Railway Reforms

Railway Reforms

Kerala’s SilverLine Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Silverline Project

Mains level : Railway modernization issues

Protests are taking place across Kerala against SilverLine, a semi high-speed railway project that envisages trains running at 200 km/h between the state’s northern and southern ends.

What is the SilverLine project?

  • The proposed 529.45-km line will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasaragod in the north, covering 11 districts through 11 stations.
  • KRDCL, or K-Rail, is a joint venture between the Kerala government and the Union Ministry of Railways created to execute this project.
  • The deadline for the project, being executed by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), is 2025.

Features of the Project

  • The project will have trains of electric multiple unit (EMU) type, each with preferably nine cars extendable to 12.
  • A nine-car rake can seat a maximum of 675 passengers in business and standard class settings.
  • The trains can run at a maximum speed of 220 km/hr on a standard gauge track, completing journeys in either direction in fewer than four hours.
  • At every 500 metres, there will be under-passages with service roads.

Need for the SilverLine project

  • Time saving: On the existing network, it now takes 12 hours. Once the project is completed, one can travel from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram in less than four hours at 200 km/hr.
  • Old infrastructure: Existing railway infrastructure in Kerala cannot meet the demands of the future.
  • Terrain limitations: Most trains run at an average speed of 45 km/hr due to a lot of curves and bends on the existing stretch.
  • De-trafficking: The project can take a significant load of traffic off the existing stretch and make travel faster for commuters, which in turn will reduce congestion on roads and help reduce accidents.
  • Others: The project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help in expansion of Ro-Ro services, produce employment opportunities, integrate airports and IT corridors, and enable faster development of cities it passes through.

Present status of the Project

Ans. Land acquisition is underway

  • The state government has begun the process of land acquisition after the cabinet approved it this year.
  • As part of the first stage of acquisition, local revenue and K-Rail officials are on the ground, demarcating land and placing boundary stones.
  • This is done to give the officials a sense of how much private land will have to be acquired and the number of families who will be displaced.

Issues with the Project

  • Political rhetoric: All political parties have been spearheading separate protests.
  • Huge capital requirement: They argue that the project was an “astronomical scam in the making” and would sink the state further into debt.
  • Displacement of families: The project was financially unviable and would lead to the displacement of over 30,000 families.
  • Ecological damage: It would cause great environmental harm as its route cuts through precious wetlands, paddy fields and hills.
  • Flood hazard: The building of embankments on either side of the major portion of the line will block natural drainage and cause floods during heavy rains.


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Railway Reforms

Bharat Gaurav Scheme to promote Tourism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharat Gaurav Scheme

Mains level : Not Much

To tap the huge potential of tourism, the Railways has announced the ‘Bharat Gaurav’ Scheme.

Bharat Gaurav Scheme

  • Under this Scheme, theme-based tourist circuit trains, on the lines of the Ramayana Express, can be run either by private or State-owned operators.
  • Till now, the Railways had passenger segments and goods segments.
  • Now, it will have a third segment for tourism under the Bharat Gaurav.
  • The scheme has been developed after extensive stakeholder discussions and a lot of State Governments, including Odisha, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, have shown interest.

Key features

  • Service providers, who can be an individual, company, society, trust, joint venture or consortium will be free to decide themes/circuits.
  • They will offer an all-inclusive package to tourists including rail travel, hotel accommodation and sightseeing arrangement, visit to historical/heritage sites, tour guides etc.
  • They have full flexibility to decide the package cost.
  • The service providers will also be able to design/furnish the interior of the coaches based on the theme and put branding or advertising inside and outside of the train.


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Railway Reforms

Privatizing Indian Railways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Bringing in the private capital in Indian railways


On July 1, 2020, the Indian Railways launched the formal process of inviting private parties to run trains on the Indian railway system. Hopes of a large participation were belied as there were no bids for nine clusters and only two bids for three clusters.

Why current model of inviting private players to run trains has failed?

  • Lack of equal relationship: IR wants the capital and technology without giving up control, while the concessioner wants a far more equal relationship to be moderated by a regulator.
  • Constraints on efficient decision-making: IR has imposed constraints that prevent efficient decisions and adopted an organisational design that does not take into account the characteristics and associated risks that will determine outcomes and investment decisions.
  • Lumpiness of investment: The biggest dampener is the lumpiness of investment before a single passenger can be carried.
  • High risk involved: Train sets have to be purchased without really knowing how much traffic the service will be able to attract in the face of rising competition from airlines.
  • IR does not guarantee the investor that, in case the concession fails, it will acquire the train sets.
  • Absence of regulator: The other big dampener is the absence of a regulator for resolving disputes.


1) Remove the lumpiness of investment by establishing rolling stock company

  • The central issue is how to align the three interests.
  • 1) India’s need to be capable of designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art rolling stock.
  • 2) IR’s need for private capital participation.
  • 3) Private capital’s necessity of earning a profit.
  • Establish a company to lease rolling stock: The above 3 interests can be aligned provided the lumpiness of investment in train sets can be eliminated by establishing a company that leases rolling stock not only to concessioners but also to IR.
  • The rolling stock company, apart from leasing train sets, can also be the window for bringing in new technology.
  • This will also enable reducing the concession period from 35 years to a more reasonable 10-15 years, bringing in competition.
  •  For starters, IRFC, which is already into leasing rolling stock, can be that company.

2) Bring in new technology by opening IR’s rolling stock market to international manufacturers

  • There is need to move the rolling stock industry up the industrial value chain and bring about a structural change of the Indian economy.
  • Long term arrangement with suppliers: This can only be brought about by a vision that encourages long-term arrangements with rolling stock suppliers.
  • Open the market for global players: An arrangement that gives access to IR’s rolling stock market is the only way to compel global players to share technology and form joint ventures with Indian companies.

3) Investment in research

  • Technology transfer requires understanding the critical elements of the technology and absorbing them into the design-production process.
  • This calls for the investment of large sums of money and the involvement of universities, research institutes and national laboratories.

4) Make changes to attract private investors

  • For attracting private players, the risks for the concessioners needs to be reduced.
  • The period of the concession needs to be reduced to around 15 years.
  • Establish regulator: There is a need to establish a regulator and moderate charges like the amount for the maintenance of tracks and stations.


With these changes, the plan may still take off. However, the initiative will remain limited to just running trains if there is no long-term vision.

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Railway Reforms

Kerala’s Silver-Line Railway Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Silverline Project

Mains level : Not Much

Last week, the Kerala cabinet gave the green light to begin acquiring land for SilverLine, its flagship semi high-speed railway project.

What is the SilverLine project?

  • The SilverLine Project entails building a semi high-speed railway corridor through the state linking its southern end and state capital Thiruvananthapuram with its northern end of Kasaragod.
  • It is billed as one of the biggest infrastructure enterprises being pushed by the ruling Left government.
  • The line is proposed to be 529.45 km long, covering 11 districts through 11 stations.
  • When the project is realized, one can travel from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram in less than four hours on trains traveling at 200 km/hr.
  • The current travel time on the existing Indian Railways network is 12 hours.
  • The project is executed by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), a joint venture between the Kerala government and the Union Ministry of Railways.

