Train Numbers

The system of train numbers

Q. Is there a system behind the numbering of trains?
Or, what do the 5 digits in a train number mean?

On December 20, 2010, IR switched to a system of 5-digit numbers that are supposed to be used for all passenger trains across its system.

The first digit

In the 5-digit train numbering scheme, the first digit indicates the type of the passenger train, as follows:

  • 0 is for special trains (e.g., summer specials, holiday specials, etc.)
  • 1 is for all long-distance trains, including the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Sadharan, Sampark Kranti, Garib Rath, Duronto, and other classes.
  • 2 is also for long-distance trains; it is to be used when train numbers starting with 1 are exhausted in any series.
  • 3 is for Kolkata suburban trains.
  • 4 is for suburban trains in Chennai, New Delhi, Secunderabad, and other metropolitan areas.
  • 5 is for passenger trains with conventional coaches
  • 6 is for MEMU trains
  • 7 is for DMU (DEMU) and railcar services.
  • 8 is currently reserved
  • 9 is for Mumbai area suburban trains

Second and later digits

The significance of the second and later digits depends on what the first digit is. Below, the different number series are explained, based on the first digit.

0, 1, 2: In the case of special trains, and long-distance express trains, i.e., trains starting with digits '0', '1', or '2', the remaining 4 digits signify the railway zone and division exactly as in the pre-2011 4-digit scheme. In fact, most 5-digit numbers for long-distance trains as of this writing [4/11] are created simply by prefixing '1' to the former 4-digit codes. See below for an explanation of the 4-digit system. The zonal codes (second digit) are shown below:

  • 0 is for Konkan Railway
  • 1 is for CR, WCR and NCR(?)
  • 2 is for superfasts, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi, and some other classes of trains regardless of zones. For these, the next digit is usually the zone code.
  • 3 is shared by ER and ECR
  • 4 is for NR, NCR and NWR
  • 5 is shared by NER and NFR
  • 6 is for SR and SWR
  • 7 is shared by SCR and SWR
  • 8 is for SER and ECoR
  • 9 is for WR, NWR and WCR

For other classes of trains, the remaining digits are used in a few different ways.

3: For Kolkata suburban trains starting with digit '3', there are two sets of numbers, depending on the zone that operates the services.

  • 30xxx through 37xxx : trains run by ER
  • 38xxx through 39xxx : trains run by SER

4: For suburban trains other than in Mumbai and Kolkata, the following conventions apply.

  • 40xxx through 44xxx : Chennai area suburban trains
  • 45xxx through 46xxx : Delhi area suburban trains
  • 47xxx : Secunderabad suburban trains
  • 48xxx through 49xxx : reserved

5, 6, 7: For trains starting with '5', '6', and '7', i.e., passenger trains, the second digit determines the zone as for long-distance trains and the third digit determines the division (see above for zones, or see below for a more detaild list with zone and division codes).

9: Mumbai suburban trains use the following system. Up and down directions are generally reflected in the use of odd and even numbers, respectively.

  • 90xxx: WR locals originating from Virar
  • 91xxx: WR locals originating from Vasai Road / Bhayander
  • 92xxx: WR locals originating from Borivali
  • 93xxx: WR locals originating from Malad / Goregaon
  • 94xxx: WR locals originating from Andheri / Bandra / Mumbai Central
  • 95xxx: CR fast locals
  • 96xxx: CR locals going north of Kalyan
  • 97xxx: CR locals on the Harbour line
  • 98xxx: CR locals on the trans-Harbour line
  • 99xxx: CR locals going south of Kalyan

Please see the explanation of the 4-digit numbering system in use prior to 2011, to understand the structure of the last 4 digits of 5-digit long-distance train numbers, and for the zone/division number assignment for other classes of trains.

Q. What were the train numbering systems in 2010 and before?

From 1989, but prior to December 20, 2010, trains were numbered differently. A system of 4-digit numbers was used for all long-distance passenger trains, while local (intra-zone) trains, suburban services, etc., had numbering schemes that varied widely.

Before 1989, trains had numbers that were allotted by their respective zonal railways (and much before, by the independent railway companies). These numbers were usually simply sequential, starting from 1 and working up through 1-digit, 2-digit, and 3-digit numbers. These were not necessarily unique across the zones. E.g., 31 Down on WR was the Kutch Exp. and 31 Down on CR was the Hyderabad Exp.; both reached Mumbai -- situations like this caused considerable confusion. Local (intra-zone and suburban) services had varied schemes including alphanumeric codes for trains, a situation which persisted after 1989 as well. See more on this in the section on old train numbers.

