Railways were introduced in the early 19th century in Britain as a product of the Industrial Revolution. Later, it was expanded to other regions, such as the rest of Europe, North America and their colonies, including India. This introduction brought about both economic and social effects, depending on the nature of the state and economy.
Economic Effects of the Introduction of Railways
- Economic growth and development: The Railway encouraged economic growth and development by extending the geographical reach of markets and labour mobility, thereby catalysing Industrialisation.
- For Example, the United Kingdom during the Industrial Revolution.
- The rapid expansion of railways transformed the economy by enabling the efficient transport of coal, raw materials, and finished goods.
- Advances in travel and transport helped drive settlement in the western regions of North America and were integral to the nation’s industrialization.
- It also facilitated the enhanced mobility between industrial regions. For example, the railway in Canada gained more economic significance when it connected the Quebec-Montreal Industrial Region with the wheat belt of the Prairie Region and the coniferous forest region in the north.
- The railway itself is a great venture, offering employment to millions of people across the world.
- By connecting human settlements across the wider stretch of the railway, the service stimulated urban-suburban linkages. For example, Trans–Siberian Railway is a major rail route of Russia that runs from St. Petersburg in the west to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast. It has helped in opening up its Asian region to West European markets.
Social Effects of the Introduction of Railways
- Cultural diffusion: High mobility enabled by the railway offered swift propagation of ideas and culture.
- Acted as a catalyst in the freedom movement:
- The introduction of railways in different colonies, including India, acted as a catalysing force of nationalistic feelings.
- Mahatma Gandhi once observed that the Indian railway brought people of diverse cultures together to contribute to India’s freedom struggle.
- Urbanisation: Enhanced economic activities enabled by railway gave rise to many urban centres.
- Information carrier: Railways decrease the information gap between various regions by carrying newspapers and other print media to remote
- Impacting dietary pattern:
- The railways offered cost-efficient transportation, which in turn lowered the costs of goods.
- The distribution and sale of perishable goods such as meat, milk and vegetables were transformed, giving rise to far greater variety in people's diets.
- Enabling Migration: Ease of mobility enabled access to new settlements and the humanisation of new regions.
Hence, the introduction of railways transformed the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of not just India but also shaped the socio-economic landscape of the world.