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Indian Railways Industry

    Last updated on Mar, 22 2021

Indian Railways Industry Report  (Size: 769.65 KB ) (January, 2021)


Indian Railways is among the world’s largest rail network, and its route length network is spread over 1,23,236 kms, with 13,523 passenger trains and 9,146 freight trains, plying 23 million travellers and 3 million tonnes (MT) of freight daily from 7,349 stations. India's railway network is recognised as one of the largest railway systems in the world under single management.

The railway network is also ideal for long-distance travel and movement of bulk commodities, apart from being an energy efficient and economic mode of conveyance and transport. Indian Railways is the preferred carrier of automobiles in the country.

Government of India has focused on investing in railway infrastructure by making investor-friendly policies. It has moved quickly to enable Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railways to improve infrastructure for freight and high-speed trains. At present, several domestic and foreign companies are also looking to invest in Indian rail projects.

Market Size

Indian Railways’ revenue increased at a CAGR of 6.20% during FY08-FY19 to US$ 27.13 billion in FY19. Earnings from the passenger business grew at a CAGR of 6.43% during FY07-FY19 to reach US$ 7.55 billion in FY19P. Freight revenue rose at a CAGR of 4.30% during FY08-FY19 to reach US$ 18.20 billion in FY19. RailTel, a PSU under the Railway Ministry, which provides fast and free Wi-Fi across the Indian Railways network, announced its highest ever consolidated income of Rs. 11,660.05 million (US$ 158.48 million) for FY19-20. This income figure is a growth of 12.3% over the consolidated income of the financial year FY18-19.

Revenue growth has been strong over the years. Indian Railways’ gross revenue stood at Rs 183,092.74 crore (US$ 26.20 billion) in FY20 (till February 2020). Freight earnings in FY20 (till February 2020) stood at Rs 119,216.11 crore (US$ 17.06 billion). Passenger earnings for Indian Railways was estimated at 51,077.73 crore (US$ 7.31 billion) in FY20 (till February 2020). Freight remains the major revenue earning segment for Railways, accounting for 65.1% of its total revenue in FY20 (till February 2020), followed by the passenger segment.

In November 2020, Indian Railways freight loading stood at 109.68 million tonnes, compared with 100.96 million tonnes in the same month last year. The Indian Railways earned Rs. 10,657.66 crore (US$ 1.44 billion) from freight loading; this increased by Rs.449.79 crore (US$ 61.13 million) or 4% compared with Rs. 10,207.87 crore (US$ 1.38 billion) in the same month last year. In November 2020, India Railways announced that 40% of dedicated freight corridor (DFC) will be opened for traffic by end-FY21, while the entire 2,800 km route will be completed by June 2022.

Passenger traffic was valued at 7.25 billion and freight traffic at 1,208.34 million tonnes in FY20.

India was among the top 20 exporters of railways globally as of 2017. India’s export of railways has grown at a CAGR of 31.51% during 2010-2018 to US$ 507.90 million. Exports of railways in 2019E stood at US$ 635 million.

Investments/ Developments

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Inflow in railway-related components stood at US$ 1.12 billion from April 2000 to September 2020.

Following are some of the major investments and developments in India’s railways sector:

  • In November 2020, the Indian Railways loading was 109.68 million tonnes, including 48.48 million tonnes of coal, 13.77 million tonnes of iron ore, 5.1 million tonnes of foodgrains, 5.41 million tonnes of fertilisers and 6.62 million tonnes of cement (excluding clinker).
  • On November 26, 2020, National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) signed an agreement with L&T to design and construct 47% alignment works for Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
  • In October 2020, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) became the first and only Indian manufacturer to develop 60E1 1175 heat treated (HT) rails that are suitable for high-speed and high-axle load applications. These rails are primarily used by metro rail corporations, high-speed corridors and bullet trains.
  • In October 2020, Western Railways division completed its first consignment journey from Mumbai to New Delhi. The division signed a deal with the logistics partner of Amazon India for speedy transportation of parcels in Rajdhani Express. The deal stipulates consignment deliveries for 113 days from October 2020 to February 2021 with an estimated goods transportation of 2,712 tonnes; this will help generate a revenue of Rs. 2 crore (US$ 269.93 thousand).
  • The Indian Railways completed eight major capacity enhancement projects by taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown. These projects included three super critical projects with a combined length of 68km, three critical projects with a combined length of 45km, upgradation of the entire 389km railway line from Jhajha in Bihar to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction in Uttar Pradesh and a new 82km port connectivity line to Paradip.
  • In September 2020, the Indian Railways announced the ‘Clone Train Scheme’, wherein it planned to run a clone train with the train of the same number, to help and provide relief to the waitlisted passengers over heavy passenger traffic routes.
  • As a part of the Railways’ plans to upgrade its network, the Ministry announced that all non-AC sleeper coaches will be replaced by AC coaches for trains running >130 kmph. This move has been taken as a technical necessity for high-speed trains with the bonus of improving passenger experience.
  • In October 2019, Indian Railway launched One Touch ATVM for fast ticketing at 42 Suburban Stations of Central Railway.
  • Khurja-Bhadan section of eastern corridor in Uttar Pradesh to be formally opened for traffic on October 2, 2019.
  • In July 2019, longest electrified tunnel built between Cherlopalli and Rapuru stations.

