Rail transport in India

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Rail transport in India
National railway Indian Railways
Ridership 8.107 billion (2016)[1]
Passenger km 1,143.039 billion (2016)[1]
Freight 1.108 billion tonnes (2016)[1]
System length
  • 66,687 km (41,437 mi) (route)[2]
  • 119,640 km (74,340 mi) (total track)[2]
  • 23,556 km (14,637 mi) (route)[1]
  • 43,357 km (26,941 mi) (running track)[1]
Track gauge
1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge 61,037 km (37,927 mi)[2]
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1/2 in) standard gauge Not available
1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3/8 in) metre gauge 3,715 km (2,308 mi)[2]
Two narrow gauges, 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) and 610 mm (2 ft) 1,935 km (1,202 mi)[2]
Longest tunnel Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel, 11.215 km (6.969 mi)
No. bridges 133,160 (2011)[3]
Longest bridge Vembanad Rail Bridge, 4.62 km (2.87 mi)[4]
No. stations 7,216[1]
Highest elevation 2,257 m (7,405 ft)[5]
 at Ghum on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Lowest elevation 4 m (13 ft)
 at Barra Bazar

Rail transport is an important mode of transport in India.

All main-line rail operations in India are handled by Indian Railways (IR), a state-owned organization of the Ministry of Railways. As of 31 March 2016 the rail network traverses the length and breadth of the country comprising 119,630 km (74,330 mi) of track[2] over a route of 66,687 km (41,437 mi) and 7,216 stations.[1] It is the fourth-largest railway network in the world (after those of the United States, Russia and China).[6] It is one of the busiest networks in the world, transporting 8.107 billion passengers and over 1.108 billion tonnes of freight annually, as of 2016.[1] Indian Railways is the world's largest commercial or utility employer, with more than 1.4 million employees.[7][8] Indian Railways' rolling stock includes over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 coaches and 8,000 locomotives.[7]

The urban rail transit systems across the country are operated independently of Indian Railways. As of September 2016, India has around 324 km (201 mi) of operational urban rail transit lines, including metro, monorail and tram.


The history of rail transport in India began in the early nineteenth century.

1832–1852: Industrial railways[edit]

The first proposals for railways in India were made in Madras in 1832,[9] with the first train running from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge in 1837. It was called Red Hill Railway and used a rotary steam engine locomotive manufactured by William Avery. The railway was built by Sir Arthur Cotton and was mainly used for transporting granite stones for road-building work in Madras.[9] In 1845 Cotton built the Godavari Dam Construction Railway at Dowleswaram in Rajahmundry, used to supply stones for construction of a dam over Godavari.[9]

On 8 May 1845, Madras Railway was incorporated, and East India Railway (EIR) was incorporated the same year. On 1 August 1849 Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) was incorporated by an Act of Parliament. A "Guarantee System" providing free land and guaranteeing rates of return (5%) to private English companies building railways was finalized on 17 August 1849. In 1851 the Solani Aqueduct Railway was built in Roorkee, hauled by a steam locomotive called Thomason, named after a British officer. It was used for transporting construction materials for an aqueduct over the Solani river.[9] In 1852 the Madras Guaranteed Railway Company was incorporated.

1853–1924: Passenger railways and expansion[edit]

India's first passenger train between Bombay and Thane in 1853

The first passenger train in India ran between Bombay (Bori Bunder) and Thane on 16 April 1853. The 14-carriage train was hauled by three steam locomotives: Sahib, Sindh and Sultan. It could carry 400 people and ran on a line of 34 kilometres (21 mi) built and operated by GIPR.[10][11] This line was built in 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge, which became the standard for railways in the country. In Eastern India, the first passenger railway train ran from Howrah (near Calcutta) to Hoogly on 15 August 1854. The 39-kilometre (24 mi) line was built and operated by EIR.[12] In May 1854 the Bombay–Thane line was extended to Kalyan by building India's first railway bridge, the Dapoorie viaduct, over Ulhas river.[13] The line was extended to Khopoli in 1855. In August 1855, EIR Express and Fairy Queen steam locomotives started hauling trains.[14] The first passenger train in South India ran from Royapuram and Veyasarapady (Madras) to Wallajah Road (Arcot) on 1 July 1856 on a 97-kilometre (60 mi) line built and operated by Madras Railway.[15]

On 24 February 1873 the first tramway, a 3.8-kilometre (2.4 mi) horse-drawn tramway, opened in Calcutta between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street.[16] On 9 May 1874 a horse-drawn tramway began operation in Bombay between Colaba and Parel. In 1880 Calcutta Tramways Company was incorporated.[17]

GIPR started its first workshops in Byculla in 1854 and Madras Railway set up their first workshop at Perambur in 1856. The railway boom continued with the incorporation of Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway (BB&CI) in 1855,[18] Eastern Bengal Railway in 1858,[19] and East Coast State Railway in 1890. Great South Indian Railway (GSIR) and Carnatic Railway merged in 1874 to form the South Indian Railway.

In 1897 lighting in passenger coaches was introduced by many railway companies. In 1902 the Jodhpur Railway became the first to introduce electric lights as standard fixtures. In 1920 electric lighting of signals was introduced between Dadar and Currey Road in Bombay.

