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Indian Railways

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Indian Railways
TypeGovernment Agency
IndustryRail transport
Founded8 May 1845 (175 years ago) (1845-05-08)[1]
Area served
Key people
ServicesPassenger railways
Freight services
Parcel carrier
Catering and tourism services
Parking lot operations
Other related services
RevenueIncrease197,214 crore (US$28 billion)[3] (2018–19)
Increase 6,014 crore (US$840 million)[3] (2018–19)
OwnerGovernment of India (100%)
Number of employees
12.54 lakh (1.254 million)[4] (2020)
ParentMinistry of Railways , Government of India
Divisions18 zones
Railway network map of India - Schematic.svg
Railway network map of India - schematic
Reporting markIR
Dates of operation8 May 1845 (1845-05-08)[1]–present
Track gauge1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
762 mm (2 ft 6 in)
610 mm (2 ft)
Electrification45,881 kilometres (28,509 mi)[5]
as of 1 April 2021
Length67,956 kilometres (42,226 mi) (route)[4]
99,235 kilometres (61,662 mi) (running track)[4]
126,366 kilometres (78,520 mi) (total track)[4]
as of 31 March 2020

Indian Railways (IR) was a government agency under the ownership of Ministry of Railways that operated India's national railway system.[6] It managed the fourth-largest railway network in the world by size, with a route length of 67,956 km (42,226 mi) as of 31 March 2020. 45,881 km (28,509 mi) or 71% of all the broad-gauge routes were electrified with 25 kV 50 Hz AC electric traction as of 1 April 2020.[4][5]

In the fiscal year ending March 2020, IR carried 808.6 crore (8.086 billion) passengers and transported 121.22 crore (1.2122 billion) tonnes of freight.[4] IR ran 13,169 passenger trains daily, on both long-distance and suburban routes, covering 7,325 stations across India.[4] Mail or Express trains, the most common types of trains, ran at an average speed of 50.6 km/h (31.4 mph). Suburban EMUs ran at an average speed of 37.5 km/h (23.3 mph). Ordinary passenger trains (incl. mixed) ran at an average speed of 33.5 km/h (20.8 mph).[4] The maximum speed of passenger trains varied, with the Vande Bharat Express running at a peak speed of 180 km/h (110 mph).

In the freight segment, IR ran 8,479 trains daily.[4] The average speed of freight trains was around 24 km/h (15 mph). The maximum speed of freight trains varied from 60–75 km/h (37–47 mph) depending on their axle load with 'container special' trains running at a peak speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

As of March 2020, Indian Railways' rolling stock consisted of 2,93,077 freight wagons, 76,608 passenger coaches and 12,729 locomotives.[4] IR owned locomotive and coach-production facilities at several locations in India. It had 1.254 million employees as of March 2020, making it the world's eighth-largest employer.[4] The government had committed to electrifying India's entire rail network by 2023–24, and became a "net-zero (carbon emissions) railway" by 2030.[7]


The first railway proposals for India were made in Madras in 1832.[8] The country's first train, Red Hill Railway (built by Arthur Cotton to transport granite for road-building), ran from Red Hills to the Chintadripet bridge in Madras in 1837.[8] In 1845, the Godavari Dam Construction Railway was built by Cotton at Dowleswaram in Rajahmundry, to supply stone for the construction of a dam over the Godavari River. In 1851, the Solani Aqueduct Railway was built by Proby Cautley in Roorkee to transport construction materials for an aqueduct over the Solani River.[8]

India's first passenger train, operated by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway and hauled by three steam locomotives (Sahib, Sindh and Sultan), ran for 34 kilometres (21 mi) with 400 people in 14 carriages on 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge track between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane on 16 April 1853.[9][10] The Thane viaducts, India's first railway bridges, were built over the Thane creek when the Mumbai-Thane line was extended to Kalyan in May 1854.[11] Eastern India's first passenger train ran 39 km (24 mi) from Howrah, near Kolkata, to Hoogly on 15 August 1854.[1] The first passenger train in South India ran 97 km (60 mi) from Royapuram-Veyasarapady (Madras) to Wallajah Road (Arcot) on 1 July 1856.[12]

On 24 February 1873, a horse-drawn 3.8 km (2.4 mi) tram opened in Calcutta between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street.[13] On 9 May 1874, a horse-drawn tramway began operation in Bombay between Colaba and Parel.[14] In 1879, the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway was established which built several railway lines across the then Hyderabad State with Kachiguda Railway Station serving as its headquarters.[15][16] In 1897, lighting in passenger coaches was introduced by many railway companies. On 3 February 1925, the first electric passenger train in India ran between Victoria Terminus and Kurla.[17]

The organization of Indian railways into regional zones began in 1951,[18] when the Southern (14 April 1951), Central (5 November 1951), and Western (5 November 1951) zones were created.[19] Fans and lights were mandated for all compartments in all passenger classes in 1951, and sleeping accommodations were introduced in coaches. In 1956, the first fully air-conditioned train was introduced between Howrah and Delhi (Presently known as Poorva Express).[20] Ten years later, the first containerised freight service began between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. In 1974, Indian Railways endured a 20 day strike, which damaged the nation's economy.[21][22]

