Indian Railways is one of the largest rail networks in the world with nearly 115,000 kilometres of rail tracks that cross the length and breadth of the country. That figure may soon be revised as Indian Railways continues to expand and reach some of the remotest locations in the country.
Indian Railways has several projects running in various regions and will develop transport systems for both people and goods. From the dedicated freight corridors, one of the most ambitious projects of rail history, to developing rail tracks in the hilly regions of Kashmir, Indian Railways has shown its commitment to continuous development. Keeping in line with the commitment of governments across the world to create a greener travelling experience, Indian Railways has come up with certain green trains to run through environmentally sensitive areas such as the pristine natural forests of North Bengal.
The rail budget proposal lists 41 lines that were set up as well as the 45 new line projects that are still under construction such as the Raichur Gadal line, Morthad-Arnoor, Arambagh-Goghat or the Jamua-Kawwar line. In addition, Indian Railways has sent a list of 84 proposed lines to the Planning Commission of India for approval. This is in addition to the 111 line surveys that are being undertaken to identify possible new railway lines.
However, one of the most challenging projects undertaken by Indian Railways is the Kashmir Railway Project that will connect Kashmir to the other regions in the foothills of the Himalayas. Officially known as the Jammu-Udhampur-Katra-Quazigund-Baramullah link, it is the only broad gauge railway line being constructed in the mountainous region.
The government of Chhattisgarh and Indian Railways will soon sign a memorandum of understanding to build a rail corridor for industrial purposes in the northern parts of the state. The rail lines would cover seven of the most remote and coal-rich districts in the state of Chhattisgarh.
Apart from constructing new lines, Indian Railways has undertaken several projects such as setting up wind farms in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka. Further plans to set up 200 railway stations that would be entirely powered by solar energy as well as use solar lighting systems at 1000 manned level crossings are under way. To check and measure the pollution levels of diesel-based locomotives, Indian Railways has introduced mobile emission test cars.
While Indian Railways does a commendable job in deploying new projects and lines, there are certain problems and issues that need to be addressed. One of the key areas in need of attention is the maintenance of existing lines, especially bridges that have exceeded their life-expectancy. Many maintenance procedures that are still carried on manually need to be mechanised or automated. Communication technology used by Indian Railways requires a major overhaul and the latest technology needs to be implemented in this area for better safety and security.