Critics say much-touted underslung trains will face their first litmus test when they try to navigate low-lying areas and ghats during the rains
A Vande Bharat Express train at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on February 10. File Pic/Satej Shinde
This monsoon may be a litmus test for the iconic Vande Bharat Express trains, especially on Central Railway (CR), where flooding is seen in low-lying areas of railway lines and making ascents and descents on the steep mountain ranges of the Sahyadri ghats at Khandala and Igatpuri is challenging. With underslung motors near the wheelbase, critics have raised concerns about water-logging.
Negotiating steep gradients without banking engines in the monsoon could also be a challenging task. Railway officials, however, said they were fully prepared to face the challenges and claimed there would be minimal problems with the rakes and their maintenance. Four Vande Bharat Express trains run from Maharashtra at present, including three from the city: Mumbai-Gandhinagar, Mumbai-Solapur and Mumbai-Sainagar Shirdi. The fourth one is the Nagpur-Bilaspur train. Maharashtra got its first Vande Bharat train on September 30, 2022, which travelled between Mumbai and Gandhinagar.
Of the Vande Bharat trains from Mumbai, one passes through the Khandala Ghat to Solapur via Pune and another passes through the Igatpuri ghat section to Shirdi via Nashik. On February 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off these Vande Bharat Express trains, which had been the first in Railways' 150-year history to climb two different ghat sections that have the country's steepest gradient of 1:37, where there is a one-metre rise every 37 metres, without any banking locomotives. mid-day had highlighted this historic achievement in its February 3 edition.
A retired railway official said, “The Mumbai monsoon will be the litmus test for the city’s Vande Bharat trains, especially on CR, since the train has underslung motors and climbs steep inclines in the ghats without banking locomotives. We need to see if the two Vande Bharat trains from Mumbai will be able to face challenges since it is their very first monsoon in the city after the launch of the passenger service. The railways will need to take additional precautions about their maintenance, including roof leaks, water-proofing the motors and adhering and maintaining all safety norms.”
The Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat train flagged off on May 18 was hit by lightning and a hailstorm within a week of its launch, which cracked the windscreen of the driver’s cabin; and the services had to be cancelled for a day to repair the train. Railway officials maintain that the train had been extensively tested under all conditions and flooding and gradients would not make much of a difference. “We will be taking enough safety precautions as per the standard operating practice over the years and are also taking up stringent maintenance. The trains should not face any problems in the monsoon,” a CR official said.
The makers of the Vande Bharat train are also confident that the monsoon will pose no challenges. Former General Manager of Integral Coach Factory Sudhanshu Mani, known as the father of Vande Bharat (Train 18) trains, had earlier told mid-day that the underslung unit has been fitted in such a way that the train can run even on flooded tracks at a low speed.
Iconic Punjab Mail completes 111 years
One of the oldest trains on CR, the Punjab Mail turned 111 years on June 1. The Punjab Mail, or Punjab Limited as she was then called, steamed out in 1912. To begin with, there were the P&O steamers bringing in mail and officers of the Raj, along with their wives, on their first posting in colonial India. The steamer voyage between Southampton and Bombay lasted thirteen days. “As the British officials held combined tickets for their voyage to Bombay as well as their inland journey by train to their place of posting, they would, after disembarking, simply board one of the trains bound for either Madras, Calcutta or Delhi,” CR Chief Public Relations Officer Dr Shivraj Manaspure said.
The Punjab Limited (circa 1913)
“The Punjab Limited used to run on fixed mail days from Bombay’s Ballard Pier Mole station all the way to Peshawar, via the GIPR route, covering 2,496 km in about 47 hours. The train comprised six cars: three for passengers, and three for postal goods and mail. The passenger-carrying cars could accommodate 96 people only. During the pre-partition period, the Punjab Limited was the fastest train in British India. The Punjab Limited’s route ran over GIPR track for the large part, and passed through Itarsi, Agra, Delhi and Lahore, before terminating at Peshawar Cantonment. The train began originating and terminating at Victoria Terminus (now CSMT) in 1914,” he added.
Deccan Queen turns 93
The modern version of the train
The iconic Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen train completed 93 years of public service today. The introduction of the Deccan Queen between the premier cities of Maharashtra on June 1, 1930, was a landmark in the history of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the forerunner of CR. This was the first deluxe train to serve two important cities of the region and was aptly named after Pune, the Queen of Deccan (Dakkhan ki Rani). It is the only regular passenger train that has a dining car. Initially, the train was introduced with two rakes of seven coaches each, one of which was painted silver with scarlet mouldings and the other royal blue with gold lines. The under frames of the coaches of the original rakes were built in England while the coach bodies were built in the GIPR’s Matunga Workshop.
Day Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat was flagged off