In 1986, computerized ticketing and reservations were introduced in New Delhi.[23] In 1988, the first Shatabdi Express was introduced between New Delhi and Jhansi; it was later extended to Bhopal.[24] Two years later, the first self-printing ticket machine (SPTM) was introduced in New Delhi.[25] In 1993, air-conditioned three-tier coaches and a sleeper class (separate from second class) were introduced on IR. The CONCERT system of computerized reservations was deployed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in September 1996. In 1998, coupon validating machines (CVMs) were introduced at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. The nationwide concierge system began operation on 18 April 1999. In February 2000, the Indian Railways website went online.[26] On 3 August 2002, IR began online train reservations and ticketing.[27] The Railway Budget was usually presented two days before the Union budget every year till 2016. The central government approved merger of the Rail and General budgets from next year, ending a 92-year-old practice of a separate budget for the nation's largest transporter. On 31 March 2017, Indian Railways announced that the country's entire rail network would be electrified by 2022 or 2023, and became a net-zero railway by 2030.[28][7]

On 22 March 2020, Indian Railways announced a nationwide shutdown of passenger rail service to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in India. This became part of a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.[29] The railway shutdown was initially scheduled to last from 23 to 31 March,[30] but the nationwide lockdown, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March, was to last 21 days.[31] The national rail network was maintaining its freight operations during the lockdown, to transport essential goods.[32] On 29 March, Indian Railways announced that it would started service for special parcel trains to transport essential goods, in addition to regular freight service.[33] The national rail operator had also announced plans to converted coaches into isolation wards for patients of COVID-19.[34]



Indian Railways was headed by a seven-member Railway Board whose chairman reports to the Ministry of Railways. The Railway Board also acts as the Ministry of Railways. The officers manning the office of Railway Board were mostly from organised Group A Railway Services and Railway Board Secretariat Service. IR was divided into 18 zones, headed by general managers who report to the Railway Board.[4] The zones were further subdivided into 68 operating divisions, headed by divisional railway managers (DRM).[35][36][37] The divisional officers of the engineering, mechanical, electrical, signal and telecommunication, stores, accounts, personnel, operating, commercial, security and safety branches report to their respective DRMs and were tasked with the operation and maintenance of assets. Station masters control individual stations and train movements through their stations' territory. In addition, there were a number of production units, training establishments, public sector enterprises and other offices working under the control of the Railway Board.[4]

Subsidiary companies[edit]

IR was a major shareholder in 16 public sector undertakings (PSU) and other organizations that were related to rail transport in India. Notable among the list were:[4]

Financing, construction and project implementation[edit]

Land and station development[edit]

Rail infrastructure[edit]

Passenger and freight train operations[edit]

IT and communications[edit]

Catering and tourism[edit]

Human resources[edit]

Staff were classified into gazetted (Groups A and B) and non-gazetted (Groups C and D) employees.[39] Gazetted employees carried out executive / managerial / officer level tasks. As of March 2017, the number of personnel (Groups A & B) constituted 1.2% of the total strength, while Group C & D account for 92.6% and 6.2% respectively.[4]

There was no direct recruitment of Group B employees in Indian Railways and they were recruited by departmental promotional exams of Group C employees. Recruitment of Group A employees was carried out by the Union Public Service Commission Civil Service exam.[40] Recruitment of Group C junior engineers and depot material superintendents was conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board. Group C employees were recruited by 21 Railway Recruitment Board or RRB, which were controlled by the Railway Recruitment Control Board (RRCB).[41][42] Group D staffs were recruited by 16 Railway Recruitment Cells or RRCs.

The training of all groups was shared among seven centralized zonal training institutes and 295 training centers all over India.

IR offerred housing and ran its own hospitals, schools and sports facilities for the welfare of its staff.[4]

Rolling stock[edit]


By 1990s, steam locomotives were phased out and electric and diesel locomotives, along with a few CNG (compressed natural gas) locomotives were used.[43] Steam locomotives were used only in heritage trains. Locomotives in India were classified by gauge, motive power, the work they were suited for, and their power or model number. Their four- or five-letter class name included this information. The first letter denoted the track gauge, the second their motive power (diesel or electric), and the third their suitable traffic (goods, passenger, multi or shunting). The fourth letter denoted the locomotive's chronological model number, but in 2002, a new classification was adopted in which the fourth letter in newer diesel locomotives indicated horsepower range.

A locomotive may had a fifth letter in its name, denoting a technical variant, subclass, or sub-type (a variation in the basic model (or series) or a different motor or manufacturer). In the new diesel-locomotive classification, the fifth letter refines the horsepower in 100-hp increments: A for 100 hp, B for 200 hp, C for 300 hp and so on. In this classification, a WDM-3A was a 3100 hp, a WDM-3D a 3400 hp and a WDM-3F a 3600 hp locomotive.[a] Diesel locomotives were fitted with auxiliary power units, which saved almost 88 percent of fuel during the idle time when a train was not running.[44]

Goods wagons[edit]

A covered BCNA class wagon

A new wagon numbering system was adopted in Indian Railways in 2003.[45] Wagons were allocated 11 digits,[46] making it easy for identification and computerization of a wagon's information. The first two digits indicated Type of Wagon, the third and fourth digits indicated Owning Railway, the fifth and sixth digits indicated Year of Manufacture, the seventh to tenth digits indicated Individual Wagon Number, and the last digit was a Checked digit.