1925–1950: Electrification and further expansion[edit]

The first railway budget was presented in 1925. The Oudh and Rohilkhund Railway was merged with EIR,[20] and the state took over EIR and GIPR.[21] In 1930 Hyderabad Godavary Valley Railway was merged into Nizam's state railway.

On 3 February 1925 India's first electric passenger train ran between Victoria terminus and Kurla, on 1500 V DC overhead traction[22] with locomotives provided by Cammell Laird and Uerdingenwagonfabrik companies. Later that year the VT–Bandra section was electrified with an elevated platform at Sandhurst Road.[22] Kurla–Kalyan and lines to Poona and Igatpuri were electrified in 1926[22] and the Bandra–Virar section was electrified by January 1928. On 1 June 1930 the Deccan Queen began running, hauled by a WCP-1 (No. 20024, old No. EA/1 4006) with 7 coaches, on the GIPR's electrified route from Bombay VT to Poona (Pune).[23]

The Frontier Mail made its inaugural run in 1928 between Bombay VT and Peshawar.[24] In 1929 the Grand Trunk Express began running between Peshawar and Mangalore[25] and Punjab Limited Express began running between Mumbai and Lahore. Technical advancements saw automatic colour-light signals first become operational on GIPR's lines between Bombay VT and Byculla in 1928[26] and were extended to the Byculla–Kurla section the following year.

1951–1983: Zonal re-organisation and further developments[edit]

India's railways were re-organised into regional zones beginning in 1951[27] with the creation of Southern Railway on 14 April and Central Railway and Western Railway on 5 November.[28] The post of Chief Commissioner of Railways was abolished and the Railway Board adopted the practice of making its senior-most member Chairman.[28] Also in 1951, the government of West Bengal entered into an agreement with the Calcutta Tramways Co. to take over its administrative functions. On 14 April 1952 Northern Railway, Eastern Railway and North-Eastern Railway were created.[28] On 1 August 1955 South-Eastern Railway was split from Eastern Railway, and the following year divisional systems of administration were set up for the various regional zones. In 1958 the North-Eastern Railway split to form a new Northeast Frontier Railway.[28]

In 1952 fans and lights were mandated for all compartments in all classes of passenger accommodation and sleeping accommodation was introduced in coaches. In 1956 the first fully air-conditioned train was introduced between Howrah and Delhi.[29] In 1966 the first containerized freight services began, between Bombay and Ahmedabad.

In 1957 India Railways took a decision to adopt 25 kV AC electrification and chose SNCF (French National Railway) as technical consultant.[30] The Main Line Electrification Project was established in the same year.[31] Raj Kharswan–Dongoposi became the first section to be electrified with 25 kV AC traction[30] with the first train running on 11 August 1960.[30] In 1966 electrification of several suburban tracks around Delhi, Madras and Calcutta was completed with the 25 kV AC system. In 1979 the Main Line Electrification Project was reconstituted into Central Organization for Railway Electrification (CORE).

1984–present: Rapid transit and later developments[edit]

Gatiman Express, India's fastest train introduced in 2016

Calcutta Metro became the first metro in the country[32] with the 24 October 1984 line between Esplanade and Bhowanipur (now the Netaji Bhawan station).[33] In 1988 the first Shatabdi Express was introduced between New Delhi and Jhansi (later extended to Bhopal), and was the fastest train at the time.[34] In 1993 air-conditioned 3-tier coaches were introduced as well as a sleeper class separate from second class. In 1999 South East Central was constituted. On 6 July 2002 the East Coast, South Western, South East Central, North Central, and West Central zones were created.[35] On 5 April 2016 Gatiman Express, India's fastest train at a maximum speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), made its first run from Delhi to Agra.[36]

India's first computerized ticketing and reservation was introduced at New Delhi in 1986.[37] In 1990 the first self-printing ticket machine (SPTM) was introduced. In September 1996 the CONCERT computerized reservation system was fully deployed at New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and was completed nationwide on 18 April 1999. In 1998 coupon validating machines (CVMs) were introduced at Mumbai CST. Credit cards were accepted for booking tickets and reservations starting in 1999. Indian Railways launched its web site in February 2000[38] and began taking online train reservations and ticketing on 3 August 2002, which was extended to many cities in December.[39] On 26 September 2013 the Tatkal system of ticketing extended to ordinary trains.

On 16 January 1995 the first regularly scheduled services using the 2 × 25 kV system of traction started on BinaKatni. On 5 February 2012 Western Railway switched completely to 25 kV AC traction, ending its use of 1.5 kV DC traction.[40] On 11 April 2016 Central Railway completed switching to 25 kV AC traction, ending the use of DC traction on the country's main-line rail network.[41] Indian Railways announced on 31 March 2017 that the entire rail network would be electrified by 2022.[42]

Rolling stock[edit]


A WDM-3D broad-gauge diesel locomotive
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, one of the few running steam locomotives, in India

Locomotives in India largely consist of electric and diesel locomotives. The world's first compressed natural gas (CNG) locomotives are also being used.[43] Steam locomotives are used only in heritage trains.

In India, locomotives are classified according to their gauge, motive power, the work they are suited for and their power or model number. The class name, composed of four or five letters, encodes this information. The first letter denotes the track gauge; the second denotes their motive power, diesel or alternating current (electric); the third letter denotes the type of traffic for which they are suited (goods, passenger, multi or shunting). The fourth letter used to denote the chronological model number but from 2002 denotes the horsepower range for diesel locomotives. Electric locomotives don't come under this scheme and not all diesels are covered; for these, the fourth letter denotes their chronological model number.

