Train 18 might still have some time before it is formally set on rails but it has already become the face of a new Indian Railways. The semi-high speed train, indigenously developed and built by the ICF, integrates speeds of 180 kmph with luxury. This heralds a new era in rail travel in the country. More importantly, it marks a quantum leap for Indian Railways: from struggling with outdated technologies and models to a rail transport system on par with global standards.
Train 18 is revolutionary in every sense for India. It exudes swank and has state-of-the-art features like automatic doors, sliding footsteps and revolving seats to align with the direction of travel. It redefines passenger comfort in rail travel.
Train 18 has already begun to draw eyes with many countries, particularly in South East Asia, Middle East and South America showing interest in the flagship locomotive. And why not? The Made-In-India locomotive will offer everything at a substantially lower price. Against `250 crore for trains of the same standard, Train 18 costs only around `100 crore. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Indian Railways as well as the Make In India initiative.
The Railways has demonstrated its capabilities by taking Train 18 from an idea to reality in sharp 18 months. It should now forge ahead and announce itself as a major player in the international loco-market. On the domestic front though, much work remains to be done. The train will debut on the Delhi-Varanasi route but in order to expand its services, extensive upgradation of tracks and railway system needs to be done.
It is reported that only 0.3 per cent of existing tracks in the country can sustain speeds of 160 kmph and beyond. However, the transformation of Railways in recent years in terms of improvement in rail safety, facilities, services and amenities on trains as well as upgradation of stations is commendable. From now onwards, it should only be a forward march.