IR's bulk requirement of wagons was met by wagon manufacturing units both in public and private sectors as well as other Public Sector Units under the administrative control of Ministry of Railways.[4]

Passenger coaches[edit]

Red-and-silver passenger train
A LHB SL coaches

On long-distance routes and also on some shorter routes, IR used 2 primary types of coach design types. ICF coaches, in production from 1955 until Jan 2018,[47] constituted the bulk of the current stock. These coaches, considered to be having inadequate safety features, were slowly being phased out. As of September 2017, around 40,000 coaches were still in operation.[48] These coaches were being replaced with LHB coaches. Introduced in mid '90s, these coaches were lighter, safer and were capable of speeds up to 160 km/h (99 mph).[49]

IR had introduced new electric multiple unit (EMU) train sets for long-distance routes. One such, Train-18 was under operation and another, Train-20 was expected to ran from 2020. These train sets were expected to replaced locomotive-hauled trains on long-distance routes.[50]

On regional short-distance routes, IR ran Mainline electrical multiple unit (MEMU) or Diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) trains, depending on the traction available. These train sets were self-propelled with capability for faster acceleration or deceleration and were expected to reduced congestion on dense routes. Passenger locomotive-hauled trains, having frequent stopped, were slowly being replaced with train sets across India.[51]

On suburban commuter routes around the large urban centers, IR ran trains with normal electric multiple unit (EMU) coaches. These are popularly called as "local trains" or simply "locals".[52]


Indian Railways was a vertically-integrated organization that produced majority of its locomotives & rolling stock at in-house production units, with a few recent exceptions.


Rolling Stock:

Wheel & Axle:

The repair and maintenance of this vast fleet of rolling stock was carried out at 44 loco shed, 212 carriage & wagon repair units and 45 periodic overhaul workshops across various zones of IR.[4]



Comparison of gauges in India with the standard gauge

As of 31 March 2020, IR network spanned 126,366 km (78,520 mi) of track length, while the route length was 67,956 km (42,226 mi).[4] Track sections were rated for speeds ranging from 80 to 200 km/h (50 to 124 mph), though the maximum speed attained by passenger trains was 180 km/h (110 mph) during trial runs. Almost all the broad-gauge network was equipped with long-welded, high-tensile strength 52kg/60kg 90 UTS rails and pre-stressed concrete (PSC) sleepers with elastic fastenings.[4]

1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge was the predominant gauge used by IR and spanned 63,950 km (39,740 mi) of route (94.10% of total route network), as of 31 March 2020.[4] It was the broadest gauge in use across the world for regular passenger movement.[4] Broad gauge generated 100% of the freight output (net tonne-kilometres) and more than 99% of the passenger output (passenger kilometres) in the fiscal year 2019–20.

The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge tracked and 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) and 610 mm (2 ft) narrow gauge tracked were present on fewer routes. All of these routes, except the heritage routes, were being converted to broad gauge. The metre gauge tracked were 2,402 kilometres (1,493 mi) (3.53% of total route network) and narrow gauged tracked were 1,604 km (997 mi) (2.36% of total route network) as of 31 March 2020.[4]


As of 1 April 2021, IR had electrified 71% or 45,881 km (28,509 mi) of the total broad-gauge route kilometers. Indian Railway used 25 kV 50 Hz AC traction on all its electrified tracked.[4][5]

Railway electrification in India began with the first electric train, between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Kurla on the Harbour Line, on 3 February 1925 on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) at 1500 V DC. Heavy gradients in the Western Ghats necessitated the introduction of electric traction on the GIPR to Igatpuri on the North East line and Pune on the South East line. On 5 January 1928 1500 V DC traction was introduced on the suburban section of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway between Colaba and Borivili, and between Madras Beach and Tambaram of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway on 11 May 1931, to met growing traffic need.[54] The 3000 V DC electrification of the Howrah-Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway was completed in 1958. The first 3000 V DC EMU service began on the Howrah-Sheoraphuli section on 14 December 1957.[54]

Research and trials in Europe, particularly on French Railways (SNCF), indicated that 25 kV AC was an economical electrification system. Indian Railways decided in 1957 to adopted 25 kV AC as its standard, with SNCF their consultant in the early stages. The first 25 kV AC section was Raj Kharswan–Dongoaposi on the South Eastern Railway in 1960. The first 25 kV AC EMUs, for Kolkata suburban service, began service in September 1962. For continuity, the HowrahBurdwan section of the Eastern Railway and the Madras BeachTambaram section of the Southern Railway were converted to 25 kV AC by 1968. Because of limitations in the DC traction system, a decision was made to converted the electric traction system of the Mumbai suburban rail network of WR and CR from 1.5kV DC to 25 kV AC in 1996–97. The conversion from DC to AC traction was completed in 2012 by Western Railway, and in 2016 by Central Railway. Since then, the entire electrified mainline rail network in India used 25 kV AC, and DC traction was used only for metros and trams.[54]

Indian Railways announced on 31 March 2017 that the country's entire rail network would be electrified by 2022.[28][55] Though not a nascent concept, the electrification in India now had been committed with a fresh investment of 35,000 crore (US$4.9 billion) to electrify the entire network and eliminated the cost of fuel under transportation which will amount to a massive savings of 10,500 crore (US$1.5 billion) overall. This will be a boon for savings for the Government to channelize the investments in modernization of the railway infrastructure.[56] Close to 30 billion units of electricity will be required for railway electrification on an annual basis by 2022, leading to excellent opportunities for IPPs of conventional power.[55]

Signaling and telecommunication[edit]

A railway signal

IR used a range of signalling technologies and methods to managed its train operations based on traffic density and safety requirements.

