Keeping Track of Indian Railways
India has the fourth largest railway network in the world and the second largest railway owned by a single entity. More than 19,000 trains operate every day in India; 12,000 of these are passenger cars since trains are one of the most popular forms of transportation in India. Every day, freight trains transport 2.8 million tons of products including ores, iron, steel, fertilizers, petrochemicals, and agricultural produce.
Managed by India’s Ministry of Railways, Indian Railways provides freight, passenger, and coach services and employs over a million Indians. The railway is divided into 17 zones and its tracks cover about 40,000 miles passing through 8,000 stations. Between 2007 and 2014, its total revenue grew 7% annually to reach $23.2 billion. In fiscal year 2014, commodity freight and passenger services earned the most revenue for Indian Railways at $15.5 billion and $6.2 billion, respectively. Indian Railways also operates its own telephone network and hospitals for employees. Most of its active employees reside in apartments or houses owned by the railway.
Indian Railways is supported by multiple public sector companies, which are owned by the federal government. The Container Corporation of India Ltd. acts as a carrier, terminal operator, and warehouse operator. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. manages the dedicated freight corridors, a railway system solely for freight trains. Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. executes engineering projects, and RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. ensures that train control operations and safety systems are up-to-date.
Passenger trains in India are categorized by speed and function. The most common are Duronto (meaning “restless”), Rajdhani (“capital” since it typically connects state capitals and the national capital, Delhi), Shatabdi (“centennial” since it was initiated to mark the 100th anniversary of Indian Railways), Garib Rath (“Poor Man’s Chariot”), Jan Shatabdi, Superfast Mail/Express, Mail/Express, Fast Passenger, and Suburban.
The features of these passenger trains are:
- Duronto Express – one of the fastest trains in India, connecting major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore
- Rajdhani – makes fewer stops but is a top choice for fast long-distance travel
- Garib Rath – an economical alternative for long-distance travel
- Jan Shatabdi – a mainly daytime business train that is an alternative to bus travel due to greater capacity
- Superfast Mail/Express – stops at small stations and towns
- Mail/Express – similar to the Superfast Mail/Express except it makes more frequent stops at bigger stations
- Fast Passenger – travels short distances at slower pace, stopping at small stations within one state
- Suburban – the most popular because of stops in urban areas such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Pune
There are very few railroads operating outside of Indian Railways. These other railways cover smaller areas for specific purposes. For instance, companies use them for visits to places such as plantations, sugar mills, mines, harbors, and ports. A few examples of such companies are the Madras Port Trust, Vishakhapatnam Port Trust, and Bhilai Steel Plant. Recently, some suburban and urban “local” (or “metro”) train contracts were entrusted to private corporations.
Additionally, some trains are operated by private companies on Indian Railways’ routes. Most of these trains are used by travel agencies, individuals, or state tourist boards.
Domestic & Foreign Investors
There are many major domestic players in India’s railway industry. Punj Lloyd Ltd. provides project management services for the energy and infrastructure sectors. Past projects include the Delhi and Bangalore Metro Projects for the construction of stations and viaducts. Gammon India is a civil engineering construction firm that specializes in power projects, transmission and distribution, pipelines, structures, irrigation, and ground engineering and water supply. Kalindee provides infrastructure work such as signaling, telecommunications, and track and information systems.
Many foreign companies provide products for Indian railway operations. Canada’s Bombardier Transportation provides integrated control systems, computer- and relay-based interlocking systems, automatic train protection and train operating systems, radio-based rail control and signaling systems, and wayside equipment. Connecticut-based GE Transportation supplies freight and passenger locomotives, railway signaling and communication systems, and replacement services. Based in Ohio, Electro-Motive Diesel delivers freight and passenger locomotives to India. German electric engineering company Siemens supplies rail automation products such as relays, audio frequency track vacancy detection, axle counters, point machines, and thermo flashers. Alstom is a French enterprise that provides energy and transport including rolling stock, signaling, and infrastructure. It led projects for Chennai Metro and Bangalore Metro Rail Corp.
The Growing Sector
The railway sector is one of the top priorities for the Indian government’s Make in India initiative. Since 2014, the government has allowed foreign direct investment in construction, maintenance, and operation for projects such as railway electrification, high speed train projects, and locomotive manufacturing. India’s railway industry will continue to flourish because of high demand and industrial growth.