Among the triumphant and majestic inventions of the modern world, is widespread transportation. Compared to other transports available today, railways transport as one of the eloquent one. No doubt aeroplanes and automobiles have provided much ease in everyday life but the importance of railway transportation is perpetual.
Railways have edge roadways as it carries more passengers and loads of heavy goods to long distance. Perhaps journey is more comfortable and faster also. Its operation is less affected by adverse weathers conditions like rain, floods, fog, etc. Railways also make it possible to conduct different activities like business, sightseeing, and pilgrimage along with transportation of goods over longer distances. Railways in India bind the economic life of the country as well as accelerate the development of the industry and agriculture.
World’s first railway line was opened between Stockholm and Darlington in northern England in 1825 and railways became important mode of transport. It occupies an important place in land transport system of India and is the most dependable mode of transport to carry goods and passengers over a long distance. Besides long distance, local transport of passengers is also provided by local trains or metro-rail in some metropolitan cities. Rail transport is available throughout the country except some hilly or mountainous regions.
Indian Railways plays a role of national integration. The railways were introduced in the country in 1853 by the British almost immediately after it established in England. The first railway on Indian sub-continent ran over a stretch of 21 miles from Bombay to Thane on 16 April 1853. The first passenger train steamed out of Howrah station destined for Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles, on 15 August 1854. In South, the first line was opened on 1 July 1856 by the Madras Railway Company. It ran between Veyasarpandy and Walajah Road (Arcot), a distance of 63 miles. In the North, a length of 119 miles of line was laid from Allahabad to Kanpur on 3 March 1859.
In 1947, at the time of independence, there were forty-two rail systems exist in the country. 40 percent of the railways then passed through the newly independent Pakistan and thirty-two lines owned by the former Indian states, spanning a total of 55,000 km, later these were merged into the Indian railways.
In 1951, the systems were nationalized as one unit, becoming one of the largest networks in the world. Thus Indian Railways was born.
India has a large network of railways throughout the country. There are two types of rails rolling on Indian railway tracks. One is passenger train and other is goods train. While passenger trains carry both human beings and a limited quantity of goods, the goods trains are exclusively used for carrying goods from one place to another. At present the Indian Railways have three types of engines – Steam engines, Diesel engines and the Electric engines. The Indian Railways is the largest public sector undertaking in the country.
Today, Indian Railways has one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world. It transports 20 million passengers and more than 2 million tones of freight daily and is one of the world’s largest commercial employers, with more than 1.6 million employees. Indian Railways covers total 63,140 route kilometers as on 31.3.2002, including broad gauge (total 45,099 kilometers), narrow gauge (total 3,265 kilometers) and meter gauge (total 14,776 kilometers). The Indian Railway system is operated through several zones and other operating divisions. It is considered as the main part of the India’s transportation system.
Some major statistics related to Indian Railways are as follows :
•Wagons (units) – 2,16,717
•number of locomotives (operating) – 7,739
•Operating trains – 14,444
•Daily Passengers – 8,702
•Coaches – 39,236
East Indian Railway established a Carriage and Wagon Department as part of the Locomotive Works in 1855 in Howrah. Established in 1986, the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) was the second coach manufacturing unit of Indian Railways. Its foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister of India Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. At present there are few more rail coach factories like Internal coach factory which located in Chennai, Chittaranjan Locomotive works, West Bengal and Diesel Locomotive works, Varanasi.
Apart from being fast, comfortable and cheap, railways play an important role in the economy of a country. Indian Railways carry more than a million ton of freight traffic encompassing around 6,856 numbers of rail stations. Being the primary infrastructural sector of India, Railways has been developing to maintain a pace with the development of Indian economy. Indian Railways is a department owned and controlled by the Government of India, under the aegis of Ministry of Railways. It is administered by the Railway Board.
The Himsagar Express, between Kanyakumari and Jammu Tawi, has the longest run in term of distance and time on Indian Railways network. The Indian Railways started introducing the prestigious Rajdhani and Shatabdi services during the ‘70s and ‘80s respectively or to match the best in the world. The Bhopal Shatabdi : Express is the fastest train in India which has a maximum speed of 150 m/h on the Faridabad-Agra section.
Fares on the Indian Railways across categories are among the cheapest in the world. In the past few years, despite a recessionary environment, the Indian Railways have not raised fares on any class of service. On the contrary, there has been a minor dip in fares in some categories. Indian Railways makes 70 per cent its revenues and most of its profits from the freight and uses these profits to cross-subsidies the loss-making passenger sector. It also owns locomotive and coach production facilities.
Since 1924-25, railway finances have been separated from General Revenue. Indian railways have their own funds in the form of Railway Budget presented to the Parliament annually. This budget is presented to the Parliament by the Union Railway Minster two days prior to the General Budget, usually around 26th February. It has to be passed by a simple majority in the Lok Sabha before it gets final acceptance. Indian Railways are subject to the same audit control as other government revenues and expenditure. The government of India has initiated a scheme, ‘National Vikas Yojna’ for the development of the Indian Railways. The scheme would focus on completion on strategic projects within a stipulated period of time. Railways are doing very useful service to the nation. This also creates impact on the Indian Economy.
To conclude, Indian Railways has played a vital role for the transportation needs of the country & Indian Railways have also emerged as the major strength of the Indian economy.