[Sansad TV] In Focus: Transforming Indian Railways


Central idea

  • PM flagged off India’s 15th Vande Bharat express train running between Ajmer and Delhi Cantonment.
  • The first Vande Bharat Express train was flagged off on February 15, 2019 on the New Delhi Kanpur-Allahabad-Varanasi route.

Why discuss this?

  • The discussion on the growth and transformation of Indian Railways highlights progress made in this sector over time and ongoing efforts for a modern, efficient, and sustainable railway system.
  • The National Rail Plan and Vision 2024 provide a roadmap for achieving this goal.
  • The focus is on increasing the modal share of railways in freight transportation, electrification of railways, and multi-tracking of congested routes.
  • The significant allocation of funds in the recent budget shows the government’s commitment to railway development
About Vande Bharat Express

Vande Bharat Express, also known as Train 18, is a semi-high-speed, fully air-conditioned train in India that runs on electric traction. It is named after the country’s national slogan “Vande Mataram” and was designed and manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, India. The train is equipped with modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, an infotainment system, and a GPS-based passenger information system, among others. It has a maximum speed of 180 km/h and is considered to be one of the fastest trains in India. It is designed to be an energy-efficient and eco-friendly train, and is expected to provide a comfortable and safe travel experience to passengers.

Why Vande Bharati Express is a success?

The Vande Bharat is considered a success for several reasons:

  • Fastest train in India: The Vande Bharat Express is currently the fastest train in India, with a top speed of 180 kmph. This results in reduced travel time between the cities connected by the train, making it an attractive option for travellers.
  • State-of-the-art features: The train comes with features such as Wi-Fi, information and infotainment screens, and the KAVACH (Train Collision Avoidance System), which is a state-of-the-art safety feature. These features provide passengers with a comfortable and safe travel experience.
  • Modern ergonomic design: The train’s modern and angular design, with a dual colour scheme of white and blue, and a protruded nose of the engine, is eye-catching and unique compared to other trains in India. The train reaches 0-100 kmph in just 52 seconds, making it one of the fastest-accelerating trains in the world.
  • Covers important routes: The train covers important routes in India, including Delhi-Varanasi, Mumbai-Shirdi, and Chennai-Mysuru, making it a convenient and efficient mode of transportation for passengers.
  • Environment-friendly: The Vande Bharat Express is an energy-efficient and eco-friendly train, with ACs that are 1 percent more energy efficient compared to the previous version. This makes it a more sustainable option for rail travel.

Issues with the train

  • Technical glitches: There have been instances of technical glitches and breakdowns on some of the Vande Bharat Express trains, leading to delays and inconvenience to passengers.
  • High fares: The fares for the Vande Bharat Express are generally higher than those of other trains on the same routes, making it less accessible to some passengers.
  • Limited routes: While the Vande Bharat Express covers important routes in India, it is currently limited to only a few routes, and there are plans to expand its network.
  • Safety concerns: There have been concerns about the safety of the Vande Bharat Express, particularly with regards to the Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), which has not been fully implemented on all trains.
  • Maintenance issues: Due to the train’s modern design and advanced features, maintenance and repair of the Vande Bharat Express can be more complex and expensive than that of other trains.

Indian Railways: Quick stats

India’s railway network rankingFourth largest
Number of operating trains in IndiaOver 22,593
Daily passenger count in India’s railway network24 million passengers
Total freight transported in India’s railway network203.88 million tonnes
Indian Railways’ revenue in the 2022-23 financial yearRs 2.40 lakh crore
Increase in Indian Railways’ revenue from previous yearNearly Rs 49,000 crore
Indian Railways’ passenger revenue growth in 2022-23All-time high growth of 61% to reach Rs 63,300 crore
India’s projected global share of rail activity by 205040%

Issues with Indian Railways

(1) Services

  • Safety: India has witnessed a series of rail accidents over the years.
  • Quality: Poor quality in services delivered, especially in meals served on board and management of linen used in the trains.

(2) Administration

  • Monopoly: The government is the sole player in the rail transportation system in India, resulting in poor quality service delivery and inefficient management of the system.
  • Highly centralised: Railway Board has the powers of policy making, operations, and regulation, while zones have very limited powers.
  • Non-core functions: Railways is engaged in several un-remunerative peripheral activities, imposing a huge financial burden.
  • Political involvement: Indian Railways has often been used as a tool for political patronage.
  • Dilemma of identity: Indian Railways suffers from a dilemma of identity as a commercial entity or a government department.

(3) Finances

  • Cross-subsidy: Driving away freight business by subsidizing passenger fares has affected the internal revenue generation of the Railways.
  • Operating inefficiency: Large number of delayed and stranded projects adds to the stress of operating the railways.
  • High revenue expenditure: Railway meets salary and pension obligations out of its own earnings, bound to strain finances further.
  • Heavy reliance on budgetary support: Dependence on budgetary support for capital expenditure has been on the rise.
  • Self-sufficiency vs. social obligation: Caught up between making it a self-sufficient organization and serving its social obligation as a poor man’s mode of transport.

Various modernization projects

  • High Speed Rail Corridors: Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project is a work in progress.
  • Induction of semi-high speed trains: Intention to introduce 400 Vande Bharat trains during the next five years.
  • Tejas Rajdhani trains: Ultra-modern Tejas trains introduced on LHB platform with sleeper coaches.
  • LHB coaches: Large scale proliferation of Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches which are technologically superior.
  • ‘KAVACH’ System: Automatic train protection system to avoid train collisions.
  • Automatic Signalling (ABS): To increase line capacity to run more trains on existing High Density Routes.
  • Theme-Based ‘Bharat Gaurav’ Tourist Circuit Trains: To showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and magnificent historical places.
  • Station Redevelopment: Station development as the main focus area to enhance customer satisfaction.

Way forward

  • Split the three roles: The policy-making function should remain within government control, while an independent body can handle regulation to ensure a level playing field for all entities.  
  • Encourage private entry: The Railways can encourage private entities to run both freight and passenger trains, introducing competition that can improve the quality of services.
  • Establish Railway Regulatory Authority of India (RRAI): An independent regulator can ensure fair and open access, establish tariffs, and adjudicate disputes.
  • Focus on core activities: The Railways should focus on its core activities and distance itself from non-core activities that impose a financial burden on the sector.
  • Investment Advisory Committee: The Railways can set up an Investment Advisory Committee consisting of experts, investment bankers, and representatives of institutions to recommend raising new resources.
  • Refinement in accounting and HR processes: Indian Railways can improve the way it prepares and maintains accounts, costs, activities, and services, recruitment, and HR processes.
  • Decentralization of Railways: The Railways can decentralize its operations and give more autonomy to zones, enabling them to contribute more effectively to the sector’s revenue.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your personal mentor for UPSC 2024 | Schedule your FREE session and get Prelims prep Toolkit!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch