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Vande Bharat Express is changing Indian Railways. Now Indians need to do their bit

The preconceived notions about Indian Railways – stinking train, dirty compartments, unusable toilets – are challenged by Vande Bharat Express.

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There are some preconceived notions about Indian Railways – the train stinks, the compartments are dirty, and the toilets are unusable. Vande Bharat Express challenges all of that.

Last weekend, I was on board the latest Vande Bharat Express – en route to Amb Andaura in Himachal Pradesh. Though my journey was only till Chandigarh, the ride didn’t feel like an ordinary Indian Railways journey.

With first-class speed trains, we get first-world experiences. And with that, let’s also learn values like privacy, public behaviour and passenger etiquette.

Since it was my first journey on this train, I purchased the executive class ticket to have the best experience. It was worth Rs 1,500 spent on this short journey.

What did I like the most? Almost everything! For starters, the executive class of Vande Bharat Express feels like a business class compartment. I have travelled in the executive class of Shatabdi Express, but it doesn’t differ much from its chair car class –same toilets, same interior and just a bit more legroom. There is nothing premium about the Shatabadi’s executive class.

That’s not the case with Vande Bharat. I roamed around the chair car class just to see the difference and there were considerable ones. First, the executive class chairs are much bigger, and the interior is different and perhaps better.

Also read: Unfenced tracks, stray cattle — why nose cone covers were designed to shield Vande Bharat trains

A premium experience

My favourite feature was the placement of the tables. In Shatabdi Express, the table is attached to the passenger’s chair sitting in front of you, even in the executive class. But in Vande Bharat Express, the table is foldable and resides inside the armrest.

Since the catering table is attached to your armrest, other passengers’ movements do not bother you. And not to forget, the food (corn flakes, cutlet, omelette, mishti doi, tea, poha) is delicious.

The other feature I liked was the family lounge-style seating. If you are a family of four and travelling on this train, then you can actually revolve the seats to make it a chair coupe.

Besides this, on paper, the Vande Bharat Express is about 25 minutes faster than the fastest second option – the Shatabdi Express. But our train reached Chandigarh about 10 minutes earlier than its scheduled arrival, covering the 242-km journey in about two and a half hours. By road, it would take about 5-6 hours because of the never-ending construction on this route.

The best thing about the Vande Bharat rake was that it isn’t a bumpy one. The tea doesn’t spill from the mugs, and the toilets do not scare. They were smelling like roses. In fact, as you enter the train, you are greeted by the staff with a rose. The Vande Bharat Express for sure feels like a train of a developing nation with the potential to meet global standards.

Also read: Hi-tech machines, 9,000+ workforce — inside Integral Coach Factory making Vande Bharat trains

Change with the changing railways

There are certain things that may hamper your otherwise joyous ride. I booked the executive class, hoping that there would be a quieter crowd. Fewer people should mean less noise, but sadly, there was a group of old people who were talking way too loudly. Thanks to the reduced cabin noise because of the new rake, their conversation could be heard till the end of the coach. Every person knew which floor they lived on and how many mice they encountered every day.

In Japanese Shinkansen (bullet trains), it is considered inappropriate to talk even on the phone. People go out to the lobby to speak because they do not like to disturb the peace of others. Discussing private matters in public is not considered appropriate in Japan. But here, people think that they have bought a ticket, they have bought the train. Many lack civic sense and respect for fellow passengers. The manners and etiquette adopted abroad in public spaces should also become an Indian habit.

Moreover, the Indian Railways may consider deploying a system in which only passengers travelling in the train are allowed to enter the platform. The Vande Bharat Express has a very tiny window for boarding/deboarding and relatives of passengers, who often crowd the train, would end up getting trapped till the next station when the train’s doors automatically lock.

Vande Bharat Express is doing its part to help change the image of Indian Railways. People’s attitudes should complement this effort.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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