Compared to Cambodia’s passenger train network, comprising 612 km of track, India’s rail transport network is massive connecting around 8,500 station with over 67,000 km of track. India’s railway network is a hugely important form of transport as well a major employer with over 1.23 million permanent members of staff.
Train Services in India
As well as the size of the railway network in India another noteworthy feature is the diversity of types of train services in operation. About 50% of the rail network in India is electrified. The other half of the trains are mostly pulled by diesel powered locomotives, although Indian Railways still proudly operates steam engines on a small number of passenger train routes.
India Railways operates a massive rolling stock of over 12,000 locomotives and 74,000 passengers many of which have been built at its own production facilities. This enormous inventory of rolling stocks is deployed to form 29 different classes of service from very cheap, slow and basic suburban train services with hard seats and fan cooled carriages, to very modern high speed trains reaching speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hours. The price of tickets ranges from extremely cheap to almost Western European level ticket prices depending on the type of train and the length of the journey.
Popular Train Journeys in India
India Railway network cover large parts of the country, even some mountainous and difficult to access places. To fully explore all the routes available would take several years, compared to only 2 days to do the entirety of Cambodia’s current railway network. Some journeys, however, are more popular with foreign tourists than others partly because of the scenery and partly the end destination.
Three of the most popular train routes for foreign visitors to India are:
- Delhi to Agra: This journey of around 200 km is scheduled to take from slightly over 90 minutes to more than 4 hours depending on the train you take. The scenery on this journey is not particularly interesting, but travel by fast train is the best way to get from the capital city to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, which is India’s most famous tourist attraction.
- Kalka to Shimla: This is one of India Railway’s Heritage Routes which uses steam engines to take passengers on a 4 hour journey through the mountains ascending 1,419 metres to reach Shimla, which was the summer time capital of the British Empire in India.
- Delhi to Chennai: Covering a distance of around 2,200 km this is one of the longest train journeys you can take in India. The journey is scheduled to take between 28 and 43 hours depending upon which train you take and passes through an amazing diversity of different scenery as it crosses the centre of the country before emerging on the lower part of the east coast of India.