How does the Indian Railway Work? All about the Indian Railways

. 6 min read
How does the Indian Railway Work? All about the Indian Railways

We all have traveled in trains at least once in our lifetime, but many of us are not aware of its working and mechanics. The Indian Railways is considered the backbone of our economy because of the dependency on the services they provide and how various sectors of the country rely on it. India has the 3rd largest railway network worldwide. But we know very little about the working and unique information about Indian Railways. This article will focus on every aspect related to Indian Railways and try to disseminate full details.

1. Services provided

A common man avails the service of railways for travel purposes. But Indian Railways generates income from various services provided, including passenger railways, freight services, Catering and Tourism, operating parking lot facilities, and other related services. They generate maximum revenue from passenger and freight services. Every little thing is available to the general public because of the freight services offered by Indian Railways.

2. Division of Indian Railways

Running a huge network of trains involves the presence of a well-managed organisation structure and team. Indian Railways follows the technique of departmentalisation. Indian railways are divided into 18 Zones and 70 operating divisions. The organisational structure consists of a 7-member railway board. The duty and responsibility of each member have been mentioned by the Railways in an official gazetted circular. The basic categories may include the divisions, production units, training centre, and the railway board.

3. The Technical Facet

After knowing the divisions and services provided, let us look into the technical aspect of how trains work. Let us categorise it into three main categories to understand in brief.


A locomotive is the ‘Engine’ in a layman’s term. The vehicular engine used to either pull or push a train is known as a locomotive. In India, the locomotives are either run by Diesel, Electricity, or with the help of compressed natural gas. Indian Railways have a vertically integrated system for the production of locomotives. This means that the locomotives or engines are produced in-house.

Track circuit

We all know that trains run on tracks; they were initially categorized based on the tracks’ size, which are the broad gauge, meter gauge, and narrow gauge. Now, we majorly have broad-gauged tracks. Indian railways have an approximate 1.23L km. of track length and 67,000 km. of route length. For the detection of trains, track circuiting is used. Axle counters can also be utilized for the same.

Signaling system

There are different types of signaling system which are used to manage the train operations. They are majorly classified based on traffic or safety. For a high-density route, automatic block signaling is used. Similarly, a manual block signaling system is used for a low-density route in which the physical exchange of tokens takes place. Absolute block signaling is used by signalmen from the signal boxes at the railway stations for the rest. The signals are interlocked using various methods to eliminate the scope of human error for signaling.

4. Reservation and bookings

Initially, Indian railways offered only physical booking of tickets. But, due to the advancement of technology, online booking is possible and widely used. The official platform for booking a railway ticket is the IRCTC website, but now there are various applications to check the tickets’ availability. There are various classes for which tickets can be booked, and the fares are charged accordingly. The classes are Saloon, 1AC, 2AC, 3AC, Executive chair, Chair Car, Sleeper Class, Second sleeper, and general class. One can also book a tatkal ticket in case of urgency, which charges higher than the basic fare 24 hours before the journey starts.

Once booked, a ticket can be canceled, and the charges are applied according to the rules of Indian Railways depending upon the duration of cancellation. The cancellation charges for a confirmed ticket before 48 hours of the departure time is Rs.240 for Executive and First AC, Rs.200 for 2nd AC and First class, Rs.180 for third AC, Rs.120 for second sleeper class, and Rs.60 for second class. The saloon class of Indian railways is just like a moving house. It has two large bedrooms and a large living room accompanied by a dining area.

5. Contribution to the Indian economy

Indian railways is governed under the Ministry of Railways. It is globally the 8th largest employer. Currently, 13 Lakh people are working for Indian Railways. Also, it provides pensions to nearly 15 Lakh pensioners. Because of the freight services, the availability of goods and services has been made possible at the doorstep. The locomotive and coach production are also undertaken by Indian railways, resulting in the vertical integration of its various operations like the production of the rolling stock, wheel, axel, etc. All this results in self-reliance.

6. Electrification of railways

The electrification of the railway’s network is undertaken by The Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE). It is planning to electrify all the routes by 2024. Today, nearly 58% of the route’s kilometres are electrified. It includes the electrification of both the lines and the conversion of the gauge. Electrification is done for the locomotives, the equipment used for maintenance, the network for power supply, signaling, and fibre-based communication systems.

7. Train preparation

Before any journey starts, there is a protocol for how the train needs to be prepared. The coaches should be placed on the platform well in time to allow various pre-departure functions to be completed, including loading of mails, luggage, linen and parcels, watering, cleaning, pantry car provisions, cooling the AC coaches, displaying the reservation charts, attaching locomotives, and deploying the railway staff. Once all these functions are checked duly, the train is all-set for departure.

8. COVID Crisis

Indian Railways has always been helping India, but even during the coronavirus pandemic, Indian Railways has helped and supported the Indian economy very effectively. The passenger’s train was shut for a long time, but special trains ran for migrants to reach their respective place after some time. The freight operations were continuing to ensure essential goods were available to everyone. Many railway coaches and wagons were converted into isolation wards. Nearly 600 coaches were converted into isolation wards by adding medical facilities like oxygen supply cylinders, ventilators, curtains, drip bottle holders, etc., to facilitate covid patients.


Thus, to conclude, we can say that Indian railways are a vast and detailed topic for study. We know the primary mechanism of how it functions and why it is so vital for the Indian economy’s transportation sector.

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Q. What are the operating divisions of Indian railways?

Ans: The main operating divisions of Indian railways are Engineering, Mechanical, Signalling and telecommunication, Stores and supplies, Electrical, Accounting, Personnel, Operational, Safety, Security, Station Masters, etc.

Q. What is the rate of GST charged on tickets booked?

Ans: GST is charged on tickets of AC, 1st class, 2nd class, 2nd AC, etc., at a flat rate of 5%.

Q. When is the Railway Budget presented in India?

Ans: Till 2016, the railway budget was presented two days before the Union Budget. But now, it is merged and presented along with the Union Budget.

Q. Do Indian Railways have any subsidiaries?

Ans: Yes, Indian Railways have 16 subsidiaries. All of them are related to the functions of railways. A few of them are Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IFRC), IRCON, IRCTC, etc.

Q. How do Indian Railways recruit employees?

Ans: Indian Railways have categorised the jobs into three main groups, i.e., Group A, B, C, and D. Group A category jobs can be applied after clearing the UPSC examinations. For category B jobs, railway examination needs to be cleared with the set target. And group C and D employees are hired by the railway recruitment board. Check the official site regularly for notification regarding the exams.