Indian Railways , abbreviated as IR, is the state-owned railway company of India, which owns and operates most of the country’s rail transport. It is overseen by the Ministry of Railways of the Government of India.
Indian Railways has one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tonnes of freight daily. It is the world’s largest commercial or utility employer, with more than 1.4 million employees. The railways traverse the length and breadth of the country, covering 6,909 stations over a total route length of more than 63,327 kilometers (39,350 mi). As to rolling stock, IR owns over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 coaches and 8,000 locomotives.
Indian Railways operates about 9,000 passenger trains and transports 18 million passengers daily across twenty-eight states and two union territories. Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya are the only states not connected by railway. The passenger division is the most preferred form of long distance transport in most of the country. A standard passenger train consists of eighteen coaches, but some popular trains can have up to 24 coaches. Coaches are designed to accommodate anywhere from 18 to 81 passengers, but during the holiday seasons or when on busy routes, more passengers may travel in a coach. Most regular trains have coaches connected through vestibules. However, ‘unreserved coaches’ are not connected with the rest of the train via any vestibule.
Reservation against cancellation service is a provision for shared berth in case the travel ticket is not confirmed. It is a way of maximizing the number of wait-listed passengers to be accommodated in case of a cancellation.
Several interstate trains feature two to three classes of travel, such as a First and Second class which have different pricing systems for various amenities. The first class can sometimes refer to a separate cabin, or simply a Further, the second class can have two or three tiers, with higher prices for the former, or seat-only class, which are popular on shorter routes. Many interstate trains are partially or fully air conditioned, feature padded leather seats or berths, and provide passengers with sheets, pillows, blankets, as well as meals and refreshments (which must be ordered as a set menu, either vegetarian or non-vegetarian). The amenities depend on the popularity and length of the route. Lavatories are communal and feature both the ‘hole in the ground’ Indian types as well as the ‘Western-style’ commode types.
Below are the types and description of the classes followed by Indian Railways:
1A The First class AC: This is the most expensive class, where the fares are on par with airlines. Bedding is included with the fare in IR. This air conditioned coach is present only on popular routes between metropolitan cities and can carry 18 passengers. The coaches are carpeted, have sleeping accommodation and have privacy features like personal coupes.
2A AC-Two tier: Air conditioned coaches with sleeping berths, ample leg room, curtains and individual reading lamps. Berths are usually arranged in two tiers in bays of six, four across the width of the coach then the gangway then two berths longways, with curtains provided to give some privacy from those walking up and down. Bedding is included with the fare. A broad gauge coach can carry 48 passengers.
FC First class: Same as 1AC, without the air conditioning. This class is not very common.
3A AC three tier: Air conditioned coaches with sleeping berths. Berths are usually arranged as in 2AC but with three tiers across the width and two longways as before giving eight bays of eight. They are slightly less well appointed, usually no reading lights or curtained off gangways. Bedding is included with fare. It carries 64 passengers in broad gauge.
CC AC chair car: An air-conditioned seater coach with a total of five seats in a row used for day travel between cities.
EC Executive class chair car: An air-conditioned seater coach with a total of four seats in a row used for day travel between cities, specially in Shatabdi Express.
SL Sleeper class: The sleeper class is the most common coach, and usually ten or more coaches could be attached. These are regular sleeping coaches with three berths vertically stacked. In broad gauge, it carries 72 passengers per coach. Railways have modified certain Sleeper Coaches on popular trains to accommodate 81 passengers in place of regular 72 passengers. This was done inorder to facilitate benefits like clear the Passenger rush and simultaneously earn more revenue. But this has got lukewarm response with criticism from the travellers and railways has decided to remove them.
2S Seater class: Same as AC Chair car, but without the air-conditioning.
G or UR General or Unreserved: The cheapest accommodation, with seats made of pressed wood and are rarely cushioned. Although entry into the compartment is guaranteed, a sitting seat is not guaranteed. Tickets issued are valid on any train on the same route if boarded within 24 hours of buying the ticket. These coaches are usually very crowded.