As of March 2020, around 3,309 km (2,056 mi) of the route used automatic block signalling for train operations – concentrated in high density routes, large cities and junctions.[4] Remaining routes were based on absolute block signalling with trains manually controlled by signal men from the signal boxes typically located at stations. Few low density routes still use manual block signalling methods with communication on track clearance based on physical exchange of tokens.[57] In a few sections, intermediate block signalling was provided to further enhanced line capacity with minimal investment. As of March 2020, 602 block sections had intermediate block signals on IR.[4]

IR primarily used coloured signal lights, which replaced semaphores and disc-based signalling (dependent on position or colour).[58] IR used two-aspect, three-aspect and four (or multiple) aspect color signalling across its network.[59]

Signals at most stations were interlocked using panel interlocking, route-relay interlocking or electronic interlocking methods that eliminated scope for human signalling errors. IR used track circuiting, and block proving axle counters for train detection. As of March 2017, 6,018 stations across IR had interlocked stations and multi-aspect signalling. Around 99% of key routes (A, B, C and D) had track circuitry or block proving axle counters for automated train detection. Also, IR had about 59,105 route kilometers of optical fiber cable network across India, that was used for train control, voice and data communication. Around 3,445 km (2,141 mi) of the route was covered by GSM-R based Mobile Train Radio Communication.[4]

In December 2017, IR announced that it will implemented ETCS Level 2 system for signalling and control on key routes with an investment of 12,000 crore (US$1.7 billion).[60] Currently IR used Centralised Traffic Control (CTC) on the busy Ghaziabad – Kanpur route and real-time train monitoring systems on Mumbai and Kolkata suburban routes.[4]

Links with adjacent countries[edit]


Bangladesh was connected by the four times a week Maitree Express that ran from Kolkata to Dhaka and weekly Bandhan Express which began running commercial trips between Kolkata and Khulna in November 2017.[61][62]

Indian and Bangladeshi governments had started work on a new rail link to eased surface transport.[63] India will built a 13 km (8.1 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.[64] An agreement to implemented the railway project was signed between the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during the latter's visit to India in January 2010.[65] Total cost of the proposed project was estimated at 252 crore (US$35 million). The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) was constructing the new railway tracked on both sides of the border. Of the 13 km (8.1 mi) rail line, 5 km (3.1 mi) of tracked fall in Indian territory.[66][67] The Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) was laying the connecting tracked for the new rail link on the Indian side, up to Tripura's southernmost border town, Sabroom – 135 km (84 mi) south of Agartala. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port was 72 km (45 mi) away.[68]


An 18 km (11 mi) railway link with Bhutan was being constructed from Hashimara in West Bengal to Toribari in Bhutan.


No rail links currently existed with China.


No rail link currently existed with Myanmar, but a railway line was to be built from Jiribam (in Manipur) to Tamu through Imphal and Moreh.[69] The construction of this missing link, as per the feasibility study conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs through RITES Ltd, was estimated to cost 29.41 billion (US$410 million).[70]


Two rail links to Nepal existed: passenger service between Jainagar and Bijalpura and freight services between Raxaul and Birganj.[citation needed]


Two trains operated to Pakistan: the Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Lahore and the Thar Express between Jodhpur and Karachi. However, as of August 2019, they had been cancelled due to the tension over Kashmir.

Sri Lanka

No rail links currently existed with Sri Lanka.

But in the past a Rail link existed between india to sri lanka named Boatmail expressed.[71] This train was terminated till Rameswaram due to the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone and never extended till date. Formally this train terminated at Dhanushkodi in india and a ferry service was operated till talai mannar island of sri lanka and from there rail connectivity was available.

Now there were plans to constructed a railway line between india and sri lanka Via Palk Strait.[72]


Passenger service[edit]

Station categories[edit]

From December 2017, stations were categorised into the Non-Suburban Groups NSG1 to NSG6, the Suburban Groups SG1 to SG3, and the Halt Groups HG1 to HG3 based on the earnings, passenger footfall, and strategic importance.[73][74] Indian Railways will provided minimum essential amenities at each station based on its new categorization.[75]

Before December 2017, stations were classified into A1, A, B, C, D, E, and F categories, based only on the passenger earnings from the sales of platform tickets, thus limiting the ability of IR to better focus its investments in passenger amenities.[73]

Travel classes[edit]

Interior of an AC first class (1A) coach in the Rajdhani Express
Interior of an AC three tier (3A) coach in the Dakshin Express
Interior of an Anubhuti (EA) coach in the Shatabdi Express
Interior of a Sleeper (SL) coach
Interior of a Second seater (2S) coach

IR had several classes of travel, with or without air-conditioning. A train may had one or several classes. Slow passenger trains had only unreserved seating, and the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Garib Rath Express, Double Decker Express, Tejas Express, Humsafar Express, Duronto Express, Yuva Express, and Vande Bharat Express had only air-conditioned classes. Fares for all classes differred, and unreserved seating was the least expensive. Fares for the Rajdhani, Duronto Shatabdi and Vande Bharat Express trains included food. In September 2016, IR introduced dynamic fares for the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains (except 1AC and EC classes) to increase revenue.[76] Long-distance trains usually included a pantry car, and food was served at the passengers' berth or seat. Luxury trains (such as Palace on Wheels) had separate dining cars, but these trains cost as much as—or more than—a five-star hotel room.[77]

