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What India can learn from China’s amazing railway system

What India can learn from China’s amazing railway system

In 1949, the Chinese Railway network added less than 22,000 km of poorly maintained, war-damaged lines. By 2008, its network touched 80,000 route km — 36 per cent double-tracked and 35 per cent electrified.

During 1950-1980, China added 107 railway lines, stretching over 30,000 km, and has plans to extend the network to 20,000 route km by 2020 — 50 per cent of it double-tracked and 60 per cent electrified.
With an audacious investment programme, Chinese Railway, like the country’s most dramatic burst of wealth creation, inspires awe as much as envy.

The Chinese railways trailed Indian Railways technologically until the 1980s. In fact, even in 1990, its 24,800-km core network with an annual density of 30 million gross tonnes or more had largely 50 kg/m and 43 kg/m rails; as many as 55 per cent of the wagons were with plain bearings.

Until 1980, steam locomotive continued to remain its mainstay, carrying 76 per cent of its traffic. Today, Indian Railway, lost in shibboleths of systematic self-destruction, lags way behind Chinese Railway, and has no tangible strategy for growth.

On the other hand, Chinese Railway, now the world’s second largest freight railway system and the largest passenger system, has by far the highest traffic density (passenger-km and tonne-km per km of line) — it is 10.5 times the world average. Its output per locomotive, per freight car, per passenger coach is among the highest.

Chinese Railway’s priority development plans have centred on high technology and a judicious mix of traffic routes for passenger trains running at 200 kmph and freight trains at 120 kmph.

Travel time has been reduced by increasing service speeds and reducing train stops. Between 1997 and 2007, Chinese Railway carried out six stages of ‘speed raising’: maximum train speed that was generally around 80-100 kmph in 1991 has gradually been raised to 160-200 kmph on popular passenger corridors.

The first 300-kmph electric multiple unit (EMU) train set was inaugurated in August 2008 between Beijing and Tianjin. CR is currently constructing 350 kmph passenger dedicated lines (PDLs). The combined length of PDLs by 2020 will be 16,000 route km; another 35 mixed traffic lines will be equipped to operate at 200-350 kmph.

Chinese Railway is busy developing its capacity and quality for freight and passenger traffic in line with the economy’s astounding growth.

It already operates 2,700 m long, 20,000-tonne heavy- haul coal trains. Its containerised freight is forecast to reach 400 million tonnes by 2020 compared with just 64.5 million tonnes in 2006.
As Chinese Railway is poised to have the largest high-speed rail network worldwide, it will have a similar seminal infrastructure for heavy-haul freight transportation.

The principles underpinning the Mid-to-Long Range Railway Network Plan (MLRNP), 2003, approved for CR by the State Council, include: Coordination of rail development with that of other transport modes; separation of passenger and freight transport on constrained busy trunk lines to increase capacity and improve service; development of inter-city fast passenger networks; expansion of the rail network to support and encourage sustainable economic development, regional development and national defence; raising the local content of railway equipment and promotion of local railway manufacturing.

In 1991, the Chinese government enacted a Railway Law, which gave the ministry of railways overall control of policy, technical standards, planning, investment and finance, leaving just the day-to-day management and delivery of rail transport services and infrastructure to the regional railway administrations (RRAs).

For raising capital for new constructions, a surcharge was applied to all freight traffic in 1990. A second surcharge was introduced in 1993 for freight moving on electrified lines and was used for extending electrification over the network.

In 2005, China opted for public-private partnerships for new constructions, including the PDLs. Local railways in China came into being in 1960 essentially as feeder lines financed by respective local governments. Joint venture railways, established first in the 1990s, account for more than 50 per cent of the new constructions.

Chinese Railway’s track structure is being constantly upgraded: PDLs will all have ballastless track and the heavy-haul high-density Daqin line, originally laid with jointed 60 kg/m rail in 25m lengths on the east-bound loaded track, is being replaced by continuously welded 75 kg/m rail on 2,600-2,700 mm long sleepers laid at 1,840 per km.

Four large equipment maintenance bases are due to be completed by 2013, one each at Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou. These will be aided by 35 modern satellite depots across the network. Concomitantly, several state-of-the-art signalling and communication systems have been planned.

China has emerged as a strong manufacturer of railway equipment as much as a burgeoning market for it. By 2020, China will potentially be the global leader in rail technology.

Technology transfer from Japanese and European companies has enabled China’s railway supply industry to acquire the knowhow to build rolling stock ranging from 350 kmph EMUs to heavy-haul locomotives. Matching advancements have been made in track and signalling technologies.