What was the need for the project?

  • It has long been argued by urban policy experts that the existing railway infrastructure in the state cannot meet the demands of the future.
  • Most trains run with an average speed of 45 km/hr due to a lot of curves and bends on the existing stretch.
  • The government claims the SilverLine project is the need of the hour as it can take a significant load of traffic off the existing railway stretch and make travel easier and faster for commuters.
  • This will in turn reduce the congestion on roads and help reduce accidents and fatalities.

Issues with the Project

  • The unofficial deadline for the project is 2025 but many would say it’s not a realistic target, given the laborious nature of land acquisition in a highly densely populated state like Kerala.
  • Acquiring land, especially from private players, in urban areas remains the key challenge for the project.
  • There’s also significant opposition to the project by environmentalists citing potential damage to the state’s ecosystem in the path of the proposed route.
  • They fear irreversible impact to the state’s rivers, paddy fields, and wetlands, triggering floods and landslides in the future.

Railway Reforms

National Rail Plan for 2030


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Rail Plan in the Budget

Mains level : Paper 3- National Rail Plan

The Budget unveiled the National Rail Plan 2030. 

Key provision in the Budget for railways

  • First, there is a National Rail Plan (NRP) for 2030.
  • Second, the Western dedicated freight corridor (DFC) and the Eastern DFC will be commissioned by June 2022.
  • Parts of DFC will be in public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
  • Third, there will be an East Coast corridor (Kharagpur to Vijaywada), an East-West corridor (Bhusaval to Kharagpur/Dankuni) and a North-South corridor (Itarsi to Vijayawada).
  • Fourth, all broad-gauge routes will be electrified by December 2023.
  • Fifth, there will be safety and passenger amenity measures.

National Rail Plan provisions

  • The NRP is meant to increase the share of railways in freight, rectifying the pre-Independence and post-Independence bias
  • It also aims to develop capacity that will cater to demand in 2050.
  • It provides for mapping of the existing railway network on a GIS platform.
  • The primary value addition of the NRP is an analysis of the existing network, with expected additions (such as the National Infrastructure Pipeline) also built in.
  •  NRP bases decision making on objective criteria.

Pricing and cross-subsidy issue

  • In 2018-19, as per the NRP, India’s operating ratio (OR) was 0.59 for freight and 1.92 for passenger traffic.
  • The problem is low passenger fares and artificially high freight rates required to cross-subsidise those.
  • This is not the complete picture since normally, freight and passenger trains share common sections of track and passenger trains are given preference over goods trains in getting a path (route from point A to point B).
  • Therefore, the average speed of a freight train is 24 km/hour — average speed is a surrogate indicator.
  • A superior indicator is transit time — the time taken for a consignment to reach from one point to another.

Need for decreasing the cost and increasing the average speed

  • Indian Railways has a system of HDN and HUN identification for the present network.
  • HDNs are high-density routes.
  • HUNs are highly-used networks with multiple origins and destinations and no clear single haul corridor.
  • HUNs are primarily for passengers.
  • For freight, HDNs are important.
  • HDNs and HUNs carry 80 per cent of the traffic and there are sections where capacity utilisation is more than 100 per cent.
  • With traffic increasing, capacity utilisation will worsen.
  • If the intention is to increase rail share in the total freight carried to 44 per cent, the average speed must increase and costs must decline.
  • With the Western and Eastern DFCs, both should happen.

Consider the question “What are the factors responsible for preventing the railways from realising its contribution in the development of the country. How far will the National Rail Plan help railways deal with these factors?” 


The implementation of the NRP will help railways deal with the issues faced by it.

Back2Basics: Operating Ratio

  • The operating ratio shows the efficiency of a company’s management by comparing the total operating expense of a company to net sales.
  • An operating ratio that is decreasing is viewed as a positive sign, as it indicates that operating expenses are becoming an increasingly smaller percentage of net sales.

OR = (Operating Expenses + Cost of Goods Sold)/ Net sales​ 


Railway Reforms

What are Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dedicated freight corridor

Mains level : Dedicated freight corridor

Prime Minister has inaugurated a 351-km section between Khurja and Bhaupur in Uttar Pradesh for commercial operations of the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC).

There is another concept named Dedicated Passenger Corridors (DPCs). Can you guess the idea behind?

Background of DFCs

  • The concept of Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) was mooted in 2006 to generate substantial capacity for freight traffic by developing separate tracks on identified routes.
  • The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL) was incorporated as a separate company under the Ministry of Railways.

What is the DFC?

  • Under the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–12), Railways started constructing a new DFC in two long routes, namely the Eastern and Western freight corridors.
  • The section recently launched is part of the 1,839-km Eastern DFC that starts at Sohnewal (Ludhiana) in Punjab and ends at Dankuni in West Bengal.
  • The other arm is the around 1,500-km Western DFC from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to JNPT in Mumbai, touching all major ports along the way.
  • There is also a section under construction between Dadri and Khurja to connect the Eastern and Western arms.

Why is it important?

  • Around 70% of the freight trains currently running on the Indian Railway network are slated to shift to the freight corridors, leaving the paths open for more passenger trains.
  • Tracks on DFC are designed to carry heavier loads than most of the Indian Railways.
  • DFC will get track access charge from the parent Indian Railways, and also generate its own freight business.

What trains will use the new section?

  • Freight trains plying on this section from now on will help decongest the existing Kanpur-Delhi main line of Indian Railways, which currently handles trains at 150% of its line capacity.
  • The new section means on the Indian Railway mainline, more passenger trains can be pumped in and those trains can, in turn, achieve better punctuality.
  • Foodgrain and fertilizers from the northern region are transported to the eastern and Northeast regions.
  • From East and Northeast, coal, iron ore, jute, and petroleum products are transported North and West.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Kosi Rail Mahasetu


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kosi River

Mains level : Not Much

PM has dedicated to the nation the historic Kosi Rail Mahasetu (mega-bridge).

Kosi Rail Mahasetu

  • The Kosi Mega Bridge line project was sanctioned during 2003-04.
  • The bridge is 1.9 km long. It is of strategic importance along the India-Nepal border.
  • In 1887, a meter gauge link was built in between Nirmali and Bhaptiahi (Saraigarh).
  • During the heavy flood and severe Indo Nepal earthquake in 1934, the rail link was washed away and thereafter due to meandering nature of river Kosi no attempt was made to restore this Rail link for long period.
  • The dedication of the mega-bridge is a watershed moment in the history of Bihar and the entire region connecting to the North East.

About Kosi River

  • The Kosi is a trans-boundary river which flows through Tibet, Nepal and India.
  • The river crosses into northern Bihar, India where it branches into distributaries before joining the Ganges near Kursela in Katihar district.
  • Its unstable nature has been attributed course changes and the heavy silt it carries during the monsoon season, and flooding in India has extreme effects.
  • It is also known as the “Sorrow of Bihar” as the annual floods affect about 21,000 km2 of fertile agricultural lands thereby disturbing the rural economy.

