It is one of the oldest modes of transport and its popularity was fueled by the industrial revolution. The first trains were steam powered which were later replaced by diesel powered and more recently electric trains were introduced. Rail transport is suitable for bulky and durable goods to be transported over long distances, heavy /less value consignment like sand, gravel, cement, grains etc.
Advantages of rail transport
- It is less affected by delays caused by extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall.
- Rails occupy less space as compared to roads which are wide.
- Causes little pollution in the environment especially where modern electric trains are in use.
- It is economical in the use of labor i.e. one engine can pull several wagons
- It is relatively fast especially where electric trains are in use.
- It is convenient to clients in terms of time because trains run on a regular schedule.
- Special cargo e.g. petrol, vehicles and cattle can be transported using specifically designed wagons. Still perishable goods are transported in refrigerated wagons.
- It is less likely to be affected by theft and accidents
- Most railway stations have warehouses where goods can be stored awaiting collection.
- Trains have direct routes on which they move and one can predict the various stations they will pass through
- It is more comfortable for passengers travelling for long distances as they can sleep.
- It is reliable due to adherence of strict schedules
- No major limitations on geographical areas.
- It is economical for transportation of bulky and irregular goods e.g tractors. over long distances.
Disadvantages of rail transport
- Not flexible- It can only serve areas where there are railway lines
- Cannot be utilized while the tracks are being constructed unlike road transport-it has to be laid out in totality for it to be used.
- It is a slow means of transport when numerous stops to load or off-load cargo have to be made. This makes it an unsuitable means of transporting perishable goods.
- A break down along a railway line could easily result in a buildup of goods and passengers, resulting in alternative means of transport being sought.
- It is an expensive means of transport for small quantities of goods and for short distances.
- The loading and offloading at the start and end of each journey present opportunities for damage and loss of goods.
- It involves heavy capital investment to construct and maintain
- It requires specialized skills to operate.