A locomotive may have a fifth letter in its class name which denotes a technical variant, subclass or subtype, indicating a variation in the basic model or series, possibly different motors or a different manufacturer. With the new scheme for classifying diesel locomotives (as mentioned above) the fifth letter further refines the horsepower indication in 100 hp (75 kW) increments: 'A' for 100 hp, 'B' for 200 hp, 'C' for 300 hp, etc. In this scheme, a WDM-3A refers to a wide-gauge diesel multi-use 3100 hp loco, while a WDM-3D would be a 3400 hp loco and WDM-3F would be 3600 hp loco.

Note: This classification system does not apply to heritage steam locomotives which retain their historical class names such as M class or WP class.

Diesel locomotives have been fitted with auxiliary power units which save nearly 88% of fuel while idling.[44]

Goods wagons[edit]

The number of goods wagons was 205,596 on 31 March 1951 and peaked at 405,183 on 31 March 1980, after which it declined to 239,321 on 31 March 2012.[citation needed] The number is far less than that required for demand and Indian Railways loses freight traffic to road carriers. The railway carried 93 million tonnes of goods in 1950–51, increasing to 1010 million tonnes in 2012–13.[45]

However, its share in goods traffic is much lower than road traffic. In 1951, its share was 65%, and the share of the road was 35%. Now the shares have been reversed, and the proportion of railways has declined to 30% while the share of road has increased to 70%.[citation needed]

Since the 1990s, Indian Railways has stopped single-wagon consignments and provides only full-rake freight trains.[citation needed]


Passenger coaches[edit]

IR has several types of passenger coaches. (See §Passenger services, below.)

The coaches used in IR are produced at Integral Coach Factory, Rail Coach Factory, and Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli. This includes the new Linke-Hofmann (LHB) coaches.

Electric multiple unit (EMU) coaches are used for suburban traffic in large cities – mainly Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. These coaches numbered 7,793 on 31 March 2012. They have second-class and first-class seating accommodation.

Passenger coaches numbered 46,722 and other coaches (luggage coach, parcel van, guard's coach, mail coach, etc.) numbered 6,560 on 31 March 2012.


The Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in Chittaranjan makes electric locomotives. The Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi makes diesel locomotives. The Integral Coach Factory in Perambur, Chennai makes integral coaches. These have a monocoque construction, and the floor is an integral unit with the undercarriage. The Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala also makes coaches. The Rail Wheel Factory at Yelahanka, Bangalore and Rail Wheel Plant, Bela, Chhapra, Bihar manufacture wheels and axles. Diesel-Loco Modernisation Works, Patiala upgrades the WDM-2 diesel loco from 2,600 to 3,100 hp (1,900 to 2,300 kW). Some electric locomotives have been supplied by BHEL, Jhansi and Palakkad, and locomotive components are manufactured in several other plants around the country.[47]



Comparison of different gauges in India with the standard gauge

The total track length of network is 119,640 km (74,340 mi) while the total route length of the network is 66,687 km (41,437 mi). Track sections are rated for speeds ranging from 80 to 200 km/h (50 to 124 mph), though the maximum speed attained by passenger trains is 177 to 180 km/h (110 mph).

Indian gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) (a broad gauge) is the predominant gauge used by IR with 108,500 km (67,400 mi) of track length (94% of entire track length of all the gauges) and 59,400 km (36,900 mi) of route-kilometre[definition needed] (91% of entire route-kilometre of all the gauges). It is the widest gauge in worldwide passenger use, first used in 1853.

Urban rail transit lines which serve the urban areas are in 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge (except suburban rail which is in Indian gauge). These encompass metro and trams. As of 2016, lines in operation are trams in Kolkata, Delhi Metro, Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon, the Bangalore Metro and the Mumbai Metro. These lines are not operated by IR.[48]

The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge and 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) and 610 mm (2 ft) narrow gauges are present on a decreasing number of routes. These were initially introduced in hilly regions for cost considerations and simpler engineering. The metre gauge has about 5,000 km (3,100 mi) of track length (4% of entire track length of all the gauges) and 4,100 km (2,500 mi) of route-kilometre (6% of entire route-kilometre of all the gauges), while narrow gauges have 1,500 km (930 mi) route-kilometre (2% of entire route-kilometre of all the gauges), as of 31 March 2016.

Sleepers (ties) are mostly made of prestressed concrete. Metal and teak sleepers are in use on a few lines; these are under conversion to concrete sleepers.


Around 23,555 km (14,636 mi) of the route-kilometres or 43,357 km (26,941 mi) of running track was electrified as of 31 March 2016. India uses 25 kV AC traction on all of its electrified tracks.[49]

Railway electrification in India began with the first 1500 V DC electric train between Bombay Victoria Terminus and Kurla on Harbour Line in 1925. Steep gradients on the Western Ghats necessitated the introduction of electric traction on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) up to Igatpuri on the North East line and to Pune on the South East line. 1500 V DC traction was introduced on the suburban section of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI) between Colaba and Borivili in 1928, and between Madras Beach and Tambaram of the then existing Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway in 1931. This was primarily to meet the growing traffic on these metros. The electrification of the HowrahBurdwan section of the Eastern Railway was done at 3000 V DC and completed in 1958.

