Ahmedabad/Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the third Vande Bharat Express, headed to Mumbai Central railway station from Gandhinagar Capital railway station, at 10.30 am Friday.
The inauguration comes ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections, likely to be held later this year. Modi boarded the train in Gandhinagar and disembarked in Ahmedabad.
On its maiden commercial run, the sleeker, upgraded semi-high speed train ran at 130 kmph and covered a distance of 520 km between Gandhinagar and Mumbai in six hours and twenty minutes, including stoppages of five minutes each in Ahmedabad and Vadodara and a three-minute stoppage in Surat.
“This train attained 100 kmph in 52 seconds, which goes to show that it has better acceleration and de-acceleration due to which the travel time has reduced by 15 per cent,” Sumit Thakur, chief public relations officer (PRO), Western Railways, told ThePrint.
Saree-clad hostesses from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) greeted travellers as they boarded the train at the Ahmedabad railway station, giving a flight-like experience. Traditional Gujarati snacks were then served on board.
The train, which will run on all days of the week except Sunday, is divided into chair car and executive class. With 16 CCTV-equipped coaches, the third Vande Bharat Express has been designed to run at a maximum speed of 160 kmph, which it can attain in 142 seconds. The train has a seating capacity of 1,128 and its bogies are designed with fully suspended traction motors to cope with its operational speed.
The fare is 40 per cent higher than that of regular mail express trains on this route — the chair car is priced at Rs 1,275, while the fare for the executive class is Rs 2,245. It will depart from Gandhinagar at 2.05 pm and reach Mumbai at 8.35 pm. It will then depart from Mumbai at 6.10 am the next day and reach Gandhinagar at 12.30 pm.
Manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, the ‘seating-only’, long-distance self-propelled train set cost the Indian Railways approximately Rs 100 crore. Senior railways officials pointed out that the ‘Made in India’ trains are approximately 40 per cent cheaper than similar trains imported from Europe.
Two other Vande Bharat Express trains, launched in February 2019 and October 2019, are operational on the New Delhi-Varanasi, and New Delhi-Vaishno Devi Katra routes, respectively.
What’s new in Vande Bharat Express
The futuristic-looking train has nose cone-shaped driver’s cabs (compartments) on both ends, which facilitates quicker turnaround time at destinations. “Its aerodynamic design reduces the air drag,” Thakur said.
It also comes with swanky features including reclining seats, Wi-Fi infotainment, a GPS-based passenger information system, touch-free automatic plug doors with sliding footsteps, diffused LED lighting, revolving seats in the executive class etc.
The train also has charging points beneath every seat, individual touch-based reading lights and an intelligent air conditioning system that adjusts to climate conditions and occupancy.
Bio-vacuum toilets onboard the Vande Bharat Express are equipped with touch-free amenities, better heat ventilation and an air conditioning system with UV lamps for germ-free supply of air.
In addition to the washrooms being disabled-friendly, seat numbers are written on handles in Braille to assist visually impaired passengers.
The train is also equipped with an indigenous Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). Emergency alarm buttons and talk-back units have also been provided in each coach to allow passengers to speak to the crew in case of crisis.
While it will be a few years before India’s first bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai becomes operational, the railways are planning to roll out 75 new Vande Bharat trains by 15 August 2023.
(An earlier version of this report said the train halted at each station for 13 minutes)
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)