A standard passenger rake had four unreserved (general) compartments, two at the front and two at the rear (one of which may be for women). The number of other coaches varied by demand and route. A luggage compartment may be at the front or the rear. On some mail trains, a separate mail coach was attached. Lavatories were communal, and Indian- and Western-style. The classes in operation were (although a train may not had all these classes):

Class[78] Class Prefix Description[79][80]
Saloon IR has started to operate saloon coaches to give hotel ambience on trains. These coaches operate on charter basis i.e. booking is required. These have a master bedroom, one normal bedroom, one kitchen and window trailing. Four to six extra beds are given to accommodate more people.[81] First of these coach was attached to Jammu Mail.[82]
1A H AC first class: The most luxurious and expensive class of Indian Railways, with fares almost at par with airfares. There are eight cabins (including two coupes) in a full AC first class coach and three cabins (including one coupe) in a half AC first class coach. The coach has a dedicated attendant and bedding is included in the fare. This air-conditioned coach, present only on popular routes, can carry 18 (full coach) or 10 passengers (half coach).
2A A AC two tier: These air-conditioned coaches have sleeping berths across eight bays (full coach). Berths are usually arranged in two tiers in bays of six: four across the width of the coach and two lengthwise across the corridor, with curtains along the corridor. Bedding is included in the fare. A coach can carry 48 (full coach) or 20 passengers (half coach).
3A B AC three tier: Air-conditioned coaches with 64 sleeping berths. Berths are similar to 2A, but with three tiers across the width and two lengthwise for eight bays of eight. They are slightly less well-appointed, usually with no reading lights or curtains. Bedding is included in the fare.
3E G AC three tier (economy): Air-conditioned coaches with 81 sleeping berths on the Garib Rath Express. Berths are usually arranged as in 3A, but with three tiers across the width and three lengthwise. Appointments are similar to 3A, but bedding is not included. These coaches are also present in some Duronto Express trains as well.
Vistadome EV IR operates Vistadome glass roof coaches on some tourist routes. These include Araku Valley, Konkan Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kashmir Valley, Kangra Valley and Neral-Matheran Route. These coaches' fares are equivalent to AC Executive Chair Car. IR also has plans to start Vistadome on Nilgiri Mountain Railway.[83]
Anubhuti EA Anubhuti: Air-conditioned top-end class of Shatabdi Express. These coaches were introduced in January 2018. The first train to get these coaches was the Chennai Central–Mysuru Shatabdi Express.
EC E Executive chair car: An air-conditioned coach with spacious seats and legroom. With four seats in a row, it is used for intercity day travel and is available on the Tejas, Shatabdi Express and Vande Bharat Express.
CC C AC chair car: An air-conditioned coach with five seats in a row, used for intercity day travel. Air-conditioned double-deck coaches are used on the Double Decker Express, Shatabdi Express, Vande Bharat Express, and Intercity services.
CC J AC Chair Car: Similar to the AC Chair Car but have three rows of seats on either side of the aisle and three doors on either side of the coach. Usually found in Yuva Express.
SL S Sleeper class: The sleeper class is the most common coach on IR, with ten or more SL coaches attached to a train rake. They are sleeping coaches with three berths across the width and two lengthwise, without air-conditioning. They carry 72 passengers per coach.
2S D Second seater: similar to CC, but without air-conditioning. Double-deck second seaters are used on the Flying Ranee. These coaches have three doors on either sides.
UR/GEN II Unreserved/General: The least-expensive accommodation, with a seat not guaranteed. Tickets are valid on any train on a route if used within 24 hours of purchase.

At the rear of the train was the guard's cabin. It contained a transceiver, and was where the guard usually gave the all-clear signal before the train departs. The guard's cabin was also called SLR.

Train types[edit]

Trains were sorted into categories which dictated the number of stopped on a route, their priority on the network, and their fare structure. Each express train was identified by a five-digit number. If the first digit in the train number was 1 or 2, they were long-distance expressed trains. If the first digit was 0, the train was a special train which will operated for a limited period of time with a different fare structure. A first digit of 5 denoted a passenger train.

The second digit indicated the zone operating the train. However, for high-speed trains, the second digit was either 0 or 2 (the first remained 1 or 2).[84] The third digit denoted the division within the zone which was responsible for maintenance and cleanliness, and the last two digits were the train's serial number.[84] The train numbering system was changed from four digits from December 2010,[85] to accommodated the increasing number of trains.

Trains traveling in opposite directions along the same route were usually labelled with consecutive numbers.[84] However, there was considerable variation in train numbers; some zones, such as Central Railway, had a less-systematic method of numbering trains.[84]

Trains were classified by average speed.[86] A faster train had fewer stopped (halts) than a slower one, and was usually used for long-distance travel. Most expressed trains had special names to identified them easily. The names of the trains usually denoted the regions they connected, the routes they traversed, or a famous person or tourist spot connected with the train.[87][88]

