Class 10 Geography
Lifelines of National Economy
Railways are the principal mode of transportation for freight and passengers in India. Railways also make it possible to conduct multifarious activities like business, sightseeing, pilgrimage along with transportation of goods over longer distances. Apart from an important means of transport the Indian Railways have been a great integrating force for more than 150 years. Railways in India bind the economic life of the country as well as accelerate the development of the industry and agriculture.
Rail Network: The Indian Railway have a network of 7, 031 stations spread over a route length of 63, 221 km. with a fleet of 7817 locomotives, 5321 passenger service vehicles, 4904 other coach vehicles and 228, 170 wagons as on 31st March 2004.
|Rail Gauge and Length of Routes in India
|Gauge (in m)
||Running track (km)
|Broad Gauge 1.676
|Meter Gauge 1
|Narrow Gauge 0.762 & 0.610
Development of Railways:
The Indian Railways is the largest public sector undertaking in the country. The first train steamed off from Mumbai to Thane in 1853, covering a distance of 34 km.
The Indian Railway is now reorganised into 16 zones. The distribution pattern of the Railway network in the country has been largely influenced by physiographic, economic and administrative factors.
The northern plains with their vast level land, high population density and rich agricultural resources provided the most favourable condition for their growth. However, a large number of rivers requiring construction of bridges across their wide beds posed some obstacles. In the hilly terrains of the peninsular region, railway tracts are laid through low hills, gaps or tunnels. The Himalayan mountainous regions too are unfavourable for the construction of railway lines due to high relief, sparse population and lack of economic opportunities. Likewise, it was difficult to lay railway lines on the sandy plain of western Rajasthan, swamps of Gujarat, forested tracks of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. The contiguous stretch of Sahyadri could be crossed only through gaps or passes (Ghats). In recent times, the development of the Konkan railway along the west coast has facilitated the movement of passengers and goods in this most important economic region of India. It has also faced a number of problem such as sinking of track in some stretches and land slides.
Today, the railways have become more important in our national economy than all other means of transport put together. However, rail transport suffers from certain problems as well. Many passengers travel without tickets. Thefts and damaging of railway property has not yet stopped completely. People stop the trains, pull the chain unnecessarily and this causes heavy damage to the railway.
Pipeline transport network is a new arrival on the transportation map of India. In the past, these were used to transport water to cities and industries. Now, these are used for transporting crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas from oil and natural gas fields to refineries, fertilizer factories and big thermal power plants. Solids can also be transported through a pipeline when converted into slurry. The far inland locations of refineries like Barauni, Mathura, Panipat and gas based fertilizer plants could be thought of only because of pipelines. Initial cost of laying pipelines is high but subsequent running costs are minimal. It rules out trans-shipment losses or delays.
There are three important networks of pipeline transportation in the country.
- From oil field in upper Assam to Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), via Guwahati, Barauni and Allahabad. It has branches from Barauni to Haldia, via Rajbandh, Rajbandh to Maurigram and Guwahati to Siliguri.
- From Salaya in Gujarat to Jalandhar in Punjab, via Viramgam, Mathura, Delhi and Sonipat. It has branches to connect Koyali (near Vadodara, Gujarat) Chakshu and other places.
- Gas pipeline from Hazira in Gujarat connects Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh, via Vijaipur in Madhya Pradesh. It has branches to Kota in Rajasthan, Shahajahanpur, Babrala and other places in Uttar Pradesh.
Waterways are the cheapest means of transport. They are most suitable for carrying heavy and bulky goods. It is a fuel-efficient and environment friendly mode of transport. India has inland navigation waterways of 14,500 km in length. Out of these only 3,700 km are navigable by mechanised boats.
The following waterways have been declared as the National Waterways by the Government:
- The Ganga river between Allahabad and Haldia (1620 km)-N.W. No.1
- The Brahmaputra river between Sadiya and Dhubri (891 km)-N.W. No.2
- The West-Coast Canal in Kerala (Kottapurma-Komman, Udyogamandal and Champakkara canals-205 km) – N.W. No.3
The other viable inland waterways include the Godavari, Krishna, Barak, Sunderbans, Buckingham Canal, Brahmani, East-west Canal and Damodar Valley Corporation Canal.