Around Nov. 2003, there was some speculation on IRFCA as to whether 5-digit train numbers would soon be introduced, especially with several new zones coming into being. No official announcement was made then. However, the IRCTC and other official web sites did occasionally show some trains with 5-digit numbers, such as the Kakinada-Bangalore Sheshadri Exp. being shown as '07009' instead of '7009'. However, it was noted that searching for the 5-digit number's route or scheduled information did not yield results in any publicly available system. It is likely that these were early experiments by IR in preparation for the eventual launch of the 5-digit system that happened in 2010.

Q. What does a 4-digit train number (1989-2010) signify?

From 1989 onwards, and until replaced in Dec. 2010, for long-distance passenger trains, a 4-digit scheme was used. These 4-digit numbers were referred to as 'universal numbers', since they were unambiguous across the different zones, in contrast to the old train numbers that were not necessarily unique across different zones.

(The second and third digits of the new (2011 and later) 5-digit numbers signify the zone and division with the same system.)

[3/00] The first digit indicates the region or zonal railway, as indicated below:

  • 0 is for Konkan Railway
  • 1 is for CR, WCR and NCR(?)
  • 2 is for superfasts, Shatabdi and Jan Shatabdi trains regardless of zones
  • 3 is shared by ER and ECR
  • 4 is for NR, NCR and NWR
  • 5 is shared by NER and NFR
  • 6 is for SR and SWR
  • 7 is shared by SCR and SWR
  • 8 is for SER and ECoR
  • 9 is for WR, NWR and WCR

If the first digit is not '2', then the second digit indicates the division of the home shed or station that "owns" the rakes used for the train (the primary maintenance depot). This is usually in the same division as that of one of the end-points of the train's run, but sometimes it isn't. Usually, '0' for the second digit indicates the headquarters of the zone.

[3/00] A listing of the 2-digit prefixes and the corresponding home stations is given below. The "other" notation indicates the prefix is used for other home sheds in the zone that don't have their own prefixes. Prefixes not listed are not known to be in use.

Central and West-Central Railways

CR seems to have numbers that are a little less systematic than the other zones

  • 10 is for Mumbai CST, also some Pune trains
  • 11 is for Jhansi (??)
  • 12 is for Bhopal (WCR)(
  • 13 is for some fast passengers from Mumbai CST
  • 14 is for Solapur and Jabalpur(WCR) divisions. (Also is, or was, for Nagpur and Bhusawal division trains (Manmad/Bhusawal)?)
  • 15 : ?? one Dadar-bound train (Mumbai CST division), one Katni-bound train (Jabalpur division ??)
  • 16 : ?? some Bhopal-bound trains

It is hard to make sense of CR's numbering. [8/03] The Mumbai CST - Solapur Siddheshwar Exp. has numbers 1423/1424, most likely because it shares the rake with some other train based at Nagpur. 1401/1402 and 1403/1404 run between Manmad and LTT / CSTM, while 1439/1440 runs Dadar-Nagpur, 1463/1464 runs Jabalpur - Rajkot, 1447/1448 is Jabalpur - Howrah, 1423/1424 is CSTM - Solapur, 1451/1452 is Nagpur - Gaya.

Eastern and East Central Railway

  • 30 is for Howrah
  • 31 is for Sealdah
  • 32 is for Danapur
  • 33 is for Dhanbad
  • 34 is for Malda
  • 35 is for Asansol

Northern, North Central and North Western Railway

  • 40 is for New Delhi
  • 41 is for Allahabad (NCR)
  • 42 is for Lucknow
  • 43 is for Moradabad
  • 44 : other
  • 45 is for Ambala
  • 46 is for Firozpur
  • 47 is for Bikaner(NWR)
  • 48 is for Jodhpur(NWR)

North-Eastern and North-east Frontier Railways

  • 50 is for Lucknow (BG, NER)
  • 51 is for Varanasi (BG, NER)
  • 52 is for Sonepur / Samastipur (BG, NER)
  • 53 is for Izzatnagar / Lucknow (MG, NER)
  • 54 is for Varanasi (MG, NER)
  • 55 is for Samastipur (MG, NER)
  • 56 is for Lumding (BG, NFR)
  • 57 is for Katihar (BG/MG) / Alipurduar (BG) (NFR)
  • 58 is for Lumding / Alipurduar (MG, NFR)
  • 59 is for Tinsukia (NFR)

