India Myth: Indians Ride on Rails Built by Brits

India Myth: Indians Ride on Rails Built by Brits

Business Week says today : “Much of India’s railway system was built by the British during the 19th century and the early 20th century. So it’s no surprise an upgrade is badly needed.”
The India Expert says “WRONG and MISLEADING”.

During the time that the British ruled India, they indeed did build a far reaching rail network. Its  purpose was largely to ship raw materials out of India and to bring British made goods back  for the ruled to to buy. But the British left India in 1947.

Since that time India has converted thousands of miles from meter gauge to broad gauge, installed double tracks on most major routes so trains in opposite directions can pass each other at full speed (something that many Amtrak trains still can’t do in America), and replaced virtually all steam engines with electric and diesel locomotives. Each year the Indian Railways has added more trains on existing tracks, and increased the speed of current trains in many cases.

Air-conditioned travel was a rarity in 1947. Today, millions of Indian travel in many versions of air-conditioned rail cars (AC First, AC Second, AC Three Tier, AC Chair Car, AC Executive Chair car). Today hundreds of Rajdhani Expresses interconnect capital cities via “electrified lines”. Today you can buy tickets online. India built the Konkan Railway from Mumbai to Goa and is completing a rail link to Srinagar in Kashmir. For tourists, India runs the Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan.

The article implies that in 2014, India is sitting on a 19th century system. That is simply untrue.

I agree however that the system needs further upgrading. Badly. It is largely because more people can afford to ride the rails and also because the freight system could benefit from dramatic upgrade.  And yes I would love to see bullet trains crisscross India like they do China. I enjoyed the Tokyo-Kyoto bullet train during my first trip to Japan and I love the 15 minute ride from Heathrow Airport to Paddington in Central London.

But for a major publication to imply that India sat on its hands from 1947 to 2014 is unacceptable. It’s like saying that the first plane was built by the Wright Brothers in 1903, so it’s no surprise that Americas airlines are badly in need of upgrade.


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