Vande Bharat: India’s self-propelled, fastest train takes off

February 15, 2019 12:42 pm | Updated February 16, 2019 01:10 am IST - (On board the Vande Bharat Express)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging off the Vande Bharat Express at New Delhi station on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging off the Vande Bharat Express at New Delhi station on Friday.

The inaugural trip of India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat Express, was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New Delhi railway station on Friday.

The train, named ‘Train 18’ at the concept stage, is a plush 16-coach, air-conditioned, self-propelled train set and doesn’t have a locomotive.

The express will ply between Delhi and Varanasi, with halts at Kanpur and Allahabad. It will complete the 780-km journey in eight hours, slicing off 180 minutes from the current travel time of 11-and-a-half hours. This is India’s fastest train to date, capable of commercial speeds up to 160 km per hour. On the Delhi-Varanasi route, however, its top speed would be restricted to 130 km per hour. The train will start commercial operations on this route on February 17. The tickets for that date are already sold out.

Big crowd

A big crowd gathered to witness the launch of the train in Delhi, greeting its flagging-off with excited chants of ‘Vande Mataram’. Many onlookers tried to take selfies with the gleaming blue-and-white train and even tried to touch it. Cell phone-wielding crowds and selfie-mania greeted the train at both Kanpur and Allahabad.

The express will have two travel classes: executive and chair car, similar to the Shatabdi. From Delhi to Varanasi, an air-conditioned chair car ticket will cost ₹1,760, while the executive class fare will be ₹3,310. In the return direction, the chair car and executive class tickets will cost ₹1,700 and ₹3,260 respectively. The fares are inclusive of catering charges.

Keeping with the Railways’ stated aim of offering a “totally new travel experience” to passengers, the train’s interiors have the look and feel of a commercial airplane.

A game-changer express: Goyal

On board the Vande Bharat Express

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday told reporters that the tendering process for the manufacture of 30 more semi-high speed trains like Vande Bharat Express, has already begun. Additionally, the Prime Minister’s approval has been sought for 100 more such train sets.

“The major systems of this train have been designed and built in India. It meets global standards of performance, safety and passenger comfort at half the global costs. It therefore has the potential to be a game-changer in the global rail business,” said an official, adding, “This is only the first train of its kind. Based on customer feedback, further improvements can be made.”

Built at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, the Vande Bharat Express has a total seating capacity of 1,128 passengers. All the coaches are equipped with automatic doors, a GPS-based passenger information system, and free WiFi. But the Wi-Fi can only be used to access select entertainment content provided by the Railways. The toilets are bio-vacuum type, similar to those on airplanes. On the downside, the chair car seats are not very comfortable, though the leg space is adequate. In contrast, the executive class seats are plush and can rotate 180 degrees. Every coach has a pantry with facilities to serve hot meals, and hot or cold beverages. The coaches are also well insulated from outside noise.

The train which left New Delhi railway station at 11.20 a.m. reached its terminus, Varanasi at 9.37 p.m. after a 40-minute halt at Kanpur and a 90-minute halt at Allahabad. The train did not stick to its scheduled timings as it was its inaugural run.


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