Railway Reforms

Reforms driven agenda for the modernisation of railways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Adoption of PPP model by the Indian Railways and related issues

Adoption of the PPP model by the Indian Railways will help it get rid of the many issues it suffers from. This article analyses the two initiative by the railways in this regard and spells out their advantages and challenges.

Significance of railways

  • Its route spans about 68000 km.
  • It employs over 1.2 mn people and generates approximately Rs 2 lakh cr annually.
  • So, a major contributor to jobs, GDP, and mobility.
  • Efficient and optimal use of the railways could further add up to 1% to GDP.

Adopting PPP model

  • The time has come to modernise the Indian Railways, make it world-class, and a key driver of the country’s growth.
  • To do so, India must involve the best resources via PPP to bring in the latest technology, leading practices, and efficiencies.
  • PPP has been actively deployed as a mechanism in Europe and Japan.

Two initiatives of Indian Railways involving PPP model

1. Operation of trains on selected route

  • Indian Railways’ proposal features a list of 109 pairs of routes through 151 trains to private operators.
  • Proposed routes include Delhi–Mumbai, Delhi–Chennai, Mumbai–Chennai, and others.
  • PPP operators are expected to finance, procure, operate, and maintain the allocated trains.
  •  The concession period will be for 35 years.


  • The initiative will bring in cutting-edge, technologically advanced rolling stock, shorter journey times, enhanced job growth, better safety, and best-in-class service standards.
  • It will bridge the demand-and-supply deficit for passengers.
  • The PPP investment is expected to be in the range of Rs 30,000 cr—in a Make in India–led growth strategy.
  • Encouraging domestic manufacturing of rolling stock, these projects will also create direct and indirect employment.

2. Redevelopment of railway stations

  • Initially, 50 stations will be bid out and funded through land monetisation as well as user charges.
  • The modernisation and redevelopment of stations will be conducted primarily through Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited, Rail Land Development Authority and other central government entities.
  • The PPP basis is under the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer model.
  • It entails utilising the potential of real estate for excess land and air space in and around the stations for development through PPP.
  • The 50 big stations have been planned to be bid out through the PPP route aimed at bringing in investments exceeding Rs 50,000–60,000 crores.

Challenges involved in the adoption of PPP model

  • One of the primary challenges will be independence of adjudication in disputes.
  • Other issues will be the pricing strategy to remain competitive yet stay profitable, given the competition through air, road, and to some extent, water transport.
  • An independent regulator could go a long way towards allaying concerns of equitable treatment of PPP operators and ought to be considered strongly.

Consider the question “Examine the opportunities and challenges in the adoption PPP model by the Indian Railways.”


The introduction of PPP in Railways is a welcome step and can lead to the kind of reforms that can help transform India and make it a global leader.



Railway Reforms

Privatisation of Indian Railways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues with allowing operation of passenger trains by private players

Indian Railways has launched the process of opening up train operations to private entities on 109 origin-destination (OD) pairs of routes using 151 modern trains.

Objectives of privatisation

  • To introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance.
  • Reduced transit time.
  • Boost job creation.
  • Provide enhanced safety.
  • Provide world-class travel experience to passengers.
  • Reduce demand-supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.

Issues with the move

1) Responsibility issue

  •  Railway crew will work the trains (151 trains in 109 routes) which will be maintained by the private investor.
  • All the other infrastructure, track and associated structures, stations, signalling, security and their daily maintenance owned by the Railways will be fully utilised in running trains.
  • Thus, the responsibility of the private investor ends with investment in the procurement and maintenance of coaches.
  • Train operation, safety and dealing with every day problems rests with the Railways.
  • In case of an unfortunate event, fixing responsibility will be an issue.

2) Day-to-day problems

  • Provision of an independent regulator to resolve disagreement, discords and disputes.
  • But this regulator will not be able to solve day-to-day problems of dichotomy unless the basic issue is resolved.

3) Speed issue

  • Nearly all trunk routes in the existing network are speed limited to 110 kmph very few permit speeds of upto 120-130 kmph.
  • To raise it to 160 kmph, as proposed, there has to be track strengthening, elimination of curves and level crossing gates and strengthening of bridges.
  • There is no appreciable reduction in transit time for most proposed trains, when compared with the timings of the fastest train now operating on that route.

4) Passenger fare issue

  • In the proposal, the Railways or government have no role in fixing passenger fares.
  • Fares will be beyond the common man’s reach.
  • Fare concessions extended to several categories of people will not be made available by the private investor.
  • The very objective of commissioning the Railways as a public welfare transport organisation is defeated.

5) Reservation in Jobs

  • The private investor is not bound to follow reservation regulations in employment.
  • This, in turn, will deprive employment opportunities for those who are on the margins of society.

6) Limited Coverage:

  • An advantage of Indian Railways being government-owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit.
  • Privatisation of railways would mean the railways will become a profit-making enterprise, this would lead to the elimination of railways routes that are less popular.
  • Thus, the privatisation of railways can have a negative impact on connectivity and further increase the rural-urban divide.

7) Impact on the Economy:

  • Indian Railways is the backbone of India, it provides low fare transportation to agricultural and industrial trade.
  • Therefore, privatisation of Indian railways shall definitely affect the Indian economy at large.
  • Way forward
  • There should be no need for the government to take a dual role of a facilitator as well as a participant.
  • In the case of the metro railway services, Hyderabad, for example, an ideal PPP project, the concessionaire is solely responsible for daily maintenance, operation, passenger amenities and staff issues.
  • The State government steps in when it comes to land, power, permissions, law and order, etc. Fare determination is in consultation with the government.
  • Instead of a private entrepreneur, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a government undertaking which has gained experience in running the Tejas Express trains, could have been given the role.

Consider the question “Indian Railways often hailed as the lifeline of the country continues suffering from several issues. In light of this, evaluate the pros and cons of the privatisation of railways.”


This project of privatisation of trains should not result in the common man being deprived of travel facilities. The Indian Railways is a strategic resource for the nation hence it should not be judged solely on its profit-generating capability or market-based return on investment.

Railway Reforms

Private trains on Indian Railways network and its implications


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Privatisation of railways

The article analyses the implications and issues with the Indian Railways recent move to allow the private investors to operate the passenger trains on selected routes.

Let’s understand the structure of IR’s passenger business

  • It operated a daily average of 13,523 passenger trains in 2018-19.
  • It includes 3,695 inter-city mail and express services.
  • 3,947 ordinary short-distance-stopping “regional” trains.
  • 5,881 electrical multiple units operated on suburban sections for intra-city passengers.
  • The regional/sectional trains, with multiple stops, cater to short-distance journeys (an average of 111 km in 2018-19) and contribute maximum loss in passenger business.
  • The inter-city mail and express services constitute IR’s core passenger business.
  • It needs to be duly nurtured and developed.
  • Within this category, only the upper-class portion will be of interest to private operators, due to flexibility in fixing fares.

