Circa 2016, April 5: Marked a leap for the Indian Railways towards the high speed age, with the launch of the much-touted Gatimaan Express, fastest train in the country.
This news brought me faint memories of my ride in Shatabdi Express from Delhi to Agra some 25 odd years ago. As a youngster, I was super excited to ride Shatabdi Express all alone, on maiden solo journey to city of Taj Mahal. I boarded the train early morning enjoying the meals served by very courteous staff on board. Indeed it was quite a revelation to me after travelling in ancient Indian Railways which halted at every station and moved at their own pace. Owing to the no questions asked policy followed by Indian Railways which made it all the more depressing. But Shatabdi was very close to boarding a flight, same look & feel, same service & same speed. Those were the times when Indians enjoyed train ride looking outside, and we got the glimpses of our real India, not through the click of Google!
Times have really changed, when I read that on the maiden run of Gatimaan Express, passengers complained of non availability of Wi-Fi. I think this would have been a blessing in disguise when you enjoy India’s fastest train’s debut journey in all its splendor & glory, rather complain about it. At least I would have done that. But today people can’t survive without Wi-Fi for 100 seconds, what to say of 100 minutes journey. Where have we come and where are we going?
Coming back to Gatimaan Express, I would love to take this journey of 100 minutes on my next trip to Delhi, but for the uninitiated, Delhi – Agra is very busy route as any Indian/ foreign tourist coming to Delhi has Agra on his iterinery. With Gatimaan provide Gati to this journey makes visit to the city of world famous Taj Mahal makes it even more special. The semi high-speed train, with a 5,400 horse power electric locomotive and top speed of 160 kmph, covers the nearly 200 km distance between Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station and Agra Cantonment station in exactly 100 minutes, as promised. It will operate six days a week, except on Friday. Gatimaan Express has had two successful train tests and is now known as India’s fastest train, surpassing New Delhi Habibganj Shatabdi Express, the former fastest train of India.
The train, painted in blue and grey with a streak of bright yellow in the middle, sputtered to a start but soon picked up speed as it crossed the Okhla railway station and from there on, completed its journey at a tearing speed, even as the 237 passengers on board settled down in their cushy seats of the spanking clean AC Chair Car coaches.
For the passengers, the high points were the ever 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.
Interesting facts and figures about the Gatimaan Express:
- Gatimaan Express is equipped with 5,400 HP electric locomotive and 12 modern coaches
- Each coach costs around 2 to 2.5 crore and there will be two spare coaches besides the 12 regular coaches
- The train will run at a maximum speed of about 160 km/hr and will cover a distance of around 200 kilometres in 100 minutes
- The train will be equipped with eight inch LCD TVs, installed at the back of every seat
- These screens will be powered by satellite and will broadcast live feed
- The train has been installed with special features such as sliding doors, automatic fire alarm, advanced passenger information system, emergency breaking system, etc
- An Executive Class ticket will cost you Rs 1,365 and an AC chair car will cost you Rs 750
- Train passengers will not only be ushered to their seats by train hostesses and offered roses but will also be given free access to multimedia content such as movies, news and cartoons during their journey to Agra
- Since the fare will be 25 percent higher than Shatabdi Express, catering services in Gatiman Express will also be better. Passengers will be treated to whole-wheat upma, mini dosa, Kanjeevaram idli, fresh cut fruits, aloo kulcha, swiss roll, roasted dry fruits and chicken roll. Chicken sausages with Spanish egg white omelette and date walnut slice cakes will also be served in Bone China.
Couldn’t have asked for more from Mr. Prabhu!