India’s railway and transport sector is a crucial component of the country’s infrastructure and plays a vital role in connecting people, goods, and services across the vast and diverse landscape of the country. Being the backbone of the country, the complex railway network is shaping the transportation sector’s future by embracing radical changes and advances made possible by highly disruptive technologies. Abhineet Kumar of Elets News Network (ENN) takes you through a closer look at India’s railway and transport sector.

Railways in India

India had a total track length of around 54693 km in 1947 which has now increased to over 68,000 km. 83 per cent of railway track is fully electrified. Modern trains like VandeBharat, Tejas, Antyodaya and Humsafar have the potential to transform rail travel. Coupled with the upcoming Bullet trains, and introduction of modern safety and passenger amenities, train journeys in India are set for a complete makeover. The Indian Railways has undergone significant modernisation in recent years, with the introduction of new technologies and the expansion of high-speed rail networks. The government has also announced several initiatives to improve passenger amenities, including the introduction of air-conditioned coaches, Wi-Fi connectivity, and improved catering services.

Metro Rail

Over the past few decades, the metro rail system has transformed the way people commute in India’s major cities. The metro has become a symbol of urban modernity, providing fast and efficient transportation to millions of people every day. The development of metro systems in India has brought about significant improvements in urban mobility, reduced traffic congestion, and improved air quality.

One of the most successful examples of metro transformation in India is the Delhi Metro. The system has transformed the way people travel in the national capital region, connecting the city’s outskirts with the central business district. The Delhi Metro has significantly reduced travel time, with some commutes that used to take hours now completed in just a few minutes. The metro has also helped reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the city, making it a cleaner and more livable place.

Kochi Metro is another significant example. Kochi Metro is a rapid transit system that serves the city of Kochi in the state of Kerala, India. The metro system has significantly improved the transportation infrastructure in Kochi by providing an efficient, comfortable, and affordable mode of transport to its citizens. Recently, Kochi Metro has become the first metro in the country to begin accepting the digital currency in its parking facilities as part of a campaign to support the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). According to KMRL, the move would enable Metro users to make payments using their respective Bank’s CBDC wallet and prevent the need to exchange cash.

The Mumbai Metro is another example of the metro’s transformative impact on urban mobility in India. The development of metro systems in India has not been without challenges. The high cost of construction and operation has been a major obstacle, and several projects have been delayed due to financial and administrative issues. However, the benefits of the metro system far outweigh the challenges, and the government has made significant investments in metro infrastructure in recent years.

Transport Sector in India

Apart from the railways, India’s transport sector also includes road transport, air transport, and maritime transport.


India’s road network is the second-largest in the world, with over 5.5 million km of roads connecting the country’s cities and towns. The road network of our country which was 40000 kilometers (km) during independence has increased to 6,371,847 km with 600 plus National Highways. From zero expressways then to 24 now with a combined length of 2192 km, the country has grown by leaps and bounds.The road network plays a critical role in connecting remote areas of the country, and the government has launched several initiatives to improve road infrastructure, including the construction of highways and expressways.

Air Transport

The Aviation Sector too, which was the privilege of few rich and affluent at the time of independence, has spread its wings to every nook and corner of the country with 137 domestic and international airports. The UDAN scheme further envisages making air travel affordable and accessible for the masses. India’s air transport sector has undergone significant growth in recent years, with the rise of low-cost carriers and the expansion of air connectivity to smaller cities and towns.



India’s maritime transport sector is also an essential component of the country’s transport infrastructure, with the country’s vast coastline providing access to international trade routes. The government has launched several initiatives to improve maritime infrastructure, including the development of new ports and the expansion of existing ports. The waterways sector, which accounts for 95 per cent by volume and 65 per cent by value of India’s trade, has also witnessed remarkable strides. With 218 major and minor ports, a long coastline and large rivers, the country is well positioned to leverage an economical and pollution free inland waterways transport system.

Despite the significant progress made in India’s railway and transport sector, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed. These include the lack of investment in infrastructure, inadequate safety measures, and congestion in major cities. However, the government has launched several initiatives to address these challenges, including the introduction of new technologies and the expansion of high-speed rail networks.

India’s population is expanding quickly, and this, combined with rising income levels, causes a sizable increase in the number of vehicles. India is currently the sixth-largest vehicle producer in the globe. India ranks in the middle of the world’s nations in terms of per capita car ownership. Therefore, any sudden rise in income levels and the lack of an adequate public transportation infrastructure encourage the growth of vehicles in India. By 2030, sales of passenger cars are expected to reach 10 million annually. The sudden increase in vehicles leads to a number of problems, including air pollution, transportation congestion, and the use of fossil fuels. A country’s economy is thought to be extremely dependent on the transportation industry.

