Looking at the demand for premium and modern trains on the network, the Indian Railways decided to improve the quality of travel and upgraded several trains as well as brought a semi-high speed modern train like the Vande Bharat Express on several routes.
After coming to power in 2014, the Modi government focused on introducing state of the art modern trains on the Indian rail network.
The railways started to develop and produce Train 18 at its Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and in 2018 it was rolled out and later rechristened as Vande Bharat Express.
The first Vande Bharat Express train was flagged off between New Delhi and Varanasi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 15, 2019.
All the coaches of the Vande Bharat Express have a stainless steel car body equipped with automatic doors with sliding footsteps, onboard computers for train control and remote monitoring. The coaches also have a GPS-based audio-visual passenger information system, on-board hotspot Wi-Fi and comfortable seating arrangements.
An official said that the Vande Bharat since its introduction in service in February 2019 has connected 17 destinations till date.
And in the next one month, all states will get at least one Vande Bharat train connectivity, except the seven states in the North-East where the railway network has not been electrified 100 per cent.
So far, these trains have covered 21 states and UTs. Officials pointed out that the next three trains will start soon on the New Jalpaiguri-Guwahati, Ranchi-Patna and Mumbai-Goa routes. With the launch of the Vande Bharat on the New Jalpaiguri-Guwahati route, Assam will also be covered.
The official said that with the faster roll out of such semi-high speed trains, more cities will get Vande Bharat trains in the coming days.
According to the officials, these trains have ultra-modern features like quick acceleration, on board infotainment and Global Positioning System (GPS) based passenger information system, automatic sliding doors, retractable footsteps, zero discharge vacuum bio toilets etc.
Besides the Vande Bharat Express trains, the railways also focused on various new premium train services like Humsafar, Tejas, Antyodaya, Utkrisht Double Decker Air-Conditioned Yatri (UDAY), Mahamana and coaches like Deen Dayalu, with upgraded interiors and exteriors and improved passenger amenities.
These trains have been introduced in service in the last eight years.
To improve the passenger comfort, the railways also upgraded several trains under the project named Utkrish and Project Swarn.
The railways launched Project Utkrisht in April 2018 to improve the condition of ICF type coaches running in Mail or Express trains. And till March 2022, the railways completed the upgradation of 506 rakes of Mail and Express trains.
The railways launched Project Swarn in May 2017, and since then 65 rakes of the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains were upgraded across multiple dimensions, which include coach interiors, toilets, onboard cleanliness, staff behaviour, linen, etc.
After coming to power, the Prime Minister also emphasised on cleanliness in trains and at railway stations.
Following the Prime Minister's call, the railways first completed the fitment of bio-toilets in all its coaches running on the line. *Installation of bio toilets in all the coaches of the trains meant that railways saved 2.74 lakh litres of excreta on the railway tracks.
Keeping in mind the needs of the people, the railways also provided Wi-Fi connectivity at 6,108 railway stations since 2014.
For the seamless movement of the trains, the railways in the last nine years also doubled 14,337 km of the railway tracks, which is 180 per cent more as compared to 4,557 km between 2006 to 2014.
To attract tourists, the railways introduced state-of-the-art Vistadome coaches on the Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) platform in various trains. These coaches have several modern features and amenities providing panoramic views, through wider body side windows as well as through transparent sections in the roof, thus enabling the passengers to enjoy the scenic beauty of the places through which they travel.
The official said that 89 such coaches were manufactured for the first time from 2014-23.
The railways got the highest ever allocation of Rs 2.6 lakh crore in 2023-24 for fast tracking capacity building and infrastructure projects. The official said that the railways has utilised 100 per cent of GBS (gross budgetary sanction) and the highest ever capital expenditure of Rs 2.04 lakh crore in 2022-23.
To improve the passenger comfort, the railways undertook the task of redeveloping 1,275 stations under the Amrit Bharat Stations scheme and these will be iconic buildings with futuristic and flexible designs that will ensure seamless inter-connectivity of modes of transport with Gati Shakti and will have smooth traffic flow to and from the station.
The official said that the Gandhinagar Capital Station, Rani Kamlapati Railway station, Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal have been redeveloped while work is in progress at 52 other stations.
The railways has also been focusing on improving freight transport and it achieved the highest ever loading of 1,512 Million Tonne (MT) in 2022-23 which is 7 per cent more than the 1,418 MT in 2021-22.
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