Vande Bharat Express Train: Necessity of Time or Luxury

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Vande Bharat Express, previously known as Train 18, is a semi-high-speed electric multiple unit train operated by Indian Railways on 6 routes as of December 2022. The declaration of plan to undertake indigenous manufacture of 400 new generation Vande Bharat express trains at Rs 130 crores in the recent budget for 22-23 presented by Finance Minister was welcomed by most analysts. Yet, there are some critics on Vande Bharat Express Trains. Government wants to showcase the Vande Bharat Express Production as ‘Make in India’ success story. Critics of Vande Bharat Express Services argue that Government must prioritize other social goals like food and education, and not create ‘luxuries’ like Vande Bharat Express trains that only rich can afford. Given the importance of this development of Vande Bharat Express Services, it is expected to be a hot GD and WAT Topic for Admission 2023 and beyond. MBAUniverse.com presents a review of this important GD Topic on Vande Bharat Express Train.

 

Why Vande Bharat is important - Background
India had since long planned to introduce a high-speed rail network. Safety and cost were the primary concerns for the Indian railways. Indian Railways went on to achieve speeds of 99 mph by the mid-2010s after the introduction of Gatimaan Express in 2016. The next logical step for Indian Railways was to build a modern higher-speed rail. When the Indian railways had floated a tender in June 2015, they found none of the bids to be viable and hence decided to move ahead to begin the Vande Bharat Express Manufacturing first set and if successfully inaugurated, to go ahead with further produce the Vande Bharat Express Train versions on various routes completely in India. In early 2017, it was planned that the indigenous (EMU) semi-high-speed train, with modern facilities onboard, would run at a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). Two new train sets were announced to be manufactured in ICF and were named 'Train-2018' since the manufacturing of these semi-high-speed services were targeted for completion in the year 2018.

 

After four years of planning, manufacturing, and testing, Train 18, now Vande Bharat Express Inauguration was done on 15 February 2019. The first Vande Bharat Express Route (Named Train 18 at that time) was from New Delhi to Varanasi. Soon Train 18 was renamed as 'Vande Bharat Express' by Railway minister. The  Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the Vande Bharat Express inaugural run-on 15 February 2019, with its commercial run starting from 17 February 2019. The first Vande Bharat Express route is from Delhi to Varanasi, via Kanpur and Prayagraj, connecting the holy city of Varanasi to the Capital city, reducing travel time along the route by 15%. 

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What are Vande Bharat Trains?

  • It is an indigenously designed and manufactured semi high speed, self-propelled train that is touted as the next major leap for the Indian Railways in terms of speed and passenger convenience since the introduction of Rajdhani trains.
  • The first Vande Bharat was manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai as part of the ‘Make in India’ programme, at a cost of about Rs. 100 crore.
  • The Vande Bharat express production was India’s first attempt at adaptation of the train set technology compared with conventional systems of passenger coaches hauled by separate locomotives.
  • The Vande Bharat Express Manufacturing first set configuration, though complex, is faster, easier to maintain, consumes less energy, and has greater flexibility in train operation.

What are the Features of the Vande Bharat Trains?

  • These trains, dubbed as Train 18 during the development phase, operate without a locomotive and are based on a propulsion system called distributed traction power technology, by which each car of the train set is powered.
  • Vande Bharat Express Speed can go up to a maximum of 160 kmph due to faster acceleration and deceleration, reducing journey time by 25% to 45%.
  • It also has an intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient.

What are the Features of Vande Bharat 2.0?

  • The Vande Bharat Express 2.0 offers a myriad of superior and aircraft-like travelling experiences.
  • It is equipped with advanced state-of-the-art safety features including an indigenously developed Train Collision Avoidance System - KAVACH.
  • In the new design of Vande Bharat Express, a photo-catalytic ultraviolet air purification system is installed in the Roof-Mounted Package Unit (RMPU) for air purification.

