All Aboard Inida’s Fastest Train

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Vinay Yadav, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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It wouldn’t beat a Japanese Shinkansen train in a race, but India on Tuesday completed the maiden voyage of its fastest train, taking the country’s rail network one stop closer to realizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of modernizing the country’s aging rail network.

On 5th April, the Gatiman Express (“Gati” is a Hindi word for “speed”) took its first 100-minute journey between Delhi and Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal. It will shuttle between the two cities at a speed of up to 160 kilometers, or 99 miles, per hour. India is calling it a “semi high-speed train.” Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains go twice as fast–up to 320 kilometers, or 199 miles, per hour.

“The launch of this train heralds a new era of high speed rail travel in India,” the federal ministry of railways said in a statement a day ahead of the train’s flagging off.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp., a government body that handles catering, tourism and ticketing operations of the railways, is ensuring that the food and other services on the train are “comparable to an in-flight experience.”

Passengers will be able to choose between Indian, continental and a special health meal from chicken sausages, date walnut cakes, Swiss rolls to fruit platters for calorie-conscious passengers.”

Until now, the Indian Railways food hasn’t had the best reputation. Meals typically consist of standard Indian fare–rotis, rice, lentil curry and vegetables.
The train’s 10 Wi-Fi enabled coaches manufactured in the northern Indian state of Punjab, also come equipped with “bio-toilets,” designed to convert human waste into a liquid, which is disinfected before it is discharged onto railway tracks.

Most Indian trains have open-discharge toilets, infamous for their unbearable stench and the litter they drop on railway tracks. A government-panel report in 2012 said that human waste on tracks was corroding them. In the recent past, railway ministers have vowed year-after-year to alleviate the risks of direct discharge by providing eco-friendly toilets in all trains, existing and new.

The so-called semi-high-speed train will run twice daily, except on Fridays, between Delhi and Agra–leaving in the morning from the Indian capital and returning the same evening. A ticket for a regular coach will cost 750 rupees ($11.35) and for double that price, one can travel in one of the two “executive” coaches. A standard ticket covering the same distance can cost between 300 and 500 rupees ($4.54 and $7.57).

Building a high-speed railway corridor is a pet project of Mr. Modi. In December, his cabinet approved a bid from Japan to build India’s first high-speed rail network. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed by 2023. It would cost about 980 billion rupees ($14.8 billion) and be financed by a low-interest loan from Japan.

The Gatiman Express will run on an existing railway line, modified slightly to meet its speed requirements.

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