The Indian Railways (IR) is the world's largest railway system under single management and the largest employer in the world with approx. 1.3 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. 23.4 million booked passengers daily (total 8.43 billion) in 2013-14 (Apr-Mar) out of which ca 47 % was non-suburban passenger traffic. IR's vast rail network (third largest in the world) encompassed 66 030 route kilometers (as on 31.3.15) of which 58 825 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 12 800 daily passenger and 7400 freight trains. 28 416 route kilometers have been electrified as at Aug 2016 (mostly 25 kV AC overhead traction). IR's gross revenues amounted to approx. ₹ 1.6 trillion (ca USD 24 bn) in 2014-15.
IR's passenger reservation system (PRS) is the largest of its kind in the world. IR's plan outlay for 2016-17 amounts to ca ₹ 1.21 trillion (ca USD 18 bn).
Revenue based freight carried amounted to 1054 million tons in 2013-14. The main commodities handled by IR during 2013-14 include coal (508 million tons), raw materials for steel plants, finished steel, pig iron and iron ore (163 mt), cement (110 mt), oil and lubricants or POL (41 mt), fertilizers (45 mt), foodgrains (55 mt) and containers (44 mt).
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.
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.
|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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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 north-south line connects Noapara (extension is planned upto Dakshineswar) with Kavi Subhash (New Garia) located in southern Kolkata and 22 stations in between. The line serves over 650 000 passengers on weekdays.
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 Sealdah) is projected to be operational by mid-2018 while the line is expected to be fully operational by mid-2019. 10.8 kms of the line would be underground. Surface transport would be unobstructed due to the use of tunnel boring machinery. The rakes have been ordered from BEML. The underground section of the present metro line was constructed using the cut and cover method.
Three other lines are under various stages of construction altough some of the sections are on hold. These lines include Line 3 from Joka to Majerhat (7½ kms), Line 6 from NSCB Airport to New Garia (32 kms), Line 4 from NSCB Airport to Noapara ( 6.9 kms) and the northern extension of Line 1 from Noapara to Dakshineswar (3.8 kms). The present operative line 1 will receive 14 new AC rakes from Dalian, China with the first rake expected in June '17. 27 rakes (of which 14 are AC) are currently in use including a set of completely to be refurbished non-AC old rakes.