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India - Railroads

India's railroad system is the government's largest public enterprise. Its route length extends 62,458 kilometers. The railroads of India are the fourth most heavily used system in the world, which suggests the large investment made in rail transportation. In the mid-1990s, the railroad system employed 1.7 million people and carried around 66 percent of India's goods traffic (some 350 million tons in FY 1992) and 40 percent of passenger traffic (3.7 billion passenger journeys in FY 1992).

Indian Railways is administered and managed by the Railway Board, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Railways. The minister of railways is assisted by the minister of state for railways. Indian Railways is Asia's largest railroad system and the second largest state-owned system under a single management in the world. The 62,458 kilometers of route-length track run in three gauges: narrow gauge (610 and 762 millimeters), meter gauge (1,000 millimeters), and broad gauge (1,676 millimeters). Around 17 percent, or about 11,000 kilometers, of all gauges is electrified, and about 27 percent, or 10,859 kilometers, of the broad-gauge track is electrified. Some 14,600 kilometers are double or multiple tracked. As of FY 1991, there were some 116,000 railroad bridges and some 7,100 railroad stations.

The railroad system is divided into nine zones: central, eastern, northern, northeastern, northeast frontier, southern, south-central, southeastern, and western. As of FY 1993, Indian Railways had 1,725 steam, 4,069 diesel, and 2,012 electric locomotives; 3,444 electric multiple-unit coaches; 30,298 conventional passenger coaches; 6,163 other passenger cars (including luggage and mail cars in which passengers sometimes travel); and 337,562 freight cars of all kinds.

The Eighth Five-Year Plan provided for a Rs45 trillion investment in railroad development. Priority was to be given to track and roadbed renovation, additional electrification, conversion of high-use meter-gauge lines to broad-gauge track, the replacement of all steam locomotives, and improved signalling and telecommunications. By 1992, however, the funds actually approved by the government were only 80 percent of the eighth plan's amount, and only 42 percent would be covered by the central government budget. Indian Railways was expected to come up with the balance. Thus, in FY 1994, the outlay was set at Rs65.1 billion; Rs11.5 billion was to come from central government revenues, Rs43.1 billion from internal railroad resources, and Rs10.5 billion from loans. Some of the investment funds, as in the past, were expected from the World Bank. The only way to cover these outlays with such low budgetary support was with drastic increases in fares and rates in passenger service. In FY 1993, Indian Railways made capital expenditures amounting to US$2 billion for items such as new rolling stock, new line construction, track renewal, and electrification.

An example of the scale of new rail line construction is the new broad-gauge high-speed Konkan Railway, a 760-kilometer coastal connection between Bombay and Mangalore featuring fifty-five stations, seventy-three tunnels, 143 major bridges, and some 1,670 minor bridges. The line crosses several mountain ranges and runs some 380 kilometers through an earthquake-prone zone. Besides opening up an all-weather transportation infrastructure between two important cities, it cuts the distance by rail between them by 1,127 circuitous kilometers.

India has a major railroad-equipment production industry. Although some state-of-the-art electrical components and equipment are imported, India is developing sufficient industrial capacity to meet most of its standard locomotive and passenger-car and ancillary equipment needs and has made plans to export locomotives. The Research, Design, and Standards Organisation of Indian Railways engages in research and simulations aimed at further improving the quality of domestic achievements, which have included high-speed passenger trains (up to 140 kilometers per hour) and freight trains (up to 80 kilometers per hour) and solid-state signalling equipment. Because some two-thirds of the nation's freight is carried by train, there is a serious freight car shortage. To overcome this and other industry-related rail transportation problems, Indian Railways envisions having to import up to 5,000 freight cars a year.

Notwithstanding economics that the transport systems usually exist to make profits, Indian railways keep serving to stimulate the priceless gift of civilized intercourse. The demand for road-based transport services has dramatically accelerated following economic liberalization, and by 2011-12, roads provided for as high as about 90 per cent of the total passenger traffic, leaving a meager 10 per cent for rail. This trend reflects the constraints experienced in capacity expansion of the railways.

Indian Railways is the third largest network of rail transport in the world after the United States of America and Russian Federation with 116,000 km (length) of rail lines. Indian Railways is separated into various railway zones, which are further sub-divided into various railway divisions. The Indian Railways have seventeen railway zones and sixty-eight railway divisions. Some of the well known railway zones include southern railway, central railway, western railway, eastern railway, northern railway, south central railway, south western railway and so on. Trains in India are broadly classified based on their average speed.

Introduced in 1853, rail transport services in India are one among the prominent and reliable mode of transport in the country. Transporting more than 23,000,000 passengers a day and 1050.18 million metric tons of goods annually, across the length and breadth of India, Indian Railways is nothing short of a crucial lifeline to the nation. An Indian state owned enterprise, Indian Railways (shortly written as IR), controlled by the Government of India through the Ministry of Railways, run both suburban and long distance services on a network of broad gauge, metre gauge and narrow gauge lines.

The railways are a potentially important means of freight transportation but this area is untouched by reforms as yet. The sector suffers from severe financial constraints, partly due to a politically determined fare structure in which freight rates have been set excessively high to subsidize passenger fares, and partly because government ownership has led to wasteful operating practices. Excess staff is currently estimated at around 25 percent.

Resources are typically spread thinly to respond to political demands for new passenger trains at the cost of investments that would strengthen the capacity of the railways as a freight carrier. The Expert Group on Indian Railways (2002) submitted a comprehensive program of reform converting the railways from a departmentally run government enterprise to a corporation, with a regulatory authority fixing the fares in a rational manner. No decisions have been announced as yet on these recommendations.

Rail and road dominate, carrying about 87 per cent of the total freight traffic in the country in 2007-08. Unfortunately, the rail-road mix in freight movement has developed rather sub-optimally over the years, as railways consistently lost out to roads, unable to install capacity or respond to market needs. The divide between the two modes became even more pronounced as roads expanded rapidly on the back of focused policy and investments, particularly during the last decade or so.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2018 18:39:12 ZULU