Established on April 14, 1951 the South Indian railways is one of the earliest among the seventeen zones of Indian Railways built in Independent India. With its headquarters based in Chennai, the southern railway came into existence by integration of three state railways of the British times namely the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, the Southern Indian Railway Company and the Mysore State Railway. In the beginning however the Great South Indian Railway co. was established in London with its headquarters in Tiruchirappalli.
The Southern Railways encompass 6 divisions namely Chennai, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Palghat, Trivandrum and Salem. It envelops the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry and some major regions of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. About 500 million passengers travel through the Southern Railways every year. A unique feature that distinguishes the Southern Railways from other railway zones in India is the fact that it derives its revenue from passengers and not from freight. Chennai Central, Coimbatore city Junction, Madurai Junction, Tirunelveli Junction, Tiruchirappalli Junction and Thiruvananthapuram Central are the most vital and the most advantageous (in terms of money and commerce) stations under Southern Railway Division. There is a 24-hour hustle bustle at these stations.
The Railway Board sanctioned the formation of a new Railway Division in 2005 with Salem as its headquarters for better administration and enhanced progress. This has greatly helped in improving railway infrastructure and facilities and initiating the need for better railway services. Great satisfaction has been endowed upon the railway passengers of the surrounding areas by this move. The journeys have become more comfortable and convenient. The Salem division (originally carved out of the Coimbatore, Palakkad and Tiruchirapalli divisions) with the inclusion of Tirupur Junction and Erode Junction has become the fourth largest among the seven divisions of the Southern Railways.
A large section of this railway zone consists of broad gauge lines, and only a small section are meter gauge lines. The chief upgrading work currently in this railway zone comprises of converting all lines to broad gauge, enhancement of stations (to suit modern India's requirements), platform covering, healthier and improved catering stalls and an automated signaling system to shun accidents of all kinds.
The Chennai Central station manages some two lakh passengers every day. Seven stations namely Chennai Egmore, Coimbatore North, Erode Junction, Salem Junction, Tiruchirappalli Junction, Madurai Junction, and Palakkad have been listed for improvement and upgrading keeping in view the changing demands of the society. Chennai Central, Trivandrum Central, Coimbatore city Junction and Ernakulam Junction railway stations are being upgraded to world-class standards to provide the best possible facilities to emerging middle class in India. With the passage of time the Southern Railways is sure to become the best railway zone in India due to its efficient customer friendly services.