Indian Railways

From Academic Kids

This article is about the rail company in India. For technical details and operations see: Rail transport in India.

Indian Railways (IR) is the state-owned railway company of India having a complete monopoly over the country's rail transport. It has one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 5 billion passengers and over 350 million tonnes of freight annually. IR is also the world's largest commercial or utility employer, having more than 1.6 million regular employees on its payrollTemplate:Ref.

The railways traverse through the length and breadth of the country covering a total length of 63,140 km (39,200 miles). IR owns a total of 216,717 wagons, 39,236 coaches and 7,739 locomotives and runs a total of 14,444 trains daily, including about 8,702 passenger trainsTemplate:Ref. Template:Indian Railways infobox Railways were first introduced to India in 1853, and by 1947, the year of India's independence, it had grown to forty-two rail systems. In 1951 the systems were nationalised as one unit, to become one of the largest networks in the world. Indian Railways operates both long distance, as well as suburban rail systems.

Contents

History

Main article: History of rail transport in India

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A photo of India's first passenger train between Bombay and Thana in 1853.

A plan for a rail system in India was first put forward in 1832, but no further steps were taken for more than a decade. In 1844, the Governor-General of India Lord Hardinge allowed private entrepreneurs to set up a rail system in India. Two new railway companies were created and the East India Company was asked to assist them. Interest from a lot of investors in the UK led to the rapid creation of a rail system over the next few years. The first train in India became operational on 1851-12-22, and was used for the hauling of construction material in Roorkee. A few years later, on 1853-04-16, the first passenger train between Bori Bunder, Bombay and Thana covering a distance of 34 km (21 miles) was inaugurated, formally heralding the birth of railways in India.

The British government encouraged the setting up of railway companies by private investors under a scheme that would guarantee an annual return of five percent during the initial years of operation. Once completed, the company would then be transferred to the government, but the original company would retain operational control. This network had a route mileage of about 14,500 km (9,000 miles) by 1880, mostly radiating inward from the three major port cities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. By 1895, India had started building its own locomotives, and in 1896 sent engineers and locomotives to help build the Uganda Railways.

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Extent of Great Indian Peninsular Railway network in 1870. The GIPR was one of the largest rail companies at that time.

Soon various independent kingdoms began to have their own rail systems and the network spread to the regions that became the modern-day states of Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. A Railway Board was constituted in 1901, but the powers were still formally held by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. The Railway Board operated under aegis of the Department of Commerce and Industry and had three members: a government railway official serving as chairman, a railway manager from England and an agent of one of the company railways. For the first time in its history, the Railways began to make a tidy profit. In 1907, almost all the rail companies were taken over by the government.

The following year, the first electric locomotive made its appearance. With the arrival of First World War, the railways were used to meet the needs of the British outside India. By the end of the First World War, the railways had suffered immensely, and were in a poor state. The government took over the management of the Railways and removed the link between the finances of the Railways and other governmental revenues in 1920.

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A commemorative postage stamp issued by the Indian Post celebrating 100 years of the Indian Railway in 1953.

The Second World War severely crippled the railways as trains were diverted to the Middle East, and the railway workshops converted into munitions workshops. At the time of independence in 1947, a big chunk of the railways went to the then newly formed Pakistan. A total of forty-two separate railway systems, including thirty-two lines owned by the former Indian princely states were amalgamated as a single unit which was christened as the Indian Railways.

The existing rail networks were abandoned in favour of zones in 1951 and a total of six zones came into being in 1952. As the economy of India improved, almost all railway production units were indigenised. By 1985, steam locomotives were phased out in favour of diesel and electric locomotives. The entire railway reservation system was streamlined with Computerisation in 1995.

Railway zones

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IR Zones. See the numbering alongside. The red dots are the zonal headquarters.

For administrative purposes, Indian Railways is divided into sixteen zones and one subsidiary zone, the Konkan Railway.

