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Indian Railways

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Indian Railways
Native name
भारतीय रेल
Public sector
Industry Rail transport
Founded 8 May 1845 (172 years ago) (1845-05-08)[1]
Headquarters New Delhi, India
Area served
Key people
Services Passenger railways
Freight services
Parcel carrier
Catering and Tourism Services
Parking lot operations
Other related services
Revenue Increase 1.874 trillion (US$29 billion)[2] (2017–18)
Increase 64.25 billion (US$1.0 billion)[2] (2017–18)
Owner Government of India
Number of employees
1.308 million[3] (March 2016)
Parent Ministry of Railways through Railway Board
Divisions 17 zones
Railway network schematic map.png
Schematic network map
Indian Railways Network Connectivity Map with cities and population density.png
Map of Indian Railways network with population density
Reporting mark IR
Locale India
Dates of operation 16 April 1853 (1853-04-16)–Present
Track gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
762 mm (2 ft 6 in)
610 mm (2 ft)
Electrification 25,367 kilometres (15,762 mi)
Length 67,368 kilometres (41,861 mi) (route)[3]
93,902 kilometres (58,348 mi) (running track)
121,407 kilometres (75,439 mi) (total track)[3]

Indian Railways (IR) is India's national railway system operated by the Ministry of Railways. It manages the fourth-largest railway network in the world by size, with 121,407 kilometres (75,439 mi) of total track over a 67,368-kilometre (41,861 mi) route[3]. Thirty eight percent of the routes are electrified with 25 KV AC electric traction while thirty-three percent of them are double or multi-tracked [3]. All of the freight traffic and more than 99% of passenger traffic is carried on broad gauge, with short stretches of meter-gauge and narrow-gauge track carrying the remaining traffic[4].

IR runs more than 13,000 passenger trains daily, on both long-distance and suburban routes, from 7,349 stations across India[3]. The trains have a five-digit numbering system. Mail or express trains, the most common types, run at an average speed of 50.9 kilometres per hour (31.6 mph).[5] In the freight segment, IR runs more than 9,200 trains daily. The average speed of freight trains is around 24 kilometres per hour (15 mph).[6]

As of March 2017, IR's rolling stock consisted of 277,987 freight wagons, 70,937 passenger coaches and 11,452 locomotives[3]. IR owns locomotive and coach-production facilities at several locations in India.

The world's eighth-largest employer, it had 1.308 million employees as of March 2017.[3].

In the year ending March 2018, IR is projected to carry 8.26 billion passengers and transport 1.16 billion tons of freight [2]. In the fiscal year 2017-18, IR is projected to have earnings of 1.874 trillion (US$29 billion), consisting of 1.175 trillion (US$18 billion) in freight revenue and 501.25 billion (US$7.8 billion) in passenger revenue, with an operating ratio of 96.0 percent.[2]


The first railway proposals for India were made in Madras in 1832.[7] The country's first train, Red Hill Railway (built by Arthur Cotton to transport granite for road-building), ran from Red Hills to the Chintadripet bridge in Madras in 1837.[7] India's first passenger train, hauled by three steam locomotives (Sahib, Sindh and Sultan), ran for 34 kilometres (21 mi) with 400 people in 14 carriages on 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge track between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane on 16 April 1853.[8][9] The Dapoorie viaduct, India's first railway bridge, was built over the Ulhas River when the Mumbai-Thane line was extended to Kalyan in May 1854.[10] Eastern India's first passenger train ran 24 miles (39 km) from Howrah, near Kolkata, to Hoogly on 15 August 1854.[11] The first passenger train in South India ran 60 miles (97 km) from Royapuram- Veyasarapady (Madras) to Wallajah Road (Arcot) on 1 July 1856.[12] On 24 February 1873, a horse-drawn 3.8-kilometre (2.4 mi) tram opened in Calcutta between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street.[13] In 1897, lighting in passenger coaches was introduced by many railway companies. On 3 February 1925, the first electric passenger train in India ran between Victoria Terminus and Kurla.[14]

By the time of Indian Independence in 1947 from the British, a railway network of more than 58,000 km had been built primarily for developing the hinterlands and transporting agriculture produce,minerals, and troops to suppress uprisings.Private enterprise played  the  leading  role  in  railway construction during the early 19th century. Since the colonial government guaranteed a 5% return on investment, growth was phenomenal  in  the  early  stages[15].

