Rail transport of India is the largest nationalized organization of Asia. It plays a significant role in the development of industry, commerce, and trade of a country. Starting from 22 miles (35.41 km) journey between Mumbai and Thane, it has traveled a long distance. Till March 2020, the total length of the rail route measures to be 42226 miles (67,956.16 km). That makes it stand 4th in the world. Rail transport is an efficient system, but one should analyze its strengths and weakness before availing, the service.
Advantages of Rail Transport
If compared to other modes, there are many advantages of this transport system. Let us discuss some of them.
1. Cheap but safe
Compared to other modes of transport, rail transport is cheaper. The reason being, bulk quantities’ of transportation at a time. That reduces the transportation charges per unit. It is cost-effective to send the goods to longer distance. Labor cost is also minimal, as only a driver and guard is enough to do the job.
Secondly, it promises the safety of goods, unlike road transport. Minimum station stoppage is the factor for this assurance. Also, the effect of weather conditions like rain, fog is minimum. However, road transport is most affected by unfavorable weather conditions. Hence, we can rely on rail transport to withstand the adverse cases and safeguard the goods from being spoiled. Other modes of transport are more prone to accidents and break down, but rail transport is not.
2. Employment and Tourism
In the year 2020 number of employees in Indian Railways was 12.54 lakhs. It infers that this industry provides many opportunities for skilled and unskilled labor. These public servants, along with the other employees of the public undertaking, avail the service of rail transport for the movements. Because it is a big organization, it fabricates many employment opportunities.
The widespread network of rail gives a boost to tourism industries. Besides connecting to various tourist places, the Indian railway provides circular tickets to benefit the tourists with telescopic rates. Compared to point-to-point fare, these rates are comparatively low and time-saving. Also, it saves from the worries of booking.
3. Well formulated and High speed
It is a very well-formulated transport system with its fixed routes and routines. The service ensures uniformity, regularity, and certainty that makes it more reliable. Compared to other modes of transport, it has a higher speed even over long distances. Because it is less interrupted with limited stops, so it runs faster.
4. Spacious for heavy goods
Railways have a large-good carrying capacity. It is flexible also. We can increase the space if we add more wagons to it. It is ideal for the transport of heavy goods over long distances. This mode is more economical than airways or roadways. The efficiency and faster service of rail in moving heavy objects are noteworthy.
5. Intermodal component
When heavy goods move in the same steel-based containers through two or more modes of transport, it is called Intermodal transportation. It involves trucks, ships, and rails. It is an advantage that rail transport is also an intermodal component. Trucks bring the containers to rails from there they travel long distances and, then again, trucks pick them up to reach the destination. Bulky goods may include electronics, timber, equipment, polymers, etc.
Disadvantages of Rail Transport
It is not that this system has only advantages. There are also certain disadvantages which we should consider before availing of the service.
1. Large capital investment
Railway infrastructure requires huge investment. If we compare to other modes, the construction, maintenance, fixed, and flexible overheads together amount to be too high. That leads to monopoly and, therefore, the public interest is at stake. The investment does not vary if the traffic is less because it remains fixed. That means the organization has to bear the loss. Railway transport imposes a large amount of movement on the intermodal containers. Damages may occur in absence of proper block and brace methods. Later, if they are not as per the standard of railways, it may reject the claims.
2. Inflexible and no door to door service
As said, the railway has fixed routes and routines. But it becomes a disadvantage when, according to the need of an individual, it does not vary. In remote areas, the limited time availability of rail transport is difficult to catch up. Other services give door to door and pick and drop options, while rail transport fails to do so. Intermediary pickups cost too much, along with more time and sometimes damage also.
3. Absence of rural service and many booking formalities
No railway services are available in rural areas. That is because of huge capital outlay which, does not permit economic operation in such areas. That causes inconvenience to the public residing there. Transporting smaller quantities of goods for shorter distances is not suitable through rail transport. Compared to road transport, too many booking formalities of rail transport wastes time and labor. Rather than wasting energy on formalities, people prefer to pay more. Smaller consignments tend to be uneconomic in this transport. It turns to be a big financial loss if they do not use the total capacity of rail.
4. Stringent rules
One has to follow the strict rules of railways to prevent the issues related to rail transport. Federal law bans or limits the transportation of certain goods. The prohibited goods include raw animal skin, carbon black, and components of old vehicles that leak. Few lanes permit the transport of certain goods but, the price may vary.
After studying the advantages and disadvantages of rail transport, it becomes necessary to evaluate both aspects before employing any form of transportation.