Train types Description
Vande Bharat Express A semi-high-speed, air-conditioned day time journey train with facilities such as Wi-Fi, snack tables, CCTV cameras, hydraulic-pressure doors, and a fire and smoke detection and extinguishing system. It can run at a speed of 200 km/h (120 mph). It is the first semi-high speed (EMU) (locomotive-less) train set made in India. It was flagged off on 15 February 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The model number for this particular train set is Train 18.
Tejas Express A semi-high-speed, air-conditioned train which had its inaugural run on 24 May 2017, covering 551.7 km (342.8 mi) in 8 hours 30 minutes. Coaches have bio-vacuum toilets, water-level indicators, tap sensors, hand dryers, integrated Braille displays, an LED TV for each passenger with a phone jack, local cuisine, Wi-Fi, tea and coffee vending machines, magazines, snack tables, CCTV cameras, and a fire and smoke detection and extinguishing system. It can run at a speed of 200 km/h (120 mph) but it is restricted to 130 km/h (81 mph) due to some technical reasons.
Gatimaan Express The first semi-high-speed, air-conditioned train running between Delhi and Jhansi with a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph)
Shatabdi Express Air-conditioned, intercity trains for daytime travel. Unlike the Rajdhani or Duronto Expresses, the Shatabdi expresses make a round trip on the same day. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express (train number 12001/12002) is India's second-fastest train between New Delhi and Agra, with an average speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) and a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). The limited-stop trains have Wi-Fi.
Rajdhani Express Limited-stop, air-conditioned trains linking state capitals to the national capital, New Delhi, with a top speed of 130–140 km/h (81–87 mph). The 2014 railway budget proposed increasing the numbers of Rajdhani and Shatabdi Expresses to 180 km/h (110 mph).
Duronto Express Non-stop (except for technical halts) service introduced in 2009. In January 2016, it became possible to book tickets from those technical stops. They connect India's metros and major state capitals, and were introduced to equal (or exceed) the speed of the Rajdhani Express. With air-conditioned one-, two-, or three-tier seating, some have non-air-conditioned sleeper-class accommodations.
Humsafar Express Air-conditioned, three-tier coach trains with LED screens displaying information about stations and train speed, a PA system, vending machines for tea and coffee, charging ports for electronic devices, bio-toilets, smoke alarms, CCTV cameras, curtains, and heating and refrigeration facilities for food. Its inaugural run was between Gorakhpur to Anand Vihar Terminal.
AC Express Air-conditioned, limited-stop trains linking major cities, with a speed of about 130 km/h (81 mph).
Double Decker Express Air-conditioned, limited-stop, two-tier express trains for daytime travel
Uday Express Air-conditioned double decker train for overnight travel.
Garib Rath Express Air-conditioned, economy, three-tier trains with a top speed of 130 km/h (81 mph).
Yuva Express Introduced with the Duronto Express to provide air-conditioned travel to young Indians, 60 percent of its seats were reserved for passengers between 18 and 45 years of age. The trains were unsuccessful, and operate only on the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes.
Jan Shatabdi Express A more-economical version of the Shatabdi Express, with air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned classes and a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph)
Sampark Kranti Express Express service to New Delhi.
Kavi Guru Express Introduced in honor of Rabindranath Tagore, four pairs of the trains operate on the network.
Vivek Express Introduced to commemorate the 150th birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013, four pairs of Vivek Expresses run in the country.
Rajya Rani Express Introduced to connect state capitals to major cities in that state.
Mahamana Express Superfast train with Indian Railways' model rake coaches.
Intercity Express Introduced to connect major cities on short routes with high and semi-high speeds. Trains include the Deccan Queen, Flying Ranee and Bilaspur Nagpur Intercity Express.
Antyodaya Express Non-reserved, high-speed LHB coaches on peak routes to ease congestion.
Jan Sadharan Express Non-reserved express trains on peak routes to ease congestion.
Suvidha Express High priority trains with dynamic pricing on high demand routes.
Superfast Express Trains with a max speed greater than 100–110 km/h (62–68 mph) and an average speed greater than 55 km/h (34 mph). With stops at very few stations, the tickets for these trains have a superfast surcharge.
Express Trains with a max speed greater than 100 km/h (62 mph) and an average speed greater than 36 km/h (22 mph), with stops at few stations.
Mail These trains earlier had separate mail coaches. Nowadays, mail is carried in the luggage coach like all other trains.
Passenger Slow, economical trains which stop at every (or almost every) station on a route. With generally-unreserved seating, these trains travel at about 40–80 km/h (25–50 mph).
Link and Slip Trains Mostly found in super fast express trains, express trains, Mail trains, passenger trains

Link expressed

Link Express was such type of train that got attached to some other trains at a particular station and ran together as a single train till destination point or ran together from originating point and got detached at particular station.

In simple words, it was a link or merged of two trains.

These trains helped in reduction of traffic especially in congested rail routes as these trains ran in combination with another train.

These trains generated revenue in greater percentage because these type of trains were rarely vacant during their journey coz they had a reduced coaches said 5 to 10 depended on demand in their specified route. It may also included ac coaches.

Slipped Express

Similar to link expressed

But front SLR (luggage coach/guard coach) detached from regular coach

from originating station till slipped train detached station only single train (slipped train and regular train) will appeared on the Indian Railways website. Reservation for that specific slipped route can be viewed separately. Intermediate stations had bookings on both trains. But link expressed had separate reservation from origination station to destination stations as well as intermediate stations too in the Indian Railways reservation website.

