India has 7500 kilometres of coastline out of which the nearly 1200 belong to two states, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Pristine beaches and amazing wildlife are some of the things on offer on the east coast. It is also a high trade traffic region, with a host of ports on the coastline. The Railways like any other service industry has played a major role in the development of this sector. It is however far more important than any other service in this region, as it carries a huge amount of freight, which holds is the key to economic progress in this area. But a single governing body to manage the railroads of an entire nation can be inefficient and sometimes create problems. After independence, the government decided to merge the existing state-owned railways into zones.
The East Coast Railways is one of the 17 zones of the IR and came into operation in 1996. The then Prime Minister H.D DeveGowda decided to inaugurate it ahead of all the other planned zones. It became fully functional in 2003. It has three sub-divisions namely Khurda Road, Waltair and Sambalpur. It almost entirely covers the state of Orissa and parts of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. Its zonal headquarters lies in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.
Over 2500 kilometres of track runs through this region and has over 350 stations spread across this region. It ferries a meagre 86 million passengers annually but manages to rake in a whopping 1.3 billion dollars a year. This can be largely attributed to the massive amounts of freight that this region carries. The whole region has the regular 1,676mm track gauge and nearly 58% f the total track length is electrified, with all routes supporting 25kV 50Hz AC.
The whole region was electrified due to a massive logistical problem. A missing link between Kharagpur and Vishakhapatnam led to a loco change for all trains from Howrah to Chennai and vice versa. This locomotive change from electric to diesel in Kharagpur was highly inefficient. Even trains from New Delhi to Bhubaneswar also had to undergo the same change. This trunk route change cost the railways a lot of money and was extremely time-consuming. So a 765 line between Kharagpur and Vishakhapatnam was laid, this fully electric route saved diesel consumption and made for a cleaner travel. The railway station in Vishakhapatnam also happens to be one of the busiest in the nation. It also has the highest number of railway platforms in the zone.
The East Coast railways have multiple sheds in the region. An electric loco shed is located in Angul, and a diesel cum electric loco shed is in Visakhapatnam. As for a workshop, there is a carriage repair facility located in Mancheshwar, Bhubaneswar.
This Region has a lot to offer and is very much an underrated place. Orissa is a unique place, where lakes meet oceans and where wildlife is in abundance. One should visit this region and it is easy to book tickets and confirm train running status at the tap of a finger.