Below are the trains classifications followed by the Indian Railways:
Rajdhani Expresses: These are all air-conditioned trains linking major cities to New Delhi (The capital of India). The Rajdhanis have the highest priority and are the fastest trains in India, travelling at about 140 km/h (87 mph). There are only a few stops on a Rajdhani route.
Shatabdi and Jan Shatabdi Expresses: The Shatabdi trains are AC intercity seater-type trains. Jan-Shatabdi trains are generally non-AC and thus cheaper.
Super-fast Expresses or Mail trains: These are trains that have an average speed greater than 55 km/h (34 mph). Tickets for these trains have an additional super-fast surcharge.
Express: These are the most common kind of trains in India. They have more stops than their super-fast counterparts, but they stop only at relatively important intermediate stations.
Passenger and Fast Passenger: These are slow trains that stop at every single station, and are the cheapest trains. The entire train consists of the General-type compartments.
Suburban trains: Trains that operate in urban areas, usually stop at all stations.
Many cities have their own dedicated suburban networks to cater to commuters. Currently, suburban networks operate in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune and Lucknow. Hyderabad, Pune and Lucknow do not have dedicated suburban tracks but share the tracks with long distance trains. New Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai have their own metro networks, namely the New Delhi Metro, the Kolkata Metro,and the Chennai MRTS, with dedicated tracks mostly laid on a flyover.
Mumbai’s suburban trains handle 6.3 million commuters daily.
India has some of the lowest train fares in the world, and passenger traffic is heavily subsidised by freight. Until the late 1980s, Indian Railway ticket reservations were done manually. In late 1987, the Railways started using a computerised ticketing system. The entire ticketing system went online in 1995 to provide up to date information on status and availability. Today the ticketing network is computerised to a large extent, with the exception of some remote places. Computerized tickets can be booked for any two points in the country. Tickets can also be booked through the internet and via mobile phones, though this method carries an additional surcharge.
Discounted tickets are available for senior citizens (above sixty years) and some other categories of passengers including the disabled, students, sportspersons, persons afflicted by serious diseases, or persons appearing for competitive examinations. One compartment of the lowest class of accommodation is earmarked for ladies in every passenger carrying train. Some berths or seats in sleeper class and second class are also earmarked for ladies. Season tickets permitting unlimited travel on specific sections or specific trains for a specific time period may also be available. Foreign tourists can buy an Indrail Pass, which is modelled on the lines of the Eurail Pass, permitting unlimited travel in India for a specific time period.
For long-distance travel, reservation of a berth can be done for comfortable travel up to 90 days prior to the date of intended travel. Details such as the name, age and concession (if eligible) are required and are recorded on the ticket. The ticket price usually includes the base fare which depends on the classification of the train (example: super-fast surcharge if the train is classified as a super-fast), the class in which one wishes to travel and the reservation charge for overnight journeys.
If a seat is not available, then the ticket is given a wait listed number; else the ticket is confirmed, and a berth number is printed on the ticket. A person receiving a wait listed ticket will have to wait until there are enough cancellations to enable him to move up the list and obtain a confirmed ticket. If his ticket is not confirmed on the day of departure, he may not board the train. Some of the tickets are assigned to the RAC or Reservation against Cancellation which is between the waiting list and the confirmed list. These allow the ticket holder to board the train and obtain an allotted seat decided by a ticket collector, after the ticket collector has ascertained that there is a vacant (absentee) seat.
Reserved Railway Tickets can be booked through our website and also through mobile Phones and SMS. For booking an eTicket, one needs one of the authorised valid Photo Identity Card. Cancellation of eTickets are also done online, without the requirement for the passenger to go to any counter. Non-reserved tickets are available for purchase on the platform at any time before departure. A non-reserved ticket holder may only board the general compartment class. All suburban networks issue non-reserved tickets valid for a limited time period. For frequent commuters, a season pass (monthly or quarterly) guarantees unlimited travel between two stops.