Rail travel is the backbone of the transportation industry in India without a doubt! There is possibly no Indian reading this article on Voxytalksy who hasn’t traveled on an Indian train! If you haven’t done so yet, try it because traveling in a ‘desi’ train is a life experience in itself.
Coming to facts about the Indian Railways (IR), it is operated by the Ministry of Railways and is the fourth-largest railway network in the world (after the United States of America, China, and Russia) by size (121,407 km. of total track over a 67,368-kilometre route) which ferries more than 13,000 passenger trains (long-distance and suburban routes) daily across 16 zones! It carries over 25 million passengers and 3 million tons of freight every single day and the network’s span of 67,368 kilometers is more than the circumference of the Earth! It is the second-largest rail network in Asia!
A network of 7,349 railway stations across India manage roughly 12,617 trains (each with a five-digit numbering system for identification) with supreme efficacy to help passengers reach their destinations on time. In the freight segment, IR operates roughly 9,241 trains daily. It is the world’s eighth-largest employer and has 1.308 million employees on its payroll as of March 2017.
Let’s dig into some more facts about our very own railway system:
• Lord Dalhousie was the first to propose the idea of opening up a means of railway communication in India in 1843 when he proposed to link the three main ports of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras by a railway line.
• The first-ever railroad was constructed by two Indians – Nana Jaganath Shunkerseth and Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy when they planned to start Railways in India with the help of the British Govt. of that time. This led to the incorporation of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIP). After lots of planning and deliberation, the Bombay Line was ready by November 1852. On November 18, a few engineers of the GIP Company conducted a trial run between Bombay and Thane, but officially, the first passenger train in India (and in Asia) was flagged off on April 16, 1853, a Saturday, at 3:35 pm. – Wikipedia
• The first-ever train (mentioned above) to ply on Indian soil ran for 33 kilometers between the cities of Bombay (Bori Bunder station) and Thane on the 16th of April 1853 (165 years ago). The train had 14 railway carriages (made by the Vulcan Foundry, England) and was pulled by three steam engines (Sindh, Sahib, and Sultan) which carried around 400 guests to their destination. The journey took approximately 45 minutes to complete.
• Indian trains got toilets after the Indian Railways completed 50 years in 1909 when an angry complaint by a person called Okhil Chandra Sen changed things. He apparently missed his train due to the absence of a toilet onboard his train as he had to relieve himself out in the open.
• Indian Railways has one of the oldest preserved locomotives in the world called the Fairy Queen made in 1855. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the oldest functioning steam engine in the world! It was built in 1855 by Kinston, Thompson & Hewitson, a British firm working for the East India Railways. It currently plies between New Delhi and Alwar in Rajasthan.
• Between 1854 and 1860, India consisted of eight railway companies – Eastern India Railway, Great India Peninsula Company, Madras Railway, Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway, Scindia Railway, Eastern Bengal Eastern Railway and Calcutta and South Railway Company. – Wikipedia.
• Between 1869 and 1881, the British government operating the East India Company laid more lines to connect major railway stations across the country,
• The first-ever electric train in India ran between Bombay (Victoria Terminus) and Kurla for a distance of 16 km, on February 3, 1925.
• The first-ever railway budget was presented in 1925 when a committee headed by William Acworth (a world-renowned Economist) in 1920 suggested administrative changes to separate railway finances from general finances of the East India Company.
• During the partition of India, the British divided the nation into two countries, India and Pakistan. As a result of this, two of the biggest railway systems – Bengal Assam Railway and North Western Railway were broken and a large part of the Jodhpur Railway was given to West Pakistan (modern Day Pakistan). A large chunk of the Bengal Assam Railway was given to East Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh).
• The Indian Railways was nationalized in 1951 and is the world’s second-largest network that is operated under a single management.
• Computerized rail ticket reservation began in 1986.
• The first live televised Railway Budget was telecast on 24 March 1994 and was presented by Lalu Prasad Yadav the-then Railway Minister. He remained the Railway Minister from 2004 to May 2009 and presented the Railway Budget 6 times in a row.