On dedicated heavy haul corridors, such as Daqin line, wagons of aluminium or stainless steel body with 25 tonne axle load, fitted with rotary couplers, and for up to 120 kmph operation, are being introduced progressively.

The whole approach has been pragmatic coupled with bold initiatives, clarity, and continuity. Major rationalisation measures initiated by Chinese Railway have entailed massive investments as well as drastic disinvestments.

Many railway stations with low volume of freight have been closed; short distance passenger traffic has been actively discouraged to release capacity for longer distance rail travel.

Following a ‘productivity layout adjustment’, locomotive depots, passenger car depots, vehicle depots and passenger transportation sections and train crew districts were all reduced.

In an important reform in 2005, a whole tier in the Chinese Railway management structure, the sub-administration level of regional administration (akin to divisions on IR) was abolished, leaving RRAs with a direct line of management to depots, stations and yards.

By 2005, Chinese Railway transferred some 900 schools and colleges and 400 hospitals to local governments. Surplus staff not directly involved in railway operations were put on the RRA rolls in what are called diversified economy companies set up in 1985.

Raghu Dayal


  1. I dont think we should ever compare china and India since we are two different political systems. I do not want to go into which is better but in china they will not discuss whether mono r metro rail should be there in PUne City. If they want to have something, nothing like environmentalists caring for dogs or trees come in thier way. We are democratic and proud about it. so then we have to bear with the slow prgress.

  2. Come on, don't give your country's low grade such stupid excuses. Go to China and find out the truth. Scientific evidence and studies are carried out before any construction. They are built with speed and efficiency. And please, keep your democrazy bullshit to fool your own Indian people. It's proven to be the greatest joke, especially in your country, which is not even ready for 65 years since independence

  3. Panchatantra for a developed India...

    1. Anybody who wants to serve the society (read politicians), should donate half of their complete family's property (including son's, daughter's & wife's) to the Indian union. They also should donate 50% of their yearly earnings to the Indian union.
    2. No politician can become CM thrice. No politician can become a minister more than twice.
    3. If a family member has become a minister, then his/her heirs cannot become ministers for the next 10 years & should serve the people/country.
    4. If a minister / MLA is found to be guilty/corrupt, then his/her heirs should become disqualified for serving public.
    5. Finally, if a minister/MLA is found corrupt, then they should be hanged in not less than 90 days.


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PME Due Date

Master Circular No. 25

Copy of Railway Board’s letter No. 69/H/3/11 dated 06.12.1974

Subject: Implementation of the Recommendations of the Visual Sub-Committee.

6. Periodical re-examination of serving Railway Employees:

6.l. In order to ensure the continued ability of Railway employees in Classes A l, A 2, A 3, B l and B 2 to discharge their duties with safety, they will be required to appear for re-examination at the following stated intervals throughout their service as indicated below:

6.1.1. Classes A l, A 2 and A 3 —At the termination of every period of three years, calculated from the date of appointment until they attain the age of 45 years, and thereafter annually until the conclusion of their service.

Note: (l) The staff in categories A l, A 2 and A 3 should be sent for special medical examination in the interest of safety under the following circumstances unless they have been under the treatment of a Railway Medical Officer.

(a) Having undergone any treatment or operation for eye trouble irrespective of the duration of sickness.

(b) Absence from duty for a period in excess of 90 days.

(2) If any employee in medical category A has been periodically medically examined at any time within one year prior to his attaining the age of 45, his next medical examination should be held one year from the due date of the last medical examination and subsequent medical examination annually thereafter.

If, however, such an employee has been medically examined, at any time earlier, than one year prior to his attaining the age of 45, his next medical examination should be held on the date he attains the age of 45 and subsequent medical examination annually thereafter.

Ammendment: It was ammended in 1993 as below

Age Group PME Due

Age 00-45 every 4yrs

Age 45-55 every 2yrs

Age 55-60 every year
As per Rly Bd's Guideline of Medical Exam issued vide LNo. 88/H/5/12 dated 24-01-1993

a) PME would be done at the termination of every period of 4 years from date of appointment / Initial medical Exam till the date of attainment of age of 45 years, every 2 years upto 55 years & there after annual till retirement.
b) Employees who has been periodically examined at any time within 2years prior to his attaining the age of 45years would be examined after 2years from the date of last PME & subsequent PME for every 2years upto 55years age.Of

NRMU 4 you

6.1.2. Classes B-1 and B-2—On attaining the age of 45 years, and thereafter at the termination of every period of five years.