The Railways in twelve charts

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:39 am IST

Published - February 26, 2015 08:05 pm IST

India’s largest employer is the Railways. Photo: Nagara Gopal

India’s largest employer is the Railways. Photo: Nagara Gopal

The following is a graphical representation of the Indian Railways by the numbers – and the challenges it faces.

The Indian Railways transported 8,397 million people last year, or over 23 million people a day.

These people between them travelled 1,159 billion kilometres on Indian trains last year, which means they could have circumnavigated the earth 29 million times. They earned the railways Rs 37,000 crore last year, roughly a quarter of its revenues.

More than half of the railways’ passengers – 4,500 million every year - travel on its suburban rail networks, in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, but it’s journeys in the rest of the country that brings in the money.

The Railways are unequivocally propelled along by the poor of the country; sleeper class and second class passengers between them formed over 95 per cent of all passengers last year. They also contributed over 70 per cent of earnings from passengers.

But overall, freight has contributed to a growing proportion of the railways’ revenues over the years.

A look at the main goods transported by the railways gives a clear indication of how central the railways is to the Indian economy.

What do the railways spend their money on?

The number of employees in the Railways, India’s largest employer and one of the world’s ten largest, has barely grown since 1950, but as government salaries grow, so has the wage bill.

Ultimately, the railways have a serious productivity problem.

What this has meant is that very little of what the Railways earns is left for it to invest; it’s Operating Ratio (working expenses to gross earnings) has grown to a whopping, which means that just 6p of every rupee is left over after its expenses.

For commuters, one major concern, apart from the railways’ ability to grow its routes and seats as fast as prospective commuters, is safety. The White Paper brought out by the government on Thursday claimed that India had fewer fatalities on trains than Europe.

But this is because the Railways do not count deaths from what they call “accidental falling” in these statistics, which account for nine deaths every day on Mumbai’s trains alone. Add just Mumbai’s numbers – from the Government Railway Police’s annual report – to this figure, and the picture looks very different.

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