The Indian Railways (IR) is the world's largest railway system under single management and the largest employer in the world with approx. 1.33 million employees. India's as well as Asia's first train steamed off from Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) to Thane on April 16th, 1853 covering a distance of 34 kms. India's railway network grew rapidly to encompass a pan-Indian network of almost 40 000 kms. India and Japan have signed an agreement for the construction of a Shinkansen type highspeed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. This is one of seven corridors currently under consideration for highspeed train service.
IR carried approx. 22.2 million passengers daily (total 8.11 billion) in 2015-16 (Apr-Mar) out of which ca 45 % was non-suburban passenger traffic. IR's vast rail network (third largest in the world) encompassed 66 687 route kilometers (as on 31.3.16) of which 60 510 kms was broad gauge. 450 kms of new line became operational in 2013-14 and 1350 kms of existing lines were electrified. The network covers 7172 stations and is served by over 13 300 daily passenger (incl. 5 125 suburban EMU trains) and 7 400 freight trains. 23 555 route kilometers had been electrified by the end of Mar 2016 (mostly 25 kV AC overhead traction). IR's gross revenues amounted to approx. ₹ 1.64 trillion (ca USD 25½ bn) in 2015-16.
IR's passenger reservation system (PRS) is the largest of its kind in the world. IR's plan outlay for 2017-18 is approx. ₹ 1.31 trillion (ca USD 20 bn).
Revenue based freight carried amounted to 1102 million tons in 2015-16. The main commodities handled by IR during 2015-16 include coal (552 million tons), iron ores (117 MT), cement (105 MT), mineral oils (43 MT), foodgrains (46 MT), fertilizers (52 mt) and iron&steel (45 MT).
A new joint-venture plant for the manufacture of upto 5000 EMUs spanning 12 years is planned to be constructed at Kanchrapara, north of Kolkata. Bids of three consortia have been shortlisted and the contract is expected to be awarded in 2018.
Average Speed km/h (incl. stops)
|Scheduled Travel Time|
|Howrah (Kolkata)||Mumbai CST||Duronto Express||4xweekly||nonstop||1974||
|Mumbai Central||New Delhi||Rajdhani||Daily||5||1388||
|Howrah (Kolkata)||New Delhi||Rajdhani||6xweekly||6||1463||
|Kolkata Sealdah||New Delhi||Duronto||4xweekly||nonstop||1473||
|Kolkata Sealdah||New Delhi||Rajdhani||Daily||6||1473||
|Howrah (Kolkata)||Chennai Central||Coromandel||Daily||12||1665||
|New Delhi||Agra Cantt.||Bhopal Shatabdi||Daily||1||195||
|Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin||Agra Cantt.||Gatimaan Express||6xweekly||1||188||
|Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin||Chennai Central||Rajdhani||2xweekly||7||2166||
Indian Railways had till recently faced increased competition from low-cost airlines that were luring mainly first class passengers to shift to air travel. As a countermeasure, AC First fares were substantially lowered. Although Indian passenger trains are relatively slow in general, a few exceptions do exist. India's fastest train at present, the Gatimaan Express, attains a maximum speed of 160 km/h between Delhi and Agra. Rajdhani trains operate upto speeds of upto 130 km/h on certain sections. Gatimaan Express was launched in April 2016 and completes the 195 km journey from New Delhi Nizamudding to Agra Cantonment in 2 hours.
Humasafar Express trains comprise of modernized full 3-tier AC sleeper coaches.
India's longest scheduled single continous train journey can be experienced on the weekly Vivek Express, connecting Kanyakumari (southern tip of India) with Dibrugarh in Assam. The route distance of 4 282 kms is covered in 83 hours including 55 intermediate stops. IR operates fully airconditioned but affordable Garib Rath trains on selected routes medium/long distance routes. Fares on these trains are about 25 per cent lower than comparable AC 3-tier fares.
Indian Railways operates on three gauges: broad gauge (1.676 m), meter gauge (1.000 m) and narrow gauge (0.762 m and 0.610 m). All major routes are served by broad gauge (58 175 route kms at the end of 2013-14). Rolling stock incl. 5 714 diesel and 5 065 electric locomotives, over 60 000 EMU and conventional coaches and over 254 000 wagons in March 2015.
