Transportation in India : a short tour

Early India In ancient times, people often covered long distances on foot. For instance, Adi Sankaracharya traveled all over India. Even today it is not uncommon for people in rural areas to commute several kilometers every day. Bullock carts have been traditionally used for transport, especially in rural India. They can still be seen in many of the cities and villages. In the recent years some of the cities have banned the movement of bullock carts and other slow moving vehicles on the main roads during daytime. Palanquins or "palkee" was one of the luxurious methods used by the rich and nobles for traveling purposes. This was primarily used in the olden days to carry the deity or idol of the god (many temples have sculptures of god being carried in a palki) later on during 15th century we have references that the nobles were also using it for transport. Girls and ladies from rich families were ferried in palkee and were escorted by males riding on horses. The advent of the British saw drastic improvements in the horse carriages which were used for transport since early days. Today they are used in smaller towns and are referred as tongas or buggies are still used for tourist purposes, but horse carriages are now rarely found in India. Rickshaw and Auto Rickshaw From the early part of the century the bicycle rickshaws also became popular and are still used in rural India. They are bigger than a tricycle where two people can sit on an elevated seat at the back and a person will pedal (driver) from the front. In urban areas they have been mostly superseded by auto rickshaws. This type of transport was prevalent until 2005 in Kolkata wherein a person pulls the rickshaw. The Government of West Bengal banned these rickshaws in 2005 describing them "inhuman". But manually pulled rickshaws are still a common sight on the streets of Kolkata. An auto rickshaw is a three wheeler vehicle for hire. In metropolitan cities, 'autos' have regulated metered fares. A recent law passed prohibits auto-rickshaw-drivers from charging more than the specified fare, or charging night-fare before midnight, and also prohibits the driver from refusing to go to a particular location. Tram, Bus and Taxi The advent of the British saw trams being introduced in many cities including Mumbai and Kolkata. They are still in use in Kolkata and provide a pollution-free means of transport. The nationalised Calcutta Tramways Company has introduced buses on certain routes in order to squeeze more money out of dying business. Buses carry over 90% of public transport in Indian cities. The use of buses is very popular for all classes of society. They are a cheap and easy mode of transport. The government is encouraging the people to use the bus since it reduces the number of vehicles on the road thus reducing traffic jams. In the past ten years, many government-owned bus transport corporations have introduced various kinds of special buses like 'low-floor buses' for the disabled and 'air-conditioned buses' to attract private car owners to help decongest roads. Most of the traditional taxicabs in India are either Premier Padmini or Hindustan Ambassador cars. In recent years, cars such as Maruti Esteem, Maruti Omni, Mahindra Logan, Tata Indica and Tata Indigo have become fairly popular among taxi operators. The livery of the taxis in India varies from state-to-state. In Delhi and Maharashtra, most taxicabs have yellow-black livery while in West Bengal, taxis have yellow livery. Private taxi operators are not required to have a specific livery. However, they are required by law to be registered as commercial vehicles. According to government of India regulations, all taxis are required to have a fare-meter installed. Metro Rail Mass rapid transit systems are operational in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi. The first rapid transit system in India, the Mumbai Suburban Railway, was established in Mumbai in 1867. It transports 63 lakh (6.3 million) passengers everyday and boasts to have the highest passenger density in the world. Kolkata was the first city in India to possess a rapid transport system, the Kolkata Metro whose construction started in 1982. At present, three metro lines are operational in Delhi and more are under construction there. Rapid transit systems are also under construction in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. To decongest Mumbai's growing traffic, a metro system is under construction. Rapid transit systems are proposed in NOIDA, Goa, Thane, Pune, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Amritsar and Kochi. Mumbai will soon be one of the three cities in India to have a monorail network, the Mumbai Monorail, which is presently under construction. There is also a monorail system being planned in the city of Kolkata. Konkan Railways is currently testing a patented. Suspended monorail project called the Skybus Metro in Margao, Goa. Railways India's rail network is the longest in the world. Trains run at an average of around 50-60 km/h, which means that it can take more than two days to get from one corner of the country to another. Rail