India’s first semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express trains have been a hit with the public from the very first day. After the success of the Delhi-Katra and Delhi-Varanasi trains, the railways is going to roll out 44 new such trains. The Integral Coach Factory, Chennai has floated tenders for 44 semi-high speed rakes or train sets. According to details shared by the Railway Ministry, the due date for opening is 10 July 2020.

Vande Bharat Express is Indian Railways’ first self-propelled engine-less train that can run at a maximum permissible speed of 160 kmph. During trials, Vande Bharat Express has hit speeds of 180 kmph, making it India’s fastest train.

Built under the PM’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the new Vande Bharat Express trains sets will have more advanced features. The coaches of these trains are Chair Car type for day travel. They are equipped with many modern features including automatic plug doors with retractable footsteps, side destination boards, automatic intercommunication door, speakers, mobile and laptop charging sockets, CCTVs, emergency talk back units with networking system, diffused lighting for luggage racks, continuous LED lights, GPS antenna, mini pantry with modular equipment, etc.

Unlike the older Vande Bharat trains, the upcoming semi-high speed trains will have basic units with four coaches, which can be attached/detached from the train, considering the demand. Therefore, in case of defects, it will be possible to replace the basic units or in case, the demand increases, the train length can be augmented up to 24 coaches.

Enhancing the speed of India’s trains was an emergent need keeping in view the present day fast paced life and the need for rapid movement of people. With airline fares almost matching rail fares, the railways had a major challenge to pep up its speed to cater to the popular demand and retain its loyalists by enhancing convenience. Now if we make travel possible in the range of 160-180 kmph, it will come almost close to the speed of short-distance passenger airliners, which fly in the 220-250 kmph range. Thus the time difference would be minimal and railways, for their last mile connectivity, will prove more popular for the hinterland populace.

The important factor in this development is the Made in India success story. We have for the first time been able to take a giant leap in transportation technology and joined an elite group of nations like Japan, France, China and Germany in rapid transit system. Speed enhances business efficiency and opportunities and is seen as a major infrastructure need for any development model.

India has to go on from here and in time, develop the high-speed trains which touch 250-280 kmph speeds. India has got the capability and resources to do so and it is most likely in the next 10-15 years we will have an Indian equivalent of bullet trains or the French TGV.  After the introduction of the super specialty Rajdhani and Shatabdi express trains four to five decades back, we almost did nothing to explore the possibility of enhancing the experience further. Rajdhani and Shatabdi are old stories now.

We badly needed a new set of state-of-the-art trains to replace or at least complement the ageing brigade. We needed trains with more features, better facilities, comfort and safety and also some swank and swagger. The Vande Bharat mission has filled that gap aptly

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