains which run faster than others. Slower trains have, therefore, to be stopped to give precedence to fast trains. In addition, on a single line section, only one train can run at a time in a block section. We generally do not have facilities on such sections where two trains running in the opposite direction to each other can cross without one of them being stopped. Generally less important train is scheduled to stop for crossing of fast train. Similarly, number of platforms at terminals as well as at important junction stations may be limited and a train may be delayed for reception till an earlier train vacates the platform.
There are a number of slip coaches which are required to be attached or detached at junction stations. Additional halt is required to be provided for performing shunting for this purpose. This also necessarily slows down the trains. Indian Railways have, therefore, taken a conscious decision to reduce the number of slip coaches wherever possible and it is not very inconvenient to passengers to change trains. A large number of slip coaches have already been discontinued and trains accelerated.
(d) Change of locomotives - Locomotives required to be changed either at places where traction changes or at stations where loco shed is located and locomotives are required to go to the shed as per the loco link.
(e) Loading/unloading of parcels/luggage - Stations having lot of luggage of passengers and parcels are also required to be provided additional time to permit loading/unloading.
(f) Staff requirement - There is a limited time up to which railway staff is expected to perform their duties. They have, therefore, to take over and made over their charge at fixed locations. A  bit of additional time is provided for the staff to examine the equipment and documents etc., being taken over.
(g) Unforeseen circumstances - There are a number of circumstances like signal failure, alarm chain pulling, occasional failures for which provision has to be kept. If no provision for such eventualities is kept, it is likely that the trains may run late frequently. This is generally up to the maximum of 3% of the total running time and is called 'traffic recovery time' and is provided short of big junctions, divisional/zonal interchange points. It may, however, be noted that in actual practice on most of the railways very little traffic recovery time is available.


1. Maximum Permissible Speed (MPS) -

This is the speed which a Loco Pilot cannot exceed. This is also called technical speed and is dependent upon the technical condition of the track, signalling and rolling stock in use. It is generally different for different sections and trains. Most of the express trains on Indian Railways have MPS of 100 kmph. In order to increase this speed limit, signalling and track need to be carried out and Commissioner of Railway Safety has to satisfy himself before he permits this limit to be enhanced. Very few super fast trains have MPS higher than 100 kmph. Our fastest train so far was Rajdhani Express between Howrah and New Delhi (130 kmph). But with the introduction of Shatabdi Express between NDLS - JHS, the fastest booked speed is now 140
kmph between NDLS - AGC, and 130 kmph between AGC - JHS.

2. Booked Speed -

This is the speed which determines the normal running time of the trains and on the basis ofwhich time table is prepared. This is generally 10% less than the maximum permissible speed.

3. Average Running Speed -

This is the average speed of the train on run. For calculating this, total time consumed in halts is deducted from the total time taken by a train between originating and termination stations.

4. Commercial Speed / Overall Speed -

This is the average time taken by the train per hour from its start to termination. Long distance passengers are concerned with this. They are not interested how fast a train runs between the stations. What they are concerned about is how fast it can reach its destination.

5. Speed Restriction -

Maximum permissible speed and booked speed relate to the particular section of the railway engine. Actual condition of the track bridges, curves and nature of signalling at certain stations may require the trains to be run at speeds which should be lower than the booked speed of a particular train. For this, special speed restrictions are imposed, which are of two types:
a. Permanent Speed Restrictions - These speed restrictions are the ones which are supposed to be for sufficiently long duration and are mentioned in the Working Time Table. Since copies of the Working Time Table are available with the train crew, no other intimation is required to be given to them on day to day basis. The time which the trains are expected to lose in observing its restrictions is built into the running time and is time tabled accordingly. These restrictions last the currency of a time table and are reviewed at the time of revision in the time table.
b. Temporary Speed Restrictions - A number of speed restrictions may have to be imposed for a short duration either on account of defects in track and related equipment or to facilitate repairs to the track and OHE and signalling installations. Requirement of time for such repairs is assessed well in time before a new time table is introduced and this time is separately provided for in the time table and is called 'Engineering Allowance' (EA). This time is also provided in the time table short of junction stations or at the divisional/zonal interchange points. If there are repair works elsewhere on the section, trains would run late and this would be adjusted before the junction interchange points.

6.Minimum Running Time

This is the time which a train should take between two stations when running at maximum permissible speed. This is calculated taking into consideration the permanent speed restrictions that may be in force from time to time in the concerned sections. This would be different for different trains and the Loco Pilot is in no case permitted to take less than the minimum running time relevant to his train. Guards of the trains and Section Controller keep a watch on this aspect so that in case of over-speeding by the Loco Pilots, they may take steps to check them.

7.Normal Running Time

This time is based on the booked speed of the train and is generally about 10% more than the minimum running time. The Loco Pilot is expected to run faster to the minimum running time when running late and is expected to make up time.

8.Calculation of Running Time

Calculation of running time is based on a number of factors, viz.:

a. Distance between the two stations
b. Hauling power of the locomotive
c. Load of the train
d. Permissible speeds
e. Permanent speed restrictions
f. Gradients and curves
g. Time required for acceleration and deceleration.
This time is calculated with the help of computer by RDSO and is further validated through trials.

9.Authorised Detentions

This is a time for which a train can be detained at a junction station to wait for another train running late in order to facilitate passengers to maintain connections at the junction stations, some trains can be detained for a specific period, after this detention the train can give connection to another nominated train so that undue hardship to the passengers is not caused. These are, however, the outer limits and connecting train cannot be detained, if it is not likely to connect the trains to be connected within the prescribed limit. This is given in the Working Time Table.

Working & Public Time Table:

A Working Time Table is published simultaneously for each division, for the exclusive use of Railway Staff. The difference between Public Time Table and Working Time Table mentioned below:


1. Issue on payment
2. Information is applicable to all the stations in zone.
3. These are of various types:
a) Detailed time Table - Zone wise
b) Abstract Time Table
c) Sheet Time Table
d) Trains at a glance
4. Map on Zonal Railway, Indian Railways is provided.
5. Facilities to passengers like retiring room, Information about tourist spots are mentioned.
6. Timings of daily, non daily passengers, Mail/Exp. trains Arr. And Dep. are mentioned.
7. It contains information about reservations, refunds


1. Issued free of cost to the staff of the division
2. Information/Instructions applicable to only to a particular division.
3. Only one is issued
4. Divisional map is provided.
5. Operational requirements are mentioned.
6. Timings on Arr./ Dep, Run through of all trains running in the division is mentioned.
7. It contains rules and regulations with regard to
a. Marshalling
b. Movement of ODC
c. Location of MRT/ART and their target time etc.,

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