Southern and South-Western Railways

  • 60 is for Chennai
  • 61 is for Chennai Egmore
  • 62 is for Mysore (SWR)
  • 63 is for Thiruvananthapuram
  • 64 is not in use
  • 65 is for Bangalore (SWR)
  • 66 is for Palghat
  • 67 is for Madurai
  • 68 is for Trichy

South-Central and South-Western Railways

  • 70 is for Secunderabad
  • 71 : other
  • 72 is for Vijayawada
  • 73 is for Hubli (SWR, BG)
  • 74 is for Guntakal (BG)
  • 75 is for Hyderabad
  • 76 is for Kacheguda
  • 77 is for Guntakal (MG) (no longer used because of gauge conversion)
  • 78 is for Hubli (SWR, MG) (no longer used because of gauge conversion [9/03])

South-Eastern, South-East Central and East-Coast Railways

  • 80 is for Kharagpur
  • 81 is for Chakradharpur
  • 82 is for Bilaspur
  • 83 is for Sambalpur and others
  • 84 is for Khurda Road
  • 85 is for Waltair
  • 86 is for Adra

Western, North-Western and West-Central Railways

  • 90 is for Mumbai
  • 91 is for Vadodara
  • 92 is for Bhavnagar (BG)
  • 93 is for Ratlam
  • 94 is for Kota (WCR)
  • 95 : other
  • 96 is for Ajmer (NWR)
  • 97 is for Jaipur (NWR)
  • 98 is for Bhavnagar (MG)
  • 99 is for Rajkot

If the first digit is '2', it indicates a train designated as "superfast", Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, or Jan Shatabdi Express; in this case, the second digit indicates the zonal railway, as shown below:

  • 20 is for Shatabdis and Jan Shatabdis on all zonal railways
  • 21 is for superfasts on CR and WCR (formerly only CR)
  • 22 is for superfasts from various zones - NR, NCR, NWR (formerly only NR). (Also some SR?) [5/05]
  • 23 is for superfast on ER and ECR
  • 24 is for superfast on NR, NCR and NWR (formerly only NR)
  • 25 is for superfast on NER and NFR
  • 26 is for superfast on SR and SWR (formerly only SR)
  • 27 is for superfast on SCR and SWR (formerly only SCR)
  • 28 is for superfast on SER, SECR and ECoR (formerly only SER)
  • 29 is for superfast on WR, WCR and NWR (formerly only WR)

Until recently, no trains had 22xx numbers. Starting in July 2005, some superfast trains have been allotted numbers in this series, e.g., 2229/2230 Lucknow - New Delhi Mail. This has probably been done because some of the other superfast number ranges, especially 24xx and 26xx, are getting filled up.

As mentioned above, the division that owns the rakes may not be one of the end-points of the train. E.g., the Tirupati-Mumbai Exp. has numbers 6353/6354 because the rakes come from Trivandrum, and are shared with the Nagercoil-Tirupati Exp. (6351/6352). The Shaheed Exp. between Delhi and Darbhanga is numberd 4649, but 46 is the Firozpur division and neither terminus for the train is in that division.

A train between Jammu Tawi and Amritsar, both in the Ferozpur division of NR (45) has numbers 9113/9114, indicating the Vadodara division of WR! In all these cases the rakes are shared with other trains that do go through the referenced division. There are some other such anomalies.

In some rare cases, the division prefixes of the two trains of an up/down pair are different. E.g. Tirupati-Trichy Exp. which was 6799/6800 (67 - Madurai, 68 - Trichy). In this particular case the reason is that the old numbers for the train were 199/200, and IR has generally tried to retain the last two digits in converting the old numbers to 4-digit numbers. But there are some other rare cases where the up and down trains have different division prefixes, and this could indicate the two divisions sharing in rake maintenance, or could just be anomalies in the numbering system.

Sometimes two trains with the same name and same endpoints may have different numbers because they take different routes on different days of the week. E.g. 2303 Poorva Exp. : Howrah - Asansol - Patna - Mughal Serai - Allahabad - New Delhi (Mon - Tue - Fri - Sat); and 2381 Poorva Exp. : Howrah - Asansol - Gaya - Mughal Serai - Varanasi - Allahabad - New Delhi (Wed - Thu - Sun). [8/01].

