Private trains in India: Modern trains, superior ride comfort, faster travel & more – Indian Railways is looking to offer passengers world-class comforts and assured availability of trains on high-demand routes in the coming years. Introduction of private trains on the Indian Railways network through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode is expected to herald a new era of modern train travel in India. The Request for Qualification (RFQs) of the Rs 30,000 crore have been invited and the first private train is expected to hit tracks by April 2023. So, what can passengers expect travel in private trains to be like? The answer is – somewhat like the Train 18 or Vande Bharat Express!
Train 18 or the Vande Bharat Express is Indian Railways’ first engine-less self-propelled train sets that can hit speeds of up to 160 kmph (180 kmph in trials!). It’s Indian Railways’ most modern offering till date with several engineering firsts and a host of aircraft-like features for passengers’ comfort. One important distinguishing factor though is that while Vande Bharat Express is a train set, hence not requiring a locomotive to pull it, private train operators will have the freedom to manufacture modern trains that are either locomotive hauled or distributed power like train sets. We take a look at 10 Train 18-like comforts that passengers can look forward to in private trains:
1. Improved passenger experience with aircraft-style air-conditioning that allows for automatic temperature and humidity control.
2. Superior interiors and toilets with a focus on passenger comfort and amenities
3. Friendly access to physically challenged or divyang passengers
4. More passenger space available through the use of under-slung or roof-mounted IGBT propulsion system.
5. GPS-enabled passenger announcement system for onboard announcements indicating station arrivals, the time to next destination, safety announcements etc.
6. Improved safety features such as fire-retardant interiors, modern couplers with anti-climbing features and wider gangway areas for safe movement between coaches.
7. The private trains will be able to operate at a maximum permissible speed of 160 kmph on some stretches. Their travel time comparable to the fastest train on a particular route. The private trains should have higher acceleration/deceleration characteristics that will help reduce train travel time by 10-15% at the existing maximum speed of 130 kmph, similar to Train 18.
8. Vandal-proof interiors
9. Energy-efficient rolling stock which makes use of regenerative braking mechanism
10. The private trains should focus on low maintenance requirements through the use of modern design bogies, stainless steel/aluminium exteriors, brake system etc.
Indian Railways has identified over 100 pairs of high-demand train routes and the aim of introducing private trains is to bridge the demand-supply gap and eliminate the need for waitlisted tickets. Similar to airlines, the private train oeprators will have the freedom to set the train fare with a regulatory body likely to keep a tab. The ticket booking, however, will be available through IRCTC only.