No. Name Abbr. Headquarters
1. Northern Railway NR Delhi
2. North Eastern Railway NER Gorakhpur
3. Northeast Frontier Railway NFR Guwahati
4. Eastern Railway ER Kolkata
5. South Eastern Railway SER Kolkata
6. South Central Railway SCR Secunderabad
7. Southern Railway SR Chennai
8. Central Railway CR Mumbai
9. Western Railway WR Mumbai
10. South Western Railway SWR Hubli
11. North Western Railway NWR Jaipur
12. West Central Railway WCR Jabalpur
13. North Central Railway NCR Allahabad
14. South East Central Railway SECR Bilaspur, CG
15. East Coast Railway ECoR Bhubaneswar
16. East Central Railway ECR Hajipur
17. Konkan Railway KR Mumbai

The Calcutta Metro is owned and operated by Indian Railways, but is not a part any of the zones. It is administratively considered to have the status of a zonal railway.

Each zonal railway is made up of a certain number of divisions, each having a divisional headquarters. There are a total of sixty-seven divisions.

Passenger services

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A long distance express train.

Indian Railways operates 8,702 passenger trains and transports around five billion annually across twenty-seven states and three union territories (Delhi, Pondicherry and Chandigarh). Sikkim is the only state not connected.

The passenger division is the most preferred form of long distance transport in most of the country. In South India and North-East India however, buses are the preferred mode of transport for medium to long distance transport.

A standard passenger train consists of eighteen coaches, but some popular trains can have up to twenty-four coaches. Coaches are designed to accommodate anywhere from eighteen to seventy-two passengers, but may actually accommodate many more during the holiday seasons and on busy routes. The coaches in use are vestibules, but some of these may be dummied on some trains for operational reasons. Freight trains use a large variety of wagons.

Each coach has different accommodation class; the most popular being the sleeper class. Up to nine of these type coaches are usually coupled. Air conditioned coaches are also attached, and a standard train may have between three to five air-conditioned coaches.

Overcrowding is the most widely faced problem with Indian Railways. In the holiday seasons or on long weekends, trains are usually packed more then their prescribed limit. Ticket-less travel which results in large losses for the IR is also an additional problem faced.

See also: Accommodation classes

Suburban rail

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The New Delhi Metro railway.

Many cities have their own dedicated suburban networks to cater to commuters. Currently, suburban networks operate in Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta), Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune. Hyderabad and Pune do not have dedicated suburban tracks but share the tracks with long distance trains. New Delhi and Kolkata have their own metro networks namely the New Delhi Metro and the Kolkata metro respectively.

Suburban trains that handle commuter traffic are usually fifteen coaches, with an electric multiple unit (EMU) at each end. The rakes in Mumbai run on direct current, while those elsewhere use alternating current. A standard coach is designed to accommodate ninety-six sitting passengers, but the actual number of passengers can easily double or triple with standees during rush hour.

Mumbai's rail transport is jointly managed by the Central and Western Railways. It has three lines, one managed by the WR and other two managed by the Central Railway. The Kolkata metro has the administrative status of a zonal railway, though it does not come under the seventeen railway zones.

Freight

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A single lined rail bridge.

IR carry a huge variety of goods ranging from mineral ores, agricultural produce, petroleum, milk and vehicles. Ports and major urban areas have their own dedicated freight lines and yards. Many important freight stops have dedicated platforms and independent lines.

Indian Railways makes 70% of its revenues and most of its profits from the freight sector, and uses these profits to cross-subsidise the loss-making passenger sector. However, competition from trucks which offer cheaper rates has seen a decrease in freight traffic in recent years. Since the 1990s, Indian Railways has switched from small consignments to larger container movement which has helped speed up its operations. Most of its freight earnings come from such rakes carrying bulk goods such as coal or cement.

Indian Railways also transports vehicles over long distances. Trucks that carry goods to a particular location are hauled back by trains saving the trucking company on unnecessary fuel expenses. Refrigerated vans are also available in many areas. The "Green Van" is a special type used to transport fresh food and vegetables. Recently Indian Railways introduced the special 'Container Rajdhani' or CONRAJ, for high priority freight. The highest speed notched up for a freight train is 100 km/h (62 mph) for a 4,700 ton load.

Notable trains and achievements

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The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a World Heritage Site, and one of the few steam engines in operation in India.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a narrow gauge train with a steam locomotive is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The route starts at Siliguri in the plains in West Bengal and traverses tea gardens en route to Darjeeling, a hill station at an elevation of 2,134 metres (7,000 ft). The Nilgiri Mountain Railway in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India, is also being considered for this heritage award. It is also the only cog railway in India. The Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) railway station in Mumbai is another World Heritage Site operated by Indian Railways.

