With band bajaa sans baarat and shehnai playing in the background, India's fastest train, Gatimaan Express for Agra from Nizamuddin station was flagged off by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Running at 160 kms per hour, it is currently the fastest train in India.
An excited Ministry of Railways tweeted: The launch of this heralds a new era of high speed rail travel in India.
Initial plans was to launch the Gatimaan semi-high speed service on the same route in 90 minutes.
However, the speed obstacles during the trial runs put a brake on the plan and it was relaxed to 100 minutes.
The originating station too was then changed from New Delhi to Nizamuddin. Tracks have been tilted at a few places to negotiate curves at higher speeds.
By definition, is Gatimaan high speed?
There is no single global standard in excess of 250 km per hour for high speed rail. Existing lines in excess of 200 km per hour are widely considered to be high-speed, with some extending the definition to include much lower speeds (e.g. 160 km/h) in areas for which these speeds still represent significant improvements.
Gatimaan Express is the first semi-high speed service in railways that runs at a speed of 160 kmph and is expected to cover the 200 km distance in 100 minutes. In other words, it is a semi-bullet train.
The Shatabdi Express, the fastest train in the country until Gatimaan Express, covers the same route of 192-km distance between Delhi and Agra in 118 minutes.
What is special about the Gatimaan Express?
Equipped with 5,400 HP electric locomotive 'WAP 5', and balanced draft gear couplers for a smooth ride, the train has two Executive AC Chair Car and eight AC Chair Car coaches, not seen in any other trains in the country so far. The new LHB (Linke-Hofmann-Busch) coaches are fabricated at Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala.
The train will have a high-power emergency braking system, automatic fire alarm, GPS-based passenger information system and sliding doors in the coaches.
The coaches are fitted with bio-toilets. Each coach costs a phenomenal Rs 2.5 crores.
There will be TV screens on each seat, like in flights.
The train will have hostesses to welcome passengers with roses and usher them to their seats with soft music playing in the coaches.
The 12050 Nizamuddin - Agra - Nizamuddin Gatiman Express will run six days a week except Friday in both directions. The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
According to the schedule, the train will start journey from Nizamuddin at 8.10 AM and reach Agra at 9.50 AM.
In the return direction, the Gatiman Express will depart from Agra at 5.50 PM to reach Nizamuddin at 7.30 PM.
The Gatimaan Express will have best possible services matching flight services in catering, according to the railways.
Indian and continental cuisine will be served. Passengers will have an assortment of food to choose from such as wholewheat upma, mini dosa, Kanjeevaram idli, fresh cut fruits, aloo kulcha with Swiss roll, roasted dry fruit and chicken roll. Chicken sausages with Spanish egg white omelette and date walnut slice cakes will also be served in bone china crockery.
So, at what price?
The fare is 25 percent higher than the Shatabdi Express. The fare for chair car in fully air-conditioned Gatimaan Express has been fixed at Rs 690, while for Executive Class it will be Rs 1,365. In Delhi-Agra Shatabadi Express, the chair car fare is Rs 540 and Rs 1,040 for Executive Class. In comparison, a quick check on Makemytrip reveals that AC bus fare in the route comes in the range of Rs 400-450 for 24-hour advance booking.
So next time you want to visit Taj Mahal, you could take this desi-bullet train.