The organisation of Indian railways into regional zones began in 1951,[16] when the Southern (14 April 1951), Central (5 November 1951) and Western (5 November 1951) zones were created.[17] Fans and lights were mandated for all compartments in all passenger classes in 1951, and sleeping accommodations were introduced in coaches. In 1956, the first fully air-conditioned train was introduced between Howrah and Delhi.[18] Ten years later, the first containerized freight service began between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. In 1986, computerized ticketing and reservations were introduced in New Delhi.[19] In 1988, the first Shatabdi Express was introduced between New Delhi and Jhansi; it was later extended to Bhopal.[20] Two years later, the first self-printing ticket machine (SPTM) was introduced in New Delhi. In 1993, air-conditioned three-tier coaches and a sleeper class (separate from second class) were introduced on IR. The CONCERT system of computerized reservations was deployed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in September 1996. In 1998, coupon validating machines (CVMs) were introduced at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. The nationwide Concierge system began operation on 18 April 1999. In February 2000, the Indian Railways website went online.[21] On 3 August 2002, IR began online train reservations and ticketing.[22]



Indian Railways is headed by a seven-member Railway Board whose chairman reports to the Ministry of Railways. IR is divided into 17 zones, headed by general managers report to the Railway Board.[23][24] The zones are further subdivided into 68 operating divisions, headed by divisional railway managers (DRM).[25][26][27] The divisional officers of the engineering, mechanical, electrical, signal and telecommunication, stores, accounts, personnel, operating, commercial, security and safety branches report to their respective DRMs and are tasked with the operation and maintenance of assets. Station masters control individual stations and train movements through their stations' territory. . In addition, there are a number of Production Units, Training Establishments, Public Sector Enterprises and other Offices working under the control of Railway Board[28].

Recruitment and training

Staff are classified into gazetted (Groups A and B) and non-gazetted (Groups C and D) employees.[29] . Gazetted employees carry out executive / managerial / supervisorial level tasks. Recruitment of Group A employees is carried out by the Union Public Service Commission by examination.[30] Recruitment of Group B section and junior engineers and depot material superintendents is conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board. IR Group C and D employees are recruited by 21 railway recruitment boards and cells, which are controlled by the Railway Recruitment Control Board (RRCB).[31] The training of all groups is shared among six centralised training institutes.

IR recruits for lower-level positions through its RRB NTPC (Railway Recruitment Board Non-Technical) examination.[32]

As of March 2017, number of personnel (Groups A & B) constitute 1.2% of the total strength, while Group C & D account for 92.6% and 6.2% respectively.[33]

Rolling stock


Light-coloured electric locomotive
WAP-7-class broad gauge AC electric locomotive
Blue diesel locomotive hauling a passenger train
WDM-3D broad-gauge diesel locomotive
Black steam locomotive at a station
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which uses one of India's few running steam locomotives

India uses electric and diesel locomotives, along with a few CNG (compressed natural gas) locomotives.[34] Steam locomotives are no longer in use, except in heritage trains. Locomotives in India are classified by gauge, motive power, the work they are suited for and their power or model number. Their four- or five-letter class name includes this information. The first letter denotes the track gauge; the second their motive power (diesel or electric), and the third their suitable traffic (goods, passenger, multi or shunting). The fourth letter denotes a locomotive's chronological model number. In 2002, a new classification was adopted in which the fourth letter indicates a newer diesel locomotive's horsepower range.

A locomotive may have a fifth letter in its name, denoting a technical variant, subclass or subtype (a variation in the basic model (or series) or a different motor or manufacturer). In the new diesel-locomotive classification, the fifth letter refines the horsepower in 100-hp increments: A for 100 hp, B for 200 hp, C for 300 hp an so on. In this classification, a WDM-3A is a 3100 hp, a WDM-3D a 3300 hp and a WDM-3F a 3600 hp locomotive.[a] Diesel locomotives are fitted with auxiliary power units, which save almost 88 percent of fuel during idle time when a train is not running.[35]

Goods wagons

As of March 2017, IR fleet consisted of 277,987 goods wagons. They carried 1,110 million tonnes of freight in Fiscal Year 2016-17[3]. Wagon types used by IR include BCACBM, BCCN, BCNA, BCNHL, BOBRN, BOBYN, BOXN (BOXN-HL, BOXN-HS, BOXN-HL, BOXN-CR, BOXN-LW, BOXN-AL, BOXN-EL), BRH, BTPGLN, BTPN and VVN.

IR’s bulk requirement of wagons is met by wagon manufacturing units both in public and private sectors as well as other Public Sector Units under the administrative control of Ministry of Railways [36].