Now, let’s analyse the implications of privatisation decision

The stated objectives are-

  • 1) Reducing the supply-demand deficit.
  • 2) Encouraging modal shift from air to rail.
  • 3) Significantly reducing transit time.

Let’s analyse the issues with the objectives

1) Reducing the supply-demand deficit

  • Passenger ridership on railways has almost been stagnant at 8,354 million in 2018-19.
  • The Railways’s endemic capacity constraint has kept its share in the nation’s transport market steadily decreasing.
  • Despite the demand for more trains, its seven high-density corridors stretched over 10,500 km remain clogged.
  • Its stations and maintenance wherewithal are over-stretched.
  • Speeds remain low and services far less than satisfactory.
  • Rail travel demand far outstrips supply and remains set to further grow substantially.
  • The steadily growing services sector continues to trigger high mobility and demand for passenger travel, generally in the upper classes.

2) Modal shift from air to rail

  • Transfer of traffic to rail will depend on-
  • 1) reduced journey time
  • 2) the frequency of rail services
  • 3) offering accommodation on demand.
  •  Rail travel needs to appropriately match air and road services in terms of pre-board and onboard convenience, reliability, and speed.
  • As it faces competition from budget airlines, high-capacity buses, and personal cars, IR needs to craft a concerted strategy to expand, accelerate and modernise its inter-city passenger services.

3) Reducing transit time

  •  Freight, as well as passenger trains across the network, have remained stuck in slow tracks over decades.
  • The “pilot project” of IRCTC-operated upscale “Tejas” train-sets clock virtually the same travel time as the older Shatabdis on these routes.
  • On completion of the two ongoing DFCs by December 2021, and the contemplated up-gradation of existing Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata rail routes will see trains running at 160 km/h.
  • Most other paths with mixed freight and passenger trains jostling for space and constrained by speed limits.
  • This will lead to the new train-sets to be substantially under-utilised in terms of their potential, and at far below expectations of customers for faster and frequent services.


1) Absence of regulator

  • An autonomous regulator, vital for the equitable and effective functioning of the private operators.
  • It is not without a challenge that the private train operators will strive to provide value for money to passengers and ensure their profitability in an environment of a price war.
  • So, the absence of an autonomous regulator is essential.
  • Experience of the licensed container train operators with the Railways alone driving policy and settling disputes has not been encouraging.

2) Concessions issue

  • A 35-year concession in an age of rapidly evolving technologies impacting design contours of train-sets as much as customer expectations raise plausible questions.
  • Taking a plunge in 100 paths without first testing the waters on few selected sections is could also give rise to issues.


  •  Some structural shifts in IR’s business management are now a clear imperative:
  • 1) Segregating its passenger and freight businesses for focussed attention.
  • 2) Restructuring the tariffs rationally and urgently.
  • 3) Developing terminal infrastructure.
  • 4) Leapfrogging the conversion of the existing dual-use high demand trunk routes into semi high-speed corridors.

Consider the question “What are the objectives of the recent move of the India Railways to invite the private investors to operate some passenger trains on selected routes? What are the issues railway’s passenger service faces? Suggest the measures to deal with the issues.


The result of the move would suggest the future path for the operation for railways. But it must ensure the level playing field to the private players to test the efficacy of the move.



Railway Reforms

Railways to become Net Zero Carbon Emission Mass Transport by 2030


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : REMCL

Mains level : Paper3- Railways to become Zero Carbon emission mass transport

A new dawn ushers on Indian Railways as it endeavors to be self-reliant for its energy needs as directed by the Prime Minister and solarise railway stations by utilizing its vacant lands for Renewable Energy (RE) projects.

Moving towards ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Railways

  • The Ministry of Railways has decided to install solar power plants on its vacant unused lands on mega-scale.
  • The use of solar power will accelerate the mission to achieve a conversion of Indian Railways to ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emission Railway.
  • Railway Energy Management Company Ltd. (REMCL) is working to further proliferate the use of solar energy on mega scale.
  • It has already floated tenders for 2 GW of solar projects for Indian Railways to be installed on unutilised railway lands.

Projects along operational railway lines

  • Indian Railways is also adopting an innovative concept of installation of solar projects along operational railway lines.
  • This will help in preventing encroachment, enhancing the speed and safety of trains and reduction of infrastructure costs due to direct injection of solar power into the traction network.
  • With these mega initiatives, Indian Railways is leading India’s fight against climate challenge.
  • These are significant steps towards meeting its ambitious goal of being a net zero carbon emissions organisation and meeting India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) targets.


Railway Reforms

Why have Indian Railways opened doors for private players?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Opening railways for private players

Mains level : Paper 3- India railways: Challenges and opportunities

Indian Railways has launched the process of opening up train operations to private entities on 109 origin-destination (OD) pairs of routes using 151 modern trains.

Practice question for mains:
Q. Indian Railways has been the lifeline of India’s growth story since Independence. Discuss various opportunities and challenges ahead of its privatization.

Why such a move?

  • From a passenger perspective, there is a need for more train services, particularly between big cities.
  • The Railway Board says five crore intending passengers could not be accommodated during 2019-20 for want of capacity, and there was 13.3% travel demand in excess of supply during summer and festival seasons.

Moving the paralyzed system

  • The Railway Board has moved ahead with a long-pending plan, setting a tentative schedule for private train operations, expected to begin in 2023 and in 12 clusters.
  • At present, scheduled passenger train services remain paralyzed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and various railways have been running only specials such as those for workers.

What is the background of the decision?

  • The present bid is only for a fraction of the total train operations — 5% of the 2,800 Mail and Express services operated by Indian Railways.
  • The overall objective, however, is to introduce a new train travel experience for passengers who are used to travelling by aircraft and air-conditioned buses.
  • Without an expansion, and with the growth of road travel, the share of the Railways would steadily decline in the coming years.

Bibek Debroy Committee Recommendations

  • Several committees have gone into the expansion and the modernization of Indian Railways.
  • In 2015, the expert panel chaired by Bibek Debroy constituted by the Ministry of Railways a year earlier, recommended that the way forward for the railways was “liberalisation and not privatization”.
  • It asked for entry of new operators “to encourage growth and improve services.”
  • It also made it clear that a regulatory mechanism was a prerequisite to promote healthy competition and protect the interests of all stakeholders.

Why is the move significant for Indian Railways?

  • For the Railways, one of the largest organisations in the country, operating not just trains for passengers and freight, but also social institutions such as hospitals and schools represents a radical change.
  • It was estimated that a one rupee push in the railway sector would have a forward linkage effect of increasing output in other sectors by ₹2.50.
  • Train services operated by Indian Railways cover several classes of passengers, meeting the social service obligation to connect remote locations, and adopting the philosophy of cross-subsidy.
  • In more recent years, it has focused on revenue generation through dynamic demand-based pricing.

Private players will be game-changers

  • Private operators are not expected to shoulder the burden of universal service norms, and will focus on revenue.
  • Even the first IRCTC-run trains have a higher cost of travel between Lucknow and Delhi than a Shatabdi train on the same route that almost matches it for speed.
  • So private operators would have to raise the level of their offering even higher, to justify higher fares, and attract a segment of the population that is ready to pay for this difference.
  • The government would have to explain that it has monetized its expensive fixed assets such as track, signalling and stations adequately for the taxpayer, who has paid for them.

