In India, railways are the primary mode of transport for passengers and goods. The first train service began from Boribunder, now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, to Thane, 60 kilometres away in 1853.
The development of railways has not only helped in uniting India, but also promoted the growth of agriculture and economy.
The Indian railway network is spread over 63,221 route kilometres, connecting 7,031 railway stations all over the country, divided into 16 railway zones.
The vast Indian railways network is serviced by 7,739 locomotives, 29,236 coaches and 2,16,717 wagons. The distance between the two rails forming a railway track determines the gauge of the railway line. Indian railways operate on narrow gauge, meter gauge and broad gauge lines.
Broad gauge forms the biggest part of the Indian railway network. The Indian Railways have undertaken a programme, called Project Unigauge, to convert all metre gauge and narrow gauge railway lines into broad gauge lines.
The construction of railways depends largely on local terrain, and economic and administrative factors. The vast level lands of the northern plains with the huge population and resources were the most favourable areas for the expansion of railways. In the hilly peninsular region, railway lines were laid through hills, valleys and tunnels. The lofty mountains in the Himalayan region with lesser population and economic opportunities are not favourable for the construction of railways.
The sandy deserts of Rajasthan, the swamps of Gujarat, and the heavily forested regions of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are some of the challenges railways have overcome for expansion in these regions. The Konkan railway route is prone to landslides and sinking of railway lines. Considering the volume of passengers and goods transported, Indian Railways is more important to India’s economy than all other means of transport.
Our railways are facing certain challenges like:
- Many passengers travel on trains without a proper ticket leading to a huge revenue loss to the railways
- Misuse of the safety feature to stop the train
- People disrupt railway traffic and damage railway property in the name of demonstrations.
Pipelines are networks of pipes that bring water into our house and take wastes away. Now pipelines are being used to transport several industrial materials.
There are three important gas and oil pipeline networks in India. An oil pipeline runs from the oil fields in Digboi in Assam to Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh via Guwahati, Barauni and Allahabad. The main branches of this oil pipeline are Guwahati to Siliguri, Barauni to Haldia via Rajbandh, and Rajbandh to Maurigram.
Another oil pipeline runs from oil fields in Salaya in Gujarat to Jalandhar in Punjab. This oil pipeline passes through Viramgam, Mathura, Delhi and Sonipat. It has several branches leading to Koyali and Chakshu, etc.
A natural gas pipeline runs from the Hazira gas fields in Gujarat to Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh, while passing through Vijaipur in Madhya Pradesh. Its branches supply gas to Kota in Rajasthan and several places like Barbala and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Pipelines are difficult and expensive to construct. But once constructed, they require very little maintenance and save a lot of money by eliminating transport losses and delays.