Passenger coaches

IR has several types of passenger coaches, which are produced at Integral Coach Factory, Rail Coach Factory, Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli (including the new LHB coaches). Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) coaches are used for suburban traffic in large cities, mainly in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. These coaches, which numbered 7,793 on 31 March 2012, have second- and first-class seating.

On regional commuter routes, IR runs Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU) or Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains, depending on the traction available. These train sets are self-propelled with capability for faster acceleration or deceleration and are expected to reduce congestion on dense routes. Passenger locomotive-hauled trains, having frequent stops are slowly being replaced with train sets across India.[37]


The Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in Chittaranjan manufactures electric locomotives, and the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi makes Diesel and Electric locomotives. The Integral Coach Factory in Perambur (Chennai) makes monocoque coaches whose floor is part of the undercarriage. The Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala also makes coaches. The Rail Wheel Factory at Yelahanka, Bangalore and the Rail Wheel Plant, Bela in Chhapra, Bihar manufactures wheels and axles. the Diesel-Loco Modernisation Works in Patiala upgrades the WDM-2 locomotive from 2,600 to 3,100 hp. Some electric locomotives have been supplied by Bharat Heavy Electricals, and locomotive components are manufactured in other plants around the country.[38]

In November 2015, IR awarded USD 2.6bn locomotive supply and maintenance contract to General Electric. The contract stipulates that GE will import 40 locomotives and will produce another 960 over a period of 11 years in a new Diesel Locomotive Factory at Marhowra in the state of Bihar. On the same day, another USD 3bn contract has been awarded to Alstom SA to manufacture 800 high power electric locomotives (12000 HP) over 11 yeas in a new Electric Locomotive Factory at Madhepura.[39]



Drawing of different track widths
Comparison of gauges in India with standard gauge

The total track length of the IR network was 121,407 km (75,439 mi) while the total route length of the network was 67,368 km (41,861 mi) as of 31 March 2017.[4] Track sections are rated for speeds ranging from 80 to 200 km/h (50 to 124 mph), though the maximum speed attained by passenger trains is 180 km/h (110 mph).

1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in), (a broad gauge) is the predominant gauge used by IR with 112,388 km (69,835 mi) of track length (94% of entire track length of all the gauges) and 60,510 km (37,600 mi) of route-kilometre (91% of entire route-kilometre of all the gauges). It is the broadest gauge in passenger use in the world. The first railway line in India, from Bombay (Bori Bunder) to Thane in 1853, was broad gauge.

The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge and 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) and 610 mm (2 ft) narrow gauges are present on a decreasing number of routes. These were laid for cost considerations and simpler engineering. The metre gauge tracks were 4,747 km (2,950 mi) (4% of entire track length of all the gauges) and narrow gauges tracks were 2,495 km (1,550 mi) (2% of entire track length of all the gauges) as of 31 March 2016..[40]

Route-kilometre is less than track-kilometre because most routes have multiple parallel tracks for simultaneous running of two or more trains on the same route to enable high density traffic. Thus, a 1 route-km length may have equate to more than 1 track-km length.

Sleepers (ties) are mostly made of prestressed concrete. Metal and teak sleepers are in use on a few lines; these are under conversion to concrete sleepers.


As of 31 March 2017, IR has electrified 25,367 km (15,762 mi) of the route kilometers or 48,239 km (29,974 mi) of the total running track. India uses 25 kV AC traction on all its electrified tracks.[3]

Railway electrification in India began with the first electric train, between Bombay Victoria Terminus and Kurla on the Harbour Line, on 3 February 1925 on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) at 1500 V DC. Heavy gradients in the Western Ghats necessitated the introduction of electric traction on the GIPR to Igatpuri on the North East line and Pune on the South East line. On 5 January 1928 1500 V DC traction was introduced on the suburban section of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway between Colaba and Borivili, and between Madras Beach and Tambaram of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway on 11 May 1931, to meet growing traffic needs.

The 3000 V DC electrification of the Howrah-Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway was completed in 1958. The first 3000 V DC EMU service began on the Howrah-Sheoraphuli section on 14 December 1957.

Research and trials in Europe, particularly on French Railways (SNCF), indicated that 25 kV AC was an economical electrification system. Indian Railways decided in 1957 to adopt 25 kV AC as its standard, with SNCF their consultant in the early stages. The first 25 kV AC section was Raj Kharswan–Dongoaposi on the South Eastern Railway in 1960. The first 25 kV AC EMUs, for Kolkata suburban service, began service in September 1962. For continuity, the Howrah–Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway and the Madras Beach–Tambaram section of the Southern Railway were converted to 25 kV AC by 1968.