Some non-mail, non-express, non-superfast trains also use this numbering scheme (e.g., some of the trains with the designation "fast passenger"). Commuter locals, some passenger services, etc. do not follow this scheme. These local trains and passenger services tend to use two or three-digit numbers, which may not be unique across zones. Central Railway tends to use 4-digit numbers for all its local passenger services.

Some trains that split or merge at various points, or which have sectional carriages ("slip coaches" as they are sometimes termed) might have additional suffixes ('A', 'B', etc.) in addition to the 4-digit numbers to distinguish among the different portions of the train. E.g., the 6635 down Netravati Exp. bifurcated at Shoranur (earlier at Palghat); 6635A was one half of it that went to Mangalore, while 6635B was the other half that went to Cochin.

Q. How were local or suburban trains numbered before 2011?
Or, what were the exceptions to the 4-digit scheme?

Local and suburban trains

Passenger services within a zone sometimes had just two or three digits, not conforming to the pattern above, and sometimes prefixed with codes indicating the station they served (e.g. 'LK21' passenger service from Lucknow; 'DK-1' for the Delhi-Khurja EMU; 'AD-3' for one of the Aligarh-Delhi MEMUs; etc. SR ran EMU services between Tambaram and Egmore numbered S-2, S-7, etc.). These one-, two- or three-digit numbers were not unique across IR, i.e., they may have been repeated in other zones. Occasionally, they were even repeated within a zone, with an ad hoc prefix or other disambiguating indication. Some zones had their own conventions. E.g., from about 2005, SCR indicated DEMU trains with a 'D' prefix (e.g., 'D142' Nidadavolu-Bhimavaram Passenger), and MEMU trains with an 'M' prefix (e.g., 'M167' Warangal-Hyderabad Passenger). In addition, SCR railcar services had an 'RC' prefix (e.g., 'RC-6' Kinvat Adilabad railcar).

Suburban services in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and other metropolitan areas had their own 1-, 2-, and 3-digit numbering schemes, sometimes with alphabetic prefixes or suffixes.

Konkan Railway

Konkan Railway trains often added a "KR" prefix to the long-distance train numbers, which were often shorter than 4 digits, and did not always use the leading "0" digit in the 4-digit versions. For example, the KR3 / KR4 service was also given the numbers 1113/1114 (no leading 0's). Similarly, KR5 / KR6 was the Diwa-Savantwadi train, and KR7 / KR8 was the Savantwadi-Madgaon train. Variations existed: 0111/0112 Konkan Kanya Exp. was also referred to as the KR1 / KR2, or sometimes KR0111 / KR0112. So in these cases KR trains did not follow the numbering system used by IR trains.

Local trains and DMU services on KR used a system where the termini of a service were indicated by an alphabetic prefix. E.g., Karwar was 'KA', Kudal was 'K', Ratnagiri was 'RN', and Madgaon was 'M'; so the Karwar-Kudal DMU service was numbered KAK1 / KAK2, the Kudal-Ratnagiri DMU service was KRN1 / KRN2, and the Karwar-Madgaon service KAM1 / KAM2.

Holiday Specials

Usually, holiday specials had 3-digit numbers, where the first digit indicated the zonal railway that operated the train. (Note: This was true only for holiday specials; normal passenger trains that had 3-digit numbers never followed this rule, since the numbers were internal to the zone.) Fast trains among these, and trains that are given priority for various reasons, had a 3-digit number starting with '2'.

