The need for uniformity of gauge has been recognized by all the advanced countries of the world. A number of problems have cropped up in the operation of Indian Railways because of the use of three gauges. The ill effects of change of gauge (more popularly known as break of gauge) are numerous; some of these are enumerated here.
Inconvenience to Passengers
Due to change of gauge, passengers have to change trains mid-journey alongwith their luggage, which causes inconvenience such as the following.
(a) Climbing stairs and crossing bridges
(b) Finding seats in the compartments of the later trains
(c) Missing connections with the later trains in case the earlier train is late
(d) Harassment caused by porters
(e) Transporting luggage
(f) Uncertainty and delay in reaching the destination
Difficulty in Trans-shipment of Goods
Goods have to be trans-shipped at the point where the change of gauge takes place. This causes the following problems.
(a) Damage to goods during trans-shipment.
(b) Considerable delay in receipt of goods at the destination.
(c) Theft or misplacement of goods during trans-shipment and the subsequent claims.
(d) Non-availability of adequate and specialized trans-shipment labour and staff, particularly during strikes.
Inefficient Use of Rolling Stock
As wagons have to move empty in the direction of the trans-shipment point, they are not fully utilized. Similarly, idle wagons of one gauge cannot be moved on another gauge.
Hindrance to Fast Movement of Goods and Passenger Traffic
Due to change in the gauge, traffic cannot move fast which becomes a major problem particularly during emergencies such as war, floods, and accidents.
Additional Facilities at Stations and Yards
(a) Costly sheds and additional facilities need to be provided for handling the large volume of goods at trans-shipment points.
(b) Duplicate equipment and facilities such as yards and platforms need to be provided for both gauges at trans-shipment points.
Difficulties in Balanced Economic Growth
The difference in gauge also leads unbalanced economic growth. This happens because industries set up near MG/NG stations cannot send their goods economically and efficiently to areas being served by BG stations.
Difficulties in Future Gauge Conversion Projects
Gauge conversion is quite difficult, as it requires enormous effort to widen existing tracks. Widening the gauge involves heavy civil engineering work such as widening of the embankment, the bridges and tunnels, as well as the tracks; additionally, a wider rolling stock is also required. During the gauge conversion period, there are operational problems as well since the traffic has to be slowed down and even suspended for a certain period is order to execute the work.