Railways Publishes It's All-India Time-Table After Gap Of Three Years; Here's How To Get A Copy
This month sees the publication–after a gap of 3 years–of Indian Railways’ ‘Trains at a Glance’.
This is the largest print edition yet, with 400-plus all-colour pages, priced Rs 100.
Unlike most other countries, a printed national train time-table remains popular in India, covering one of the largest railway systems in the world.
This week, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has brought out the forty-third edition of “Trains at a Glance”, the railway time table of Indian Railways, after a gap of three years.
It is the nearest we have today, to our own Bradshaw. It is the biggest edition so far–2 cms thick with just over 400 large format pages all in colour--helpfully indexed multiple ways so that you can search for a particular train by its number, name or by looking up a route map.
Around mid-September, IRCTC sent out mailers, inviting interested persons to pre order copies for the cover price of Rs 100 plus speed post charges of Rs 60 anywhere in India. Thousands did. You can order a copy here.
With one of the world’s largest train networks –70,225 kms– serving more people-per-kilometre than anywhere else in the world –20,424 – India’s Railways plays a unique role in the lives of its citizens.
Even casual users find utility in having an up-to-date time table at their side – and technology has not dented this market.
Yes, a simple Google search on your mobile phone will get you specific information about a train and even help you reserve a seat – but for Indian rail aficionados there is something very personal about a printed time table: a promise of endless tracks untraveled, exotic destinations unseen.
Only all-India train guide today
Prior to 1976, the Railways brought out divisional time tables of each of the then nine geographical divisions and also issued what was known as an All-India Railway Time Table.
This was just a collection of all the divisional editions thrown together–with no attempt to recast the contents so that a single train route could be followed end to end in one table.
The Trains at a Glance or TAG solved this problem but till today, it lists only express trains, leaving the passenger trains to the divisional time tables that are now reduced to six.
They have become difficult to get–and TAG remains the only all-India train guide today.
It has improved sharply over the years and the latest edition contains all essential information for train travellers, like full schedules of some 1400 trains, reservation and cancellation information as well as details of many special trains and tourist packages, down to the detailed menus that are catered on every train.
Sensible colour coding makes it easy to distinguish and follow the routes of mail, express, superfast and special trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi, Duronto and Garib Rath.
The newly introduced Vande Bharat trains are listed but not yet identified in the charts (though the number has grown since publication of the guide to four, with the fifth, Mysuru–Bengaluru–Chennai), due to start on 10 November.
TAG-2022 is also available for free, online. IRCTC has listed all online divisional time tables pertaining to six railway divisions as well as the local or suburban trains in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. They can be found here.
Train enthusiasts will recall that India had its own “Bradshaw”, first published in 1868. Titled the “Indian Bradshaw”, it had no known links with the British Bradshaw and was brought out from Kolkata by W. Newman and Co.
It remained for many decades, the only guide to passenger trains in pre-Independence India and continued to publish its annual editions till quite recently.
An excellent blog titled “The Decline of the Indian Bradshaw” traces the publication right up to 2017 reproducing the cover of the 2016 edition.
It is not clear if the publication has appeared since – and this correspondent would be happy to update this piece with any information that readers especially in Kolkata may have about any later editions of Indian Bradshaw.
Even when the original UK Bradshaw ceased publication, Thomas Cook, the travel people, used to bring out two railway timetables, a European Rail Time table and the Overseas Time Table covering other countries in US, Australia Asia including time table for India.
That too ceased in August 2013. However, former Thomas Cook employees bought the rights to the title and today their company, brings out a jumbo-sized annual tome called European Rail Time Table (ERT) costing around $40 (Rs 3,200).
In a section called Beyond Europe, they also cover important trains in India.
The question: Why would anyone ever buy a printed time table in this Connected Age when everything is available online—is contemptuously swept aside by fans of Indian Railways for whom a train journey is not merely a way to get from here to there but has a sort of timeless charm.
In his school days, this correspondent would crane his neck out of the Madras Express from Mumbai, after it crossed Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh and just before it entered Arakkonam.
In that section was a chance to read the board of the longest station name in India —Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta—station code: VKZ.
The name board remains, but sadly it is not among those listed in Trains at a Glance 2022, because express trains don’t stop there.
Incidentally when Chennai Central was renamed Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station, in 2019 VKZ lost the distinction of longest station name, but hardcore rail buffs discredit devices like tagging on words ‘Central Railway Station’ to a place name.
The shortest station name in India—Ib in Odisha—is left out for the same reason.
However, the longest train run in India—the Vivek Express which runs 4,273 kms from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari does find a listing in TAG 22 though the full route is spread across five different pages.
Vistadome coaches, Vande Bharat trains
The introduction of Vistadome coaches in 23 pairs of trains across India, taking in some of the most scenically stunning routes has seen lakhs of recreationally driven Indians taking trains these days with their families, for serendipitous pleasure, not just to reach a destination.
And by bringing zippier speeds, improved safety with anti-collision technology and aircraft-like ambiance, the new-generation Vande Bharat trains cruising at 160 -180 kmph, may provide yet another fillip for train travel in India, even wooing some air passengers.
Government is racing at three coach plants to produce the units for another 400 of these advanced train sets within three years, 75 of them before August 2023.
For such new generations of rail travellers, a train guide like TAG 22 may become a trusty companion to plan the next voyage of discovery on India’s remarkable railways.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.