• Samjhuata Express also dubbed as the ‘Friendship Express’ is a train that was started almost 40 years ago on July 22, 1976, under the Shimla Agreement. It is a twice-weekly train that runs on Wednesday and Sunday from Old Delhi Junction to Atari Shyam Singh (1st originating train which is the Delhi-Atari Express) and then after border and customs checks, continues from Attari to Lahore (2nd continuation train which is the actual Samjhauta Express). Originally, a single train used to ply from Delhi to Lahore, but this was stopped after disturbances in Punjab in the late eighties and other security issues. Now, the Indian Railways terminates the service at Attari for customs and immigration clearances after which a new train embarks on the actual journey from Atari to Lahore. The services are handled for six months each by the Indian Railways (IR) and Pakistan Railways (PR) where an Indian and a Pakistani rake and locomotive for the train are alternately used each half of the year.
Local and World Records
• The Mumbai Suburban railway is considered as the oldest railway system of Asia.
• The world’s highest rail bridge runs over Chenab River in Jammu & Kashmir’s Reasi district and is known as the Chenab Bridge. It is 359 meters (1,180 feet) above the riverbed and is estimated to be five times the height of Qutub Minar and at least 35 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.
• The IR transports almost 2.5 crore (25 million) passengers daily and this is more than the entire population of Australia!
• The New Delhi Railway Station has the world’s largest Route Relay Interlocking System according to the Guinness Book of Records.
• The Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari Vivek Express is the longest-ever train route in the entire Indian Subcontinent traveling from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari over a distance of 4273 km! It has an official runtime of 82 hours and 30 minutes!
• The shortest-ever train route run by the IR is the intercity train system between Nagpur and Ajni stations which are situated just 3km apart from each other.
• The Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta railway station of Andhra Pradesh has the longest name amongst all railway stations in India.
• The Ib Railway station of Odisha has the shortest name of all stations on the Indian Railways system.
• The Mughalsarai Junction railway station houses Asia’s largest railway marshaling yard.
• The fastest train in India is the Agra Cantonment – H. Nizamuddin Gatimaan Express which has a maximum speed of 160 km/h and an average speed of 112 km/h.
• The Slowest train in India is the Mettupalayam Ooty Nilgiri or the Ooty Toy train which runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty covering a distance of just 46 km. in 4h 50m since it travels at a maximum speed of 10 km. per hour only!
• The world’s longest railway platform is situated at the Gorakhpur Junction railway station which has a length of 1,366.33 m!
• The highest railway station in India is the Ghum Railway station of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which sits at an altitude of 2,258 meters (7,407 ft). It is situated close to the Ghum Monastery.
• The junction with most number of train routes originating from it is the Mathura junction with 7 routes- Broad Gauge (BG) line to Agra Cantt, BG line to Bharatpur, BG line to Alwar, BG line to Delhi, Metre Gauge (MG) line to Achnera, MG line to Vrindavan and MG line to Hathras, Kasganj. – Wikipedia
• The busiest junction in the nation is Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which caters to over 64 trains every day!
• The Northernmost railway station of India is Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir. The Southernmost railway station is Kanyakumari. The Easternmost station is Ledo near Tinsukia. The Westernmost railway station is Naliya near Bhuj in Gujarat.
• The longest rail bridge in India is the Vembanad Rail Bridge of Kerala with a total length of 4.62 km.! Very soon, this record will be held by the Bogibeel Bridge running over the Brahmaputra River for 4940 meters when it gets completed.
• The Pamban Bridge (a cantilever bridge on the Palk Strait measuring 2.345 km long) is the first-ever sea bridge in India (built in 1914) that connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island in Tamil Nadu. It took over 14 years to be completed and operates in the world’s second-most corrosive environment after the Florida Keys and is situated in a cyclone-prone and high wind velocity zone.
• The longest railway tunnel in India is the Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel which runs for over 11.215 km inside the middle-Himalayas.
• The total distance covered by IR daily is at least as thrice the distance between earth and the moon!
• The track length of IR from North to the South, East to the West and other crisscrossing routes can circle the Earth’s equator one-and-a-half times!
• The Kolkata Metro operated under the IR has a section of 1,500 ft. the metro line under the Hooghly River running between the Howrah station and Mahakaran station.
• The Trivandrum – Hazrat Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express travels on the Vadodara-Kota stretch of 528 km without a single stop!
• The Howrah-Amritsar Express has a maximum of 111 stops since the train passes through three railway zones – ER, ECR and NR plus it has a total travel time of over 3 days!
• The National Rail Museum in Delhi is the largest rail museum in Asia! Set up in 1977, it is sprawled over an area of 11 acres and has a vast collection of antique locomotives, carriages, steam engines, decorations and photographs related to the heritage of the Indian Railways.
