Today, railways in India are one of the most important sources of transportation – for people, for freight. In fact, Indian Railways (IR) have been the back bone of transportation in the country for a very long time now. According to information available, IR is one of the world’s largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track over a route of 65,000 km (40,000 mi) and 7,500 stations. IR carries about 7,500 million passengers annually or more than 20 million passengers daily (more than a half of which are suburban passengers) and 2.8 million tons of freight daily. In 2011-2012 Indian Railways earned Rs. 104,278.79 crore (US$ 18.98 billion) which consists of Rs. 69,675.97 crore (US$ 12.68 billion) from freight and Rs. 28,645.52 crore (US$ 5.21 billion) from passengers tickets. The first railway on the Indian sub-continent ran over a stretch of 21 miles from Bombay to Thane. The idea of a railway to connect Bombay with Thane, Kalyan and with the Thal and Bhore Ghats inclines first occurred to Mr. George Clark, the Chief Engineer of the Bombay Government, during a visit to Bhandup in 1843.
Safety and Security
The safety of more than 13 million passengers that Indian Railways serve every day is of paramount importance to the system. Over the years, apart from the regular safety norms followed, the network has taken a number of steps to enhance safety standards through innovative use of technology and stepped up training of its manpower. Constitution of a Rs.17,000 crore non-lapsable Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) to replace the arrears of aging assets of Railways for six years starting from 2011 has been a historical move in this direction. A number of distressed bridges, old tracks, signalling system and other safety enhancement devices will be replaced during this period. Extensive field trials of the Anti-Collision Device (ACD), indigenously developed by the Konkan Railway, is going on and once deployed across the Zonal Railways, this innovative technology will help railways reduce accidents due to collision between trains.
Focus and Long Term Goals
- Decongestion and capacity augmentation
Annual Plan 2012-13
- Highest ever plan outlay of Rs. 60,100 crores
- Gross Budgetary Support – Rs. 24,000 crores
- Railway Safety Fund – Rs. 2,000 crores
- Internal Resources – Rs. 18,050 crores
- Market Borrowing – Rs. 15,000 crores.
- 75 new Express trains to be introduced
- 21 new passenger services
- Run of 39 trains to be extended
- Frequency of 23 trains to be increased.
- 725 km new lines, 700 km doubling, 800 km gauge conversion and 1100 km electrification targeted in 2012-13
- Rs. 6,872 crores provided for new lines, Rs. 3,393 crores for doubling, Rs. 1,950 crores for gauge conversion, and Rs. 828 crores for electrification.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways attained the World Heritage Status from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Fairy Queen, the oldest functioning steam engine in the world, which finds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, got the Heritage Award at the International Tourist Bureau, Berlin in March, 2000. On operational front, the New Delhi railway station entered the Guinness Book for having the world’s largest route relay interlocking system.
Passenger Business : During April-December of 2011-12, the number of originating passengers on Indian Railways was 6,211 million while it was 5,906 million during the corresponding period of 2010-11, registering an increase of 5.15 per cent. The passenger earnings during this period was Rs. 20,593.32 crore up by Rs. 1,683.41 crore (8.90 per cent ) compared to the earnings during the corresponding period of last year.
Freight Operation : Total Freight Earnings (including ‘Other Goods Earnings’ such as wharfage, demurrage, etc.) in the first 9 months (April-December) of 2011-12 stood at Rs. 49,542.63 crore which shows an increase of Rs. 4,627.88 crore (10.30 per cent ) over the earnings in the corresponding period of the previous year.
Problems and Challenges
The Indian Railways have done a good job in improving the transportation facility for the country but it also comes in for criticism for a number of reasons. The main criticism which has always been associated with the Indian railways has been the service provided to the passengers. The service provided to the passengers has not been up to the mark and the passengers face a lot of trouble due to this. A stinking smell at the railway stations, waiting rooms that lack facilities and hygienic problems have been the main issues of negligence in terms of service. Provision of food is another criticism which Indian Railways have faced. The food provided to the passengers is often not hygienic and the price set for it is higher in comparison to the food provided. The other criticism which is in fact a very major concern is the number of accidents and loss of human lives that have taken place due to collisions of trains, unmanned crossings, bad signals and driver error. All these areas and several others need urgent attention.