The first railway line was constructed between Mumbai and Thana in the year 1853. It was only 34 km long. Railways are the chief means of transport in India.
(1) Indian railways have a total route length of 62,915 km.
(2) It is the largest railway system in Asia and the fourth largest in the world.
(3) About 18 lath workers are engaged in Indian railways.
(4) Indian railways have about 7,517 locomotives, 40,000 passenger service vehicles and 245,000 wagon linking 7100 stations spread over 13 lath km.
(5) These railways carried 4585 million passengers and 457 million tonnes freight in the year 2000.
(6) Super fast trains and fast goods trains have been introduced for container service. Metro railways have been started in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai.
(7) About 80% of freight traffic and 70% of passenger traffic is carried by railways.
(8) Most of the railways are found in the level Gangetic plain. About 50% of the total length of Railway in India is found in northern India. The Northern Railway is the longest railway with a length of 10,977 kilometres. Many physical and economic factors are responsible for it.
(i) Northern plain is a level plain with low altitude. It is best suited for construction of railway.
(ii) Due to dense population big towns have developed which have led to high density of railway.
(iii) The intensive development of agriculture and industries has promoted the construction of railway lines.
(iv) It is essential to connect Mumbai and Kolkata with their hinterlands of northern plain.
(9) Railways have not been extensively developed in Jammu and Kashmir, N.E. India, Western Ghats, Chhota Nagpur Plateau and Thar Desert (Rajasthan).
(10) In Southern India, construction of railways is retarded due to hilly areas and rivers.
(11) Indian railways have 56 steam, 4,651 diesel locomotives, 2,810 electric locomotives. The electric trains run over a distance of 14000 km. Indian Railways run on three gauges:
(i) Broad gauge—i.68 metres wide (49%)
(ii) Metre gauge—i metre wide (44%)
(iii) Narrow gauge—0.68 metre wide (7%)
Railway zones. Indian railways have been organised into 9 different zones.
N. E. Railways
N.E. Frontier Railways
The tenth zone, North-Central with headquarters at Allahabad, was created on August 28, 1996. The eleventh zone, with headquarters at Hajipur in Bihar, came into being on September 8, 1996. The twelfth zone, North-Western, with headquarters at Jaipur, came into being on October
17, 1996. The thirteenth zone, South Western with headquarters at Bangalore, came into being on November 1, 1996. These are the four of the six new zones being carved out of the existing nine zones.
Thrust Areas of Indian Railway
a) The existing capacity be utilized maximum.
b) Fast traffic be promoted.
c) Computerization be introduced.
d) The use of diesel and electric engines be increased. It provides fast, neat and clean travel.
e) Faster passenger trains be provided.
f) Container service for long routes be introduced.
g) The local trains, like Metro Railways in Kolkata and Delhi can be usefully utilized to link with the networks.
COMPARATIVE SIGNIFICANCE OF ROADS AND RAILWAYS
Road is a major medium of land transport. It is more important than rail transport in many ways. Roads have preceded railways. Roads can be easily built and maintained. Roads can be built in higher slopes and high mountains while it is difficult to construct railways over rough terrain. Roads can be made to pass through forests and deserts.
Roads are suitable for transporting light perishable goods. Goods can be delivered right to the doorsteps of consumers. Railways carry heavy goods to long distances and then trucks may be used to carry these goods to the local market. Thus roads are the cheapest means of transport for short distances. Loading, unloading and trans-shipment from one gauge to another make delay in the transportation of goods by railways. While road transport is away from such problems.