Uni-gauge Policy of Indian Railways
The problems caused by a multi-gauge system in a country have been discussed in the previous section. The multi-gauge system is not only costly and cumbersome but also causes serious bottlenecks in the operation of the Railways and hinders the balanced development of the country. Indian Railways therefore took the bold decision in 1992 of getting rid of the multi-gauge system and following the uni-gauge policy of adopting the broad gauge (1676 mm) uniformly.
1 Benefits of Adopting BG (1676 mm) as the Uniform Gauge
The uni-gauge system will be highly beneficial to rail users, the railway administration, as well as to the nation as described below.
No Transport Bottlenecks
There will be no transport bottlenecks after a uniform gauge is adopted and this will lead to improved operational efficiency resulting in fast movement of goods and passengers.
No Trans-shipment Hazards
There will no hazards of trans-shipment and as such no delays, no damage to goods, no inconvenience to passengers of transfer from one train to another train.
Provisions of Alternate Routes
Through a uni-gauge policy, alternate routes will be available for free movement of traffic and there will be less pressure on the existing BG network. This is expected to result in long-haul road traffic reverting to the railways.
There will be a better turnround of wagons and locomotives, and their usage will improve the operating ratio of the railway system as a whole. As a result the community will be benefited immensely.
Improved Utilization of Track
There will be improved utilization of tracks and reduction in the operating expenses of the railway.
Balanced Economic Growth
The areas presently served by the MG will receive an additional fillip, leading to the removal of regional disparities and balancing economic growth.
No Multiple Tracking Works
The uni-gauge project will eliminate the need for certain traffic facilities and multiple tracking works, which will offset the cost of gauge conversions to a certain extent.
Better Transport Infrastructure
Some of the areas served by the MG have the potential of becoming highly industrialized; skilled manpower is also available. The uni-gauge policy will help in providing these areas a better transportation infrastructure.
Boosting Investor's Confidence
With the liberalization of the economic policy, the uni-gauge projects of the Indian Railways have come to play a significant role. This will help in boosting the investors' confidence that their goods will be distributed throughout the country in time and without any hindrance. This will also help in setting up industries in areas not yet exploited because of the lack of infrastructure facilities.
2 Planning of Uni-gauge Projects
The gauge-conversion programme has been accelerated in Indian Railways since 1992. In the eight Plan (1993-97) itself, the progress achieved in gauge-conversion projects in 5 years was more than the total progress made in the last 45 years. The progress of gauge-conversion projects is briefly given in Table 2.3.
Table 2.3 Gauge-conversion projects in India