Challenges ahead

  • Several critical issues remain unaddressed. For one, there will be questions over the financial viability of some routes.
  • Railways also tend to cross-subsidise passenger fares through freight revenue.
  • This translates to below-cost pricing, which will make it difficult for private players to compete.
  • On the other hand, higher fares needed to cover costs might bring them in direct competition with airlines, pricing them out of the market.

Railway Reforms

What did it take for the Indian Railways to achieve 100% punctuality?

The Indian Railways has announced that it achieved 100 per cent punctuality of its passenger trains on July 1, a never-before feat.

Try this question:

Q.Discuss various issues crippling the punctuality of the Indian Railways.

A big achievement for Railways

  • Usually, the Indian Railways run over 13,000 passenger trains and over 8,000 freight trains every day.
  • It is important to remember the context – very few trains are running now, and the punctuality of the Railways can hardly be compared with its own performance on this count in pre-COVID times.
  • The 100 per cent punctuality has been achieved when the network is running just 230 passenger trains – along with about 3,000 loaded freight trains and 2,200 empty ones.
  • This is no mean achievement – it is indeed not an easy task given all the constraints that the Railways usually face while running a train on its designated path and time slot.

Why do trains get delayed in India?

  • There are a number of reasons, which is also why the achievement of the Railways is significant.
  • There are unforeseen situations such as a failure of assets like the signalling system and overhead power equipment.
  • Several types of breakdowns can occur, related to rolling stock, tracks, etc., that make a train lose time along the way.
  • Then there are external unforeseen problems like run-over cattle and humans, agitations on the tracks, and the like.

And what have the Railways been doing right?

  • The maintenance of tracks was carried out in a quick time during the COVID period in various critical sections, so the average speed increased, and stretches of slowing down were minimized.
  • Better and modern signalling is also making an impact.
  • Another reason is better planning and operations analysis.

How do the delays impact the overall system?

  • In normal times, these failures take away a lot of scheduled time when the train is detained even for a short time because making up the lost time during the remainder of the journey is a tricky business.
  • It’s not as though a train can just run faster to make up for a lost time. In a network chock-a-block with trains, a train hardly ever has such leeway built into its pre-set path.
  • Any train that gets delayed inordinately due to whatever reason during the journey theoretically eats into the “path” – or time slot allotted on the track – of another train.
  • It then becomes a matter of which train to prioritise. Conventionally, Rajdhanis and premium trains get priority of path over ordinary mail/express trains.
  • Freight trains, whose runs are not exactly time-sensitive, are usually held up to make way for passenger trains.

But why do the Railways have to juggle operations in this way?

  • It’s a constantly dynamic scenario in which railway operations professionals take calls all the time.
  • At the heart of the problem are network capacity constraints. It basically means that there are more trains than the network can handle in a given time bracket.
  • Around 60 per cent of all train traffic is on the Golden Quadrilateral, even though it represents just about 15 per cent of the total network.
  • There are projects to enhance capacity by building additional lines and modernizing signalling systems, etc.

Minimizing the delays

  • The Railways are working on what is called a “zero-based timetable”.
  • In this concept, which is to be introduced soon, every train that enters the network is justified based on needs and costs.
  • It is expected to make train operations more seamless.

Railway Reforms

The Deccan Queen Express


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deccan Queen

Mains level : NA

The historic Deccan Queen train between Mumbai and Pune completed 90 years on June 1.

Take the opportunity to revise some of reformative measure in the Indian Railways taken through these years.  Click here to read more .

The Deccan Queen

  • The Deccan Queen was introduced between Mumbai and Pune on June 1, 1930 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the forerunner of the Central Railway.
  • This was the first deluxe train introduced to serve the two important cities of the region, and was named after Pune – also known as the “Queen of Deccan”.
  • It is among the rare Indian trains that have never been hauled using steam traction and were always electric-powered; on rare instances running on diesel.
  • The GIPR in the 1940s would run Race Special trains for Mumbai’s horse racing enthusiasts who would come to Pune on weekends and race days.
  • This train holds many a record, including that of being India’s first superfast train, first long-distance electric-hauled train, first vestibuled train, the first train to have a ‘women-only’ car, and the first train to feature a dining car.

Back2Basics: Railways in India

  • Indian Railways started its service 164 years ago on 16 April 1853.
  • The first railway proposals for India were made in Madras in 1832.
  • The first train was run over a stretch of 33 kilometres from Mumbai to Thane and was hauled by three steam locomotives named Sahib, Sindh and Sultan.
  • Indian Railway now has the 4th largest rail network in the world after the United States of America, China and Russia.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Flexi Fare System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Flexi Fare System

Mains level : Not Much

During the eight months period from 1st July 2019 to 29th February 2020, approximately 28.93 Lakh berths remained vacant in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto type trains having Flexi fare.

What is Flexi Fare System?

  • The flexi-fare scheme was introduced by the IRCTC in 2016 for the 142 “premium trains” such as Shatabdi, Rajdhani, and Duronto (now Vande Bharat Exp. as well).
  • Under this dynamic pricing system, the base fare increases by 10% with every 10% of berths sold, with a limit set at 1.5 times the original price.
  • The scheme was applicable to all classes, except AC first class and executive class. The pricing system is still in force.

Reasons for flexi fares:

  1. Indian Railways run about 12900 passenger trains per day and the railways is losing around more than 40% of what they spend on passenger trains.
  2. The trains like Rajdhani are the ones in which the elite class prefers to travel. So, some revenue can be garnered from them.
  3. The cost of service is almost double of what is being charged from the passengers.
  4. Freight business is already very expensive in India as compared to other countries in the world. Therefore, a further increase in this area is not feasible.

Issues with the system

  • After the introduction of Flexi-fares, the railways lost 700,000 passengers in just 11 months while the additional revenue earned as a result of the scheme was ₹ 552 crore.
  • While drawing upon the fundamentals of dynamic pricing, what Indian Railways failed to introduce was a simple principle that Flexi-fares work ways, hikes, and declines.
  • The railways model just focused on increasing fares with no provision for a decrease in price when demand is low.
  • While half of the decision-makers in the Railway Board support it, half of them oppose it stating that what the railways require is an increase in ticket prices across the board.

Railway Reforms

Corporate Model of Indian Railways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IRCTC, Train18 etc.

Mains level : Corporate Model of Indian Railways


The Kashi Mahakal Express is the country’s third ‘corporate’ train after the two Tejas Express trains between Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad started over the past few months.

A new model

  • This is a new model being actively pushed by Indian Railways- to ‘outsource’ the running of regular passengers’ trains to its PSU, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
  • This has been dubbed an ‘experiment’ as a natural extension of this model is to lease out 100 routes to private players to run 150 trains, something that is in the works.

How does the model work?

