2017 has seen the culmination of Prabhu’s efforts; a slew of new trains were introduced.
Probably the last new train launched by the Indian Railways that one can recall was back in September 2009, when the then railway minister Mamta Banerjee flagged off the Sealdah-New Delhi Duronto Express. Since then, no noteworthy train was offered to passengers. In 2014, when Suresh Prabhu took charge as railway minister, he made it clear that the transporter needed to provide new categories and products to attract passengers, given that it was losing its share to airlines and roadways. 2017 has seen the culmination of Prabhu’s efforts; a slew of new trains were introduced. Trains in the premium, non-premium and special categories were launched during the year, which will cater to every stratum of passengers. “Starting 2015, there has seen a major paradigm change in terms of focus. The railways has been able break out of the shell. Due to lack of investments over decades, the railways had reached a point of status quo. That has changed now,” said Mohd Jamshed, member-traffic, Railway Board. In 2015, priorities were made clear and it was realised that though results would be visible a few years later, investments needed to be made to augment capacity not only of fixed infrastructure but also of rolling stock, apart from others, to generate more passenger traffic. It was Prabhu who announced that five products were to cater to all categories of passengers. Here’s a look. Premium products The Tejas Express was one of the superfast trains launched this year that got much public attention because of the improved facilities it offered such as automatic door system, LED screens with pre-loaded entertainment content for passengers, Wi-Fi, CCTV and GPS systems. But soon it was in the news because of maintenance issues and damage caused by passengers on board the train. It first started between Mumbai and Goa. Covering some of the metropolitan cities, the railways now plans to launch this product between Surat and Mumbai, as promised by former railway minister Prabhu.
A special Rajdhani express from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Bandra terminus was another such high-speed train launched this year, with 18 Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches. In addition, the railways also launched its fastest train, the Gatimaan Express, which runs between New Delhi and Agra and can hit a top speed of 160 km per hour. A full three-tiered air-conditioned rake called the Humsafar Express was launched with the aim to benefit the middle class. It soon gained popularity and became operational from various cities across the country. There are so far 13 rakes in operation and seven rakes are expected be come out soon. “The most popular segment in the travelling business is the air-conditioned tier-3, which is also the class which is profitable,” said Jamshed while commenting on the trigger for the Humsafar concept. A double-decked fully air-conditioned train called the Utkrisht Double Decker Air-conditioned Yatri (UDAY) with 40% more passenger capacity is in the pipeline. Non-premium categories Antyodaya trains have been introduced in routes where there is a huge demand for seats. So far, nine such rakes are pressed into service. “The Antyodaya is a train for the last person in the society who cannot even pay for reserved tickets. These are long-distance trains,” added Jamshed. The recently-inaugurated electric multiple-unit rake running in the Western Railways in Mumbai was launched in December, for passengers wanting to travel in comfort. It is air-conditioned with a three-phase propulsion system, automatic door running and runs from Churchgate to Dhanu Road. Special coaches The railways introduced Deen Dayalu coaches for the ordinary sitting class with various amenities. As of now, 450 coaches have been produced. Apart from trains, a tourism-oriented coach was introduced called Vistadome, which has glass roofs and large windows on side walls for panoramic view. This was added in the Jan Shatabdi Express in the Central Railways. There are plans to introduce these coaches in the Kashmir valley. The Anubhuti coach was another such product with aircraft-like facilities. These will be added in Shatabdi trains and will be ‘premium first-class’. According to Jamshed, given the new products have become quite popular, “Next year will also see major changes in terms of mobility of trains.”