The Palace on Wheels is a specially designed train, lugged by a steam engine, for promoting tourism in Rajasthan. The Maharashtra government did try and introduce the Deccan Odyssey along the Konkan route, but it did not enjoy the same success as the Palace on Wheels. The Samjhauta Express was a train that ran between India and Pakistan. However, hostilities between the two nations in 2001 saw the line being closed, though it is scheduled to be opened soon.

The Lifeline Express is a special train popularly known as the "Hospital-on-Wheels" which provides healthcare to the rural areas. This train has a compartment that serves as an operating room, a second one which serves as a storeroom and an additional two that serve as a patient ward. The train travels around the country, staying at a location for about two months before moving elsewhere.

Among the famous locomotives, the Fairy Queen is the oldest running locomotive in the world today, though the distinction of the oldest surviving locomotive belongs to John Bull. Kharagpur railway station also has the distinction of being the world's longest railway platform at 833 m (2,733 ft). Indian Railways operates 7,566 locomotives; 37,840 Coaching vehicles and 222,147 freight wagons. There are a total of 6,853 stations; 300 yards; 2,300 goods-sheds; 700 repair shops and a total workforce of 1.54 millionTemplate:Ref.

The shortest named station is Ib and the longest is Sri Venkatanarasimharajuvariapeta. The Himsagar Express between Kanyakumari and Jammu Tawi, has the longest run in terms of distance and time on Indian Railways network. It covers 3,745 km (2,327 miles) in about 74 hours and 55 minutes. The Trivandrum Rajdhani travels non-stop between Vadodara and Kota, covering a distance of 528 km (328 miles) in about 6.5 hours, and has the longest continuous run on Indian Railways today. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India today having a maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) on the Faridabad-Agra section. The fastest speed attained by any train is 184 km/h (114 mph) in 2000 during test runs.

Organisational structure

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Bholu is the mascot of the IR, adopted in 2003

Indian Railways is a publicly-owned company controlled by the Government of India, via the Ministry of Railways. The ministry is currently headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Union Minister for Railways and assisted by two junior Ministers of State for Railways, R. Velu and Naranbhai J. Rathwa. Reporting to them is the Railway Board, which has six members and a chairman.

Each of the seventeen zones is headed by a General Manager who reports directly to the Railway Board. The zones are further divided into divisions under the control of Divisional Managers. The chief engineers of the Mechanical and Electrical divisions report to the respective Divisional Manager and are in charge of track and catenary maintenance. Further down the hierarchy tree are the Station Masters who control individual stations and the train movement through the track territory under their stations' administration.

Apart from these zones, a number of Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) are under the administrative control of the ministry of railways. Some of these PSU's are:

  1. Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation
  2. Konkan Railway Corporation
  3. Indian Railway Finance Corporation
  4. Centre for Railway Information System
  5. Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation
  6. Railtel Corporation of India – Telecommunication Networks
  7. RITES Ltd. – Consulting Division of Indian Railways
  8. IRCON International Ltd. – Construction Division

Rail budget and finances

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Indian Rail network

The Railway Budget deals with the induction and improvement of existing trains and routes, the modernisation and most importantly the tariff for freight and passenger travel. The Parliament discusses the policies and allocations proposed in the budget. The budget needs to be passed by a simple majority in the Lok Sabha (India's Lower House). The comments of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) are non binding. Indian Railways are subject to the same audit control as other government revenue and expenditures. The dividends from the railways accrue to the state, and the subsidies and losses are also borne by it.

As per the Separation Convention, 1924, the Railway Budget is presented to the Parliament by the Union Railway Minister, two days prior to the General Budget, usually around 26 February. Though the Railway Budget is separately presented to the Parliament, the figures relating to the receipt and expenditure of the Railways are also shown in the General Budget, since they are a part and parcel of the total receipts and expenditure of the Government of India. This document serves as a balance sheet of operations of the Railways during the previous year and lists out plans for expansion for the current year.