Q. What numbering systems were used prior to 1989 and the adoption of 4-digit 'universal' numbers?

The 4-digit system with a unique number for each long-distance train regardless of the zones that it operates in came into force around 1989. Earlier, trains were numbered from '1' all the way up to 3-digit numbers within each zone. Numbers were thus not unique across zones, and a given train sometimes changed numbers on the same route as it crossed zonal or other boundaries. E.g., 1/2 could refer to the Howrah - Kalka Mail on NR, or the Golconda Exp. on SCR, or the Madras - Mangalore Mail on SR. The 5/6 Punjab Mail between Bombay (Victoria Terminus) and New Delhi became 37/38 for the New Delhi - Ferozpur section to avoid confusion with the 5/6 Howrah - Amritsar Mail which also ran on NR tracks. The 3/4 Frontier Mail became 31/32 from New Delhi, to avoid confusion with the 3/4 HWH-BB Mail (via ALD). List of old train numbers and their new 4-digit versions. In many cases, the final digits of the new number correspond to the old number of the same train service. More examples of the kind of confusion that had to be dealt with before the adoption of 4-digit numbers: Until quite late, Howrah still had to deal with two sets each of 3 Up / 4 Down (SER: HWH-MAS Mail and ER: HWH-BBVT Mail via ALD), 5 Up / 6 Down (SER: HWH-Rourkela Exp and ER: HWH-ASR Mail), 7 Up / 8 Down (SER: HWH-Puri Exp and ER: Toofan Exp), 9 Up / 10 Down (SER: Sri Jagannath Exp and ER: Doon Exp), and 11 Up / 12 Down (SER: Ispat Express and ER: HWH-Delhi Exp.). In 1988 or 1989, 15 Up / 16 Down could -- for a brief period -- refer to both the SER Howrah-Ranchi-Hatia Exp. and the ER Howrah-Bolpur Shantiniketan Exp. The Kalka Mail was numbered 1 Up / 2 Down and the Howrah - Bombay Mail as 2 Up / 1 Down to avoid confusion.

To disambiguate coinciding train numbers from different zones, reservation clerks and others often used extra annotations, for instance '31/WR' for 31 Down on WR, or '31/F/WR' (31 Down on WR, Forward journey booking), or '31/R/WR' (31 Down on WR, Return journey quota).

Usually the 'down' train of a pair of trains between two destinations had the lower number (the odd number) and the 'up' train had the higher number (the even number) but this is far from uniform. (See up/down note below.) E.g., Charminar Exp. from Hyderabad to Madras is numbered 2760 even though this is the one that is going in the 'down' direction.

The documents section has a compilation of old IR train numbers with their new equivalents.

Reservation System

Today, the reservation system is networked to allow most stations with online reservation facilities to offer bookings for almost any train from anywhere to anywhere. Earlier different sections of a train's route, which corresponded to different quotas for reservations, were given different numbers, with ad hoc alphabetic suffixes such as 'A', 'F', 'R', etc., in the reservation systems of each section. E.g., '6635F' for the forward quota for 6635, '6635R' for the return journey quota, '6635A' for the part of the train that went to MAQ after splitting at PGT; '6635B' for the part of the train that went to CHTS, etc. Each booking operator only saw the numbers for which his station had a quota for issuing tickets.

Refer to the freight section on how goods and parcel services are numbered.

Up and Down Trains

Q. Trains are often referred to as going "up" or "down" — what does this mean?

Down refers to a train travelling away from its headquarters (i.e., the homing railway) or from its Divisional headquarters, whichever is closer. Up refers to a train travelling towards its headquarters or divisional HQ, whichever is closer. Eg, 2903 DN Frontier mail is down travelling away from its HQ (Bombay) and from the division that homes it (Bombay division) and similarly 2904 UP refers to it travelling back towards Bombay, its HQ and division. Usually the numbers for the "up" and "down" trains differ by just 1.

As for the Shatabdis, the odd number indicates the Down run and the even number for the Up run. E.g. New Delhi - Bhopal Shatabdi (the first Shatabdi) is numbered 2001 DN (away form Delhi) and 2002 UP (towards Delhi).

There are numerous exceptions to this scheme! Beware if you are trying to find method in the madness. Numerous inconsistencies and oddities arise near zonal or divisional boundaries. At Howrah, the Kalka Mail was numbered 1 Up / 2 Down and the Howrah - Bombay Mail as 2 Up / 1 Down to avoid confusion.

Interestingly, on the Ring Railway in New Delhi, the clockwise direction is marked "up" in the timetables.

History

In the UK, the convention was that all trains going to London were "up", and all those going away from it were "down". In India, the GIPR adopted this convention with respect to Bombay, and the Madras Railway adopted it for Madras. Interestingly, the East Indian Railway decided to name trains towards its base, Calcutta, "down" trains, perhaps expecting the GIPR to eventually reach Calcutta; this convention was also adopted by the Bengal-Nagpur Railway. On the North Western Railway "up" was to the west, so that trains from Delhi to Amritsar are "up". However, to avoid confusion among trains numbered the same and belonging to different companies or zones, some changes were made.

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