Railways are the most important means of transportation in present day India. Construction of railways is dependent on physical factors like topography and climate besides other factors. Railways can be successfully developed in the plains.

They, however, do not find favour in desert regions. In mountainous areas, the cost of providing this service is very difficult and a costly proposition because tunnels and bridges are required to be constructed.

The development of railways is also not possible in areas experiencing heavy rainfall throughout the year or where excessive snowfall occurs.

The railways in India provide the principal mode of transportation for freight and passengers. It brings together people from the farthest corners of the country and makes possible the conduct of business, sightseeing, pilgrimage and education. The Indian Railways have been a great national integrating force in the country.


It has helped in accelerating the development of industry and agriculture. From a very modest beginning inl853, when the first train steamed off from Bombay to Thane, a distance of 34 km, the Indian Railways have grown into a vast network of 6867 stations spread over a route length of 62759 km with a fleet of 7517 locomotives, 35510 passenger service vehicles, 4838 other coaching vehicles and 244419 wagons as on 31 March, 2000.

The growth of the Indian Railways in the 148 years of its existence is thus phenomenal. It has played a vital role in the economic, industrial and social development of the country. The network runs multigauge operations extending over 62759 route kilometre. The gauge-wise route and track lengths of die system as on 31 March, 2000 were as under:

About 23 per cent of the route kilometre, 33 per cent of running track kilometre and 32-5 per cent of total track kilometre is electrified. The network is divided into nine zones and further sub-divided into divisions.

Divisions are the basic operating units. The nine zones and their respective headquarters as on 31 March, 2000 have been enlisted. These zones facilitate administration, convenience and efficiency.


(1) Northern Railway.

It has its headquarters at New Delhi and it serves Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Western U.P. and Northern and Western Rajasthan. Set up in 1952, length is 10993 km.

(2) North-East Railway.

Headquarters-Gorakhpur, serves Northern U.P., Northern Bihar and Northern West Bengal. Set up in April 1952, length is 5144 km.


(3) North-East Frontier Railway.

Hdq-Maligaon near Guwahati, serves Assam, West Bengal, Bihar. Set up in 1958, length is 3728 km.

(4) Eastern Railway.

Hdqs Howrah (Kolkata). It serves West Bengal, Bihar, Eastern U.P Set up in August 1955, Length is 4303 km.


(5) South-Eastern Railway. Hdqs Kolkata. It serves Orissa, South -East Bengal, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Set up in 1955, length is 7161 km.

(6) Central Railway.

Hdqs Mumbai. It serves Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Set up in 1951, length is 7158 km.

(7) Western Railway.


Hdqs Mumbai. It serves Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, parts of Madhya Pradesh. Set up in Nov. 1955, length is 9727 km.

(8) South-Central Railway.

Hdqs Secundrabad. It serves Andhra, N. Karnataka, and Maharashtra. Set up in 1965, length is 7277 km.

(9) Southern Railway.


Hdqs Chennai. It serves Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Set up in 1953, length is 7021 km.

Indian Rail Board under the corporate plan has undertaken the task of providing comforts, amenities and facilities to the passengers. New high speed and luxurious trains have been introduced like Shatabdis.

They run at a speed of 140 km from Delhi- Amritsar, Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Jhansi, Delhi-Lucknow, Chennai- Mysore, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Jaipur, New Delhi-Dehradun.

Another Shatabdi has been flagged off on 15th August, 2002 between Delhi and Bathinda. Rajdhani Expresses connect Delhi with most of the state capitals.

Metro trains have also been planned in metropolitan cities. Kolkata is having two sections of underground rail, the Esplanade-Bhowanipur and the Dum Dum-Belgatchia section. Another metro is being constructed at Delhi.

The construction of Konkon railway is a remarkable achievement of the Indian railways. It speaks of technical knowhow attained by the organization in the field of laying tracks, construction of bridges, tunnels, electrification etc. The rail connects Mumbai with Mangalore along the Western Ghats.

