It’s the world’s fourth-largest rail network that ferries about 23 million passengers a day, but most of India’s colonial-era trains have still been rattling along at an unhurried pace for decades.
Until now. Since the start of this month, nearly 90 trains, including three Rajdhanis and two Shatabdis, have cut running times by up to two hours thanks largely to faster speeds and measures such as reducing the number of halts.
Passengers on the Mumbai Rajdhani, for example, now spend 25 minutes less on a journey that normally took 15 hours and 50 minutes. The Puri-Gandhidhan Express, which took 37 hours and 55 minutes on the journey, now takes just 36 hours to complete the trip. Similarly, travel time on the Yeshwantpur-Ahmedabad Express has also been reduced by 75 minutes from 35 hours and 10 minutes.
It’s a pleasant surprise for passengers on the 64,500-km network. Average speeds on Mail and Express trains on the list have increased from 55 km per hour to 58 km per hour, while those of the three Rajdhanis are up from 74 km per hour to 76 km per hour.
“It is a small but momentous beginning towards the task of scaling up rail operations and taking them to the next level. Travel time reduction -- achieved through faster acceleration and related factors such as reduction in technical train halts – has been attained at a minimal cost of less than Rs 5 crore,” said a senior Railways official said.
“All norms on passenger safety have been complied with. Tracks on the Indian Railways are capable of running trains at speeds of 200 km per hour.”
The ministry’s speed team used a multi-pronged approach to accomplish the task, including the removal of slow speed barriers at certain locations and changes in the course of trains at crossings.
It’s a big change for the Indian Railways where speeds have remained the same for decades and in some cases have come down because of continuous clogging of networks.
“Technical inputs received from the Japan Railways came in handy,” an official said, adding that the speeding up plan would be extended to other trains on the mainline route in the coming months.