Tuesday’s launch of Gatimaan Express — India’s fastest train — held a huge symbolic value for many.
It was a proud moment for loco pilot Pankaj Garg, who received hundreds of congratulatory messages from friends and relatives throughout the day.
Rail enthusiasts and passengers experienced many exhilarating moments and were busy clicking selfies with the flower-bedecked train in the background.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has been able to showcase his vision of a passenger-centric work culture that he wants the railways to adopt.
Much has been said about the Gatimaan speed, which takes ten minutes less to cover the Delhi-Agra distance than the Bhopal Shatabdi, which was the country’s fastest train until Tuesday.
But the Gatimaan’s real USP is its passenger interface. Train hosts and hostesses greet every passenger with a pleasant smile; the food served is surprisingly appealing; the infotainment systems actually work and bathrooms are clean.
“But these are early days yet,” cautioned Rajesh, a Delhi businessman who took a day off to take the “joy ride”. “Multiple departments have worked endlessly over the past months to ensure success of the Gatimaan. The gain in speed may not be too substantial, but it is good that people have started to talk about the need to increase the speed,” divisional railway manager of Delhi, Arun Arora, said.
Indian railway systems have had the capability to run trains at 200 kilometers per hour. “Problems in speeding up have come on account of external factors such as difficulties in putting up fences besides tracks ,” a senior ministry official said.
The Gatimaan also remains a ‘work in progress’. Of the total track length of 188 kilometers between Delhi and Agra, only about 90 kilometers have been fenced. In some sections, tracks and signaling systems need renewal. The train protection and warning systems (tpws) also need to be extended from Haryana’s Palwal to Agra.“But the important thing is that a beginning has been made. The journey has been a feel-good experience. It can only get better from here,” said Ashwin Joseph, a rail enthusiast.