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Reforms in India Railway

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Economy: Infrastructure


Source: BS

 Context: The launch of the Vande Bharat trains has received attention, but overall improvements in railway services are necessary.


Challenges hindering the development of Railways in India:

  • Congested networks: Overstretched infrastructure with 60% plus routes being more than 100 per cent utilized, leading to a reduction in the average speed of passenger and freight trains.
  • Efficiency: Low efficiency of the Railways in terms of the human resources it employs, and their capacity.
  • The decline in the growth of internal revenue generation: A decline in the growth of internal revenue generation has meant that Railways has been funding its capital expenditure through budgetary support from the central government and borrowings.
    • While the support from the central government has mostly remained consistent, Railways’ borrowings have been increasing.
  • Centralised decision making: Currently, decision-making in Railways is centralised.  The Railway Board has the powers of policy-making, operations, and regulation.  Railway zones have very limited powers with regard to raising their own revenue.
    • Therefore, they are unable to contribute more effectively towards improving Railways’ revenue.
  • Safety and poor quality of service delivery: There have been a number of accidents and safety issues. However, it has declined off late.
    • Poor cleanliness of trains and stations, delays in booking/train departures and arrivals and in booking tickets are key issues.
  • Competition from the Aviation Industry: Due to an increased quality of life and rapid lifestyle changes necessitated by an increase in personal disposable income, the Indian railways are also facing stiff competition from airlines as a means of transportation and travel which doesn’t bode well for the railways.
  • A vicious cycle for Railways: Poor finances of Railways had led to low investment in infrastructure.  Low investment means Railways’ infrastructure and services take a hit (resulting in low speed, delays, and safety issues).
    • Poor infrastructure and services result in loss of remunerative business for Railways which leads to further deterioration of finances.


Measures taken by Indian Railways:

Measure Description
New Trains ·        The benefits of the Vande Bharat trains include stimulating local manufacturing and providing an upgraded travel experience

·        Vistadome Trains: Running in most scenic routes and improves tourism

Special Freight Train Operations Scheme Allows private enterprises to run freight trains from their private terminals, leading to speedier cargo evacuation.
Mission Raftaar Aims to double the average speed of freight trains and increase the average speed of Superfast/Mail/Express trains by 25 kmph.
Amrit Bharat Station Scheme Aims to equip stations with facilities inspired by the mega-upgradation of marquee stations such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad, but at a lower cost.
Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) Marks a paradigm shift in the management of Indian Railways, aiming to rationalize the top-heavy bureaucracy.
TCAS (Train Collision Avoidance System) An indigenously developed system to minimize accidents caused by human error.
Measures to expedite project commissioning ·        Assured finance through extra-budgetary resources for throughput enhancement works.

·        Emphasis on proper project preparation, advanced land acquisition, EPC contracts, mechanization in construction, and intensive project monitoring to increase the pace of commissioning.


Role of National Rail Plan (NRP) for 2030: Indian Railways have recently prepared a National Rail Plan (NRP) for India – 2030 to create a ‘future ready’ Railway system by 2030. The objective of the Plan is to create capacity ahead of demand, which in turn would also cater to future growth in demand right up to 2050.


Features of the plan:

Feature Description
Focus on freight: Increase the modal share of Railways in freight to 45% by 2030.
Substantially reduce transit time by increasing the average speed of freight trains to 50 kmph.
National Rail Plan, Vision 2024: Accelerated implementation of critical projects by 2024.
100% electrification and multi-tracking of congested routes.
Upgradation of speed to 160 kmph on Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes.
Upgradation of speed to 130 kmph on all other Golden Quadrilateral-Golden Diagonal (GQ/GD) routes.
Elimination of all Level Crossings on GQ/GD routes.



The need of the hour is to find a balanced solution that would incorporate the pros of both private and government enterprises and enhance the image of Indian Railways as it continues to serve the world’s largest democracy.


Insta Links:

 Growth in Indian railways


Mains Links:

Why is Public Private Partnership (PPP) required in infrastructure projects? Examine the role of the PPP model in the redevelopment of Railway Stations in India. (UPSC 2022)