The Indian Railways may not be in good financial health but railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was happy to announce that it has now joined the elite railway billion club of China, Russia and United States in transporting over a billion tonnes of goods in a year.
"I am happy to inform this august House that this year the Indian Railways is set to achieve the milestone of entering the one Billion Tonne Select Club, joining Chinese, Russian and US Railways. This year the originating freight loading is estimated to be 1007 MT, about 38 MT over 2011-12," he said in the budget speech on Tuesday.
This would not have been possible without railways opting for major heavy-haul carriers including running of long-haul trains having capacity to carry weight of more than 10,000 tonnes. Only a few countries in the world run such trains.
"As a part of this initiative, 49 long loops, that could hold 1.5 km long trains, have been sanctioned this year," Bansal said.
No mean feat considering that Indian rail network is much less than that of China.
India's rail network in 1947 (54,000 route km) was ahead of China's but the dragon's leap in the last decade has left the tiger behind. China's network grew from 91,000 km in 2010 to 1, 10,000 km in 2012. India's rail network is just 64,000 km.
Another global feat for the Indian railways came in the category of heritage.
The mountain railways of India, mostly developed by British, earned the World Heritage tag, placing India in an exclusive club of nations, which include only Switzerland and Austria.
"We are truly proud of this and are committed to preserving them...," Bansal said.
To further preserve its heritage, the minister announced revamp of the National Rail Museum in New Delhi.