The Indian Railways is the backbone of the country, employing lakhs of people and having a network that spans across the length and breadth of the country. Among many of its crown jewels is the Shatabdi Express, the fast passenger trains that are equipped with premium features. As part of the Railways' plan to increase the speeds of all long-distance passenger trains by 25km per hour by 2022, it has decided to replace the Shatabdi Express trains with much-awaited semi-high speed 'Train 18'. These trains will be loaded with state-of-the-art amenities and will be used for inter-city travel. The trains are being built under the Make in India initiative at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. They are the first self-propelled trains, which will reduce travel time and enhance passenger experience.
In recent years, the Railways has taken many initiatives to make train journey for passengers safer and faster. It is planning to construct 10,000 km of new high-speed corridors to run trains at the speed of 200-250 kmph. The introduction of Train 18, which will run at the top speed of 160 kmph, is one such initiative to replace premium trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi.
According to a report by IANS, the Indian Railways will start testing the 'Train 18' from September. The new train is expected to be rolled out following a thorough trial. The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), a technical adviser to the Indian Railways, will conduct the tests and give its validation to the train, says the report.
What are the features of this much-hyped Train 18? The train will have steel coaches with facilities like LED TV screens, diffused LED lighting system, GPS and infotainment. Facilities like automatic plug-type doors with retractable footsteps and rotational seats -- usually available for executive class -- will enhance passengers' comfort. Other facilities include zero discharge vacuum based bio-toilets, sealed gangways, roller blinds, divyang-friendly toilets, etc.
Just like a Metro train, Train 18 will not require an engine to run on tracks as it will self-propel on electric traction. Initially, six such trains will be built, but later the ICF could enhance the production, depending on the requirement. Apart from Train 18, the Railways will also roll out Train 20 by 2020. Train 18 will have a stainless steel body, and Train 20 will be made with aluminium.
Both these train are being manufactured at half the import cost under the government's Make in India programme. Reports suggest a Train 18 and Train 20 coach will cost around Rs 2.5 crore and Rs 5.5 crore, respectively.
The government wants to replace old trains with new hi-tech trains. It has already asked all zonal railway general managers to work on increasing the speed of long-distance passenger trains by 5kmph every year, thus reaching the target of 25kmph increase in speed by 2022.
(Edited by Manoj Sharma)