• Loco-pilots (train drivers) generally earn more than an average software engineer in India! Loco-pilots earn up to Rs. 1 Lakh per month and software engineers generally have a base salary of Rs. 35,000-48,000.
• The Navapur railway station is built in 2 states! One half of it is in Maharashtra (Dhule) and the other half is in Gujarat (Surat). WOW!
• The Double Diamond crossing in Nagpur is considered as the mid-point of the Indian Railway network where many trains going to the North, South, East, and West of India connect with each other. The east-west line is called the Mumbai – Howrah main line and the north-south line is called the Udhampur – Kanyakumari mainline. There are two more Single Diamond crossings in India at New Delhi and Ernakulam.
• The IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation) official website gets more than 12 lakh hits per minute which is why it is so tough to book a ticket on it.
• The Red Ribbon Express was launched on World AIDS Day (December 1, 2007) to create awareness among Indians about the perils of contracting HIV-AIDS.
• The IR fuel consumption bill is close to $4.7 billion each financial year! The Rail Ministry is now looking forward to introducing more electric trains and solar-paneled coaches to reduce the reliance of Indian trains on fossil fuels.
• The IR mascot, ‘Bholu’ is an elephant because when there were no train signaling systems in India, elephants used to position the rail cartridges on the tracks.
• The IR has many luxury and heritage trains plying all across heritage routes of India like the Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Maharaja’s Express, Deccan Odyssey, etc. The Maharaja’s Express inaugurated in 2010 recently won the Seven Stars Global Luxury Award in the luxury train category.
• The Ahmedabad to Mumbai Central Double Decker Express is India’s first-ever double Decker train.
• Four IR buildings are UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites in itself! They are the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Mumbai CST Building, Kalka-Shimla Railways, and the Neelgiri Mountain .
In the wake of India’s ever-rising population and stress on limited natural resources, the IR is planning to execute major steps for augmenting the railway network in order to meet the objectives of the National Rail Plan (NRP-2030) propounded by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi and ex-Railway Minister of India, Suresh Prabhu. This will be done by long-term perspective planning in consultation with all the IR stakeholders including State Governments, public representatives, Central Ministries and the general public.
The NRP-2030 aims to develop and integrate the rail network with various other modes of transport that will synergize a multi-modal transportation network across the country. This will help in cost optimization of the transportation network and also reduce stress on fossil fuels.
Here are some outlines of the plan currently under development:
1) New railway lines, highways, mega-bridges, and tunnels will be constructed over 52000 kilometers to de-stress the railways and offer end-to-end connectivity for passengers traveling to and from remote areas.
2) Separately Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) will be built to segregate goods and passenger traffic to increase the mobility of freight goods across the country. These will be managed by privately managed freight terminals to reduce the load on current railway freight transport capacity.
3) All major railway stations will be upgraded to category A & A-1 and will be developed in the PPP (public-private partnership) mode with world-class standards.
4) All loco-pulled passenger trains will slowly be replaced by self-propelled train sets like the EMU/MEMUs currently being used for inter-city passenger trains. This will help trains reach destinations on time and make faster acceleration and emergency deceleration possible.
5) All major trains and routes will be electrified (90% of the trains will be covered under this) and diesel locomotives will only be used for emergency purposes.
6) All major cities with 15–20 lakhs population will have their own metro/suburban rail system so that they have a local mass rapid mass transport for last mile connectivity (MRTS).
7) High-speed corridors like Bullet Train, Hyperloop are being developed to reduce passenger load on areas where rail traffic density is very high. 10 such routes have already been identified and trials will soon take place in these locations. The High-Speed Rail network in the country will offer Point-to-Point travel time of just 6 hours. Nagpur is currently being decided as the main hub for developing various routes such as:
• Delhi – Nagpur
8) Reduction in manpower (40–50%) in the next five years will be carried on to ensure that there is no excess staff in IR. Currently, Indian Railways has 4 times more staff than required if compared to other world class rail systems (as per surveys).
9) Over 200 train stations will have their own solar power plants so that they can produce their own electricity as per their consumption requirement. This will reduce dependence on diesel and electricity from the State or National Grid. IR plans to have 10% (1000 megawatt solar power) of its total energy production from renewable energy by 2020 which is why many trains with Solar Panel-enabled coaches (generate 17 units of power per day) are now being launched.
In summation, the future of IR is really bright thanks to proper planning and management and feedback by the state governments, the rail ministry, and the central government. We hope that by 2030, our rail system can rival the likes of USA and China!
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