Overcrowding in Indian trains

Travelling by train is the best way to learn about India, its people, its culture, the villages, the smaller towns and the simple lives of the Indian people. A trip to India would not be complete without a train journey on the Indian railways.

However a traveller to India must be warned of the severe overcrowding in Indian trains. India has one of the biggest, the busiest and is the most connected rail networks in the world. With a population that is creeping towards 1.5 billion, it is no surprise that trains often runs overcrowded.

Overcrowded Indian train, Overcrowding in Indian trains
Overcrowded Indian train

There are several types of trains in India; local trains that operate within the city such as the locals trains in Mumbai, there are long distance trains where one can travel in relative comfort, there are trains that connect the Indian capital to state capitals called the “Rajdhani Express”, then there local state trains.

If using local city trains such as Mumbai trains called the city’s suburban network then be prepared to face huge overcrowding. I have never travelled in one of these and don’t intend to. I would rather take a taxi or an auto-rickshaw.

The local state trains that connect the villages and towns are also a big culprit where overcrowding can case huge problems to those who are not used to. The issues are so severe that one has to cling on the doors or climb on to the roof tops. These local trains are best avoided. More appropriate mode of transport would be pre-booked coaches and taxis.

Train journey in India
Train journey in India in sleeper compartments. Source: Flick, Matthew L Stevens’ photostream

The long distance trains are perfect where one can travel in comfort in the various accommodations such as the standard fist class and air conditioned (AC) classes such as AC chair-car, AC sleeper-cabins, first-class AC (1A), two-tier AC class (2A), three-tier AC class (3A) and AC executive class. The seats are reserved meaning that no one else can occupy it other than the ticket holder. These are the most comfortable and perhaps the best and safest way to get around India other than air travel.

Would you be able to travel like this?

Further reading

101 travel tips for India
Learn some basic Hindi before you go to India
Maharaja Express

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Shalu Sharma

Shalu Sharma is a blogger and a writer from Bihar, India. She is the founder of YouBihar, the Bihar social networking site and writer on tourism in India. Apart from blogging, she is also a mother who does cooking and washing. She also watches movies and read other blogs. You can follow her on .

54 thoughts on “Overcrowding in Indian trains

  • December 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm
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    Shalu, that is amazing. Aren’t the train operators afraid of people getting hurt or lawsuits?

    I have never seen anything like that.

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    • December 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm
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      They just overlook it. This is one reason India is a lot of fun. Where in the world, can you travel like this. This is what I call fully air conditioned on the roof top.
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  • December 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm
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    Shalu, I am sure seeing the countryside is great, but I would be too scared of falling. Is there anything that is holding them on the train or than muscle?

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    • January 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm
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      No doubt Indian trains, especially local trains, are overcrowded. The railway stations in metropolis like Delhi and Mumbai are always jam-packed. However, the train journeys are the best way to see India if time is not a constraint.

      Michadel do not be afraid.

      Avoid local trains during peak hours and book tickets well in advance for long-distance trains to enjoy the journey.
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      Reply
  • December 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm
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    Michael, you see the driver of the train when seeing all this people will make an executive decision to drive the train at very low speed. There would be nothing holding them but speed would be low enough to ensure that they do not fall off.
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  • December 18, 2012 at 4:00 am
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    Hi Shalu Ji,

    You have depicted the true picture of Indian Railways. Is is always so crowded, a train journey is never expected to be a pleasant one.
    Thanks for sharing the info. :)

    Keep posting.

    Regards

    Jay
    road-to-sanitarium.blogspot.in/
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    Reply
    • December 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm
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      Hi Jay,
      I know exactly what you mean about train journey, I really hope the ministry will do something about this.
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      Reply
  • December 18, 2012 at 7:16 am
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    Hello mam…I do agree that there is a lot of crowd in Indian trains especially local ones. It becomes really difficult for employees and students, especially when they have to reach their respective places in time. Don’t know why the govt. is not taking any steps.
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    • December 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm
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      Overcrowding is a part of our country. No matter where we go, there seems to be a lot of people everywhere. As far as trains are concerned, its has become a sad reality.
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  • December 18, 2012 at 7:37 am
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    Yeah!! Travel via Train is a great fun as you often come across to exciting places and stations especially the greenery and fields. I have been there in India once when i visited GOA and travelled via train. It is a great fun to be there.

    Regards

    Reply
  • December 18, 2012 at 9:30 am
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    Hi Shalu jee

    Most of the local trains carry this type of crowd. People hanging everywhere. At times people have been electrocuted because of high tension wires.I dont know how many countries can boast of such overcrowding?

    Thanks for sharing this info.

    Sapna

    Reply
    • December 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm
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      Sapna, its really sad that nothing is being done about it. Safety has never been a priority of the Indian Railways.
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  • December 18, 2012 at 9:59 am
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    This is the truth about Indian trains… they are much better today than they were say 5 years ago. Most of the overcrowding happens in the non/Ac coaches on local routes. The A/C coaches are fairly safe and comfortable.
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    • December 18, 2012 at 2:38 pm
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      Very right, there are more trains now but safety is still lacking. Hope something is done about it. Thanks your for comment, hope to see you again.
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  • December 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm
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    Hi Shalu ji,

    I am from mumbai i have seen these kind of crowd live.

    When i was new to the city i have to travel a long way for work so for that i have the only option is train because autos are very expensive here.Believe me when i first saw this crowd on platfrom i was littrely got scared.I just left traveling in train after some days.It is so dangerous.

