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India: Railroads
Country Study > Chapter 6 > Character and Structure of the Economy > Transportation > Railroads


India's railroad system is the government's largest public enterprise.

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.

Data as of September 1995

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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