The 25 kV AC system of traction emerged as an economical modernization resulting from research and trials in Europe, particularly on French Railways (SNCF). Indian Railways adopted this standard in 1957, first operational on the Raj Kharswan–Dongoaposi section on the South Eastern Railway in 1960. The first 25 kV AC electric multiple unit (EMU) coaches which were for Kolkata suburban services were inaugurated in September 1962. With a view to provide continuity of traction system, the Howrah–Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway and Madras Beach–Tambaram section of the Southern Railway were converted to the 25 kV AC system by 1968. Considering the limitations in the existing DC traction system, a decision was made in 1996–97 to convert to 25 kV AC. Conversion from DC traction to AC traction was completed on Western Railway in 2012 and on Central Railway in 2016. Only metros and trams continue to use DC traction.

Signaling systems[edit]

The railways mostly use colour signal lights which have replaced the older semaphore and discs-based signalling.[50] Except for high-traffic sections around large cities and junctions, the network does not use automatic block systems. However, the signals at stations are interlocked with the setting of points (routes) so that safety does not depend on the skill of the station masters. Cab signalling and other anti-collision systems are planned to be installed[citation needed] to eliminate the risk of drivers overshooting signals.

Coloured signalling uses multi-coloured lighting, and in many places is automatically controlled. There are three modes:[50]

  • Two-aspect signalling, which uses a red (bottom) and green (top) lamp
  • Three-aspect signalling, which uses an additional amber lamp in the centre
  • Four-aspect signalling uses four lamps, with an additional amber lamp positioned above the other three.

The four-aspect or multiple-aspect signals, by providing several intermediate speed stages between 'clear' and 'on', allow high-speed trains sufficient time to brake safely if required. This becomes important as train speeds rise. Without multiple-aspect signals, the stop signals must be placed far apart to allow sufficient braking distance and this reduces track utilisation. At the same time, slower trains can also be run closer together on track with multiple-aspect signals.

Rail links with adjacent countries[edit]

Rail links between India and neighbouring countries are not well developed. Two trains operate to Pakistan: the Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Lahore, and the Thar Express between Jodhpur and Karachi. Bangladesh is connected by the biweekly Maitree Express that runs from Kolkata to Dhaka and Bandhan Express which began running commercial trips between Kolkata and Khulna in November 2017.[51][52] Two rail links to Nepal exist: passenger service between Jaynagar and Bijalpura and freight services between Raxaul and Birganj.[53]

Indian and Bangladeshi governments planned to start work by January 2015 on a new rail link to ease surface transport.[54] India will build a 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) railway linking Tripura's capital Agartala with Bangladesh's southeastern city of Akhaura, an important railway junction connected to Chittagong port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka.[55] An agreement to implement the railway project was signed between India's former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in January 2010.[56] Total cost of the proposed project is estimated at 252 crore (2.5 billion). The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15 km rail line, 5 km of tracks fall in Indian territory.[57][58] The Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) is laying tracks to connect Tripura's southern-most border town, Sabroom, 135 km (84 mi) south of here. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is 72 km (45 mi)[59]

No rail link exists with Myanmar but a railway line is to be built from Jiribam (in Manipur) to Tamu through Imphal and Moreh.[60] The construction of this missing link, as per the feasibility study conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs through RITES Ltd, is estimated to cost 29.41 billion (US$460 million).[61] An 18-kilometre (11 mi) railway link with Bhutan is being constructed from Hashimara in West Bengal to Toribari in Bhutan. No rail link exists with either China or Sri Lanka.[62]


Passenger services[edit]

Accommodation classes[edit]

Interior of a First Class (1A) compartment in the Rajdhani Express
Interior of a 3-tier AC (3AC) compartment of the Dakshin Express
Interior of an air-conditioned Chair Car (CC) coach in a Jan Shatabdi Express.

IR has several classes of travel with or without air conditioning; a train may include just one or several of these. Slow passenger trains have only unreserved seating class whereas Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi, Garib Rath and Yuva trains have only air-conditioned classes. The fares are different for each class with unreserved seating class being the cheapest. The fare of Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains includes food served in the train, but for other trains food has to be bought separately. From September 2016, the IR have introduced dynamic fares for all accommodation classes for Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains (except 1AC and EC classes) to shore up revenue.[63] In long-distance trains a pantry car is usually included and the food is served at the berth or seat itself. Luxury trains such as Palace on Wheels have separate dining cars but fares are comparable to a five-star hotel.

A standard passenger train has four unreserved (also called "general") coaches, two at the front and two at the end, of which one may be exclusively for ladies. The number of other coaches varies according to the demand and route. A luggage coach may be included at the front or back. In some mail trains, a separate mail coach is attached. Lavatories are communal and feature both the Indian style as well as the Western style.

The following table lists the classes in operation. A train may not include all of these classes.