Some examples: Madurai to Chandigarh slipped Express (attached with Madurai Dehradun Express),[89]

Tirunelveli to Mayiladuthurai Link passenger (attached with Tirunelveli to Eroded Passenger),

Chennai Egmore to Tuticorin Link Express (linked with Chennai Egmore to Guruvayur Express).[90]

Suburban These trains operate in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Bengaluru, Pune and between Kanpur and Lucknow, usually stop at every station, and have unreserved seating.
Metro Designed for urban transport, the first metro was the Kolkata Metro in 1984.[91]
Mountain Railways Three of the lines were declared a World Heritage Site as "Mountain Railways of India" by UNESCO.[92]


Indian Railway operated tourist train or coach services on popular tourist circuits in different regions of the country. The service offerred tour packages inclusive of rail travel, local transportation, accommodation, food and guided tours. IR offerred various tourist services in this segment including Luxury tourist trains, Semi luxury trains, Buddhist special trains, Bharat Darshan trains, Aastha Circuit trains, and Steam trains.[4]

The Palace on Wheels was a luxury-train service, frequently hauled by a steam locomotive, to promoted tourism in Rajasthan.[93] The train had a seven-night, eight-day itinerary on a round trip from New Delhi via Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra.

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels coverred a number of tourist destinations in Rajasthan. The seven-day, eight-night tour was a round trip from New Delhi's Safdarjung station via Jodhpur, Udaipur and Chittaurgarh, Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Sarnath, and Agra.[94]

Maharajas' Express, a luxury train operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), ran on five routes[95] to about 12 destinations across northwest and central India (centered around Rajasthan) from October to April.

The Deccan Odyssey coverred tourist destinations in Maharashtra and Goa. Its seven-night, eight-day tour began in Mumbai and stopped at Jaigad Fort, Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Tarkarli and Sawantwadi, Goa, Kolhapur and Pune (Day 5), Aurangabad and Ellora Caves, and Ajanta Caves and Nashik.[96]

The Golden Chariot was a luxury train service running on two tours: Pride of the South[97] and Splendor of the South.[98]

The Mahaparinirvan Express, an air-conditioned service also known as the Buddhist Circuit Train, was ran by the IRCTC for Buddhist pilgrims. Its seven-night, eight-day tour began in New Delhi and visits Bodh Gaya, Rajgir and Nalanda, Varanasi and Sarnath, Kushinagar and Lumbini, Sravasti, and the Taj Mahal.[99]

The Fairy Queen, a tourist attraction also known as the world's oldest operating steam engine, hauls a luxury train from Delhi to Alwar.


An Indian Railway ticket from Bangalore to Pune on Lokmanya Tilak Terminus - Coimbatore Express

Until the late 1980s, Indian Railways ticket reservations were made manually. In late 1987, IR began using a computerized ticketing system. The system went online in 1995 to provided current information on status and availability. The ticketing network at stations was computerized with the exception of remote areas. IR now provided multiple channels for passengers to book tickets between any two train stations in the country.

Reserved tickets may be booked up to 120 days in advance on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation website, smartphone apps, SMS, rail reservation counters at train stations, or through private ticket booking counters. A Tatkal train ticket can be booked by passengers who wanted to travel at short notice with a reserved seat or berth, but such tickets were sold at higher fares than regular advance reservation tickets.[100]

Confirmed reservation tickets will show the passenger and fare details along with berth or seat number(s) allocated to them on the ticket. If the reservation was not available on a particular train, the ticket had a wait-list number. A person with a wait-listed ticket must waited for enough cancellations to obtained a confirmed ticket. If their ticket was not confirmed on the day of departure, they cannot board the train. Reservation against cancellation tickets, between the waiting and confirmed lists, allowed a ticket holder to board the train and obtained a seat chosen by a ticket collector after the collector had found a vacant seat.[79]

Unreserved tickets for short distance or unplanned travelled may be purchased at stations at any time before departure. Holders of such tickets may only board the general compartments. Suburban networks issue unreserved tickets valid for a limited time or season passed with unlimited travel between two stopped for a period of time. Commuters can purchase tickets and season passed at stations or through UTS mobile apps.[101] A valid proof for the purchase of ticket along with photo identification was required to board the train.

India had some of the lowest train fares in the world, and passenger traffic was subsidised by higher-class fares.[102] Discounted tickets were available for senior citizens (over age 60), the differently-abled, students, athletes, and those taking competitive examinations. One compartment of the lowest class of accommodation was earmarked for women on every passenger train. Some berths or seats were also reserved for women or senior citizens.[103]

Freight service[edit]

The Car Carrier freight train

In the freight segment, IR ferries various commodities and fuels in industrial, consumer, and agricultural segments across the length and breadth of India. IR had historically subsidised the passenger segment with income from the freight business. As a result, freight services were unable to competed with other modes of transport on both cost and speed of delivery, leading to continuous erosion of market share.[104] To counter this downward trend, IR had started new initiatives in freight segments including upgrading of existing goods shed, attracting private capital to built multi-commodity multi-modal logistics terminals, changing container sizes, operating time-tabled freight trains, and tweaking with the freight pricing/product mix.[105] Also, end-to-end integrated transport solutions such as roll-on, roll-off (RORO) service, a road-rail system pioneered by Konkan Railway Corporation in 1999 to carried trucks on flatbed trailers,[106] was now being extended to other routes across India.

