The Indian railway system is facing scrutiny after the country witnessed Friday one of the deadliest rail crashes in its history, with a death toll of roughly 290 people.

Hundreds were also left injured after three trains--two passenger vehicles carrying over 3,000 people and a stationary goods train--collided near the Bahanaga Bazar station in the Indian state of Odisha.

The Coromandel Express had entered into a loop track and derailed before colliding with the stationary goods train that was parked at the station. The collision caused the second passenger train, called the Howrah Superfast Express, which was running in the opposite direction, to also derail.

"Lines 1 and 4 had goods trains parked on them. The passenger trains were running parallelly and simultaneously on track two and three. It's a matter of investigation why and how the Coromandel Express got derailed and hit the goods trains," a railway ministry official told BBC.

The three train-collision remains under investigation.

Here are 15 facts about the Indian railway system, which has become the subject of headlines worldwide.

1. World's fourth-largest railway network

India's railway network is the fourth largest in the world, with an overall route of 42,317 miles (68,103 km). The U.S., China and Russia take the top three spots in the world for the length of their railroad network. The railway network in India is also recognized as one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management.

2. 169 years of rail travel history

The Indian railway has a 169-year-old legacy. The first passenger train, with its 30 wagons, ran a distance of about 21 miles (34 kilometers) from Bori Bandar in the city of Mumbai to Thane.

3. Thousands of trains, billions of passengers

The state-owned railway network sees about 22,593 operating trains (9,141 freight and 13,452 passengers) chugging down the tracks every single day. These trains normally carry about one billion tonnes of goods and over 8.5 billion passengers each year; however, these numbers were affected during the Covid-19 pandemic.

4. Daily passenger count

More than 24 million passengers travel by train and 203.88 million tonnes of freight is carried every single day.

5. One of the world's largest employers

More than 1.4 million people are employees of the Indian railway network, reportedly making it the 7th largest employer in the world. In India, the railways is the biggest employer after the Indian Armed Forces, which has about 1.45 million employees.

6. Railway vs airway

In the railway vs. airway comparison, most Indian passengers choose trains for domestic travel. However, data reportedly shows that Indians are flying close to the pre-pandemic numbers, while railway travel is still trailing behind its pre-pandemic level.

Data showed that over 7,674 million passengers were transported by the railways in 2019-2020, while only 5,858 million booked railway tickets in 2022-23. The aviation industry has seen a better recovery as roughly 136 million domestic flyers traveled by domestic airlines in the 12 months up to March 2023. This is reportedly a 60% increase from the 85.2 million flyers reported in FY2022.

7. The longest train journey in India

The Vivek Express covers India's longest train route by both distance and time. The train covers a distance of nearly 2,603 miles over four days, and traverses through nine Indian states with 59 halts along the route.

8. The shortest train journey in India

In India, the world's seventh-largest country by area, the shortest train ride covers just about 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) from Nagpur to Ajni, both of which are in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

9. Owner of 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Indian Railways is currently the owner of four UNESCO-recognized world heritage sites--Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka Shimla Railway.

10. World's longest railway platform

The Indian state of Karnataka reportedly became the host to the world's longest railway platform. The Shri Siddharoodha Swamiji station in Hubballi was named in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's longest railway platform this year.

11. World's tallest railway bridge

India is also host to the world's tallest railway bridge, which is roughly 95 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower. The Chenab Bridge in India's Jammu and Kashmir region stands tall at 1,180 feet and will reportedly be open to visitors by the end of December 2023 or January 2024.

12. New bullet train tech in the country

One of the latest developments in the Indian railway system includes Japanese experts training about 1,000 Indian engineers for the High-Speed Rail Track system. The system used for the Japanese Shinkansen high-speed railways will be replicated in India for the bullet train that is being built between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

13. Kavach system

Another recent development in India's railway sector is the indigenous Automatic Train Protection System called Kavach, which was announced by the Ministry of Railways in March last year. The system was designed to automatically apply brakes when necessary, consequently preventing overspeeding and also potential accidents in case locomotive pilots fail to act in time.

Kavach became the topic of discussion following the three-train collision in Odisha last week. It is unclear whether any of the trains in the crash was equipped with the Kavach system, and some argue the accident could have been prevented if it had been in place, according to Mint.

14. Number of deaths in recent years

There were over 100,000 train-related deaths--including collisions, passengers falling from trains and people being run over on tracks--in India between the years 2017 to 2021, according to data published by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2022, reports said.

15. $30 billion investment

The Indian government had earmarked $30 billion for new trains and modern stations in the country as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effort to boost infrastructure and connectivity. However, after the three-train collision, industry experts believe the focus of the investment will be on improvising safety instead of adding new trains.

"This question (on safety) is arising because there has been one incident now. But if you see the data, you will see that there have been no major accidents for years," a railways ministry spokesperson said following the deadly collision in Odisha.

train track in india
Representational image of a railway station in India. AFP / DIPTENDU DUTTA