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In many developed countries finding train routes and approximate times is easy. In the US, Japan, and much of Europe one can use a simple query on Google Maps. I have not been able to find such a system for India, a fact which is probably related to my very limited knowledge of Hindi.

The Indian Railways site has a feature which will tell you the trains between 'important' stations. If there is not a train between the two stations it will tell you where you can make connections. However, if your are travelling to a more rural part of India, the sister site which lists all train stations does not seem to have the ability to tell you about possible connections.

Is there an Indian travel utility more equivalent to using Google Maps for public transit directions in Western countries?

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    It's not focused on India, but you could do a lot worse than Rome2Rio: rome2rio.com/s/Delhi/Sambalpur – jpatokal Jan 6 '15 at 23:01
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    For trains use irctc.co.in. It is a booking website, but you can register and see trains and availability too. There is no single website though. – DumbCoder Jan 7 '15 at 9:56
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I actually almost answered this question in your other question :).

Simply put, Indian railways has a very very powerful backend development team (their reservations were running fine with a cross country network when internet was still unheard of), however their front-end team is amateur at best. IRCTC which is a reasonably good portal is not owned and operated by Indian Railways, this allows you to reserve your train tickets.

However, your answer has to be erail.in, they use the data from Indian Railways website and so they are reliable (99% of the times, but its easy to double check once you zone in on a specific route from the official site). They use google maps to demonstrate travel routes, show fares for each class, even link to live train arrival and departure, all using a simple ajax based interface. You just need to know the places you are going to and you are good to go.

Finally, Rome2Rio is surprisingly good for travel in India, when they introduced their services (probably 4 years ago) the first test I did was from a remote village (where I worked with Indian Railways) where the only mode of transport is a train and they had spot on results, I have been shocked by their accuracy many times (including while trying to answer your previous question about Sambalpur).

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For a huge network of trains, it is possibly difficult(not impossible) to store all the data online and for this reason, Ministry of Railways in India has been publishing a book yearly called 'Trains at a Glance'. While this book is easily available at kiosks in India, there is luckily a pdf version available on the website of the Ministry:

Trains at a Glance

To read this you have to figure out a route which is mostly the two most important stations between which you want to explore connections. While it could be tricky, by using a map like this could help you

Indian Railway Map

You can find a valid route name, which will help you arrive at a Table number in Trains at a Glance.

Once you have the number say T-97, you get a beautiful page with all the possible train numbers and their timings, listing down all the stations that fall enroute. Once you have the train number you can use google to check the entire schedule of that train.

Sample Route Table

This might be tricky, but this book is time and tested. It helps or rather used to help a lot of people in India who do not have access to the internet. And the fact that my dad's team works on it makes me more proud of it!! :)

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    Honestly, it is not at all particularly difficult to provide an online train schedule search, even in very complex networks. E.g. the German Railways online schedule has various coverage of most European countries (even down to urban bus lines) and also knows many international trains throughout Asia. Taking it to an extreme, you can e.g. get the train connections from Thurso in northern Scotland to Beijing if you have 221 hours and 14 minutes to spend. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 7 '15 at 17:50
  • Yes, even I think the same. But sadly all Indian train websites can provide a connection if the stations are on a predefined route. If we try to check some extremely unrelated points in India, the search does not help! I hope and wish that in future we will have something like you explained so that its easy to look for connections! – Neels Jan 8 '15 at 8:39
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Easier said then done. Tomorrow you might ask one for Africa. Just because you were born in the age of internet and want everything at your finger tips, everything willn't be made available to you. Even the swiss train network didn't appear in a day. They labored for it for years. If you were present then, you would have been crying why doesn't a train service exist between Chur and Zurich. – DumbCoder Jan 9 '15 at 15:14
  • @DumbCoder: I have absolutely no idea what you're trying to say. Offering a train schedule search across Africa is of course technically not any more difficult than for any other part of the world and routing algorithms (as they are used e.g. in a train schedule search or very similarly also in navigation software) have been around for quite some time. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 9 '15 at 15:25
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo - I am questioning your desire that why the schedule isn't there for you, just because you want it. Technically, nothing is difficult, but the reason and benefits to be extracted from the endeavor is also important. – DumbCoder Jan 9 '15 at 15:43

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