  • In this model, the corporation takes all the decisions of running the service– fare, food, onboard facilities, housekeeping, complaints etc.
  • Indian Railways is free from these encumbrances and gets to earn from IRCTC a pre-decided amount, being the owner of the network. This amount has three components- haulage, lease and custody.
  • The haulage charge IRCTC is paying for the Tejas trains is in the range of Rs 800 per kilometer.
  • This includes use of the fixed infrastructure like tracks, signalling, driver, station staff, traction and pretty much everything needed to physically move the rake.


  • On top of that IRCTC has to pay the lease charges on the rake as Indian Railways coaches are leased to its financing arm, the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC).
  • Added to that there is a per-day custody charge, of keeping the rake safe and sound while it is in the custody of the PSU.
  • Roughly each of these components works out to be around Rs 2 lakh per day for the New Delhi-Lucknow Tejas rake.
  • In other words, IRCTC has to pay Indian Railways a sum total of these three charges, roughly Rs 14 lakh for the Lucknow Tejas runs in a day (up and down) and then factor in a profit over and above this.
  • This money is payable even if the occupancy is below expectation and the train is not doing good business.

What powers does IRCTC have?

  • Being a corporate entity with a Board of Directors and investors, IRCTC insists that the coaches it gets from Railways are new and not in a run-down condition, as is seen in many trains.
  • The quality of the coaches has a direct bearing on its business.
  • In this model, IRCTC has full flexibility to decide the service parameters and even alter them without having to go to Railway ministry or its policies.
  • To that end, the business of running trains can be run with the independence needed to run a business with profit motive.
  • This, policymakers believe creates the environment for enhanced service quality and user experience for the passengers.
  • IRCTC gets the freedom to decide even the number of stoppages it wants to afford on a route, depending on the needs of its business model.

What is Indian Railways’ benefit from this model?

  • The bright side for Indian Railways is that it doesn’t have to suffer the losses associated with running these trains thanks to under-recovery of cost due to low fares and its own hefty overheads.
  • The lease on its coaches is also taken care of.

Is this the same model for private train operators?

  • The model in which private train operators are sought to be engaged is different wherein along with haulage of Rs 668 per kilometer the operator needs to agree to revenue sharing with Railways.
  • The company willing to share the highest percentage of revenue will win the contract.
  • Private players may not need to pay lease and custody charges as it is expected that they will bring in their own rolling stock.
  • All this is because over the next five years, after the two dedicated freight corridors are operationalised and a lion’s share of freight trains move to the corridors, a lot of capacity will free up in the conventional railway lines for more passenger trains to run to cater to the demand.
  • The government wants private players and maybe also its own PSU, along with Indian Railways, to share the load of pumping in more trains into the system.

Railway Reforms

Restructuring of the Railways Board


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Railways Board

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Cabinet recently approved trimming of the Railway Board, the powerful body that governs the Indian Railways. From nine, the Board will now have only five Members.

The move has led to protests from serving civil servants, prompting the Railway Board to reach out to them to allay their concerns.

What is the proposed restructure?

  • The Cabinet has decided to merge all central service cadres of Railways officers into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS).
  • Now, any eligible officer could occupy any post, including Board Member posts, irrespective of training and specialization since they will all belong to IRMS.
  • The five members of the Board, other than a Chairman-cum-CEO, will now be the Members Infrastructure, Finance, Rolling Stock, Track, and Operations and Business Development.
  • The Board will also have independent Members, who will be industry experts with at least 30 years of experience, but in non-executive roles, only attending Board meetings.
  • A separate exam under the Union Public Service Commission is proposed to be instituted in 2021 to induct IRMS officers.

What is the present system like?

  • The Indian Railways is governed by a pool of officers, among whom engineers are recruited after the Indian Engineering Service Examination, and civil servants through the Civil Services Examination.
  • The civil servants are in the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) and Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS).
  • The engineers are in five technical service cadres — Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE), Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME), Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE) and the Indian Railway Stores Service (IRSS).
  • Until the 1950s, the Railways system was run by officers from just three main streams: Traffic, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical. The other streams emerged as separate services over time.

Why was the reform needed?

  • The railways departments were working “in silos” and hence the government wanted to end this inter-departmental rivalries, which was been hindering growth for decades.
  • Several committees including the Bibek Debroy committee in 2015 have noted that “departmentalism” is a major problem in the system.
  • Most committees have said merger of the services in some form would be a solution.
  • The Debroy report recommended merging of all services to create two distinct services: Technical and Logistics. But it did not say how to merge the existing officers.

Why are officers opposed to the move?

  • The questions started with a proposal to merge all 8,400 officers in the eight services — five technical and three non-technical — to prepare a common seniority list.
  • Those protesting the government’s decision say that the merger is unscientific and against established norms, because it proposes to merge two fundamentally dissimilar entities, with multiple disparities.
  • First, the civil servants come from all walks of life after clearing the Civil Services Examination.
  • The engineers usually sit for the Engineering Services Examination right after getting an engineering degree.
  • Various studies have noted that engineers join the Railways around the age of 22-23, while the civil servants join when they are around 26, barring exceptions.
  • The age difference starts to pinch at the later stages of their careers, when higher-grade posts are fewer. There are more engineers than civil servants.
  • Protesters are also saying that the merger is against the service conditions which civil servants sign up for while choosing an alternative if they cannot make it to IAS.

What will change with the restructure?

  • In inter-departmental seniority — a complex process to fix, which has led to court cases in the past — problems arise when different services compete for posts that are open to all.
  • those of Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs), GMs, and subsequently, the Chairman Railway Board. And here lies the major criticism of the move.
  • The civil servants are saying that if all present cadres are merged and even higher departmental posts become open to all, engineers, being in larger numbers and of a certain age profile, may end up occupying most posts.
  • Another aspect is the suitability of jobs. The move, many say, emerges from the “simplistic” belief that while non-technical specialists cannot do technical jobs, technocrats can do both.
  • The counter-argument is that civil servants in government, by virtue of the screening process and subsequent training, possess acumen and skills that go beyond academic specialization.

How did the Railways get here?

  • Departmental posts are ring-fenced; promotions happen within each department from officers of that service.
  • The problem starts when, within a department, there are too many officers eligible for a few posts.
  • A department needs a constant supply of posts in higher grades to keep promoting its seniors so that the juniors can keep getting timely promotions.
  • In the Railways, this has happened either organically when the government restructured the cadres and created new posts at intervals of several years, or through the execution of projects.
  • Across the Railways, the internal attempt by each department has always been to get a bigger share of resources to spend on projects, although the limited funds are meant for all.
  • The departments grew, promotional prospects expanded, even if Railways did not. The “temporary” posts were almost never surrendered, and were “regularised” over time.
  • This was most prevalent in the technical departments and, to an extent, in the Accounts department as well, officials say.

What’s next?

  • The current demand is for two distinct services instead of one — a civil services, and one that encompasses all engineering specialisations.
  • The logic is that functionally, departments will continue to exist through various technical and non-technical specialisations, so merging them will not end departmentalism per se.
  • The government has on record assured all existing officers that no one’s seniority will be hampered and promotion prospects will be protected.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Modern Train Control System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Components of Modern Train Control system

Mains level : High speed railway connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges

Indian Railways has decided to modernize its Signalling system on its entire network by implementing Modern Train Control system.