Rail development in India has been favoured by:

(i) Flat topography of the Ganga Plain and coastal areas.

(ii) Dense population in plain areas.

(iii) Resources for construction like manpower, skill, capital, machinery, timber, ccment, etc.

(iv) Vast areal extent of the country.

(v) Plenty of resources for transport from one part to another like grains, coal, ores, sugar, timber, oil, steel, textiles, cement, fertilizers etc.

Rail construction is expensive and difficult in the desert, Himalayas and the Western Ghats due to sand and rough and tough mountainous relief, problems of tunnelling and bridge construction and lack of freight and passenger traffic.

Rail service has not much developed in the deserts, North-eastern states, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, Chhotta Nagpur Plateau, Kashmir valley, parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal.

1. In India density of rail network has positive relation with topography. Rail etwork is very dense from Punjab to West Bengal (The great Indian plain or Sutlej- Ganga Plain) The rail length in this region accounts for 40 km per 1000 square km area.

Here soils are fertile. Topography is flat. Agriculture is the major activity. The methods of farming are intensive. It is the agricultural belt of India. The region supports dense population thus their exists surplus agricultural production and passangers for transportation.

(2) Rail network is also dense in the mineral zone of Jharkhand and West Bengal due to abundance of variety of minerals and development of manufacturing of fertilizer, cement and multiple heavy Engineering goods.

(3) Plain of Gujarat including Kathiawar.

(4) And coast of Tamil Nadu.

2. In the Eastern Ghats in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the Satpuras, Vindhyas and Sahyadris in the Peninsular India, on account of rough topography and hilly terrain, Rail system is not much developed.

Tunnels and bridges are to be constructed and the maintenance of hilly track demand skill, time and finances.

3. The rail track is least visible in the mountain states like J & K, H.E, Uttaranchal, north-eastern states of India and Sikkim and Northern parts of Rajasthan touching the border with Pakistan and Kutchch Peninsula in Gujarat also sail in the same boat.

4. The states of M.P, Chhattisgarh, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka, Telengana and Rayalaseema of A.P have rail density less than the density that of India.

The railways have set up its own establishments for manufacturing engines, coaches etc over the years at various centres in the country.

1. Locomotives are manufactured at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works Chittaranjan.

2. Diesel Locomotives are manufactured at Varanasi.

3. Passenger coaches are manufactured at Integrated Coach Factory Perambur (Chennai).

4. Coach Factory: Kapurthala

Bharat Earth Movers Ltd.: Bangalore

Jessop Co. Ltd.: Kolkata

5. At yelahanka near Bangalore Axle manufacturing plant of the railway is located. This unit was set up in 1984. Such a remarkable improvement, extension and electrification in the rail system in India as we experience today has been made possible due to development of heavy engineering and heavy electrical industries developed in the country.

The industries meet different types of demand of the Indian railways, which is the largest employment generating and transportation facility providing source in India. In fact the Indian railways have become the main artery of India’s internal transport both for goods and passengers.

The rolling stock fleet of the Indian Railway as on 31 March, 1999 comprised 58 steam, 4,586 diesel and 2,785 electric locomotives. The railways arc in the process of inducting new designs of fuel-efficicnt locomotives of higher horse power, high-speed coaches and modern bogies for freight traffic.

Modern signalling like panel inter-locking, route relay inter-locking, centralized traffic control, automatic signalling and multi- aspect colour light signalling, are being progressively introduced.

The Indian Railways have made impressive progress in indigenous production of rolling stock and a variety of other equipment over the years and is now self-sufficient in most of the items required by it.

The Indian railways form the life line of the country, catering to its needs for large scale movement of traffic, both freight and passenger. With 34 km rail length in 1853 from Mumbai to Thane, the Indian railways have a vast network.

The Indian railways are now Asia’s largest and world’s second largest railway system under a single management, government of India.

