Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Vande Bharat trainset on Friday and travelled in it for about half an hour from Gandhinagar to Kalupur in Gujarat.
Modi had also inaugurated the Vande Bharat when it was first launched in Delhi in 2019. Then, however, he had not taken a ride on it.
Why is the PM inaugurating the train for the second time in three years?
Vande Bharat 2.0
The name may be the same, but this train, the third in the Vande Bharat series, is being dubbed ‘Vande Bharat 2.0’, because of certain upgrades it has received over its predecessors, the two existing trains running from Delhi to Varanasi and Katra.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said that like popular smartphones, the Vande Bharat will come with upgrades and a new “version” with each series production, even though the name will remain the same.
The new trainset costs around Rs 115 crore — Rs 15 crore more than the last version. The specifications underwent an overhaul taking into account feedback on the trains running for the past three years.
What are the major upgrades?
For starters, this train reaches a top speed of 160 km per hour in 129 seconds, around 16 seconds faster than its predecessor. This is because this train weighs around 392 tonnes, 38 tonnes lighter than the last one, and needs to run almost a km less to attain its top speed.
It also has a better riding index (lower the better) of 3.26 at 180 km per hour, from the earlier 3.87. At a standard speed of 115 km per, its riding index is 3.26, better than 3.62 attained at the same speed by the earlier version. Riding index is a global benchmark for rolling stock calculated during trials by measuring vertical/lateral acceleration. In layman’s terms, how comfortable and steady the passenger is while the train is in motion is roughly the idea behind a riding index.
In terms of safety features, the new train comes fitted with the automatic anti-collision system Kavach, which the previous trains did not have. Coaches have disaster lights and their battery backup is for three hours, increased from the last one’s one-hour battery backup.
The exterior has eight flatform-side cameras, up from four. There is also passenger-guard communication facility in coaches, which comes with automatic voice recording feature.
The new trainset is higher, making it safe from floods up to 650 mm, up from 400 mm.
What passengers will experience
For one, all the seats are recliner seats, as opposed to the previous versions which had fixed backseats in lower class. Executive Coaches have the added feature of 180-degree rotating seats.
The internal air is filtered through photo catalytic ultra violet air purification system with UV lamp which deactivates 99 per cent of germs, the Railways claims—something the earlier trainsets did not have.
The coaches also have a centralised coach monitoring system, another new addition, through CCTV cameras, and the internal network supports data at 1 gigabyte per second, a far cry from the earlier 100 megabytes per second. This means better quality streaming of audio-visual information.
It also has a wifi-enabled onboard infotainment system and the LCD display in each coach is now 32 inches, up from the 24-inch screen.
What’s on the plate
Railways says that its catering arm Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation will serve “health conscious and low calorie” food options made from ragi, bhagar, cereals, oats, muesli, etc. Dishes prepared from sabu dana, bhagar and fruits will aso feature on the menu.
“The customised menu for the Vande Bharat is also in sync with the theme of year 2023, which is poised to be celebrated as the International Year of Millets. The initiative has been steered by India in the UN General Assembly, adopting a resolution in April 2021 and declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets,” the Railways said.
In a first, malt beverages for children are being introduced as a service in the premium train. The usual chocolate bar will be replaced with “Peanut Chikki” with peanuts sourced from local farmers in the “Be Vocal, Go Local ideology,” said the Railways.
The way forward
India has embarked on a mission to roll out 400 Vande Bharats. By August 2023, the country is to introduce 72 more such trains, taking the total to 75. The idea is that this third trainset will carry on with its commercial run and at the same time the Railway production units will keep producing more every month to reach the target.
In the works is the plan to introduce Vande Bharat with sleeper berths for overnight journeys. Options to make these trainsets with an aluminium body is also being explored, for a lighter product.