Indian Railways is an authoritarian organization under the Ministry of Railways, which runs India’s national rail system. It is largely managed by the Indian government as an economic public good and operates the fifth-largest railway network in the globe by total size, having a route distance of 68,154 kilometers as of March 2021. The main railway stations in India are Delhi at the eastern end, Mumbai at the western end, Chennai in Southern India, Kolkata in the Northeast, Pune in the North Central, Hyderabad in the Southern part, Lucknow in the North West and New Delhi in the South. Trains of Indian Railways cross through many countries such as China, Myanmar, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and reach destinations as far away as Singapore, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
Indian Railways was formed during the Second World War as a subsidiary of the Indian Railway Department and is one of the few sections in the country to have achieved a dedicated status by the central government. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Indian Railways got an opportunity to develop the network that it needs and has built many high-speed and medium-speed long-haul locomotives that are now operated by Indian Railways. The Indian Railways needs massive investment especially in the expanding areas such as Western Uttar Pradesh, Alwar, and Bihar. However, the present Indian Railways has one of the most efficient networks in Asia with the world’s third-largest railroad network.
One of the major challenges faced by Indian Railways in recent times is the development of the Indian freight forwarding industry. There are many problems that need to be sorted out in this sector like lack of effective infrastructure, improper licensing standards among others. Another major challenge facing Indian Railways in terms of the freight forwarding industry is the inability to access freight markets which are becoming increasingly competitive in terms of service quality and prices. There are efforts being made by Indian Railways to improve its ability to access the global freight market and attract the largest number of customers in the freight forwarding industry.
However, there is one big setback for Indian Railways in its attempts to become a global player in the rail freight industry. Indian Railways does not have access to the global freight markets hence its ability to attract the maximum number of customers and generate maximum revenue is severely limited. In addition to this, Indian Railways suffers from poor infrastructural conditions and the delays in projects are a major constraint for its capacity to increase its revenues. Despite these obstacles, Indian Railways still has an enormous potential to transform itself into a powerful and globally competitive rail freight enterprise.
Currently, India is considered to be the fourth most developed country in the world. This implies that Indian Railways have the opportunity to surpass China, Japan, and the U.K. in terms of rail freight capacity. If Indian Railways were to successfully leverage its present rail freight forwarding industry, it could quickly overcome all obstacles put in its way. However, the question still remains – can Indian Railways fulfill its latent potential? The answer will be contingent on a number of factors including the strategy adopted by Indian Railways, railway infrastructure developments in the country as well as the general infrastructure development in the Indian Railways.
To conclude, Indian Railways needs to undertake a comprehensive railway infrastructure modernization program in order to maximize the rail freight forwarding industry in India. This should include an increased focus on passenger transportation, freight transport, and freight forwarding industry operations research and development along with an enhanced strategic infrastructure planning. With an optimized rail freight infrastructure and a successful operation in the freight forwarding industry, Indian Railways can become a true competitor in the global freight transportation market. This will only be possible if Indian Railways invest substantial resources in research, development, and technological advancements.