Because of limitations in the existing DC traction system, a decision was made to convert to 25 kV AC in 1996-97. The conversion from DC to AC traction was completed in 2012 by the Western Railway, and in 2016 by the Central Railway. The entire electrified mainline rail network in India uses 25 kV AC, and DC traction is used only for metros and trams.

Indian Railways announced on 31 March 2017 that the country's entire rail network would be electrified by 2022.[41]

Signaling systems

IR primarily uses coloured signal lights, which replaced semaphores and disc-based signalling (dependent on position or colour).[42] Except for high-traffic sections around large cities and junctions, the network does not use automatic block signaling. However, signals at stations are almost always interlocked with the setting of points and safety does not depend on station-master skill. With the planned introduction of cab signalling and anti-collision devices, the risk of drivers overshooting signals would be eliminated.

Coloured signalling uses multi-coloured lighting, and is often automatically controlled. It has three modes:[42]

  • Two-aspect signalling, which uses a red (bottom) and green (top) lamp
  • Three-aspect signalling, which uses an additional amber lamp in the centre
  • Four- (or multiple-)aspect signalling uses four lamps; the fourth (amber) lamp is above the other three.

Multiple-aspect signals, by providing intermediate speed stages between 'clear' and 'on', allow high-speed trains sufficient time to brake safely if required (important as train speeds increase). Without multiple-aspect signals, stop signals must be placed far apart to allow sufficient braking; this reduces track utilisation. Slower trains may be run closer together with multiple-aspect signals.

Links with adjacent countries

Existing links:

Proposed links:


Passenger service


See caption
Interior of a first-class compartment on the Rajdhani Express
Train compartment with two seats and a bed
Interior of a three-tier compartment on the Dakshin Express
Train car with many passenger seats
Interior of an air-conditioned chair-car coach on the Jan Shatabdi Express

IR has several classes of travel, with or without air-conditioning. A train may have one or several classes. Slow passenger trains have only unreserved seating, and the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Garib Rath Express, Duronto Express, Double Decker Express, Tejas Express, Humsafar Express and Yuva Express have only air-conditioned classes. Fares for all classes differ, and unreserved seating is the least expensive. Fares for the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains include food. In September 2016, IR introduced dynamic fares for the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains (except 1AC and EC classes) to increase revenue.[47] Long-distance trains usually include a pantry car, and food is served at the berth or seat itself. Luxury trains (such as Palace on Wheels) have separate dining cars, but these trains cost as much as—or more than—a five-star hotel room.

A standard passenger rake has four unreserved (general) compartments, two at the front and two at the rear (one of which may be for women). The number of other coaches varies by demand and route. A luggage compartment may be at the front or the rear. On some mail trains, a separate mail coach is attached. Lavatories are communal, and Indian- and Western-style. The classes in operation are (although a train may not have all these classes):

Class[48] Description[49][50]
1A AC first class: The most expensive class, with fares are almost at par with airfares. There are eight cabins (including two coupes) in full AC first class coach and three cabins (including one coupe) in the half AC first class coach. The coach has an attendant, and bedding is included in the fare. This air-conditioned coach, present only on popular routes, can carry 18 (full coach) or 10 passengers (half coach).
EA Anubhuthi: Air-conditioned top-end class of Shatabdi Express. These coaches were introduced in January 2018. First train to get these coaches is Chennai Central–Mysuru Shatabdi Express
2A AC two tier: These air-conditioned coaches have sleeping berths across eight bays. Berths are usually arranged in two tiers in bays of six: four across the width of the coach and two lengthwise across the corridor, with curtains along the corridor. Bedding is included in the fare. A coach can carry 48 (full coach) or 20 passengers (half coach).
FC First class: Similar to 1A, but without air-conditioning. No bedding is available in this class, and the berths are narrower than 1A. There is an attendant, and only heritage trains still have this class.
3A AC three tier: Air-conditioned coaches with 64 sleeping berths. Berths are similar to 2A, but with three tiers across the width and two lengthwise for eight bays of eight. They are slightly less well-appointed, usually with no reading lights or curtains. Bedding is included in the fare.
3E AC three tier (economy): Air-conditioned coaches with sleeping berths on the Garib Rath Express. Berths are usually arranged as in 3A, but with three tiers across the width and three llengthwise. Appointments are similar to 3A, and bedding is not included.
EC Executive chair car: An air-conditioned coach with spacious seats and legroom. With four seats in a row, it is used for intercity day travel and is available on the Tejas and Shatabdi Express.
CC AC chair car: An air-conditioned coach with five seats in a row, used for intercity day travel. Air-conditioned double-deck coaches are used on the Double Decker Express.
SL Sleeper class: The sleeper class is the most common coach on IR, with ten or more SL coaches attached to a train rake. They are sleeping coaches with three berths across the width and two lengthwise, without air-conditioning. They carry 72 passengers per coach.
2S Second seater: similar to CC, without air-conditioning. Double-deck second seaters are used on the Flying Ranee.
UR/GEN Unreserved/General: The least-expensive accommodation, with a seat not guaranteed. Tickets are valid on any train on a route if used within 24 hours of purchase.

