PRIME Minister Narendra Modi flagged off Kerala’s first Vande Bharat train service at Thiruvananthapuram Railway Station on April 25. Next year, the semi-high-speed train will run between Jammu and Srinagar, as part of the Railway Ministry’s ambitious plans of connecting the Kashmir Valley more closely with the rest of the country.
A Vande Bharat service already connects New Delhi to Katra in Jammu and Kashmir. Katra is the base camp for the faithful who visit the Vaishno Devi shrine.
Now 14 such train routes are operational since PM Modi, in his address to the nation on August 15, 2021, announced that in the 75 weeks of the Amrit Mahotsav, 75 Vande Bharat trains will connect every corner of the country.
The first Vande Bharat train was flagged off on the New DelhiVaranasi route on February 15, 2019. And on April 12 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off Rajasthan’s first Vande Bharat Express. The regular service now operates between Ajmer and Delhi Cantonment, with stops at Jaipur, Alwar and Gurugram. .
This service covers the distance in 5 hours 15 minutes, an hour less than the Shatabdi Express. Significantly, the Ajmer-Delhi Cantt Vande Bharat Express is the world’s first semi high speed passenger train on high rise overhead electric (OHE) territory. It can achieve high speeds due to faster acceleration and deceleration and will reduce journey time by 25 to 45 per cent.
The PM also flagged-off six Vande Bharat trains just in the last two months. Apart from Ajmer, it included Mumbai-Solapur, MumbaiShirdi, Rani Kamlapati-Hazrat Nizammuddin, SecunderabadTirupati, and Chennai-Coimbatore Vande Bharat Express trains.
Beyond Capital connect
Apart from connecting the national Capital to Varanasi, Katra and the other six services mentioned, Vande Bharat trains also runs between GandhinagarMumbai, Chennai-Mysuru, Hazrat Nizamuddin-Rani Kamlapati, NagpurBilaspur, Howrah-New Jalpaiguri, Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam, and New Delhi-Amb Andaura stations.
“Vande Bharat is the first train to be compatible with the indigenous safety Kavach (for train collision avoidance) system”, PM Modi said. He pointed out that it is the first train to scale the heights of Western Ghats without needing an extra engine.
“Vande Bharat Express has become synonymous with development, modernity, stability and atmanirbharta”, he added.
The “point-to-point” fare of the train is calculated on the basic fare table notified for Vande Bharat trains. Other charges like reservation fee, superfast surcharge, catering charge and GST, etc., as applicable are levied separately.
The basic fare of Vande Bharat Express in AC chair car is 1.4 times that of Shatabdi train. For Executive class, it is 1.3 times the basic fare of Shatabdi.
The Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, has been the force behind a completely in-house design and manufacture, computer modelling, and working with several suppliers for system integration.
Travel speed and classes
Vande Bharat Express trains can run up to a maximum speed of 160 kmph and have travel classes like Shatabdi but with better facilities. Speed, safety, and service are the hallmarks of this train.
Thus, its services aim at providing faster and better travel experience to the passengers. Enhanced safety features, better ride index and passenger amenities have been introduced with the new and improved second generation Vande Bharat Trains Ver 2.0.
The advanced version of the train (plying between Gandhinagar and Mumbai) was flagged off by the Prime Minister on September 30, 2022. In the Union Budget 2022-2023, an announcement was made regarding development and manufacture of 400 new-generation Vande Bharat trains – with better energy efficiency and passenger riding experience – in the next three years.
A tender was opened in November 2022 for the manufacture of 200 such trains at an estimated cost of Rs. 26,000 crore for the supply portion.