Government initiatives

Few recent initiatives taken up by the Government are:

  • In November 2020, Indian Railways developed anti-COVID-19 coach to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This anti-COVID-19 coach has hands-free water tanks and flushes; copper-coated handles and locks.
  • The Railway Minister, Shri. Piyush Goyal, announced on November 29, 2020, that tea will be sold in environment friendly 'Kulhads' (earthen cups) in place of plastic cups at all railway stations in the country. Currently, >400 railways stations serve tea in ‘Kulhads’. This strategy will be the contribution of the Indian Railways towards a plastic-free India.
  • As of October 2020, the Railway Ministry issued a policy to develop goods shed facilities at small/roadside railway stations aimed at augmenting terminal capacity through the participation of the private sector. Private parties are allowed to develop a goods wharf, utilities for labourers (resting space, drinking water, etc.), approach roads, loading and unloading docks, and other related infrastructure.
  • On September 22, 2020, Indian Railways sanctioned a feasibility study for seven bullet train projects - all open to PPP investments.
  • In July 2020, The Ministry of Railways decided to create a special cell, Project Development Cell (PDC), in the railway board to increase investments and inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • As on June 02, 2020, a total of 4,155 Shramik Special trains were operationalised from various states across the country and more than 57 lakh passengers have already reached their home state.
  • As per Union Budget 2020-21, Ministry of Railways have been allocated Rs 72,216 crore (US$ 10.33 billion).
  • In February 2019, Indian Railways decided to launch food packets with QR codes and give live kitchen feed.
  • The speed is being raised to 160 kmph on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah routes by 2022-23. The passenger trains have got approval to raise 60% increase in average speed.
  • Dedicated Freight Corridor Corp. of India Ltd (DFCCIL) is already building the first two freight corridors - Eastern Freight Corridor from Ludhiana to Dankuni (1,856 kms) and Western Freight Corridor from Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru Port (1,504 kms) - at a total cost of Rs 81,000 crore (US$ 11.59 billion).
  • The Government is going to come up with a ‘National Rail Plan’ to enable the country to integrate its rail network with other modes of transport and develop a multi-modal transportation network.
  • A 'New Online Vendor Registration System' has been launched by Research Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO), the research arm of Indian Railways, to have digital and transparent systems and procedures.


Road Ahead

Indian Railway network is growing at a healthy rate. In the next five years, Indian railway market will be the third largest, accounting for 10% of the global market. Indian Railways, which is one of the country's biggest employers, can generate one million jobs, according to Mr Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways and Coal.

Indian Railways is targeting to increase its freight traffic to 3.3 billion tonnes by 2030 from 1.1 billion tonnes in 2017.

Indian Railways plans to achieve 2,024 MT (metric tonne) loading in 2024 from the current 1,200-1,300 MT.

It is projected that freight traffic via the Dedicated Freight Corridors will increase at a CAGR of 5.4% to 182 MT in 2021-22 from 140 MT in 2016-17.

Note: Conversion rate used in December 2020, Rs. 1 = US$ 0.01357

References: Press Releases, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Press information Bureau, Media Reports, Railways Budget 2019-20, Indian Railways

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.

Indian Railways

Freight Traffic Projections on Dedicated Freight Corridor (in MMT)



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