At the rear of the train is the guard's cabin. It contains a transceiver, and is where the guard usually gives the all-clear signal before the train departs.

Train types

Red-and-silver passenger train
The Mumbai Rajdhani Express. The long-distance, high-speed Rajdhani Expresses connect state capitals and large cities with New Delhi.
Green-and-yellow passenger train
Secunderabad-Yeshwanthpur Garib Rath Express, an economy air-conditioned train

Trains are sorted into categories which dictate the number of stops on a route, their priority on the network and their fare structure. Each express train is identified by a five-digit number, with the first digit 1 or 2 for long-distance express trains. If the first digit is 0, the train is a special. A first digit of 5 denotes a passenger train. The second digit indicates the zone operating the train, the third digit the division within the zone which is responsible for maintenance and cleanliness, and the last two digits are the train's serial number.[51] The system was changed from four digits from 20 December 2010,[52] to accommodate an increasing number of trains.

For high-speed trains, the second digit is either 0 or 2 (the first remains 1 or 2);[51] the third digit is the zone, the fourth is the division and the last digit is the serial number within the division. Trains travelling in opposite directions along the same route are usually labelled with consecutive numbers.[51] However, there is considerable variation in train numbers; some zones, such as Central Railway, have a less-systematic method of numbering trains.[51] Most express trains are also named.[53][54]

