Railway ministry officials said the design and interiors of Vande Bharat trains have been regularly improved since the inaugural run between Delhi and Varanasi in February 2019. Currently, 34 pairs of these fully air-conditioned trains with chair car and executive class seating are operational across the country.
Vande Bharat trains with sleeper facilities have the potential to replace Rajdhani Express trains, and they will bring down travel time once the track infrastructure has been upgraded. Already, the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah routes are being improved for trains to run at 160kmph.
823 Berths Per Train
New Vande Bharat trains are now being rolled out faster as they have only 8 cars instead of 16 in each train or rake, to meet the high demand across the country and ensure good occupancy. Six or seven new trains are now made every month. “Barring a couple of routes, the occupancy rate is around 100% or more even though their fare is more than that of other express trains,” a railway ministry official said.
The sleeper version of Vande Bharat will have 16 cars, with at least one car for AC1 and the others for AC2 and AC3. The first version will have 857 berths, of which 823 will be for passengers and the rest for staff. Every coach will have three toilets instead of four, and a mini pantry.
Attention To Detail
While unveiling the first look of the sleeper train’s interior, railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw pointed out that its cabin ladders have been designed to ensure that passengers don’t hit the ceiling while climbing up. “The sleeper berth has been designed in such a way that it gives more comfort. Even the ladder for the upper berth has been designed so that a passenger finds it easy to occupy it (the berth).”
A railway ministry official said the sleeper version will have better suspension and cabin lighting. “We will make more improvements based on passenger feedback. We will also float a tender for manufacturing these trains with aluminium bodies that will have a maximum design speed of 220kmph.” The successful bidder will manufacture 100 such trains, per the tender document.
Aam Aadmi’s Train In Future
Vande Bharat trains will be railways’ mainstay for passenger transport. Their number is likely to touch 500 in the next three years, and the government is targeting 4,500 trains by 2047, says the draft report prepared by the government’s infrastructure group.
While more bullet trains might be introduced after the completion of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad project, experts say Vande Bharat’s maximum design speed of 220kmph is adequate for most long-distance and inter-city passenger traffic. It will be economical too, as only the tracks and the signalling system on the existing network need to be improved.
Vande Bharat trains reduce journey time by 25% to 45% as they are able to accelerate and decelerate faster. “If the past two decades saw the proliferation of better and safer Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, the next decades belong to Vande Bharat train sets. As we achieve full electrification of the entire broad gauge network by the end of this fiscal, operating these trains will be possible across all sections,” said a railway official.
Elevated Tracks On Cards
Although the Vande trains are being designed to run at up to 220kmph, they are forced to run at 20th-century speeds of 100-110kmph as the tracks have not been upgraded. One way to increase train speed would be to build elevated tracks for them, especially between major state capitals. The draft Vision-2047 prepared by the infrastructure ministries has proposed building 20,000km of elevated railway track by 2047.
The big question, though, is about these train’s viability as they face competition from the cheaper mail and express trains as well as the rapidly improving national highway network. However, railway officials are confident the demand for them will remain strong as these trains cater to a different clientele and have a long waiting list at present.