Vande Bharat Express Train versions

  1. Vande Bharat: The Vande Bharat was designed and manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) under the leadership of Sudhanshu Mani as part of the Make in India initiative. It was originally called Train 18. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced on 26 January 2019 that the train would be named Vande Bharat Express.
  1. Vande Bharat 2 (VB2) The VB2 Vande Bharat express speed can accelerate to 100 km/h in 52 seconds compared to the 54.6 seconds taken to reach the same speed by the older version. Vande Bharat express speed can reach at 160 km/h in 140 seconds, 5 seconds faster than the first generation Vande Bharat. VB2 is also lighter weighing 392 tonnes compared to 430 tonnes for the previous version. VB2 is equipped with the Kavach train protection system. Trial runs for the Vande Bharat 2 (VB2) were completed on 9 September 2022. The first VB2 rake entered service on 30 September 2022. A total of 102 VB2 trainsets have been ordered by Indian Railways. As of October 2022, four VB2s have been built, and about half a dozen are under production at ICF. Sudhanshu Mani said, “Now that ICF has already developed four such trains and have got a hang of the process, they can easily roll out three-four trains per month and around 40 by 15 August next year.”
  1. Vande Bharat 3 (VB3) The Vande Bharat 3 trainset will introduce sleeper coaches for the first time. It will have three classes - AC-1, AC-2 and AC-3. The VB3 is expected to have a maximum speed of 180 km/h and design life of 35 years. The VB3 is expected to be lighter, more energy efficient, and have better passenger amenities than the VB2. Half of the VB3 trainsets have coaches made of steel, while the other half are made of aluminium with articulated bogies.
  1. Vande Bharat 4 (VB4) The fourth generation Vande Bharat trains will have a higher maximum speed of 200 km/h. VB4 coaches will be made of light-weight aluminium alloy. The VB4 is expected to feature improved passenger amenities such as 3-pin socket and USB power socket for every passenger, zero discharge toilet systems, and facilities to accommodate passengers traveling in wheelchairs. At least half of all VB4 trainsets are expected to be tilting trains, which would be the first time the technology is commercially deployed in India. The first VB4 rake is expected to enter service in 2026.
  1. Vande Bharat Express Service as on December 2022 Vande Bharat Express train services are available at following routes as on December 2022. It may be noted that Vande Bharat Express ticket price is higher than Shatabdi or other super fast trains. The upcoming Vande Bharat train services will also have sleeper facility, which is not presently available.
Originating station Terminal station Train Name Distance Inauguration Major Halts Only
New Delhi Varanasi Junction New Delhi - Varanasi Vande Bharat Express 759 km (472 mi) 15-Feb-19 Kanpur Central and Prayagraj Junction
New Delhi Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra New Delhi - Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Vande Bharat Express 655 km (407 mi) 03-Oct-19 Ludhiana Junction and Jammu Tawi
Mumbai Central Gandhinagar Capital Mumbai Central - Gandhinagar Capital Vande Bharat Express 522 km (324 mi) 30-Sep-22 Vapi, Surat, Vadodara Junction and Ahmedabad Junction
New Delhi Amb Andaura New Delhi - Amb Andaura Vande Bharat Express 412 km (256 mi) 13-Oct-22 Chandigarh Junction
MGR Chennai Central Mysuru Junction MGR Chennai Central - Mysuru Vande Bharat Express 496 km (308 mi) 11-Nov-22 Katpadi Junction and KSR Bengaluru
Bilaspur Junction Nagpur Junction Bilaspur - Nagpur Vande Bharat Express 412 km (256 mi) 11 December 2022[82] Raipur Junction, Durg Junction, Rajnandgaon and Gondia Junction[83]

Challenges
With the latest edition of the Vande Bharat train, India made a huge leap into the future of mass transportation. However, it has also raised questions, as the poor may not be able to afford these trains. Vande Bharats are sleek, modern trains; but are currently being run at much less the design speed. In the coming months, travel time on the Vande Bharat will need to be reduced. As is the case, traditional loco-hauled trains already have the capability to run at speeds of 160 kmph but are being operated at lesser speed because of the absence of matching infrastructure. 

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