Indian railways have always played an important role in boosting the tourism industry here and enjoy the prestige of generating a major chunk of the revenue. Established in 1853, the railway network has come a long way covering more than 65,000 km through the track of 115,000 km. The line is divided into 17 main zones and inter-linked systematically with more than 7500 stations. With an average carrying capacity of over 20 million passengers daily, the network is one of the largest in the world.
Indian Railways - The Lifeline of India
The prime purpose behind the network being called as the lifeline of India is its well-structured division between 1 minor and 16 major zones. Kharagpur station is 2733 feet long and enjoys the status of being the largest railway platform in the world. The major zones are as under.
Northern zone is the biggest among all the zones and covers a distance of approximately 6968 km. With its headquarters in Delhi, it includes the routes between Delhi, Ambala, Firozpur, Lucknow, and Moradabad. Southern zone stretches over an area of 5098 km and has its headquarters in Chennai. The route covers Chennai, Trichy, Madurai, Palakkad, Salem, and Thiruvananthapuram. Eastern zone has its headquarters in Kolkata and covers around 2414 km. The main areas covered are Howrah, Sealdah, Asansol, and Malda. Western zone is another major segment covering Mumbai Central, Ratlam, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Vadodara. It covers a distance of around 6182 km.
North Central Railway is another important division with its headquarters in Allahabad. The route joins Allahabad, Agra, and Jhansi and covers more than 3151 km. North Eastern zone has its scope within Izzatnagar, Lucknow, and Varanasi. With its headquarters in Gorakhpur, the division covers around 3667 km. North Western zone covers approximately 5459 km and inter-links Jaipur, Ajmer, Bikaner, and Jodhpur. Its headquarters are located in Jaipur. Northeast Frontier is a vital zone connecting northeastern region with the rest of India. With its headquarters in Guwahati, the zone covers around 3907 km and connects Alipurduar, Katihar, Rangia, Lumding, and Tinsukia.
South Central zone covers the region of Vijayawada, Nanded, Guntur, Guntakal, Hyderabad, and Secunderabad. Approximate area covered is 5803 km and the headquarters are located in Secunderabad. South East Central division governs Bilaspur, Raipur, and Nagpur. The total area covered is 2447 km and the headquarter is located in Bilaspur. South Eastern division is controlled from its headquarter in Kolkata. The route consists of an overall network of 2631 km covering Adra, Chakradharpur, Kharagpur, and Ranchi. South Western zone covers Hubli, Bangalore, and Mysore through its headquarters in Hubli. An area of around 3177 km is allotted to this division.
East Central division is controlled through its headquarters in Hajipur and covers Danapur, Dhanbad, Mughalsarai, Samastipur, and Sonpur. It covers more than 3628 km area. East Coast is another significant division of railways with its headquarters in Bhubaneshwar. The important points covered here are Khurda Road, Sambhalpur, and Waltair and the zone is spread over an area of 2572 km. Central zone controls Mumbai, Bhusawal, Pune, Solapur, and Nagpur through its main quarters in Mumbai and includes an area of around 3905 km. West Central division controls Kota, bhopal, and Jabalpur through its headquarters in Jabalpur and governs an area of 2965 km.
Metro Railway in kolkata is the latest zone in the line and covers an area of around 25.55 km. This makes it the smallest zone in India. Kokan railway is another important achievement by Indian Railways. The route is run directly by Kokan Railway Corporation and is thus, not included in the zones. The route is laid between Roha and Mangalore and passes through Goa and other areas of Western Ghats. It covers primarily the west coast and kokan coast of India. It covers an overall area of 738 km.
Some Prominent Trains
Some of the old and prominent trains representing adding to the prestige of the rail network are Deccan Queen (run between Mumbai and Pune), Shatabdi Express (run between 18 different routes throughout the country), Rajdhani Express (covering 21 different routes), Duronto Express (running between 30 major routes), and Gharib Rath (covering 56 busy routes). Suburban railways play an important role as a daily mode of transport for millions of local passengers. The networks in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Barabanki-Lucknow, and Lucknow-Kanpur are some of the busiest routes in the world. Metro railway is another important achievement of the rail corporation. It is a cheap and fast mode of transport covering nooks and corners of a city. Major routes in operation are the ones in Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai.
A few rail lines have also been declared as world heritage sites and are granted special grants by UNESCO. These include Kalka-Shimla railway, Nilgiri Mountain railway, and Darjeeling Himalayan railway. Maharaja railways in Gwalior is the longest narrow gauge railway in the world. Neral- Matheran route is also a historic one. Some of the popular luxurious trains designed specially for tourism include Palace on Wheels, Royal Orient, The Fairy Queen, Deccan Odyssey, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, The Golden Chariot, and Maharajas' Express. Lifeline express is an ideal project successfully run for over two decades by the rail corporation. It is also known as Jeevan Rekha express or Hospital-on-Wheels and has played an important role in enabling rural areas to get the benefits of best of the medical aide.
Indian railways have also played a leading role in strengthening ties with the neighboring states. Samjhauta express (between India and Pakistan) and Maitri express (between India and Bangladesh) are the major ones. The country also has plans to extend its rail network to other countries like Vietnam, Bhutan, Thailand, and Myanmar. Seeing India through rails is definitely a memorable experience and gives a vast outlook about the unity in diversity in the country.
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