Modern Train Control system

  • The RailTel Enterprises Ltd. (REL), a 100% subsidiary of RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. has been given the responsibility to implement these four pilot projects on behalf of Indian Railway.
  • The MTCS includes provision of:
  1. Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System
  2. Electronic Interlocking System
  3. Remote Diagnostic & Predictive Maintenance System
  4. Long Term Evolution (LTE) based Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) System
  5. Centralized Traffic Control System (CTC) /Train Management System (TMS)


  • This is one of the most ambitious modernization projects of Indian Railways, which envisages upgradation of signaling system for improving safety, Line Capacity and to run trains at higher speed.

Railway Reforms

Silver Line Railway Project in Kerala


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Silver Line Project

Mains level : High speed railway connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges

The Ministry of Railways granted in-principle approval for the ‘Silver Line’ project, a proposal of the Kerala government that involves laying of semi high-speed trains between the two corners of the state of Kerala.

The Silver Line project

  • The Silver Line project aims to connect major districts and towns with semi high-speed trains that will run on their own tracks.
  • The 532-km corridor is projected to be built at a cost of Rs 56,443 crore. Trains would complete the journey at four hours instead of 12, with a maximum speed of 200 km/h.
  • The corridor will be built away from the existing line between Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.
  • The semi high-speed trains will traverse through 11 of the state’s 14 districts, Alappuzha, Wayanad and Idukki being the exceptions.
  • There are also plans to connect the corridor with the international airports at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by 2024.


  • The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Kerala government to execute projects on a cost-sharing basis, will be the nodal agency.
  • The government is believed to be looking at external funding agencies.
  • An initial investment is likely to be made by K-Rail for acquiring land. A Detailed Project Report (DPR) will be commissioned soon.

Need for such project

  • Kerala’s road networks are clogged and experience dense traffic during peak hours.
  • According to a data, less than 10% of the state’s roads handle nearly 80% of the traffic.
  • This also gives rise to accidents and casualties; in 2018, Kerala recorded 4,259 deaths and 31,687 grievous injuries.
  • Experts have been demanding faster transportation options including railways and waterways
  • The current railway network is congested with a large number of trains, level crossings and sharp curves.
  • The project will result in direct and indirect employment opportunities for 50,000 people, and the project once completed would create direct employment for at least 11,000 people.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project

Mains level : High speed railway connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges

Some information about the Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project was given by the Minister of Railways in Rajya Sabha.

Diamond Quadrilateral Bullet Train Network Project

  • In the Railway Budget 2014-15, it was announced to undertake planning of high speed rail connectivity on Diamond Quadrilateral network connecting major metros and growth centres of the country.
  • Accordingly, Ministry of Railways has undertaken feasibility studies for some routes namely Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Nagpur and Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru.
  • However, being highly capital intensive, the sanction of any High Speed Rail Project has not yet commended.
  • Till now, Government has sanctioned Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) Project with technical and financial assistance of Government of Japan.
  • This project is targetted for completion by the year 2023.


Note: Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail isn’t a part of this project.

Railway Reforms

Head on Generation (HOG) technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HOG technology

Mains level : Making railways function affordable

  • The Railway Ministry has announced that it would be upgrading all existing Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches with the Head on Generation (HOG) technology, a move that would cause the trains to become more cost-efficient and less polluting.

LHB coaches

  • The LHB coaches have been built in India at the Asansol-based Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) after the Railways purchased their technology from the German manufacturer Linke Hofmann Busch in 1996.
  • These coaches were originally designed to operate on the End on Generation (EOG) principle.
  • According to a research the train’s ‘hotel load’ (the load of air conditioning, lights, fans, and pantry, etc.) is provided with electricity from two large diesel generator sets, which supply 3-phase power at 750 Volts 50 Hz to the entire length of the train.
  • Each coach then picks up the power supply through a 60 KVA transformer, bringing down the voltage to 110 volts at which level the equipment in the compartment is run.
  • The generator cars are attached to either end of the train, giving the system its name.

Head on Generation (HOG) system

  • As opposed to the older EOG system, the Head on Generation (HOG) system runs the hotel load by drawing electricity from the overhead electric lines through the pantograph (an apparatus which mounted on the roof of electric train to collect power through with an overhead tension wire).
  • The power supply from the overhead cable is 750 volts at single-phase, and a transformer with a winding of 945 kVA converts it to a 750 Volts 50 Hz output at 3-phase.
  • This energy is then provided to the compartments.
  • The HOG system is free of air and noise pollution.
  • The system would bring down yearly CO2 and NOx emissions, which according to the press release are currently at 1724.6 tonnes/annum and 7.48 tonnes/annum respectively, to zero.

Why HOG?

  • Since the HOG-fitted trains do not require power from diesel generators at all, they only have one emergency generator car attached, instead of two regular generator cars.
  • The Railways has said that the extra space created would now be used for an LSLRD (LHB Second Luggage, Guard & Divyaang Compartment) meaning more passengers can be accommodated.
  • Once all LHB trains get the new system, the Ministry said that it would be saving INR 1390 crores every year.
  • The increased cost efficiency is because of the low price per unit of electricity in the HOG system @ INR 6/unit, as compared to the price of INR 22/unit in the EOG system.

Railway Reforms

[oped of the day] Mission successful, end product defunct


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Railway reforms

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


In October 2018, the country was celebrating a technological achievement: the successful rolling out of a state-of-the-art, semi-high-speed train set called ‘Train 18’. 

Facts behind its significance

  • It was achieved in an incredibly short time span of 18 months. 
  • Train 18 propelled India into the exclusive club of about a half a dozen countries in the world that have the capability to turn out a brand new design of a high-speed/semi-high-speed train set in such a short time.
  • The train has provided a trouble-free performance in the last six months. 

Challenges faced by the train

  • A vigilance investigation was launched into certain alleged procedural irregularities and allegations of undue favours shown to a particular indigenous firm in awarding contracts for the propulsion system.
  • It was also reported that deviations had been observed from the specifications prescribed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
  • A few months after the train’s inauguration, it was announced that “the Railways would be willing to start the import of complete train sets from foreign suppliers if they agreed to establish the coach manufacturing facility in India. 
  • If contrasted with ISRO, it is like going in for import of its rockets and space vehicles from the U.S. or Russia.

What are the reasons behind failure

  • Though both ISRO and railways are public sector organisations and reflected the spirit of ‘Make in India’, their objectives and organisational structure are entirely different. 
  • While ISRO functions mostly in ‘mission mode’ to achieve specific goals of a mission, the Indian Railways operates in ‘maintenance mode’, to keep the wheels of the railway network moving with the least disruption. 
  • This aim of Railways is achieved through more than a dozen functional departments that normally work in close coordination.
  • Only certain specific projects or initiatives are undertaken in ‘mission mode’. The Train 18 project was one such undertaking that required the planners to cut red tape and reduce needless procedural hassles. 
  • The scourge of interdepartmental rivalries and turf wars within the Indian Railways has damaged the organisational morale and synergy in the functioning of the nation’s prime public transporter. 