IR runs the 4xweekly Maitree Express train from Kolkata to Dhaka. Kolkata (Kolkata Station) and Khulna are now connected by rail for the first time since the Barisal Express ceased operations in 1965. The weekly Bandhan Express departs from both termini every Thursday.
|Zone||Headquarters||Route Kms (31.3.15)||Freight Carried
in Million Tons (2004-05)
|Central Railway||Mumbai (Chhatrapati Shivaji)||4 042||42.98|
|Eastern Railway||Kolkata||2 666||46.95¹|
|East Central||Hazipur||3 791||58.26|
|South East Central Railway||Bilaspur||2 489||92.52|
|West Central Railway||Jabalpur||2 995||19.97|
|North Central Railway||Allahabad||3 216||5.43|
|East Coast Railway||Bhubaneswar||2 679||70.46|
|Kolkata Metro Railway||Kolkata||27|
|Northern Railway||New Delhi||7 221||41.4|
|North Eastern Railway||Gorakhpur||3 869||2.06|
|North Western Railway||Jaipur||5 554||9.05|
|North East Frontier Railway||Maligaon-Guwahati||3 996||9.94|
|Southern Railway||Chennai||5 079||27.4¹||511¹|
|South Central Railway||Secunderabad||5 922||51|
|South Eastern Railway||Kolkata||2 722||85.86¹||157.6|
|South Western Railway||Hubli||3 322||31.75|
|Western Railway||Mumbai (Churchgate)||6 440||28.35|
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A new regulatory metro rail policy announced in August 2017 includes a list of points as base requirements for any future metro projects to be approved. Besides Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, all the other presently operating metro systems such as Jaipur, Lucknow and Chennai have low ridership despite each of these cities having a large population. A boost in ridership figures is expected once the metro systems are augmented in length and more public transport integration is put in place. Affordable ticket pricing is also a crucial factor in attracting more commuters. Less capital intensive modes of urban rail modes such as lightrail, tram, monorail or BRTS (bus rapid transit) are unfortunately still a rarity among Indian cities. A few cities have initiated BRTS usage incl. Bhopal, Surat, Rajkot, Indore, Ahmedabad and the upcoming BRTS in Hubbali-Dharwad. A single monorail line is operating in Mumbai and Kolkata is the sole city in India having a tram network albeit dated. Extensive and heavily used commuter rail (EMU/DEMU) systems operate in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and on a smaller scale in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
India's first underground rail system became operation on Oct 24 1984 with the opening of a 3.4 km section. The line was gradually extended to its present length of 28.1 kms in July 2013. The underground section of the first metro line was constructed using the cut and cover method. The north-south line connects Noapara with Kavi Subhash (New Garia) located in southern Kolkata and 22 stations in between. The line serves over 650 000 passengers on weekdays (Q1/2017 saw total patronage amounting to 67.1 m, ie 550 000 on a daily average). The 4.4 km long northern extension upto Dakshineswar is expected to be completed by mid-2019.
Construction of the long-awaited second line with a total length of 16.6 kms connecting Howrah Maidan and Bidhannagar Sector V (a hub for IT/technology companies) began in 2009. Plans are to interconnect the East-West Corridor line with the existing north-south line at the Esplanade metro station. The line would also facilitate a convenient link connecting Kolkata's two busy rail terminals, Howrah and Sealdah. Half of the proposed 12 stations would be underground while the other six would be elevated stations. The first phase of the line (Salt Lake Sector V to Salt Lake Stadium with a route length of 5.2 kms) is projected to be operational in June 2018 and the full line can be expected to be fully operational by end-2020. 10.8 kms of the line would be underground. An extension of the EW line has been proposed upto Haldiram's located a few kilometers from the airport. An interchange is planned near this proposed terminating station and the upcoming New Garia-Airport line. The three line underground intersection station at Esplanade is planned to feature a bus terminus and parking garage. BEML will supply standard gauge 14 rakes each consisting of 6 coaches for Line 2.
Three other lines are under various stages of construction although some of the sections are on hold. These lines include Line 3 from Joka to Majerhat (ca 9 kms) which is expected to become operational by the end of 2019, Line 6 from NSCB Airport to New Garia (32 kms), Line 4 from Jessore Rd to Noapara (5.3 kms - completion sometime in 2019 and the Airport extension is estimated to be completed by end-2020) continuing onwards to Barasat. Regarding Line 6, a 5 km stretch extending from Kavi Subhas to Hemendra Mukherjee (Ruby), is expected to be completed by mid-2019 while the second section of 10 kms upto Bidhannagar Sector V is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 followed with the completion of the remaining section upto the NSCBI airport.
The first of the new ICF made AC rakes arrived in July and another 15 have been ordered for Line 1 in addition to 14 and 10 new AC rakes ordered from Dalian and CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive respectively. The first rake from China is expected to be inducted into service by Feb 2018. Kolkata Metro has 27 rakes out of which 13 are 8-coach AC rakes and 23 are in operation. Some of the old rakes have been or are ongoing refurbising. 14 BEML manufactured rakes will be inducted into service for Line 2.
Archive photos and article of Calcutta Metro, including some from the inauguration day in 1984.