The formation of policy and overall control of the railways is vested in Railway Board comprising the Chairman, Financial Commissioner and other functional Members for Traffic, Engineering, Mechanical, Electrical and Staff matters. As per the 2005 budget, Indian Railways earned Rs. 46,635 croresTemplate:Ref (US$10.7 billion), Rs. 1,838 cr (US$421.8 million) higher than budget estimates. Freight earnings increased from Rs. 28,745 cr (US$6.6 bn) to Rs. 30,450 cr (US$7 bn) from the previous year. Fund balances was at a figure of Rs. 6,963 cr (US$1.6 bn) while the working expenses rose by Rs. 400 cr. (US$91.8 mn). The freight growth was pegged at 7.67% raised from 580 to 600 million tonsTemplate:Ref.

Around 20% of the passenger revenue is earned from the upper class segments of the passenger segment (the air-conditioned classes). The overall passenger traffic grew 7.5% in the previous year. In the first two months of India's fiscal year 2005-06 (April and May), the Railways registered a 10% growth in passenger traffic, and a 12% in passenger earningsTemplate:Ref.

A new concern faced by Indian Railways is competition from low cost airlines that has recently made its dbut in India. In a cost cutting move, the Railways plans to minimise unwanted cessations, and scrap unpopular routes.

Current problems

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Level crossings like these usually see a high accident rate.

The main problem plaguing the Railways is the high accident rate which stands at about three hundredTemplate:Ref a year. Although rake accidents such as derailment and collisions are less common in recent times, many are run over by trains, especially in crowded areas. Indian Railways have accepted that given the size of operations, eliminating accidents is a chimerical idea, and at best they can only minimise the accident rate. Human error is the primary cause (83%)Template:Ref blamed for mishaps. The Konkan Railway route suffers from landslides in the monsoon season, which has caused fatal accidents in the recent past. Contributing to the Railways' problems are the antiquated communication, safety equipment and signalling systems. Ageing colonial-era bridges and century old tracks also require regular maintenance and upgrading.

Overcrowding is a big issue, with the General compartment often being packed beyond capacity. During the holiday seasons, reserved tickets have to be booked two months in advance, to avoid a generally static waiting list. During this season the reserved compartments are swamped by many without a reserved ticket. Railway ticket prices are particularly affected by the fact that India in general is a price-sensitive market. As a public utility, the government subsidises the prices as increasing ticket prices often translates into widespread discontent and most often political damage. This therefore imposes a strong constraint on the pace at which Indian railways can expand or modernize itself.

In many places, pedestrians, vehicles or cyclists may cut across the tracks to save time, causing a safety hazard to the railways. Reasons given are that suitable bridges or level crossings over the tracks are non-existent or inconveniently placed. Most railway land in India is not fenced or restricted in any way, allowing free trespass. In rural areas, cattle and other animals may stray onto the tracks, posing a much more serious safety hazard to fast-moving trains.

Sanitation is a big problem on Indian Railways. Due to the size of the network and low speeds, journeys can last many days. The toilets on Indian Railways trains are of the direct-vent type (i.e. a hole in the floor), without any effluent storage tanks on board. This causes an accumulation of human waste on the tracks in places where the train stands still, such as in large stations. Due to the number of users, the toilets are often in bad condition. Indian Railways is currently considering Eco-san toilets for its trains. This may become a catalyst for better and more environmentally friendly sanitation in the country.

See also

Notes

  1. Template:Note Guiness Book of World Records-2005, pg 93
  2. Template:Note Salient Features of Indian Railways (http://www.indianrail.gov.in/abir.html). Figures as of 2002.
  3. Template:Note Indian Railways stats (http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/railway/evolution/rail-network.htm)
  4. Template:Note Indian numbering system. 1 crore = 10,000,000
  5. Template:Note Highlights of the Railway budget, 2005-06 (http://exim.indiamart.com/budget-2005-06/rail-budget2005-06/rail-budget-05-06-highlights.html). (1 USD = 43.54 INR as of 2005-06-16).
  6. Template:Note Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1146548.cms)
  7. Template:Note Rail Budget 2005 (http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/railway/budget-2004/budget2004-2005.htm)
  8. Template:Note Frontline magazine online (http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2015/stories/20030801006911900.htm), Amulya Gopalakrishnan, Volume 20–Issue 15, July 19– August 01, 2003

References

External links

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