Class[64] Description[65][66]
1A AC first class: This is the most-expensive class, where the fares are almost at par with air fare. There are eight cabins (including two coupes – cabins with seating on one side only) in a full AC first class coach and three cabins (including one coupe) in a half AC first class coach. The coach has an attendant to assist the passengers. Bedding is included with the fare. This air conditioned coach is present only on popular routes and can carry 18 passengers (full coach) or 10 passengers (half coach). The sleeper berths are wide and spacious. The coaches are carpeted, have sleeping accommodation and privacy features like personal coupes.
2A AC two tier: These air-conditioned coaches have eight bays of sleeping berths. Berths are usually arranged in two tiers in groups of six: four across the width of the coach and two berths lengthwise on the other side of the corridor, with curtains along the gangway or corridor. Bedding is included with the fare. A coach can carry 48 passengers (full coach) or 20 passengers (half coach).
FC First class: This class only exists on heritage trains. It is similar to 1AC, but without air conditioning or bedding, and the berths are not as wide or spacious. There is a coach attendant to assist the passengers.
3A AC three tier: Air conditioned coaches with berths usually arranged as in 2AC but with three tiers across the width and two lengthwise giving eight bays of eight. They are less well-appointed, usually without reading lights or curtained gangways. Bedding is included with fare. A coach can accommodate 64 passengers.
3E AC three tier (economy): Air conditioned coaches with sleeping berths, present in Garib Rath Express trains. Berths are usually arranged as in 3A but with three tiers across the width and three lengthwise, making accommodation for 72 passengers. Bedding is not included with fare.
EC Executive chair car: An air-conditioned coach with large spacious seats. It has a total of four seats in a row used for day travel between cities. This class of travel is available on Tejas Express and Shatabdi Express trains.
CC AC chair car: An air-conditioned seater coach with a total of five seats in a row used for day travel between cities. AC Double Deck sitter coaches are used in Double Decker Express.
SL Sleeper class: The sleeper class is the most-common coach on IR, and usually ten or more coaches of SL could be attached to a train. These are regular sleeping coaches with three berths across the width and two lengthwise, without air conditioning. It carries 72 passengers per coach.
2S Second seater: similar as CC, without the air-conditioning. Flying Ranee is the only train that uses non-AC double-decker sitter coaches.
UR or GEN Unreserved/General: This is the cheapest accommodation. These coaches are usually crowded and a seat is not guaranteed. Tickets issued are valid on any train on the same route boarded within 24 hours of buying the ticket.

At the rear of the train is a special compartment known as the guard's cabin. It is fitted with a transceiver and is where the guard usually gives the all-clear signal before the train departs.

Types of passenger trains[edit]

Gatiman Express, a semi-high-speed train
Mumbai Rajdhani Express, a long-distance high-speed and high-priority train connecting major state capitals with New Delhi
Secunderabad Yeshwanthpur Garib-Rath Express, a low-cost AC train

Trains are sorted into various categories that dictate the number of stops along their route, the priority they enjoy on the network, and the fare structure.

Express trains are identified by a five-digit number. The first digit is 1 or 2 for long-distance Express trains, 0 for a Special, or 5 for a passenger train. The second digit indicates the zone that operates the train, and the third the division within the zone that controls the train and is responsible for its regular maintenance and cleanliness. The last two digits are the train's serial number.[67] The system was changed from four digits on 20 December 2010[68] to accommodate an increasing number of trains.

For super-fast trains, the second digit is always 2 (the first remains 1 or 2),[67] the third digit is the zone, the fourth is the division and only the last digit is the serial number within the division. Trains travelling in opposite directions along the same route are usually labelled with consecutive numbers.[67] However, there is considerable variation in train numbers and some zones, such as Central Railway, has a less-systematic method for numbering trains.[67] Most express trains also have a unique name that is usually exotic and taken from landmarks, famous people or rivers.[69][70]

Trains are classified by their average speed.[71] A faster train has fewer stops ("halts") than a slower one and usually caters to long-distance travel.

The priority order of the trains, from highest to lowest, is as follows:

  1. Gatiman Express
  2. Rajdhani Express
  3. Shatabdi Express and Janshatabdi Express
  4. Duranto Express
  5. Yuva Express and Garibrath Express
  6. AC Express
  7. Superfast (includes all special category trains like Mahamana Express, etc.)
  8. Mail Express
  9. Passengers/MEMU/DEMU

Below is the list of all trains run by Indian Railways:

S.No. Train Description
1 Gatimaan Express A semi-high-speed train that runs between Delhi and Agra in India. It operates at a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph) and is the fastest train in India. The train takes a travel time of 100 minutes to cover 188 km (117 mi) from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Agra Cantonment stations.
2 Shatabdi Express Air-conditioned intercity trains for daytime travel, these complete round trips on the same day. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express (No. 12001/12002) is second-fastest train in India, travelling between New Delhi and Agra cantonment at an average speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) and a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph) with limited stops. They have seats and executive-class seats, on-board Wi-Fi, and some have 3-tier AC berths.[72]
3 Rajdhani Express These are air-conditioned trains linking major cities to New Delhi. They have high priority and are among the fastest trains in India, travelling at a maximum speed of around 130–140 km/h (81–87 mph) with limited stops. In the Railway budget of 2014 it was proposed that the speed of Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Expresses be increased to 180 km/h (110 mph).
4 Duronto Express These are the non-stop (except for technical halts) point-to-point rail services introduced in 2009. They connect the metros and major state capitals of India and were introduced to travel as fast or faster than the Rajdhani Express. They provide first AC, two-tier AC and three-tier AC accommodation, and some provide non-AC sleeper class accommodation.
5 AC Express These fully air-conditioned trains link major cities. They have high priority and travel at about 130 km/h (81 mph) with limited stops.
6 Tejas Express These are fully air-conditioned single-floor express trains with high priority and limited stops. Unlike the Shatabdi Express, these trains are sleeper trains used for long-distance travel.
7 Double Decker Express These are fully air-conditioned two-floor express trains. They have high priority and limited stops. These trains are used for daytime travel.
8 Uday Express These are fully air-conditioned two-floor express trains. They have high priority and limited stops. These trains have berth facility and are used for night travel.
9 Humsafar Express These are fully air-conditioned 3-tier coach trains, also called semi-luxury train. They provide many facilities such as LED screen displays for information about stations and the train's status, vending machines for tea and coffee, charging ports for electronics, food refrigeration and heating, and compartment toilets.
10 Garib Rath Air-conditioned no-frills trains with seats and 3-tier economy AC berths. The maximum speed is 130 km/h (81 mph). Some have AC chair cars.
11 Yuva Express These trains provide air-conditioned travel marketed to the growing youth demographic, with sixty percent of seats reserved for passengers 18–45 years of age. These trains did not enjoy much success and currently operate only on the Delhi–Howrah and Delhi–Mumbai routes.
12 Jan Shatabdi Express A more-affordable variety of the Shatabdi Express with fewer stops. They have both AC and non-AC classes and a maximum speed of 110 km/h (68 mph).
13 Sampark Kranti Express These provide connectivity to Delhi; many pairs of these trains operate on the network.
14 Kavi Guru Express Introduced in honor of Rabindranath Tagore, four pairs of these trains currently operate.
15 Vivek Express These trains were introduced to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013; four pairs of these trains currently operate.
16 Rajya Rani Express Introduced to connect state capitals to important cities in that state.
17 Mahamana Express Provides tri-weekly superfast service between the city of Varanasi and New Delhi via Jaunpur, Sultanpur, Lucknow and Moradabad. Has new coaches with modern facilities.
18 Intercity Express These connect important cities for short routes, in both superfast and express speed categories. Famous Intercity Express trains include Deccan Queen and Flying Ranee.
19 Antyodaya Express These are fully non-reserved superfast trains operating on peak routes to reduce pressure on other trains.
20 Jan Sadharan Express These are fully non-reserved express trains operating on peak routes to reduce the pressure on other trains.
21 Superfast Express/Mail These trains travel faster than 100–110 km/h (62–68 mph); fares have an additional superfast surcharge.
22 Express/Mails These are the most common trains in India. They have more stops than super-fast trains, but stop only at relatively important intermediate stations.
23 Fast Passenger and Passenger These are slow trains that stop at most stations along the route and are inexpensive. They generally have unreserved seating but some night trains have sleeper and 3-tier AC compartments. These trains travel at about 40–80 km/h (25–50 mph).
24 Suburban trains These trains operate in the urban areas of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune and between Kanpur and Lucknow. They usually stop at every station and have unreserved seating.
25 Metro These trains are designed for city transport. The first metro constructed was Kolkata Metro. Now metro railway services are found in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Jaipur and Gurgaon.
26 Luxury Trains IR operate luxurious trains like Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Maharaja Express, Deccan Odyssey, The Golden Chariot, Mahaparinirvan Express. Fairy Queen has also gained tourist attraction because it is the oldest operating steam engine in the world, hauling a luxurious train from Delhi to Alwar.
27 Mountain railways of India These are railways that run in hilly regions in India, often in narrow gauge. Three of these lines were together declared a World Heritage site as "Mountain Railways of India" by UNESCO.[73]

Luxury trains[edit]

A number of luxury sleeper trains are operated, catering to tourists to promote various destinations on 7–8 day package tours. Some of these trains are operated by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). They include:


An Indian Railway ticket from Salem to Vijayawada on Howrah Mail

India has some of the lowest train fares in the world. Basic passenger traffic is heavily subsidised by more-expensive higher-class fares.[81] Until the late 1980s, Indian Railways ticket reservations were done manually. In 1987 the Railways started using a computerised ticketing system. The entire ticketing system went online in 1995 to provide up-to-date information on status and availability. The ticketing network is computerised to a large extent, with the exception of some remote places. Computerized tickets can be booked for any two points in the country, through the Internet and via mobile phones, though this method carries an additional surcharge.

Discounted tickets are available for senior citizens (above 60 years) and some other categories of passengers including the disabled, students, athletes, persons affected by serious diseases, or persons appearing for competitive examinations. One compartment of the lowest class of accommodation is reserved for ladies in every passenger-carrying train. Some berths or seats in sleeper class and second class are also reserved for ladies.[82] Season tickets permitting unlimited travel on specific sections or specific trains for a specific time period may also be available. Foreign tourists can buy an Indrail Pass,[83] which is modelled on the Eurail Pass, permitting unlimited travel in India for a specific time period.

For long-distance travel, reservation of a berth can be made up to 120 days before departure.[82] Details such as the name, age and concession (if eligible) are required and are recorded on the ticket. The ticket price usually includes the base fare, which depends on the classification of the train (example: super-fast surcharge if the train is classified as a super-fast), the class in which one wishes to travel and the reservation charge for overnight journeys.

