Cometh the civilization, cometh the trains. With all the advancements in the mode of transportation after renaissance, the trains came into being. They soon took over the entire cargo and passenger transport industry of the world. The Indian Railways were one of the things the British left their legacy in. Catering to a population of a billion people is no mean task and Indian Railways has built a formidable reputation about the same. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that they are the lifeline of the Indian masses. The Ministry of Railways manage the Indian Railways. It did not use to be a monopoly earlier when there were numerous private companies running the system. It covers the entire Indian Territory and also runs across international borders to Bangladesh and Pakistan. There are several reasons why the Indian Railways are unique.
Reasons which make Indian Railways unique:
First comes first:
Just a couple of years before The Sepoy Mutiny, 16 April 1853 marked the day when the first passenger train ran between Mumbai and Thane. The route was a small one but left a major impact for the years to come, it marked the advent of one of the most robust railways in the world.
Size does matter:
The Indian railways boast the one of the largest rail network in the whole world with railway tracks over a lakh kilometers that runs across the lengths and breadths of this country. The Indian Railways also use the broadest guage for transporting its people in the world. The Gorakhpur Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh is over a 1300 meters long and holds the distinction of being the longest platform on the planet.
Population does not matter:
Given the immense population, Indian Railways work day in day out to carry over 20 million passengers daily. That is more than entire population of Scandinavia clubbed together. This is achieved using more than 13,000 trains connecting over 7000 stations all across India.
With over 1.4 million employees, Indian Railways bear the burden of employing a huge chunk of Indian population. In the process, it also becomes one of the world’s largest employer. It employs people from guards to loco pilots, from catering assistants to station masters, from tea vendors to ticketing conductors from all walks of life and regions.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Forget the sheer numbers, four location of the Indian Railways have been chosen as the world heritage sites by UNESCO. These are Mumbai CST Building, Kalka Shimla railways, Darjeeling Himalayan railway and Nilgiri Mountain railways. They are chosen because of their rich history, unsurpassed natural beauty as well as their civil engineering marvel.
Guinness, here I come:
Records come naturally to Indian Railways. Talking of Route Relay Inter-Locking System, the Indian Railway has the largest one at New Delhi railway station. Also, the Indian Railwayoperates the Fairy Queen which is the oldest steam engine in the world and it works just fine till now.
The Indian Railway booking portal is one of the busiest web portals in India. It gets close to 13 lakh hits per minute and interestingly enough, without the surety of getting a ticket booked. However, it has lessened the burden of train booking at the station and helped the Indian masses a lot.
Slow and steady:
Speed does not come naturally to the Indian trains. The fastest train clock 140 kmph but some trains are so slow (less than 10kmph too) that one can literally get down the train, take a stroll and get back in. But yes, that’s the beauty of it. Ain’t it.
Who cares about the toilets:
The Indian Railways got toilets not before 1909, i.e. it took 52 years and a hilarious letter by Okhil Chandra to get the most important thing done in the trains. But then, no task is too small.
Haathi mera Saathi:
Olden days also saw the Indian Railways using elephants being put to a very interesting use. They were used to position the carriages. The good work done by them is recognised now and the official Indian Railway mascot ‘Bholu’ is an elephant.
Better late than never:
Indians do follow the IST, Indian Stretchable Time, so much so that there are a few trains which are always late. The train from Guwahati going down south to Trivendrum is more than ten hours late almost always. But being late can never be attributed to speed or delay all the time. The number of halts of trains is also a major cause of these delays with some trains stopping at more than a hundred stations. People and the trains both have got used to this, it seems.
With the innovations in civil engineering techniques, the Indian railways have built the world’s highest railway bridge over the river Chenab. It rises well over the 350m. The Konkan Railways have been instrumental in taking challenging projects and producing marvelous results in train network building across difficult terrains all over India.
India is a land of Maharajas and the Indian Railways have made sure they cater for their luxury in the form of a train as well. The Maharaja Express is a luxury train which is also the costliest train on Earth. It is a recipient of the ‘The World’s Leading Luxury Train’ at the World Travel Awards many a times in the past decade.
Despite the shortcomings, the Indian Railways are constantly evolving, both in techniques and technologies to keep themselves abreast with the current system. It has managed to cater for the ever increasing and demanding population. Railway tracks are being laid out in difficult landscapes, remote areas are being connected, tribes are tried to be joined with mainstream through rail and lots of efforts are being made to make the system efficient. With the investment in infrastructure, technology, improvement in working environment, increasing professionalism of the employees and sense of responsibility towards the railways, the Indian Railways are set to touch new heights in the future.