Modes of Transportation: Railways, Roadways, Airways, Waterways, Ropeways, Pipeline

27/08/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

These most common five modes of transport are: railways, roadways, airways, waterways and pipelines. Following is the brief account of each mode with reference to Indian conditions with relative merits and demerits.

  1. Railways:

Indian railway system has grown into Asia’s largest and the world’s fourth largest. It has route length of 72,000 kilo meters by the end of 1990. The daily run is 15,000 kilo meters with running of 12,000 trains carrying 7 lakh tons of goods. The average cost per ton kilo meter is 27 paise.


  1. Large carrying capacity:

Compared to other means of transport, railways are known for bulk carriage of goods over long distances.

  1. It is economical:

As the freight rates are telescopic and referential, it works cheaper particularly in case of heavy goods over long distances.

  1. It is all weather modes:

Railways provide all season protection to the products moved on uninterrupted basis.

  1. It has containerisation:

Indian railways have done a good job by containerising on major routes facilitating safe, uninterrupted and speedier movement of goods.

  1. It links international markets:

Railways are the main sources of connections with the markets outside the country moving goods from interior parts to the points of overseas supply and shipping.


  1. Costlier over short distances:

Railway transport works costlier over short distances because of tapering and differential tariff rates.

  1. Slower movement:

As compared to road and air transport, the speed of movement is slower.

  1. Inordinate delays:

In India we have three types of lines as broad, meter and narrow gauge resulting in frequent transhipments; again shortage of wagons and, therefore, space forces the business community to tolerate inordinate delays.

2. Roadways:

Indian road network is one of the largest in the world. It has a total road length of 18 lakh kilo meters of which 50 percent is surfaced. Of this, national highways account for 35,000 kilometers account for the 50 percent of total traffic. On this road length, 9 lakh vehicles ply carrying goods.


  1. Economical over short distances:

As compared railways, it is more economical. The studies have proved that it is cheaper by 25 percent.

  1. Speedier movement:

Road transport is speedier than the railways giving point to point service resulting in price stabilisation and consumer satisfaction. The business community needs not wait because of wagon shortage, transhipment because a truck has a smaller capacity and is flexible available 24 hours.

  1. Touching for-flung markets:

Much beyond the capacity of railways, the roadways are known for reaching impregnable market particularly hilly regions where railways cannot reach.

  1. Lesser conditions of service:

The roadways do not insist on strict packaging requirements because of least transhipments shocks to goods carried. Again, damage claims are settled faster.


  1. Uneconomical over long distances:

Long haulages work out much costlier because disproportionate rise in fuel and spare-parts expenses.

  1. It is fair weather friend:

Roadways are closed during monsoons and winters resulting in handicapped movement of goods.

  1. Not suitable for bulk transport:

Bulky and heavy goods to be moved particularly over longer distances need railway services than roadways as it has a major limitation of carrying capacity.

3. Airways:

We cannot boast of airways in India as we do in case of railways and roadways because, it is underdeveloped and underutilised. It acts as a feeder or supporting transport means. Domestic capacity available is 115 lakh ton kilo meters but utilised only to the extent of 12 lakh ton kilometres in 1990.

International capacity corresponds to 218 lakh ton-kilo meters of which 175 lakh ton-kilo meters are used. India has 4 international airports, 92 aerodromes with 50 intermediate and 40 minor aerodromes.


  1. Fastest means of transport:

Air transport provides the speediest movement of cargo over the distant places by eliminating practically spatial barriers.

  1. All weather friend:

It is known for its dependable service during the times of floods, wars, earth-quakes. It is all weather means, of transport though flights are cancelled due to bad weather conditions.

  1. Consumer satisfaction:

The level of consumer service and, hence satisfaction is of high order as it is known for immediacy, speed and least damage to cargo.

  1. Reduced inventory holdings:

As it provides fastest and uninterrupted service, capital investments in the form of stocks of goods is less. This is of particular importance in case of highly perishable items.


  1. It is costlier means of transport:

The cost of air transport is very high and there is limit of weight of cargo. Hence, it is suitable for light weight, high grade and costly items only.

  1. Limited coverage:

The planes cannot land at all the places of our choice. It connects metropolis and some important cities only.

  1. Limited cargo capacity:

The cargo capacity of a plane is much smaller because of its size as it works against the force of gravity.

4. Waterways:

Waterways of the nation provide other alternative means of transport. Unfortunately, in India, waterways are not fully developed though she has a great potentiality.

Though India has 7,000 kilo meters of navigable river waterways, only 2,500 kilometrers are used. Again, we have 4,800 kilo metres of canals of only 600 kilo metres are navigable but hardly 400 kilo meters are actually used.


It is cheaper means of transport:

Inland waterways tariffs are much lower and, therefore it works cheaper for both short and long distances.

Most suitable for heavy and fragile products:

The items which are bulky and heavy and which are fragile can be moved with ease.

Loading and unloading facilities:

The sender of cargo has the facilities of loading and unloading from boats and wharves on and from steamers and barges. Even the receiver has the similar facilities.

No problem of congestion:

Waterways provide an independent movement unlike road system where road is meant for all kinds of vehicles creating the problem of congestion.


  1. Slow speed:

The speed of the boats and steamers is badly limited in case of canals and rivers. Goods needing quick movement as perishable can be hardly transported.

  1. Unreliable:

Changing seasons create problems. Winter may freeze the rivers and canals and summer eats the depth of rivers and canals. Again, the rivers are known for changing their course of flow.

  1. Limited service:

The inland waterways are connecting the given places. Again, the cargo capacity is quite limited.

5. Pipe-Lines:

Pipe-lines are the specialized means of transportation designed to move the items like crude-oil, petroleum, chemicals, coal, lime-stone, iron-ore, copper concentrates and gas. India has made a late beginning in this regard unlike U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and Middle-East, and the development is undertaken only in case of oil refineries to move petrol and gas from sources to markets.

The total pipe length in India, at present is of the order of 8,000 kilo metres owned by private and public undertakings such as Oil India Limited, Indian Oil Corporation and Oil and Natural Gas Commission. Biggest Pipeline is planned between Iran and India.


  1. Economical:

Crude oil or coal and gas transported through the pipe­lines works out almost 1/4 of railways and roadways.

  1. Uninterrupted service:

Pipe-line transportation presents all weather system to move the products. Absolutely there is no any wastage of time as it works round the clock.

  1. No danger of wastage:

As there are no occasions of loading and unloading, there is no scope for spilling, evaporation, pilferage and so on.

  1. Underground:

The pipe-line usually underground and, hence, takes no additional space. What is more important is that it traverses through difficult terrain.


  1. Initial heavy investment:

Though operational and maintenance costs are minimal, the capital cost of pipe-line is rather much higher and that is why a county like India has minimum length.

  1. Danger of enemy attacks:

In the periods of war and political hegemony, pipe-lines are more prone to enemy attacks thus jeopardizing the veins of supply to the entire nation. The production activities are grinded to halt.