    But i do believe that if someone want to really explore the culture then travelling in train is best,heheh but not local trains there you dont have the space to breath so forget knowing culture and all.

    Thank YOu
    Shorya Bist
    From Youthofest

    Reply
  • December 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm
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    I was only on a crowded commuter train once, in Mumbai (technically, I was IN the train, not ON it). That was enough for me. The other trains I took were all long distance sleepers, which have some breathing room.
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    • December 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm
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      Daniel, must have been an experience for you. I have not dared to travel in these local trains. I would be rather on it than in it.
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  • December 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm
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    Due to the population, over crowded train is really a matter of concern..Trains are increasing during each and every year, but problem remains the same. You have to book your ticket well in advance to avoid any problem in the journey. This always discourage impulsive travelers like me to travel comfortably and sometimes I have to prefer the buses over the trains, just because of this crowd.

    Reply
    • December 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm
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      Avanish, Absolutely right. There is too much overcrowding and tickets have to be bought way much in advance.
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  • December 22, 2012 at 9:42 am
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    This is very common here in Mumbai local trains. People are very busy & want to reach their place as soon as possible. They take risks for nothing. Another reason is rates of the tickets are very expensive & majority of the people buy the tickets for lowest class.
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  • December 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm
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    Hi Shalu Ji,

    Again you have highlighted another good point that need attention from the security prespective as well.

    If you are travelling in AC coached then it is good otherwise there is so much over crowd in other compartments.

    Indian railway is one of the biggest railway network in the world.

    It is one of the most revenue generated source also for Indian Govt but our govt not paying proper attention to improve its condition.

    Getting railway reservation is also an issue now a days as Bookie capture most of the ticket in advance and then normal people have to buy it in black from them.
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    • December 25, 2012 at 10:30 am
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      Sandeep, this is sad news. I think its all about profit nowadays. No one cares about the safety and the conveniences of the passengers.
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  • December 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm
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    I have heard so much about the overcrowding in Indian trains. Can’t wait to see them firsthand when I go to Calcutta next year for Holi 😀
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  • January 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm
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    Wow Shalu, I had to take a look at this post because the image speaks volumes. It reminds me of a similar sight in Africa. I think too many people in the West take things for granted.

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    • January 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm
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      Hi Peter
      I know what you mean about the image. Its speaks for it self. Thank you for your comment and hope to see you again.
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      Reply
  • January 11, 2013 at 10:14 am
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    Hi Shalu, i must say that when i’ve seen first time how people travel by train in India i was shocked. Many people dies every year because of that, and is true that the population is big and is getting bigger and bigger. There’s no more resources on this planet and to handle this situation is much more harder.

    Reply
  • January 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm
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    This is too much for crowd and train travel. with the common people and dayly

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  • January 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm
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    Hello Shalu mam,
    This is mine first visit to shalusharma.com..but frankly speaking i just became your fan..your writing skills is too gud..and beside this..i read couple of post and you just show the reality of india…that what i needed from you..
    I am a indian..but i didnt say complete india yet…i will try to keep in touch with your blog to see how india looks exactly..
    Thanks you and keep posting.. :)

    Reply
  • January 14, 2013 at 6:38 pm
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    Hello Shalu mam,
    This is mine first visit to shalusharma.com..but frankly speaking i just became your fan..your writing skills is too gud..and beside this..i read couple of post and you just show the reality of india…that what i needed from you..
    I am a indian..but i didnt say complete india yet…i will try to keep in touch with your blog to see how india looks exactly..
    Thanks you and keep posting..

    Reply
  • September 10, 2013 at 4:26 pm
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    OMG ! Whats this ? Are these people fool ? Travelling very dangerously on train .

    Reply
  • February 12, 2014 at 8:22 pm
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    Hello Shalu,
    I am a big fan of you and India, I love the Indian culture. Government of india should take some measures to stop this kind of foolishness.

    Reply
  • March 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm
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    Thanks for sharing the info, p the good work going. I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource.always like ur all topics
    Twitter:

    Reply
  • March 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm
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    simply want to tell you that I am new to weblog and definitely liked this blog site. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You absolutely have wonderful stories. Cheers for sharing with us your blog

    Reply
  • April 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm
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    This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and i not that. such a usefull topics.

    Reply
  • April 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm
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    such a cool post which is really very well written nice work on you site 4 us.

    Reply
  • April 17, 2014 at 5:32 pm
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    very well written nice work on you site 4 us. such a cool post which is realy useful me .

    Reply
  • June 6, 2014 at 10:31 am
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    You may also become an authorized and registered IRCTC agent to operate for E ticket booking. this license is no offered by Go processing limited for best experiences of all time.<a href

    Reply
  • October 12, 2014 at 5:38 am
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    Hi,
    I think India is a high population country. Overcrowding in trains is a normal thing, one can find a lot of people in reserved compartments as well. The only one who can resolve this issue is our railway ministry. There should also reservation system for general compartments as well, once the number of seats in general compartment get filled railways official should stop issuing more tickets.
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    Reply
  • January 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm
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    Wow this is amazing. Aren’t the people afraid that they will fall or that they will get hurt..
    Wow this is shocking, I never seen nothing like this.
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    Reply
  • September 1, 2015 at 6:42 pm
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    If you guys have seen nowadays condition of Mumbai locals; you will definitely say God save me. Condition is getting worse day by day and government is not interested in making it better.

    Reply

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