A new superfast train service was launched on Friday between Kolkata and New Delhi that will cut short the travelling time by 90 minutes and offer added amenities to passengers.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee flagged off the first Duronto Express - Duronto means speedy in Bengali - at the Sealdah railway station in Kolkata, fulfilling the promise she made in this year's railway budget.
The train, painted with splashes of colours, will cover the 1,454 km distance between Sealdah and New Delhi 90 minutes quicker than the Rajdhani Express, as there will be no commercial stops.
While the Rajdhani Express completes the journey in 18 hours, Duronto will take 16 hours and 30 minutes.
"I think running an express train like Duronto is an achievement for all of us. We all are heading for a new world. Thus our ideas should also be modern," Banerjee said.
"We announced altogether 14 such trains in this year's railway budget and many of them are already ready. We'll gradually launch all these trains," she said.
The train will adhere to the speed limit of 110 kmph.
Another Duronto Express will be flagged off between Chennai and New Delhi next week. The non-stop, superfast trains will also connect other metros in due course.
"In up direction, the train will leave Sealdah at 6.40 p.m. and reach New Delhi at 11.00 next morning. So the passengers of this train will be able to utilise the whole day for their work," Banerjee said.
The Sealdah-New Delhi Duronto will have one AC I-tier coach, three AC II-tier coaches, four AC III-tier coaches and five economy AC III-tier coaches besides generator cars.
The Duronto rakes comprise ICF coaches used in the Rajdhanis and Garib Raths earlier. The Garib Raths had AC III-tier coaches that could accommodate more passengers than usual.
Each Duronto coach is 24 metres long, compared to the regular coach length of 22.3 metres. The distance between coaches is less too - 460 mm instead of the regular 960 mm.
Besides safety and hygiene features like dustbins and fire extinguishers, the coaches have sleeker designs for bottle holders and switches, mobile charging points, sliding transparent doors between coaches, and LED night lamps instead of regular fluorescent lights.
The train is built of stainless steel, which is lighter, anti-corrosive and more durable than the conventional 'cotton steel'. An important safety feature is the central buffer couplers whose enhanced load capacity makes the train derailment-proof.
The fare structure, including the cost of food, will be Rs 3,295 for AC first-class, Rs 1,880 for AC two-tier, Rs 1,390 for AC three-tier and Rs 1,335 for AC three-tier economy class.
"Indian Railways is the most grassroots organisation. Thus, we've not increased the fare structure keeping in mind the interests of poor and middle-class people who travel by train," the minister said.
She also pointed out the Indian Railways was also mulling various long-term and short-term policies to improve the existing passenger amenities.
"We must develop our facilities available with the railways to facilitate women, senior citizens and physically challenged passengers," she said.