If a seat is not available then the ticket is given a waitlist number; otherwise the ticket is confirmed and a berth number is printed on the ticket. A person receiving a wait-listed ticket may be able to obtain a confirmed ticket if there are sufficient cancellations.[82][83] Some of the tickets are assigned to the Reservation against Cancellation (RAC), which is between the waiting list and the confirmed list.[82][83] These allow the ticket holder to board the train and obtain an allotted seat decided by a ticket collector, after the ticket collector has ascertained that a seat is vacant.

Reserved railway tickets can be booked through the website of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)[84] and also through mobile phones and SMS. Tickets booked through this site are categorised into iTickets and eTickets. iTickets are booked by a passenger and then printed and delivered to the passenger for carrying during journey. eTickets are printed by the passenger and carried while travelling. While travelling on an eTicket, one must carry an authorised valid photo identity card. Cancellation of eTickets are also done online, without the requirement for the passenger to go to any counter. Unreserved tickets are available for purchase on the platform at any time before departure. An unreserved-ticket holder may only board the general-compartment class. All suburban networks issue unreserved tickets valid for a limited time. For frequent commuters, a season pass (monthly or quarterly) guarantees unlimited travel between two stops.

Freight services[edit]

In 1999, the Konkan Railway Corporation introduced the Roll on Roll off (RORO) service, a unique road–rail system, on the section between Kolad in Maharashtra and Verna in Goa,[85] which was extended in 2004 to Surathkal in Karnataka.[86][87] The RORO service, the first of its kind in India, allowed trucks to be transported on flatbed trailers. It was highly popular,[88] carrying about 110,000 trucks and bringing in about 740 million worth of earnings to the corporation by 2007.[89]

Urban rail[edit]

Suburban rail[edit]

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is India's first commuter rail system and transports 6.3 million passengers daily, the highest passenger-density in the world.[90] The Kolkata Suburban Railway was established in Kolkata in 1854.[91]

The operational suburban rail systems in India are Mumbai Suburban Railway, Kolkata Suburban Railway, Lucknow–Kanpur Suburban Railway, Chennai Suburban Railway, Delhi Suburban Railway, Pune Suburban Railway, Hyderabad Multi-Modal Transport System, Barabanki–Lucknow Suburban Railway and Pernem–Karwar Suburban Railway.[92] Other planned systems are Bengaluru Commuter Rail, Ahmedabad Suburban Railway and Coimbatore Suburban Railway.


The first modern rapid transit in India is the Kolkata Metro which started operations in 1984, as the 17th Zone of Indian Railways.[93] The Delhi Metro in New Delhi is India's second conventional metro and began operations in 2002. The Namma Metro in Bangalore became India's third rapid-transit system in 2011. Following these were Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon, Mumbai Metro, Jaipur Metro, Chennai Metro, Kochi Metro, Hyderabad Metro and Lucknow Metro.

Further systems in planning include: Noida Metro, Ghaziabad Metro, Navi Mumbai Metro, Nagpur Metro, Metro-Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad, Varanasi Metro, Kanpur Metro, Pune Metro, Vijayawada Metro, Patna Metro, Meerut Metro, Guwahati Metro, Chandigarh Metro, Bhopal Metro, Kozhikode Light Metro, Indore Metro, Thiruvananthapuram Light Metro, Agra Metro, Coimbatore Metro, Visakhapatnam Metro, Dehradun Metro, Surat Metro, Srinagar Metro, Greater Gwalior Metro, Jabalpur Metro and Greater Nashik Metro. Some of these may be under construction and planned to be opened shortly.


A monorail in Mumbai

Monorail is generally considered a feeder system for the metro trains in India. The Mumbai Monorail, which started in 2014, is the first operational monorail network in India[94] (excluding the Skybus Metro) since the Patiala State Monorail Trainways closed in 1927.

Other planned systems are Chennai Monorail, Kolkata Monorail, Allahabad Monorail, Bengaluru Monorail, Delhi Monorail, Indore Monorail, Kanpur Monorail, Navi Mumbai Monorail, Patna Monorail, Pune Monorail, Ahmedabad Monorail, Aizawl Monorail, Bhubaneswar Monorail, Jodhpur Monorail, Kota Monorail, Nagpur Monorail and Nashik Monorail.

Light rail[edit]

Like monorail, light rail is also considered a feeder for the metro systems. The planned systems are Kolkata Light Rail Transit and Delhi Light Rail Transit.


A tram in Kolkata

In addition to trains the British rule in India saw trams introduced in many cities, though almost all of these were phased out. The trams in Kolkata are currently the only tram system in the country and provide an emission-free means of transport. The nationalised Calcutta Tramways Company is in the process of upgrading the existing tramway network at a cost of 240 million (US$3.8 million).[95]

Private railways[edit]

Though state-owned companies like IR and the various metro companies enjoy a near monopoly in India, a few private railways do exist. These private railway lines are used exclusively for freight.