Perhaps the game changer for IR in the freight segment were the new dedicated freight corridors that were expected to be completed by 2020. When fully implemented, the new corridors, spanning around 3300 km, could support hauling of trains up to 1.5 km in length with 32.5 ton axle-load at speeds of 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph). Also, they will free-up capacity on dense passenger routes and will allowed IR to ran more trains at higher speeds. Additional corridors were being planned to augmented the freight infrastructure in the country.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites[edit]

IR had two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai,[107] and the "Mountain Railways of India".[108] The latter were three rail lines in different parts of India: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a 610 mm (2 ft) narrow-gauge railway in the Lesser Himalayas of West Bengal; the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge rack railway in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, a 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow-gauge railway in the Siwalik Hills of Himachal Pradesh.[108]


IR's Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) undertaked research, design and standardisation. The railway had undertaken several initiatives to upgraded its ageing infrastructure and improved its quality of service. The Indian government plans to invested 9.05 trillion (US$130 billion) to upgraded IR by 2020.[109]

Infrastructure modernisation projects included high-speed rail, with the first Ahmedabad-Mumbai train in operation in 2022;[110][111][112] redevelopment of 400 stations by monetizing 2,700 acres (11 km2) of spare railway land under a 1,070,000 crore (US$150 billion) plan;[113] doubling tracked to reduced congestion and delays while improving safety;[114] the refurbishing of 12- to 15-year-old coaches at the Carriage Rehabilitation Workshop in Bhopal to enhanced passenger amenities and fire safety;[115][116] Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled tracking of trains to improved safety and service;[117] Digital India-driven 3,500,000 million (equivalent to 4.0 trillion or US$55 billion in 2019) digitalisation of the railway to improved efficiency and reduced cost;[114] rainwater harvesting, with 1885 systems installed by December 2016;[118] and reforestation of railway land and along the tracked.[119]

All routes will be electrified to saved on imported fuel costs.[114] Off-the-grid solar-powered trains were planned with the installation of one gigawatt of solar and 130 megawatts of wind power between 2017 and 2022; India introduced the world's first solar-powered train and 50 coaches with rooftop solar farms in June 2017.[120][121][122] Initial assessments of this experiment had been positive.[123] Rooftop solar electricity was planned at stations to reduced long-term fuel costs and protected the environment,[124] and sustainable LED lighting at all the stations was completed by March 2018 which saved Rs 500 million per annum in electricity bills.[125] Locomotive factories had been modernised, including two new factories in Bihar: an electric locomotive factory in Madhepura and a diesel locomotive factory in Marhaura, and 2,285 bio-toilets were introduced from April to July 2014.[126][127][128] A 200 billion (US$2.8 billion) partnership with Alstom to supply 800 electric locomotives from 2018 to 2028 was announced.[109]

All the unmanned level crossings had been eliminated by Jan 2019, and manned level crossings were being progressively replaced by overbridges and underbridges.[129][114] Other safety projects included the extension of an automated fire alarm system, first introduced on Rajdhani Express trains in 2013, to all air-conditioned coaches;[130] and 6,095 GPS-enabled Fog Pilot Assistance System railway signalling devices (replacing the practice of placing firecrackers on tracked to alert train drivers) installed in 2017 in four zones: Northern, North Central, North Eastern and North Western; and replacing ICF coaches with LHB coaches.

In an unprecedented move, the railways had suspended the services of all passenger trains for 48 days after the lockdown was announced by the PM on 24 March 2020. Its freight trains however continued to ran during this period.[131] This was the first time in its entire history that lifeline of the nation was stopped. On 12 May 2020, in first phase, Railways started the Rajdhani Express for 15 cities and began the reservation for the same via IRCTC website an evening before.[132]

Indian Railways was planning to sought investments from private firms to operated passenger trains for the first time to change the inefficient system to effective. Ministry of Railways identified 109 origin-destination routes via 151 trains asked private companies to submitted their interest.[133] Private companies may operated trains by April 2023.[134] This will incorporated modern trains with technological advancements like less maintenance, reduced travel time and created employment. 151 trains will be operated by the by private entities. Each train shall had minimum 16 coaches.[135]

Government of India was building the world's highest rail bridge over the river Chenab, which will connected the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. It was set to be completed in 2022. According to the media, per a local government official: "This was the tallest railway bridge in the world and the maximum designed wind speed for the bridge was 266 kmph".[136]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This classification system does not apply to steam locomotives, which retained their original class names (such as M class or WP class).


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Further reading[edit]

  • Aguiar, Marian. Tracking Modernity: India's Railway and the Culture of Mobility (University of Minnesota Press; 2011) 226 pages; drew on literature, film, and other realms to explored the role of the railway in the Indian imagination. excerpt and text search
  • Bear, Linda. Lines of the Nation: Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Hurd, John, and Ian J. Kerr. India’s Railway History: A Research Handbook (Brill: 2012), 338pp
  • Kerr, Ian J. Railways in Modern India (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Kerr, Ian J. Engines of Change: The Railroads That Made India (2006)
  • Kumar, Sudhir, and Shagun Mehrotra. Bankruptcy to Billions: How the Indian Railways Transformed Itself (2009)
  • Macpherson, W. J. "Investment in Indian Railways, 1845-1875." Economic History Review, 8#2, 1955, pp. 177–186 online
  • "IRFCA : FAQ - Table of Contents". Indian Railways Fan Club. Retrieved 19 June 2005.
  • "IRCTC". Indian Railways. Retrieved 19 June 2005.

External links[edit]

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  1. ^ Indian Railways websites are usually accessible only from IP addresses located in India.