operations throughout the country are run by the state-owned company, Indian Railways. The rail network traverses through the length and breadth of the country, covering a total length of around 63,000 km (39,000 miles). Out of this a total 16,693 km of track has been electrified till now and 12,617 km have double tracks. Indian Railways uses three types of gauges: Broad Gauge, Meter Gauge and Narrow Gauge. Broad gauge at 1.676 m is one of the widest gauge used anywhere in the world. Indian Railways is in the process of converting the entire meter gauge (14,406 km) into broad gauge in a project called Project Unigauge. Narrow gauge (3,106 km of track) with a width of 2 ft (610 mm) to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) is restricted to very few places, mostly in hilly areas. Proposals have been made to introduce the concept of high-speed rail in India. A proposal has been made to build a Maglev track within the city of Mumbai, connecting it to the National Capital of New Delhi, as well as other parts of Maharashtra in the form of the Mumbai Maglev. Another proposal has been made to introduce a High-speed rail in India similar to that of the Japanese Shinkansen. Road Network India has a network of National Highways connecting all the major cities and state capitals. As of 2005, India has a total of 66,590 km of National Highways, of which 200 km are classified as expressways. Most highways are 2 laned; while in some better developed areas they may broaden to 4 lanes. Close to big cities, highways can even be 8 laned. The National Highways Authority of India states that: About 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads. National Highways constitute only about 2% of the road network but carry about 40% of the total road traffic. Number of vehicles has been growing at an average pace of 10.16% per annum over the last five years. All the highways are metal led. In most developed states the roads are smooth, however in less developed states and in sparsely populated areas, highways are riddled with potholes. Very few of India's highways are constructed of concrete, the most notable being the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Highways form the economic backbone of the country. Highways have facilitated development along the route and many towns have sprung up along major highways. In recent years construction has commenced on a nationwide system of multi-lane highways, including the Golden Quadrilateral and North-South and East-West Corridors which link the largest cities in India. Ports The ports are the main gateway of trade. In India about 95% of the trade by quantity and 77% by value take place through the ports. There are 12 major ports and about 180 minor and intermediate ports in India. The total amount of traffic handled at the major port in 2003-2004 was 345 Mt and the minor ports together handled about 115 Mt. The major ports are Kolkata, Haldia, Paradip, Vishakapatnam, Ennore, Chennai, Tuticorin, Kochi, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Navi Mumbai, Mumbai and Kandla. The distinction between major and minor ports is not based on the amount of cargo handled. The major ports are managed by port trusts which are regulated by the central government. The minor ports are regulated by the respective state governments and many of these ports are private ports or captive ports. Inland Waterways The following waterways have been declared as National Waterways till now. National Waterway 1 - Allahabad - Haldia stretch of the Ganga - Bhagirathir - Hooghly river system (1620 km) in October 1986. National Waterway 2 - Saidiya - Dhubri stretch of the Brahmaputra river system (891 km) in September 1988. National Waterway 3 - Kollam - Kottapuram stretch of West Coast Canal (168 km) along with Champakara canal (14 km) and Udyogmandal canal (23 km) in February 1993. Domestic Air Travel India's booming economy has created a large middle-class population in India. Five years back, air travel was a dream for the majority of the Indian population. But rapid economic growth has made air travel more and more affordable in India. Air India, India's flag carrier, presently operates a fleet 135 aircraft and plays a major role in connecting India with the rest of the world. Several other foreign airlines connect Indian cities with other major cities across the globe. Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, IndiGo Airlines and Air India are the most popular brands in domestic air travel in order of their market share. Of these, Jet, Indian and Kingfisher also operate overseas routes after the liberalisation of Indian Aviation. These airlines connect more than 80 cities across India. However, a large section of country's air transport system remains untapped, even though the Mumbai-Delhi air corridor was ranked 6th by the Official Airline Guide in 2007 among the world's busiest routes. India's vast unutilized air transport network has attracted several investments in the Indian air industry in the past few years. More than half a dozen low-cost carriers entered the Indian market in 2004-05.

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