Trains are classified by average speed.[55] A faster train has fewer stops (halts) than a slower one, and is usually used for long-distance travel. Train Description
1 Train 18 and Train 20 Special designed Electric multiple unit trains to replace current Rajdhani and Shatabdi service. These trains will operate at 160 km/h (99 mph) and will be air conditioned with automatic sliding doors and will have modern facilities on board. [56]
2 Tejas Express A semi-high-speed, air-conditioned train which had its inaugural run on 24 May 2017, covering 551.7 kilometres (343 mi) in eight hours, 30 minutes. Coaches have bio-vacuum toilets, water-level indicators, tap sensors, hand dryers, integrated Braille displays, an LED TV for each passenger with a phone jack, local cuisine, Wi-Fi, tea and coffee vending machines, magazines, snack tables, CCTV cameras and a fire and smoke detection and extinguishing system.
3 Gatimaan Express The first semi-high-speed, air-conditioned train running between Delhi and Agra. With a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), it is India's fastest train and takes 100 minutes to cover 188 km (117 mi).
4 Shatabdi Express Air-conditioned, intercity trains for daytime travel. Unlike the Rajdhani or Duronto Expresses, the Shatabdi expresses make a round trip on the same day. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express (train number 12001/12002) is India's second-fastest train between New Delhi and Agra, with an average speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) and a top speed of 150 kilometres per hour (93 mph). The limited-stop trains have Wi-Fi.[57]
5 Rajdhani Express Limited-stop, air-conditioned trains linking major cities to New Delhi, they have a top speed of 130–140 km/h (81–87 mph). The 2014 railway budget proposed increasing the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Expresses to 180 km/h (110 mph).
6 Duronto Express Non-stop (except for technical halts) service introduced in 2009. In January 2016, it became possible to book tickets from those technical stops. They connect India's metros and major state capitals, and were introduced to equal (or exceed) the speed of the Rajdhani Express. With air-conditioned one-, two- and three-tier seating, some have non-air-conditioned sleeper-class accommodations.
7 Humsafar Express Air-conditioned, three-tier coach trains with LED screens displaying information about stations and train speed, a PA system, vending machines for tea and coffee, charging ports for electronic devices, bio-toilets, smoke alarms, CCTV cameras, curtains and heating and refrigeration facilities for food.
8 AC Express Air-conditioned, limited-stop trains linking major cities, with a speed of about 130 km/h (81 mph).
9 Double Decker Express Air-conditioned, limited-stop, two-tier express trains for daytime travel
10 Uday Express Air Conditioned double decker train for over night travel.
11 Garib Rath Air-conditioned, economy, three-tier trains with a top speed of 130 km/h (81 mph)
12 Yuva Express Introduced with the Duronto Express to provide air-conditioned travel to young Indians, 60 percent of its seats were reserved for passengers between 18 and 45 years of age. The trains were unsuccessful, and operate only on the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes.
13 Jan Shatabdi Express A more-economical version of the Shatabdi Express, with air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned classes and a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph)
14 Sampark Kranti Express Express service to New Delhi
15 Kavi Guru Express Introduced in honor of Rabindranath Tagore, four pairs of the trains operate on the network.
16 Vivek Express Introduced to commemorate the 150th birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013, four pairs of Vivek Expresses run in the country.
17 Rajya Rani Express Introduced to connect state capitals to major cities in that state.
18 Mahamana Express Superfast train with Indian Railways ModelRake coaches
19 Intercity Express Introduced to connect major cities on short routes with high and semi-high speeds. Trains include the Deccan Queen, Flying Ranee and Bilaspur Nagpur Intercity Express.
20 Antyodaya Express Non-reserved, high-speed LHB coaches on peak routes to ease congestion
21 Jan Sadharan Express Non-reserved express trains on peak routes to ease congestion
22 Premium Express High priority trains with dynamic pricing on high demand routes. These trains are also called as Suvidha Express
23 Superfast Express/Mail Trains with a speed greater than 100–110 km/h (62–68 mph), whose tickets have a superfast surcharge
24 Express/Mails India's most common train type, with stops at relatively-important intermediate stations
25 Fast Passenger and Passenger Slow, economical trains which stop at every (or almost every) station on a route. With generally-unreserved seating, some night trains have sleeper and three-tier air-conditioned compartments. The trains travel at about 40–80 km/h (25–50 mph).
26 Suburban trains These trains operate in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Pune and between Kanpur and Lucknow, usually stop at every station, and have unreserved seating.
27 Metro Designed for urban transport, the first metro was the Kolkata Metro.
28 Luxury Trains IR operates luxury trains, such as the Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Maharaja Express, Deccan Odyssey, The Golden Chariot and the Mahaparinirvan Express. The Fairy Queen, a tourist attraction as the world's oldest operating steam engine, hauls a luxury train from Delhi to Alwar.
29 Mountain railways Three of the lines were declared a World Heritage site as Mountain Railways of India by UNESCO.[58]


Luxury passenger train at a station
The Maharajas' Express

The Palace on Wheels is a luxury-train service, frequently hauled by a steam locomotive, to promote tourism in Rajasthan.[59] The train has a seven-night, eight-day itinerary on a round trip from New Delhi via Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra.

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels covers a number of tourist destinations in Rajasthan. The seven-day, eight-night tour is a round trip from New Delhi's Safdarjung station via Jodhpur, Udaipur and Chittaurgarh, Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Sarnath, and Agra.[60]

Maharajas' Express, a luxury train operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), runs on five routes[61] to about 12 destinations across north-West and central India (centered around Rajasthan) from October to April.

The Deccan Odyssey covers tourist destinations in Maharashtra and Goa. Its seven-night, eight-day tour begins in Mumbai and stops at Jaigad Fort, Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Tarkarli and Sawantwadi, Goa, Kolhapur and Pune (Day 5), Aurangabad and Ellora Caves, and Ajanta Caves and Nashik.[62] The Golden Chariot runs on two tours: Pride of the South[63] and Splendor of the South.[64]

The Mahaparinirvan Express, an air-conditioned service also known as the Buddhist Circuit Train, is run by the IRCTC for Buddhist pilgrims. Its seven-night, eight-day tour begins in New Delhi and visits Bodh Gaya, Rajgir and Nalanda, Varanasi and Sarnath, Kushinagar and Lumbini, Sravasti and the Taj Mahal.[65]


See caption
IR ticket from Chennai Central to Vijayawada by Howrah Mail

India has some of the lowest train fares in the world, and passenger traffic is subsidised by higher-class fares.[66] Until the late 1980s, Indian Railways ticket reservations were made manually. In late 1987, IR began using a computerised ticketing system. The system went online in 1995 to provide current information on status and availability. The ticketing network at stations is computerised with the exception of remote areas, for which passengers can use the UMANG mobile app. Computerized tickets can be booked between any two points in the country. Tickets may also be booked on the Internet and via mobile phones for an additional fee.