Way ahead

  • A committee of experts under NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy gave its recommendations in 2015. 
  • The ‘Mission Train 18’ is proof that nothing has changed since then and that the departmental silos are alive and well.
  • Political leadership has to push for reforms in this area.

Railway Reforms

India’s longest electrified railway tunnel between Cherlopalli and Rapuru (AP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the tunnel

Mains level : Not Much

  • Vice President inaugurated the country’s longest electrified rail tunnel between Cherlopalli and Rapuru and the electrified railway line between Venkatachalam and Obulavaripalli.

About the tunnel

  • The 6.7-km-long tunnel is an “engineering marvel” and said it would provide viable rail connectivity between the Krishnapatnam Port and the hinterland for the seamless movement of freight.
  • It also reduces the distance for trains coming from Guntakal Division to Krishnapatnam by 72 km and eases traffic density in the Obulavaripalli-Renigunta-Gudur section.
  • This newly commissioned line of 112 km reduces the travel time to five hours as compared to the 10 hrs earlier for a goods train from Krishnapatnam Port to Obulavaripalli.
  • Besides facilitating operation of freight trains the new line would also provide the shortest path on the Chennai-Howrah and Chennai-Mumbai rail routes.
  • It would also ease congestion of both passenger and freight-carrying trains in the Vijayawada-Gudur-Renigunta-Guntakal sections.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Commandos for Railway Security (CORAS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CORAS

Mains level : Not Much

CORAS (Commandos for Railway Security)

  • To tackle the threats to Railway passengers or establishments, a special task force having trained manpower was required.
  • Keeping in mind the threat from disruptive forces, induction of CORAS was planned in Railway Protection Force.
  • Commissioning of CORAS will address challenges to these ongoing projects as well as any challenging situation for Railway travellers.
  • The commandos in CORAS are well trained in reputed institutions and are capable of meeting any precarious situation.


  • To develop world level capabilities of specialized responder for any situation pertaining to damage, disturbance, disruption of train operations, attack/hostage/hijack, disaster situations in railway areas.
  • Following the doctrine of graded response, minimum effective force shall be used for providing fool proof security to Indian Railways and its users.

Salient features

  • Carved out from motivated and willing young staff of RPF/RPSF.
  • With an average age between 30-35 years, CORAS will always be young and motivated staff.
  • Very high physical standards to join CORAS.
  • Commando Coys shall be deployed in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)/Insurgency/Terrorism affected Railway areas.

Railway Reforms

RailWire Wi-Fi Zones


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RailWire, RailTel

Mains level : Internet connectivity across railway stations

  • RailWire Wi-Fi by RailTel is now live at 1,600 railway stations across the country, with Santa Cruz railway station in Mumbai becoming the 1,600th station to become a RailWire Wi-Fi zone.


  • RailWire is a retail broadband initiative of RailTel, which envisages extending broadband and application services to the public.
  • RailTel is working to establish bringing fast and free Wi-Fi at all stations (except the halt stations) within a year.
  • The Wi-Fi at 415 A, A1 and C category stations has been provided in association with Google as the technology partner.
  • Wi-Fi connections at 200 stations were provided with support from the Universal Service Obligatory Fund of the Govt. of India.

About RailTel

  • RailTel Corporation is a Mini Ratna(Category-I) PSU of Ministry of Railways.
  • It is the largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns & cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India’s population.

Railway Reforms

AP gets new railway zone called ‘South Coast Railway’


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: South Coast Railway Zone

Mains level: Importance of Railways Infrastructure


  • Indian Railways will be making a new zone in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh named ‘South Coast Railway’.
  • Indian Railways’ operations are currently divided into 17 zones, which are further sub-divided into divisions, each having a divisional headquarter. There are a total of 73 divisions at present.

South Coast Railway

  • As per item 8 of Schedule 13 (Infrastructure) of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014, Indian Railways was required to examine establishing a new railway zone in the successor State of AP.
  • The new zone named “South Coast Railway (SCoR)”, will comprise of existing Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada divisions.
  • Waltair division shall be split into two parts.
  • One part of Waltair division will be incorporated in the new zone i.e. in South Coast Railway and will be merged with the neighbouring Vijaywada division.
  • Remaining portion of Waltair division shall be converted into a new division with headquarter at Rayagada under East Coast Railway (ECoR).
  • South Central Railway will comprise of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Nanded divisions.

Railway Reforms

[pib] Railway Ministry launches the IEA’s Report “The Future of Rail”


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: “The Future of Rail” Report

Mains level: Importance of Railways Infrastructure


 “The Future of Rail” Report

  1. The first-of-a-kind report analyses the current and future importance of rail around the world through the perspective of its energy and environmental implications.
  2. Itexamines how the role of rail in global transport might be elevated as a means to reduce the energy use and environmental impacts associated with transport.
  3. The report reviews the impact of existing plans and regulations on the future of rail, and explores the key policies that could help to realize an enhanced future rail.
  4. This global report has a focus on India, elaborating on the unique social and economic role of rail in India, together with its great enduring potential, to show how India can extend and update its networks to harness rail at a scope and scale that is unparalleled.

India and the International Energy Agency (IEA)

  1. The IEA is an inter-governmental organisation that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 30 member countries and 8 association countries.
  2. Its mission is guided by four main areas of focus: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness and engagement worldwide.
  3. India has been the focus of many recent IEA analyses and reports for instance through the special focus chapter on the Indian Power sector of the Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) publication and the World Energy Outlook (WEO).
  4. IEA has also held workshops and training programmes in India on energy data training, energy efficiency, strategic petroleum reserves, and the integration of renewables into the grid.

Railway Reforms

Railway sets out new rules for Security checks


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Ensuring security at Railway Stations


  • Railways is planning to seal stations just like airports and passengers would have to arrive 15-20 minutes before scheduled departure of trains to complete the process of security checks.

New Security Plan by RPF

  1. These are part of a security plan under the Integrated Security System (ISS) which was approved in 2016 to strengthen surveillance mechanism at 202 railway stations.
  2. It is primarily about identifying openings and to determine how many can be closed.
  3. There are areas which will be closed through permanent boundary walls, others will be manned by RPF personnel and yet others will have collapsible gates.
  4. At each entry point there will be random security checks.
  5. However, unlike at airports, passengers need not come hours in advance, but just 15-20 minutes ahead of their departure times to ensure that they are not delayed because of the security process.
  6. Passengers will be checked randomly — every eighth or ninth passenger will undergo the process on his arrival at the station.

About Integrated Security System

  1. The ISS will comprise CCTV cameras, access control, personal and baggage screening system and bomb detection and disposal system which together provide multiple checking of passengers and baggage from the point of entry in the station premises till boarding of train.
  2. The security plan envisages a layered security check where passengers will be scrutinised even before they enter the station premises to ease the pressure at stations during peak hours.
  3. It will also include real-time face recognition software which will alert the RPF command centre of any known offenders.
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