New Delhi: Cleaner, modern and punctual Shatabdis and Rajdhanis – don’t rub your eyes! If Suresh Prabhu-led Indian Railways is able to make its plan work, then pan-India these two train services may get a major makeover – and soon! Under a new project – ‘Operation Swarn’ (Gold) – Indian Railways is looking to upgrade Shatabdis and Rajdhanis in the coming months. A senior official in the Railway Ministry told FE Online that the project will see the light of the day by September this year.
According to the official the Railway Ministry has identified 10 key areas or parameters that require attention. These include cleanliness, linen, coach interiors, toilets, catering among other things. Wi-fi, coffee vending machines and infotainment screens may also form part of this upgrade plan. Punctuality of these premier trains has also been identified as an important focus area.
Initially the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express and Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi are likely to get an upgrade. “Rs 50 lakh each will be allotted to Rajdhanis and Shatabdis on various routes in a phased manner so that we can upgrade them for better customer experience and satisfaction,” the railway official told FE Online.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has time and again stressed on the need to improve passenger experience. Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express – two of Indian Railways’ premier train services have faced criticism over several years for deteriorating service standards and punctuality issues. ‘Operation Swarn’ is aimed at addressing these issues and bringing the quality and service standards of these trains to levels similar to the newly launched trains – Tejas Express and Humsafar Express.
Tejas Express is a modern chair car that offers personalised 9-inch LED infotainment screens and other airline-like features such as bio-vaccum toilets, attendant call buttons and reading lights. Tejas Express has recently been introduced on the Mumbai-Goa route, and has been designed to travel at speeds up to 200 kmph. However, given the track conditions, the train will not ply above 130 kmph. Tejas Express – called the future of train travel in India – will also be introduced on the Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Chandigarh routes.
On the other hand, Humsafar Express is a fully air-conditioned three-tier train service that has coffee vending machines, CCTV camera for safety, advanced fire and smoke detection systems and more comfortable seats for overnight travel. According to Prabhu, Humsafar and Tejas “will ensure cost recovery by way of tariff and non-tariff measures”.
In Railway Budget 2016, Prabhu spoke of ‘Mission Raftaar’ – an ambitious initiative to double the average speeds of freights trains and increasing the average speed of superfast mail/express trains by 25 kmph in the next 5 years. Shatabdis and Rajdhanis would form an important part of this mission – a fact that means that your travel experience on these premier trains is likely to get better in the coming months and years.