Discounted tickets are available for senior citizens (over age 60), the disabled, students, athletes and those taking competitive examinations. One compartment of the lowest class of accommodation is earmarked for women on every passenger. Some berths (or seats) in sleeper and second class are also reserved for women.[67] Season tickets, permitting unlimited travel on specific sections or specific trains for a specific time, may also be available. Foreign tourists may purchase an Indrail Pass,[68] modelled on the Eurail Pass, permitting unlimited travel in India for a specific time.

For long-distance travel, berths may be reserved within 120 days of departure.[67] A passenger's name, age and reason for discount (if eligible) are recorded on the ticket. Ticket prices usually include the base fare, which depends on train classification (super-fast tickets have a surcharge), seating class and a reservation charge for overnight trips.

If a seat is not available, the ticket has a wait-list number; otherwise it is confirmed, with a berth number on the ticket. A person with a wait-listed ticket must wait for enough cancellations to obtain a confirmed ticket.[67][68] If their ticket is not confirmed on the day of departure, they cannot board the train. Reservation against Cancellation tickets, between the waiting and confirmed lists,[67][68] allow a ticket holder to board the train and obtain a seat chosen by a ticket collector after the collector has found a vacant seat.

Reserved tickets may be booked on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation website,[69] on mobile phones and SMS. Tickets are categorised as iTickets and eTickets. iTickets, booked by a passenger, are printed and delivered to the passenger before a trip; eTickets are printed by a passenger. Travelling on an eTicket requires valid photo identification. eTickets are also cancelled online. Unreserved tickets may be purchased on the platform at any time before departure, and unreserved ticket holders may only board the general compartment. Suburban networks issue unreserved tickets, valid for a limited time. For commuters, a monthly (or quarterly) pass provides unlimited travel between two stops.

Freight services

In the freight segment, IR ferries various commodities and fuels in industrial, consumer and agricultural segments across the length and breadth of India. IR has historically subsidised the passenger segment with income from the freight business. As a result, freight services are unable to compete with other modes of transport on both cost and speed of delivery, leading to continuous erosion of market share[70]. To counter this downward trend, IR has started new initiatives in freight segments including upgrading of existing goods sheds, attracting private capital to build multi-commodity multi-modal logistics terminals, changing container sizes, operating time-tabled freight trains and tweaking with the freight pricing/product mix [71]. Also, end-to-end integrated transport solutions such as roll-on, roll-off (RORO) service, a road-rail system pioneered by Konkan Railway Corporation in 1999 to carry trucks on flatbed trailers [72], is now being extended to other routes across India.

Perhaps the game changer for IR in the freight segment, are the new dedicated freight corridors that are expected to be completed by 2020. When fully implemented, the new corridors, spanning around 3300km, could support hauling of trains up to 1.5km in length with 32.5 ton axle-load at speeds of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph)[73]. Also, they will free-up capacity on dense passenger routes and will allow IR to run more trains at higher speeds. Additional corridors are being planned to augment the freight infrastructure in the country.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

IR has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai[74] and the mountain railways of India.[75] The latter are three rail lines in different parts of India: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a 610 mm (2 ft) narrow-gauge railway in the Lesser Himalayas of West Bengal; the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge rack railway in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, a 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow-gauge railway in the Siwalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh.[75]


IR carries an annual debt of over 200 billion (US$3.1 billion). The passenger division lost 300 billion (US$4.7 billion) in FY 2013-2014, leading to a 23 paise (0.36¢ US) loss per passenger-km and a cash surplus of 6.9 billion (US$110 million).[76] Its operating ratio was 109 percent from April to December 2016.[77] It's accounting systems are allegedly outdated.[78]

Between 2004 and 2014, 99 new rail projects were announced in the annual Rail Budgets without additional funding. One project has been completed; the remaining 98 will require 5 trillion (US$78 billion), including four projects which were 30 years old in 2014.[76] IR is losing passenger and freight market share to other modes of transport.[79]

According to the Report of High Level Safety Review Committee of 2012, from 2007–08 to October 2011 casualties in train accidents accounted for 1,019 deaths and 2,118 injuries. In the same period 1,600 railway staff were killed and 8,700 injured. The committee estimated that almost 15,000 persons get killed each year by what is called unlawful trespassing.[80] A Daily Telegraph article[81] stated that Indian Railway officials believe that a large proportion of bodies found dead on railways died elsewhere and were put on the railway in dishonest attempts to get compensation from the railway authorities and companies.

