Non-IR Railways in India

Railways other than IR in India

Q. Are there railways other than IR in India today?

Very few private railways are left over from the days of the Raj, usually small sections on private estates, etc. (Are some foreign-owned??) E.g. the 2'6" Dehri-Rohtas Light Railway (Rohtas Industries Dehri - Tiura Pipradih). [12/99] This appears to have stopped working a few years ago -- date uncertain.

There are also some railway lines owned and operated by companies for their own purposes, by plantations, sugar mills, collieries, mines, dams, harbours and ports, etc. The Bombay Port Trust ran (still does?) a BG railway of its own, as does the Madras Port Trust. The Calcutta Port Commission Railway is a BG railway. The Vishakhapatnam Port Trust has BG and NG (2'6") railways.

The Bhilai Steel Plant has a BG railway network. The Tatas (a private concern) operate funicular railways at Bhira and and at Bhivpuri Road (as well as the Kamshet - Shirawta Dam railway line which is not a public line). These are not common carriers, so the general public cannot travel using these.

A proposed new kind of such non-public railways are the 'DBFO' (design-build-finance-operate) railway lines which are built and run by private parties with IR's help (and sometimes with IR's rolling stock). The first such was a 57km line planned between Mundra Port and Adipur, near Gandhidham, built in 2001 and operated by Gujarat Adani Port, Ltd.

The Pipavav Rail Corporation holds a 33-year concession for building and operating a 270km BG railway line from Pipavav port to Surendranagar on WR. The Kutch Railway Company, a joint venture of the Gujarat state government and private parties, is involved (along with the Kandla Port Trust and the Gujarat Adani Port) to build a Gandhidham-Palanpur railway line. These railway lines are principally used to carry freight and not for passenger traffic.

Although generally IR has decided the freight tariffs on these lines, recently [2/05] there have been proposals to allow the operating companies freedom to set freight tariffs and generally run the lines without reference to IR. (See below.)

Some stretches of the IR network built in recent years (or under construction or planned for construction) are technically owned temporarily by private companies or joint venture organizations, but are operated by IR and under agreement to revert to IR's ownership after a certain period. E.g., the Hassan-Mangalore line built by the Hassan Mangalore Rail Development Company, and various projects proposed by the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. such as connections to Krishnapatnam, Vallarpadam, Dahej, and Hazira ports. Other railway projects under such 'build-own-transfer' or 'BOT' schemes include the Mahesana-Viramgam section whose gauge conversion was undertaken by a private concern, the Palitana-Sihana gauge-converted section, and more.

Many plantations and agricultural estates in Assam, Bengal, and other parts of the north-east had light rail systems of their own; many were either closed or taken over by the state in the decades following Independence. E.g., Martin's Light Railways such as the 2' gauge Howrah Maidan - Amta and Howrah-Sheokhala lines (closed 1/1/1971), the Bukhtiarpur-Rajgir ("Bukhtiarpur-Bihar Light Railway") taken over by the local district board in 1950, taken over by IR and replaced by BG in 1962, the Baraset-Basirhat lines in 2'6" gauge (closed 1955, partly replaced by BG in 1962 by IR).

Similiarly, the Shahdara-Saharanpur 2'6" NG line operated by Martin & Co. (closed on 1 Sep. 1970, later reopened after conversion to BG), the Arrah-Sasaram Light Railway (a 2'6" line, closed 1978), and the 2'6" Fatwah-Islampur Railway (independently operating until 1986, then taken over by IR, and later closed). McLeod's Light Railways included the Ahmadpur-Katwa, Burdwan-Katwa lines transferred to ER (still NG), the Bankura - Damodar River Valley line transferred to SER in 1995, and the Kalighat-Falta line. Another private line here was the Bankura-Rainagar line, now closed.

The Murtazapur-Yawatmal Railway operated by Killicks Nixon Co. (agents for the Central Provinces Railway) is still running, as is the Murtazapur-Elichpur line. This line (along with Pulgaon - Arvi) used to be run by the GIPR for the Central Provinces Railway, before the GIPR was taken over by the state in 1925.

There is some confusion about the status of these lines. Some sources say the contracts for this British firm were renewed in the 1990s, while others say that the contracts, signed in 1903 and lasting a hundred years, will end soon. A single mixed train plies the route every day, with two or three ancient passenger coaches and a couple of goods wagons hauled by a diesel loco. (Steam was replaced by diesel in 1995; a ZE class loco from the Murtazapur-Yawatmal line is preserved at Pune.) The line is known as the 'Shankuntala' railway by local railway passengers (the origin of the name is unclear – the loco at Pune is also named 'Shakuntala').

The Kundale Valley Light railway operated between Munnar and Top Station in Kerala in the early 20th century to serve the tea plantations in the area. (There are some records of this preserved at the museum at Nallathanny Estate, Munnar.) The Cochin Forest Tramway had a 2' NG line between Chalakudy to Parambikulam, traces of which can still be seen.

The Kangra Valley Cable Trolley is a funicular railway leading up from the Joginder Nagar railway station of the former Kangra Valley Railway. This cable trolley is privately owned. Another funicular railway is at Palani. A few other such private funicular railways exist, mainly to spots of religious interest located in the hills. Some of these are more properly cable car systems as the railway component is very small.

Comprehensive lists of industrial locomotives have been compiled by Simon Darvill, including locos used by construction companies, ports, collieries and mines, agricultural estates, etc., in India and neighbouring countries.

Q. Are there any trains run by private companies or non-IR public concerns on IR tracks and/or with IR stock?

Occasionally there are some trains run by private companies using IR stock on IR routes - these are perhaps not really 'private' trains but rather trains which have been leased out by IR for private runs. Most of these are heritage or tourism specials chartered by travel agencies, private individuals, or state tourist boards for various occasions. Many of these in recent years have been run with steam locos, such as Darjeeling, or in Assam. The Jodhpur Safari Club has [11/06] run a private steam-hauled heritage train on the Jodhpur-Oslan stretch (with plans to make it a regular feature on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer section). Apart from this there are occasionally trains leased by corporations or organizations for specific advertising or publicity purposes, fundraising, etc.

Container freight trains are entirely operated by IR even though the containers themselves, and most of the rakes, are owned by CONCOR or other companies. More recently [2005] private companies and supply-chain or logistics operators have been allowed to manage freight services with private wagon rakes on IR lines.

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