Prime minister Narendra Modi has increased the total target of new semi high-speed Train 18 trainsets by 100 new rakes. Railway minister Piyush Goyal informed this after the first train, the Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Varanasi was flagged off Friday.
“PM Modi has given permission to make 100 more Train 18-like trainsets to run across India in semi high-speed service. We have already started the tendering process for about 30,” Piyush Goyal said on board the Vande Bharat Express.
The present order for the next lot of Train 18 trainsets is in fact for 45 rakes. One was flagged off while another will be delivered by March end, sources said.
Beyond that, 13 rakes are planned for manufacturing and delivery next financial year, 15 in 2020-21 and another 15 in 2021-22. Goyal’s new plan for 100 more will be over and above this, officials said.
The Vande Bharat Express on its maiden run generated much interest along the way as crowds at stations and on the roads were seen clicking its pictures and recording videos. At every station it stopped, people were seen taking selfies with the train.
Inside the train, the seats of the chair car surprised many as unlike Shatabdi Express, the backrest doesn’t recline and the upholstery doesn’t feel as soft. Instead of the backrest reclining, the seat slides ahead slightly.
Speaking to reporters, Railway Board Member Rolling Stock Rajesh Agrawal said the upholstery of the seats are in fact comparable to premium cars and the “half recline” feature is the international standard for high-speed trains. “We can perhaps increase the cushioning in subsequent rakes but certain features and specifications are as per international practices being done in India for the first time. So people are not used to them yet as this is a new product,” he said.
The train clocked 130 kmph at several stretches. Two loco pilots drove the train till Kanpur and they were relieved by two new drivers from Kanpur onwards. They said unlike other Rajdhani trains which take some seven minutes to reach from 0 to 130 kmph, the Train 18 takes just about 30 seconds. And it also decelerates as quickly. “We are used to driving Rajdhanis so we are trained for 130 kmph speed. We just needed some training on the control panel which has some slightly new mechanism,” said loco pilot SK Labh.
Mobile internet remained elusive throughout the route. The train does not have the wifi connection but has wifi-based onboard entertainment which can be accessed by passengers devices. It has movies like Champa Chameli, old Superman animation movies and others. All the coaches also have CCTV cameras and automatic doors.