IR carries out various activities that are essentially uneconomic in nature, where it is either not able to recover the costs (capital investments/operating costs) it incurs to deliver such services, or ends up foregoing revenues. Such activities, termed by IR as Social Service Obligations, include concessional tariffs for a few passenger segments or essential commodities and services in uneconomical train routes.[82] While the assessment of actual losses to meet social service obligations requires a scientific study, the estimation of such losses from IR for the fiscal year 2016-17 is 296.3 billion (US$4.6 billion). [83]


IR's Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) undertakes research, design and standardisation. The railway has undertaken several initiatives to upgrade its ageing infrastructure and improve its quality of service. The Indian government plans to invest 9.05 trillion (US$140 billion) to upgrade IR by 2020.[84]


Infrastructure modernisation projects include high-speed rail, with the first Ahmdabad-Mumbai train in operation in 2022;[85][86][87] redevelopment of 400 stations by monetizing 2,700 acres (1,100 ha) of spare railway land under a 1,070,000 crore (US$167 billion) plan;[88] doubling tracks to reduce congestion and delays while improving safety (15,000 km of double track existed in 2016, and funding for 12,500 km more was approved that year);[89] the refurbishing of 12- to 15-year-old coaches at the Carriage Rehabilitation Workshop in Bhopal to enhance passenger amenities and fire safety;[90][91] Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled tracking of trains to improve safety and service;[92] Digital India-driven 3,500,000 million (US$55 billion) digitalisation of the railway to improve efficiency and reduce cost;[89] rainwater harvesting, with 1885 systems installed by December 2016,[93] and reforestation of railway land and along the tracks.[94]

Electrification and power

All routes will be electrified to save on imported-fuel costs (48 percent of the network was electrified by May 2016, with full electrification planned by March 2021.[89] Off-the-grid Solar-powered trains are planned with the installation of one gigawatt of solar and 130 megawatts of wind power between 2017 and 2022; India introduced the world's first solar-powered train and 50 coaches with rooftop solar farms in June 2017.[95][96][97] Rooftop solar electricity is planned at stations to reduce long-term fuel costs and protect the environment,[98] and sustainable LED lighting at all stations is planned by March 2018 to cut electricity costs.[99] Locomotive factories have been modernised, including two new factories in Bihar: an electric locomotive factory in Madhepura and a diesel locomotive factory in Marhaura, and 2,285 bio-toilets were introduced from April to July 2014.[100][101][102] A 200 billion (US$3.1 billion) partnership with Alstom to supply 800 electric locomotives from 2018 to 2028 was announced.[84]


Safety projects include the elimination of an average of 1,217 unguarded level crossings per year by building an average of 1,066 overpasses and underpasses per year;[103][89] an automated fire alarm system on Rajdhani Express trains was begun in 2013, extending to the air-conditioned coaches of all trains,[104] and 6,095 GPS-enabled Fog Pilot Assistance System railway signalling devices (replacing the practice of placing firecrackers on tracks to alert train drivers) installed in 2017 in four zones: Northern, North Central, North Eastern and North Western.[105]

See also


  1. ^ This classification system does not apply to steam locomotives, which retained their original class names (such as M class or WP class).


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Further reading

  • Aguiar, Marian. Tracking Modernity: India's Railway and the Culture of Mobility (University of Minnesota Press; 2011) 226 pages; draws on literature, film, and other realms to explore the role of the railway in the Indian imagination. excerpt and text search
  • Bear, Linda. Lines of the Nation: Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Kerr, Ian J. Railways in Modern India (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Kerr, Ian J. Engines of Change: The Railroads That Made India (2006)
  • Kumar, Sudhir, and Shagun Mehrotra. Bankruptcy to Billions: How the Indian Railways Transformed Itself (2009)
  • "IR History: Early Day". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 19 June 2005. 
  • "Zones". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Locomotives". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Production Units & Workshops". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Signalling Systems". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Geography : International". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Rolling stock". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Signal Aspects and Indications – Principal Running Signals". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 26 June 2005. 
  • "Salient Features of Indian Railways". Indian Railways. Archived from the original on 18 June 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2005. 
  • "Indian Railways Online Passenger Reservation Site". Indian Railways. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2005. 

External links

  • Indian Railways Live Information, Official website
  • Ministry of Indian Railways, Official website
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