Major commodities transported by the railways in India are coal, metallic ores, food grains, iron and steel, cement, sugarcane, iron ore, manganese ore, chemicals and mineral oil, fertilizers, edible oils, petroleum products. As the largest transport agency railways are intimately connected with the development of the national economy. Salient Features:

1.19th century mil links

India’s 1st rail line Mumbai-Thane 1853

India’s 2nd rail line Chennai-Arakkonam 1856

India’s 3rd rail line Kolkata-Raniganj 1874

2. Government of India has announced construction of a new rail line from Udhampur to Srinagar in the near future as declared by the Prime Minister last month (May 2002) on his visit to the Kashmir valley.

3. Rail transport freight increased from 73-2 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 420-92 million tonnes in 1998-99 due to rapid progress in mining, industrial and agricultural sectors of the economy.

4. Railway employees are over 18 lakhs in strength.

5. Capital involvement is over Rs. 10,000 crores in the Indian railways.

A well knit and coordinated system of rail transport plays an important role in the sustained economic growth of die country. To achieve this there arises a need for effective planning and execution.

Since the inception of the planned era in 1950-51, the Indian Railways have implemented eight Five Year Plans, apart from annual plans in some years. During eight Plans, emphasis was laid on modernization.

The main thrust had been directed towards rehabilitation of assets, technological changes and upgradation of standards initiated in rail track, locomotives, passenger coaches, wagon bogie designs, signalling and telecommunication. Progress of railway traffic and inputs is shown in the form of a table.

There are five undertakings under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways viz., (i) Rail India Technical and Economic Services Limited (RITES); (ii) Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON); (iii) Indian Railway Finance Corporation Limited (IRFC); (iv) Container Corporation of India Limited (CONCOR); and (v) Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRC). Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) was set up as a registered society to design and implement various railway computerization projects.

The Research, Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) at Lucknow are the R&D wing of Indian railways.

It functions as consultant to the Indian Railways in technical matters. It also provides consultancy to other organizations connected with design and railway equipment manufacturings.

Over the years the Indian Railways have made concerted efforts to achieve self- sufficiency in production of rolling stock in the country. Locomotives are built in Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW), Chittranjan, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi and BHEL, Bhopal, a public sector company which has developed capability to manufacture electric locomotives for the Indian Railways.

In 1998-99, CLW manufactured 165 broad-gauge electric locomotives; DLW produced 161 broad- gauge diesel locomotives (including locos for public sector units). Diesel Component Works (DCW) has been set up by the railways at Patiala for manufacturing and repairs of components of diesel locos and sub-assemblies.

The project has attained the rated capacity for manufacture of components for diesel engines, its repairs and rebuilding of diesel locomotives. The passenger coaches are manufactured in Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Perambur, Chennai and Rail Coach Factory, Karputhala.

Integral Coach Factory (ICF) manufactured 1,057 fully furnished coaches and the new Rail Coach Factory (RCF) Kapurthala produced 1,087 coaches in 1998-99. In addition to ICF and RCF, there are two more units in public sector, viz., M/s Jessops and Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), Bangalore, which also manufacture coaches and electrical multiple units.

A wheel and axle plant has been set put at Bangalore to cut down imports in this field. The plant performed exceedingly well during 1998-99 and helped the railways to save valuable foreign exchange.

Passenger Traffic

Passengers originating had risen from 1,284 million in 1950-51 to 4,411 million in 1998-99 and passenger kilometre from 66.52 billion in 1950-51 to 404 billion in 1998-99. The railways have been able to cope with increasing demand of passenger traffic. Railways are the premier mode of passenger transport both for long distance and suburban traffic.

During 1998-99, the Indian Railways introduced 149 new trains, extended the run of 106 trains and increased the frequency of 48 trains in non-suburban sector. Similarly, in the suburban sector, railways introduced 17 new trains.

Northern Railway entered a proud phase in August 2000 when the Delhi Main Station went down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest Route Relay Interlocking System (RRIS) in the World, with 11,000 relays allowing up to 1,122 signalled movements. Freight Traffic

Rapid progress in industrial and agricultural sectors has generated higher freight traffic.