Indian Railways gathers pace with Gatimaan Express. From April 6, the train will depart from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station at 8.10 a.m. and reach Agra Cantt. Railway station at 9.50 a.m.
New Delhi: Gatimaan Express, the fastest train in the country, kept its date with history on Tuesday as it covered its maiden journey between Delhi and Agra in exactly 100 minutes, clocking 160 kmph during most of its run.
Heralding a new chapter in the history of the Indian Railways, country’s first semi-high speed train ‘Gatimaan Express’ running at a maximum speed of 160 kmph today completed Delhi-Agra journey of 188 km in a record 100 minutes. The train, flagged off by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu at 1000 hrs from Nizamuddin Railway station in New Delhi, arrived here at 1150 hrs. The train was welcomed by Divisional Railway manager Prabhat Kumar at platform number one of Agra Cantt railway station.
The Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station of Delhi was completely decked up as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu flagged off the train at around 10.10 a.m. on Tuesday. The train sputtered to a start but soon picked up speed as it crossed Okhla railway station and from there on, completed its journey at tearing speed even as the 237 passengers on board settled down in their cushy seats of AC Chair Car coaches.
According to Arun Arora, divisional railways manager (DRM), Delhi division of Northern Railway, the Gatimaan’s coaches have been built at Kapurthala Railway Coach Factory in the Punjab and bio-toilets developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The cost of train is around Rs 50 crore and its top speed of 160 km an hour is half that of trains in China, Japan, France and other countries.
Passengers were this morning welcomed with roses by the hostesses as they boarded the gleaming royal blue-and-grey train at the Nizamuddin Railway station in south Delhi.
“Covered in tricolor balloons and marigold, India’s fastest train “Gatimaan Express” today made its debut run from Delhi to the Taj Mahal city of Agra in 100 minutes. We often drive down to Agra during the weekend with my family but with the Gatimaan Express now taking less time in covering the distance and in far greater comfort, I wouldn’t need to drive to Agra anymore,” said Ravi Kumar Goel (52), a Kalkaji resident and a businessman.
Most passengers were taking the train for a joyride, with many having booked tickets on Tuesday morning. Kapil Jain, a 30-year-old Indian Air Force official, had come to Delhi from Agra just to board the inaugural train back to his home. “It is a great initiative and I wanted to be a part of it. It was just awesome to see the train speed at 160 kmph and I would hope that soon, we can have trains running at 300 kmph,” he said.
There was also a small group of ‘rail fans’, who had come equipped with GPS based apps on their smartphones to see exactly how fast Gatimaan can run. “The speed varied between 147 kmph to 170 kmph but since these apps are not entirely accurate, I have taken an average and that is coming to 160 kmph,” said Mohit (28), a member of Indian Railways Fan Club Association (IRFCA).
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said the Gatimaan Express with “train-hostesses” and an entertainment system brings in “a new era of high-speed rail travel”.
For the passengers, the high point was the always smiling Train hosts and hostesses, who greeted them with flowers and chocolates. A sore point, however, was unavailability of free wi-fi services that railways had promised. “Where is the internet connectivity they had promised? Apart from the speed, which is impressive, it’s like any other Shatabdi,” said Ravi Mehrotra (64), a businessman who travels between Delhi and Agra frequently.
The on board multi-cuisine menu, provided by IRCTC was much appreciated by the passengers. IRCTC is also offering two different Agra guided tours of one day and two day duration, coinciding with the time table of the Gatimaan Express. The menu is an eclectic mix – Spanish omelet, date walnut cake, wheat upma, Kanjeevaram idli, aloo kulcha, mini dosa, chicken rolls and Swiss rolls, served on chinaware.
The rather plush LHB coaches have been built by the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala and have been fitted with bio-toilets that turn waste into smaller amounts of disposable water. Apart from this green initiative, the Gatimaan includes a GPS-passenger information service, automatic sliding doors in coaches, free WiFi and an entertainment system.
A train ride costs Rs. 750 or 1,500 depending on whether one is traveling in the two “executive class” coaches or in the AC chair car coaches. From April 6, Gatimaan Express will depart from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station at 8.10 a.m. and reach Agra Cantt. Railway station at 9.50 a.m. On its return leg, the train will depart from Agra at 5.50 p.m. and reach Hazrat Nizamuddin at 7.30 p.m. Indian Railway PRO Anil Saxena said that studies are on to achieve a speed of 200 kmph for trains and more corridors such as Delhi-Agra would be started for Gatimaan Express. The Gatimaan will run six days a week, except on Fridays when the Taj Mahal is shut.
“This is a new milestone for Indian Railways, which has entered the high speed age,” Mr. Saxena said. “Passengers are very satisfied provided on the Gatimaan Express and we will try to improve them and make them world-class,” he said.
Railways plans to roll out such trains on nine more routes including Kanpur-Delhi, Chandigarh-Delhi, Hyderabad-Chennai, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Goa-Mumbai and Nagpur-Secunderabad.