India is a land of diverse culture and Indian Railways play a key role in not only meeting the transport needs of the country, but also in binding together dispersed areas and promoting national integration. Truly, Indian Railways have emerged as the sinews of the Indian economy and have reached out to bring together the great Indian family.
Railways traverse through the length and breadth of the country covering 63,140 route kms as on 31.3.2002, comprising broad gauge (45,099 kms), meter gauge (14,776 kms) and narrow gauge (3,265 kms). As the principal constituent of the nation’s transport system, Indian Railways own a fleet of 2,16,717 wagons (units), 39,236 coaches and 7,739 number of locomotives and manage to run 14,444 trains daily, including about 8,702 passenger trains. They carry more than a million tonne of freight traffic and about 14 million passengers covering 6,856 number of stations daily.
Indian Railways have been the prime movers to the nation and have the distinction of being one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management. Railways being the more energy efficient mode of transport are ideally suited for movement of bulk commodities and for long distance travel. As compared to road transport, the railways have a number of intrinsic advantages. Railways are five to six times more energy efficient, four times more efficient in land use and significantly superior from the standpoints or environment impact and safety. Indian Railways, therefore, rightly occupy pride of place in the growth and development of the nation.
Railways, being the prime infrastructural sector of the country, need to expand and develop to keep pace with the growth of Indian economy. The massive investment needed for the development of the railway system has not been fully available. The budgetary support to the railways has been increasing, but is far from adequate and has not been keeping pace with the throw-forward.
Railways have to perform the dual role of commercial organization ad vehicle for fulfillment of social obligations. In national emergency, railways have been in the forefront in rushing relief material to disaster stricken regions. For meeting its social obligations, railways are required to make investments that are un-remunerative and also have to provide subsidized services. Unlike many foreign railways, which receive government subsidies for public service obligations, Indian Railways are not specifically compensated for these operations.
The Indian Railway system is managed through zones and operating divisions. There are also six production units engaged in manufacturing rolling stock, wheels and axles and other ancillary components to meet Railways’ requirements.