Debating India

A historic day all the way for Indian Railways

Thursday 16 February 2006, by JOSHI*Sandeep

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WELCOME ABOARD: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav interacting with a mentally challenged child, prior to the flagging off of the fastest Shatabdi Express between New Delhi and Agra in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

ON BOARD SPECIAL DELHI-BHOPAL SHATABDI: History was made on the Indian Railways on Wednesday when the New Delhi-Bhopal Special Shatabdi Express clocked a top speed of 150 km per hour to become the country’s fastest train. At the trail-blazing speed, the train equipped with a new locomotive and improved ultra-modern coaches covered the distance of 196 km between the Capital and Agra — the City of the Taj — in less than two hours.

The train, to be thrown open to the public from Thursday, was flagged off by Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad from New Delhi station at 9-30 a.m. in the presence of cheering railway passengers and elated officials and field staff who had worked on the project for almost two years to make it possible. And as the train passed through midway stations and railway crossings en route Agra, people in large numbers stood along the tracks waving and clapping in excitement.

Guided by an upgraded signalling system, the Shatabdi cruised ahead on strengthened tracks after it crossed Tughlakhabad on the outskirts of Delhi, and thereafter up to Agra it was a non-stop run at 150 kmph all the way barring a couple of places where it had to slow down due to track repair work. It took 1 hour 55 minutes for it to hit Agra against the normal run of 2 hours 30 minutes.

The new train, which will cover the rest of the journey between Agra and Bhopal at its normal speed, will run six days a week while on Fridays the conventional rake will be used. Interestingly, the railway authorities have decided not to raise the fares on the new train that comes equipped with automatic sensor control devices and modern coaches to ensure enhanced comfort for passengers.

The braking system has also been upgraded, while technical upgrading of traction and signalling (long-visibility LED signals) has been carried out to ensure a safe and smooth ride. The low vibration coaches are soundproof. To ensure safety of those living near the tracks, concrete walls and fencing have been put up at stretches.

Apart from regular passengers and tourists, traders and others in Agra are ecstatic over the new arrival as they feel that it will give much-needed impetus to tourism. Railway officials hope that it will pave the way for increasing the speeds of other trains and introducing more trains on the line.

Apart from media persons and railway officials, about 150 special children of the Air Force Golden Jubilee Institute here also travelled on the new train. They not only enjoyed the ride but also visited the Taj Mahal, courtesy Indian Railways. "I am happy to travel on the new train. It is very beautiful and comfortable," said Manoj, a mentally challenged kid who is learning bag-making at the Institute.

See online : The Hindu

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