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Indian Railways – History, Establishment, Distribution, Challenges

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  • Last Updated : 01 May, 2022
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Railways are India’s principal mode of passenger and freight transportation. Railway expansion has not only served to unite India, but it has also aided the growth of agriculture and the economy. The Indian railway network spans 63,221 route kilometres and connects 7,031 railway stations across the country, which are organised into 16 railway zones.

Railway building is heavily influenced by local terrain, as well as economic and administrative reasons. The wide level expanses of the northern plains, with their enormous population and riches, were the most conducive to railway expansion. Railway lines were built via hills, valleys, and tunnels in the mountainous peninsular region. The Himalayan regions’ towering mountains, which have fewer people and economic prospects, are not conducive to railway building.

Establishment of the Indian Railways

India’s initial railway ideas were made in 1832 in Madras. The Red Hill Railway, which was created solely for the purpose of hauling granite for road construction, was the country’s first train. 

The Solani Aqueduct Railway was built in 1851 by Proby Cautley of Roorkee to deliver construction materials for an aqueduct across the Solani River. On April 16, 1853, 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 between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane on 1,676 mm broad gauge track with 400 passengers in 14 carriages. In May 1854, the Thane viaducts, India’s first railway bridges, were built over the Thane creek; when the Mumbai-Thane line was extended to Kalyan.

Distribution of Indian Railways

Physiographic, economic, and administrative considerations have all influenced the distribution pattern of the country’s railway network. The northern plains, with their large flat area, dense population, and abundant agricultural resources, created the best conditions for their development. However, there were certain challenges due to the huge number of rivers that required the construction of bridges across their wide beds. Railway tracks are routed through low slopes, gaps, and tunnels in the peninsular regions’ mountainous topography.

The Himalayan mountainous regions are also unsuited for railway construction due to steep relief, a small population, and a lack of economic opportunities. Laying of railway lines was very difficult in the sandy plains of western Rajasthan, the wetlands of Gujarat, and the forested tracks of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Jharkhand. Only gaps or passes might be used to cross the entire length of the Sahyadri (Ghats). The movement of passengers and products in this country’s most important economic region is facilitated by the construction of the Konkan railway along India’s west coast. It has also encountered a variety of issues, including track sinking in some areas and landslides.

The railways now play a larger role in our national economy than all other modes of transportation combined. However, train transportation has its own set of issues. Many passengers do not have tickets. Thefts and damage to railway property have not totally halted. People do enormous damage to the railway by stopping trains and pulling the chain needlessly.

Challenges Faced by Indian Railways

  1. The railways have been significantly reliant on government support since independence, making it difficult to raise sufficient funds for capital expenditures.
  2. Collisions, derailments, and level crossing accidents all occurred as a result of railway infrastructure and budgetary concerns.
  3. Due to a Covid-induced stoppage in the preceding fiscal year, the passenger segment lost 38,017 crore in revenue (FY 2020-21).
  4. According to estimates, the rehabilitation of 125 stations, as well as the creation of real estate, will cost over 50,000 crores.
    The fact that 15% of ticket holders are on a waiting list illustrates passenger rail is under capacity.

Sample Problems

Question 1: Which Indian railway platform is the longest?

Answer: 

The Gorakhpur Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh is the country’s longest railway station. Its length is a remarkable 1,366 metres.

Question 2: Which is train with the longest route?

Answer:

The Vivek Express travels 4,286 kilometres between Dibrugarh and Kanyakumari in around 82 hours and 30 minutes. This is the longest trek not only in India, but in the entire subcontinent.

Question 3: Where were the settlements made by the early men?

Answer:

Because water was plentiful and the land was fertile, early humans built communities around river valleys.

Question 4: What exactly is a dispersed settlement? Where can you find it?

Answer:

A place where people have settled in a dispersed fashion over a large region. It can be found in hilly areas, next to dense forests, and in climates with severe temperatures.

Question 5: Describe the special features of railways.

Answer:

Railways transport heavy products and people across great distances in a timely and cost-effective manner. The railway network in our country is well-developed in the plains.

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