Climate Change

The rapidly growing Indian transportation sector heavily relies on fossil fuels and contributes to 6.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). India stands third among the global greenhouse gas emitters after China and the United States of America. Due to its significance, the global transportation sector shares about 24% of the global CO2 emissions, with the majority contribution from road transportation. Transportation is one of the leading contributors to climate change. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind, and therefore, most transport policies are formulated around it. Globally, from Paris commit of 2015 to Glasgow summit of 2021, efforts are being put to reduce the emissions from all sources, including the transportation sector.

Technological Innovations

Technological advancements are transforming the railway, metro, and transport sector in unprecedented ways, leading to faster, more efficient and safer modes of transportation.

Air India

One of the most significant technological advancements is the implementation of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), which are designed to enhance the overall efficiency and safety of public transport. ITS technologies include realtime traffic monitoring, automated fare collection, vehicle tracking, and passenger information systems.

In addition to ITS, the railway and metro sectors are also leveraging technologies such as high-speed trains, magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains, and automated train control systems (ATC) to improve operational efficiency and safety.

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Automated train control systems are being used in many metro systems to improve safety and efficiency. These systems use sensors to monitor train location, speed, and acceleration and adjust them automatically, reducing the risk of accidents caused by human error.

Finally, the use of electric and hybrid vehicles is becoming more common in the transport sector, with many countries setting ambitious targets to reduce their carbon footprint. In the railway sector, electric trains are becoming the norm, with some countries even phasing out diesel trains entirely. India with its population-scale adoption of technology is witnessing massive transformation.


In spite of multiple efforts by the government of India, traffic congestion and vehicular emissions are still on the rise in India. Most of the policies that exist today have been in place for 4 decades and have evolved. However, the evolved policies fail to address the transportation needs of the rapidly growing population. The Motor Vehicles Act (1988) addresses the need to improve the licensing system and reduce accidents. Policies such as these have been introduced when the vehicle density on the roads was very sparse and income levels are significantly low compared to current times. With substantial economic development and increased urbanisation, this policy fails to address the congestion and pollution problems. The weak penalties proposed in this policy and inefficient enforcement contribute to a significant share of users flouting the transport rules and regulations. However, the recently updated Motor Vehicle Act (Amendment Bill, 2019) has revised the penalties. The impact is yet to be understood.


India’s railway and transport sector offers enormous opportunities for growth and development due to the country’s large population, expanding urbanisation, increasing middle-class, and rising demand for transportation services. Here are some of the key opportunities for the railway and transport sector in India:

High-Speed Railways: India’s government has announced plans to construct a high-speed rail network, connecting major cities across the country. The project will create new job opportunities and boost economic growth.

Modernisation of Railway Infrastructure: The modernisation of railway infrastructure in India is a priority area, and the government is investing heavily in upgrading railway tracks, signalling systems, and station infrastructure. This will increase the efficiency and safety of the railways and make them more attractive to commuters and businesses.

Smart Transportation Solutions: There is a growing demand for smart transportation solutions in India, such as real-time passenger information systems, integrated ticketing systems, and automated fare collection systems. Companies providing these solutions will have significant growth opportunities in the country.

Electric Vehicles: The Indian government has set a target to electrify all vehicles in the country by 2030. This presents an enormous opportunity for the railway and transport sector to invest in electric vehicles and related infrastructure.

Public-Private Partnerships: The government is promoting public-private partnerships in the railway and transport sector to accelerate growth and development. Private players can invest in new projects and technologies and contribute to the sector’s growth.

Multimodal Transport: The concept of multimodal transport, which involves using different modes of transport such as road, rail, and waterways, is gaining momentum in India. The development of multimodal transport infrastructure will lead to significant opportunities for the railway and transport sector.

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Logistics and Warehousing: With the rise of e-commerce and the increasing demand for faster and more efficient logistics and warehousing solutions, the railway and transport sector can capitalise on this opportunity by investing in modern logistics and warehousing facilities.

Way Forward

India’s urbanisation and transportation strategies have historically placed a premium on supply. Up until the beginning of 2000, connectivity between rural and urban regions received the majority of attention. Many investments were made during this time period to improve the transportation infrastructure. From the first five-year plan to the ninth, this pattern has been noted. The government acknowledged in the ninth five-year plan that changing the focus of policies and planning from supply-centric to demand-centric is one way to address the escalating transportation issue. The goal of a demand-centric transportation system is to move more passengers with a given quantity of available transportation. India, however, is still having trouble making a full transition to a demand-centric transportation system.

Instead of constructing extensive public transportation and NMT networks, we are still concentrating on enlarging roads and constructing flyovers and underpasses. According to the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations promised to cut emissions in order to prevent an increase in global surface temperature of 1.5 °C. However, the emissions continued rising, and today, India and other nations must reduce their emissions by 15% annually. As a result, supply-centric planning and policies are no longer the best ways for India to achieve these difficult goals. At the same time, it should be understood that financial limitations have a big impact on how projects are carried out. Therefore, the government should consider the passengers using a mode of transport for the investment made per kilometre.


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