There are railway lines owned and operated by companies including plantations, sugar mills, collieries and other mines, dams, harbours and ports. Broad-gauge railways are operated by the Mumbai Port Trust, Madras Port Trust,[96] Calcutta Port Trust, Visakhapatnam Port Trust and Bhilai Steel Plant.[96] The Tata Group operate funicular railways at Bhira and at Bhivpuri Road (as well as the Kamshet–Shirawta Dam railway line). The Pipavav Rail Corporation holds a 33-year concession for building and operating a railway line from Pipavav to Surendranagar.[96] The Kutch Railway Company, a joint venture of the Gujarat state government and private parties, is involved (along with the Kandla Port Trust and the Gujarat Adani Port) to build a GandhidhamPalanpur railway line.[96]

UNESCO world heritage sites[edit]

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Indian Railways, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus[97] and the Mountain Railways of India.[98] The latter consists of three separate railway lines located in different parts of India: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a 610 mm (2 ft) narrow gauge railway in Lesser Himalayas in West Bengal, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge rack railway in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu and the Kalka–Shimla Railway, a 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway in the Siwalik Hills in Himachal Pradesh.[98]


The IR receive rail subsidies of around 260 billion ($3.8 billion), 60% of which goes to commuter rail and short-haul trips.[99]

IR earns about 70% of its revenues from freight traffic (₹686.2 billion from freight and ₹304.6 billion from passengers in 2011–12). Most of its profits come from transporting freight, and this makes up for losses on passenger traffic. It deliberately keeps its passenger fares low.

According to the Report of High Level Safety Review Committee of 2012, from 2007–08 to October 2011 casualties in train accidents accounted for 1,019 deaths and 2,118 injuries. In the same period 1,600 railway staff were killed and 8,700 injured. The committee estimated that almost 15,000 persons get killed each year by what is called unlawful trespassing.[100] A Daily Telegraph article[101] stated that Indian Railway officials believe that a large proportion of bodies found dead on railways died elsewhere and were put on the railway in dishonest attempts to get compensation from the railway authorities and companies.

IR announced that by 2022 all trains would be electric to reduce their carbon footprint.[102]


Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), located at Lucknow, conducts all of IR's research, design and standardisation tasks.

In August 2013, IR entered into a partnership with Indian Institute of Technology (Madras) to develop technology to utilize solar energy for lighting and air-conditioning in the coaches. This would significantly reduce the fossil-fuel dependency for IR.[103]

Recently it developed and tested the Improved Automated Fire Alarm System in Rajdhani Express trains. It is intended that the system be applied to AC coaches of all regular trains.[104]

In recent years, IR has undertaken several initiatives to upgrade its ageing infrastructure and enhance its quality of service. The Indian government plans to invest 9.05 trillion (US$140 billion) to upgrade the railways by 2020.[105] IR is refurbishing 12–15 year old coaches at Carriage Rehabilitation Workshop in Bhopal to enhance passenger amenities and fire-safety measures.[106][107] Selected passengers with confirmed tickets will now be allowed to transfer them to someone else, but only once. IRCTC is now offering a pay-on-delivery option for train tickets on its website and app, where the customers can book the tickets and pay when it is delivered.

High-speed rail[edit]

India does not have any railways classified as high-speed rail (HSR), which have operational speeds in excess of 200 km/h (120 mph).[108] The fastest train in India is the Gatimaan Express with a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph),[109][110] which runs between Delhi and Agra.[111]

Prior to the 2014 general election, the two major national parties – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) – pledged to introduce high-speed rail. The INC pledged to connect all of India's million-population cities by high-speed rail,[112] whereas BJP promised to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project connecting the cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai via high-speed rail.[113] This project was approved as a priority for the new BJP government in the incoming president's speech.[114] Construction of each kilometer of high-speed railway track will cost 100–140 crore (1–1.4 billion) which is 10–14 times higher than the construction of standard broad-gauge railway.[115]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved Japan to build the first section running 500 km (310 mi) between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, to be capable of running trains at 320 km/h (200 mph).[116][117] Under the proposal, construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2023. It would cost about 980 billion (US$15 billion) and be financed by a low-interest loan from Japan.[118] It will use the wheel-based 300 km/h HSR technology, instead of maglev 600 km/h technology used in Japan's Chūō Shinkansen. India is expected to have its HSR line operational in 2025.

Locomotive factories[edit]

In 2015 plans were disclosed for building two locomotive factories in the state of Bihar: at Madhepura (electric) and at Marhaura (diesel).[119] Both factories involve foreign partnerships. The diesel locomotive works will be jointly operated in a partnership with General Electric, which has invested 20.52 billion (US$320 million) for its construction, and the electric locomotive works with Alstom, which has invested 12.935 billion (US$200 million). The factories will provide IR with 800 electric locomotives of 12,000 horsepower (8,900 kW), and a mix of 1,000 diesel locomotives of 4,500 and 6,000 horsepower (3,400 and 4,500 kW).[120] In November further details of the 146.56 billion (US$2.3 billion) partnership with GE were announced: IR and GE would engage in an 11-year joint venture in which GE would hold a majority stake of 74%. Under the terms of the joint venture, IR would purchase 100 goods locomotives a year for 10 years beginning in 2017; the locomotives would be modified versions of the GE Evolution series.[121] The diesel locomotive works will be built by 2018; GE will import the first 100 locomotives and manufacture the remaining 900 in India from 2019, also assuming responsibility for their maintenance over a 13-year period.[122] In the same month, a 200 billion (US$3.1 billion) partnership with Alstom to supply 800 electric locomotives from 2018 to 2028 was announced.[105]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]