Two stories have dominated news cycles recently — launching the Ahmedabad–Mumbai Vande Bharat train and India being the fifth biggest economy. At first, the two seem unrelated. Vande Bharat may be a roadmap for India’s climb to worldwide prominence for an enlightened citizen. As the steel giant chugged into Mumbai Central on its inaugural trip, people flocked to take photos with it.
All this was justified. The Vande Bharat Express makes India’s semi-high-speed rail network more accessible and affordable. Aerodynamic design helps it reach 160 kph in under 140 seconds. Alternating power sources between carriages reduces travel time by 40–45% compared to regular express trains. Bio-vacuum toilets, reclining seats, onboard Wi-Fi, digital entertainment, and dust-free cabins make for a peaceful journey. The KAVACH anti-collision technology and improved fire and flood protection make this train as safe as your living room. 75 Vande Bharat trains constructed by ICF Chennai will be deployed by 2023.
Two of these trains have been placed into operation as of 2019, therefore it’s futile to question how they’re performing commercially. CRIS’s assessment shows that Vande Bharat has helped Indian Railways. The Delhi-Varanasi route produces Rs. 92.3 crores a year. Several migrant labourers in Varanasi told the PM they like this train since it takes them to their destination faster and gives them more time in their workweek. IBEF estimates that producing 400 Vande Bharat trains will generate Rs. 40,000 crores, create 15,000 jobs, and have a large economic multiplier effect.
Indian Railways must struggle through rising pains to expand Vande Bharat trains and maintain service levels. First, less than 1% of the track network can handle speeds beyond 120–130 kph due to inadequate design. Any predicted performance increase is harder to implement. Second, 400 Vande Bharat rakes in 3 years require substantial increases in production capacity and trained labour. Third, clients worries about food quality and personal safety may diminish the experience. Vande Bharat needs a coordinated effort to increase travel comfort and economic advantages.
Track doubling/tripling and rehabilitation should prioritise high-density routes. Despite recent advancements, more resources are needed to install technologies like Pre-Stressed Concrete (PSC) sleepers, greater Ultimate Tensile Strength (UTS) rails, Thick Web Switches (TWS), etc. Private railway engineering firms may be asked to bid on renewing some parts of the network, with strict quality and punctuality criteria. This must be done quickly, on a “war footing.”
ICF can give additional industrial facilities like MCF Raebareli, RCF Kapurthala, etc. with Train-18 technology to establish independent assembly lines. Incentivize the private sector to build industrial facilities to expand capacity. Using aluminium for rakes to reduce weight and boost aerodynamics may increase speed, capacity, and profitability. AC 3 tier has been a profitable decision for Indian Railways over the past five years, and Vande Bharat trains provide it. Combining government business orders with MSMEs incentives may accelerate a local vendor ecosystem. International passenger standards must be met. Private suppliers can be enlisted, and IRCTC base kitchens can be set up at specified halting sites for the uptake of required items en route. Rail Users’ Committees verify food quality often. Self-protection is important.
Cameras and automatic doors deter crime. RPF troops can be deployed as train marshals to man carriages in shifts, particularly ingress-egress points. At the policy level, the tariff structure must balance affordability and revenue growth, taking into account airline demand and competition. Dynamic ticket pricing alters prices and availability based on demand and time of day. Indian Railways could use differential pricing to attract overnight travellers and business or commuting passengers on Vande Bharat. Train departures and arrivals can be customised. Profitable services would allow lower prices. Vande Bharat may earn LCC passengers (LCCs).
Vande Bharat Trains can open secondary marketplaces. Adapting coaches to provide reliable, on-time delivery may boost the postal sector, raise revenues, and fuel e-commerce development. Train-18 costs roughly Rs. 6 crores per coach, one-fourth of the global average for similar designs. Train sets might be shipped to South Asia, Africa, and Latin America to earn foreign cash. Train-18 technology may be used for domestic metro systems based on train sets.
This might bring scale economies, streamlined operations, and coordinated train service providing. Ever-expanding possibilities. 76 years after independence, India wants to get from A to B fast and easily. Given this, we’re probably on the Vande Bharat train to revolutionary transportation. Those who utilised it as a backdrop in Mumbai Central were standing close to the gleaming New India.