TECH TALK: Trains, Planes and Mobiles: The Institution

The Indian Railways is an amazing institution. Here are some facts taken from its website: Railways traverse through the length and breadth of the country covering 63,140 route kms as on 31.3.2002, comprising broad gauge (45,099 kms), meter gauge (14,776 kms) and narrow gauge (3,265 kms). As the principal constituent of the nations transport system, Indian Railways own a fleet of 2,16,717 wagons (units), 39,236 coaches and 7,739 locomotives and manage to run 14,444 trains daily, including about 8,702 passenger trains. They carry more than a million tonne of freight traffic and about 14 million passengers covering 6,856 stations daily.

The impact of the Indian Railways is broad. As the website put it: Indian Railways have been the prime movers to the nation and have the distinction of being one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management. Railways being the more energy efficient mode of transport are ideally suited for movement of bulk commodities and for long distance travel. As compared to road transport, the railways have a number of intrinsic advantages. Railways are five to six times more energy efficient, four times more efficient in land use and significantly superior from the standpoints or environment impact and safety. Indian Railways, therefore, rightly occupy pride of place in the growth and development of the nation.

Here is some more info about the Indian Rail system we probably knew this when we were younger, but it has probably faded away since then:

  • The total distance covered by the 14,300 trains on the Indian Railways everyday, equals three & half times the distance to moon
  • The first train on Indian soil ran between Bombay and Thane on the 16th of April 1853
  • IR has about 63,028 route kms. of track
  • IR employs about 1.55 million people
  • It carries over 13 million passengers & 1.3 million tones of freight everyday.
  • IR has about 7,000 railway stations
  • The longest journey on the IR is from Jammu Tawi (North) to Kanya Kumari (South), a distance of about 4,751 kms. covered by Himsagar Express in about 66 hours
  • The longest platform in the world is at Kharagpur and is 2,733 ft. in length.

  • I came across this fascinating travelogue by Manohar Rakhe on the Indian Railways. I can only echo what he says so eloquently:

    The best way to get to know a vast country like India is to traverse it by Indian Railways Travelling on Indian Railways is very much like drinking Indian tea, made the Indian way, of course. It can be addictive.

    The real fun of travelling begins as soon as you board. Your role changes from that of a spectator to that of a participant. Indians are not content to mutter a comment about the lateness of the train and then immerse themselves in the equivalent of the Telegraph crossword. They are far too social for that. As the train gathers speed, so does the banter. If you are travelling on an Indian train for the first time, it is difficult to believe that your fellow passengers are meeting each other for the first time. Not only is gossip exchanged, but also food and life stories. As everyone is expected to join in, you might as well do the same. Your fellow travellers are not averse to asking you direct and leading questions even if you put on the famous British reserve. This is not nosiness but friendliness. However, I can visualise a few raised eyebrows, when somebody you have only just met, asks you what your take-home pay is!

    My experience that day was very positive. Both the trains I took (to and from Surat) were on time. And talking of conversations, the trio (all in their early 40s or so) sitting across from me was fascinated by the iPod and wanted to know more. When I told them what it did and how much it cost, they started discussing amongst themselves why anyone would pay so much for such a small music player when one could get a big, 1000 watt music system for a lot less! And just as I was telling them that the smaller they are, the more they cost, a youngster sitting on the other side popped the question: Uncle, 4 GB or 40 GB? For a moment, I was stunned. For some reason, I hadnt expected to find a fellow iPod aficionado on the train! But, as I thought to myself, this is the New, Young India. And the train is the ultimate melting pot.

    Tomorrow: A Discovery

    TECH TALK Trains, Planes and Mobiles+T

    Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.