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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53 Responses to “Overcrowding in Indian trains”

  1. Shalu, that is amazing. Aren’t the train operators afraid of people getting hurt or lawsuits?

    I have never seen anything like that.

  2. 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?

    • the Off says:

      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.

  3. Shalu Sharma says:

    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.

  4. They all are brave and they should get bravery award for that..

  5. Jay says:

    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.



  6. Fardeen says:

    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.

  7. Christina says:

    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.


  8. Sapna says:

    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.


  9. 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.

  10. Shorya Bist says:

    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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Priya N says:

    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.

  14. 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.

  15. Aleah says:

    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 😀

  16. Peter says:

    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.

  17. bahoma says:

    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.

  18. VoIP Switch says:

    This is too much for crowd and train travel. with the common people and dayly

  19. Aman Verma says:

    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.. :)

  20. Aman Verma says:

    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..

  21. Jones says:

    OMG ! Whats this ? Are these people fool ? Travelling very dangerously on train .

  22. Chris says:

    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.

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  26. Fehmeeda says:

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  36. Rakesh rai says:

    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

  37. Raj Kumbh says:

    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.

  38. Aadi Agarwal says:

    if my train ticket not confirmed am I allowed to go into the train?

  39. Jess and Brandon from Watch Me Wander says:

    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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