A close friend of mine who works as a chief controller (Rail traffic operation) in a DRM office, in fact explained how they supervise the rail traffic. They have three priorities. First they generally ignore clearance of late running trains and give preference to not so late running trains. Secondly, if the trains are originating from their division, they give utmost importance to that train giving all clearances to it while holding up all other trains.
Thirdly, if some train has to terminate in their division, then irrespective of their running status (late or right time), they use to clear the trains going beyond their division. Also in night their preference always goes to high value goods train for which even trains like Rajdhani express might be hold up in some remote stations for some minutes. According to them goods trains are much more revenue generating than passenger trains.
The above explanation in fact clearly explains why trains run late. Why a late running train further gets late and why trains despite on time before the terminating station still gets late in reaching the platforms!
People travelling in the trains have bitten bitter pills in the form of steep tariff hike. They can still intake some further bitter pills, if trains start running on time. I think if there can be a system of both accountability and reward system introduced, then train timings can be improved tremendously.
Divisional controllers of rail traffic operation must also be made accountable. As delayed train means revenue loss for the Railways as per above system, they must be sensitized to see that no delay happens in their division of operation. In fact if they are able to make recovery of some of the late running trains, that would also be accounted for. In the month end this has to be calculated how many divisions saved Railways' revenue by preventing trains from running running late and even saved revenue due to fault of other divisions. Performing divisions must be appreciated formally and should be rewarded financially in terms of incentives in the particular month!
On the other hand the non-performing divisions may be reprimanded (although no monetary recovery to be done) with notice of non-performance as a division. There could be establishing of yearly championship among divisions.
Of course, in case of accidents, diversion of routes due to natural calamity etc should not be applicable in this scheme. The existing rules say in this case passenger can cancel the ticket and he will be given full refund!
Point is simple, pay people for their frustration due to delay and reward train operators for saving Railways' revenue. If there is both reward and penalty system, generally the system acts very efficiently! This arrangement can be applied first to super-fast trains!
After a culture of accountability gets generated, it can be applied to other express trains as well as passenger trains in phased manner. Believe me if such accountable system involving revenue loss is introduced, the system will work tremendously. For this a fair increase in super-fast trains in terms of super-charge would be well accepted by the commuters!