|Vande Bharat Express|
|Service type||Higher-speed rail|
|First service||15 February 2019|
|Disabled access||Accessible toilets for the disabled|
|Catering facilities||On-board catering|
|Observation facilities||Large windows in all carriages|
|Baggage facilities||Overhead racks|
|Rolling stock||Vande Bharat rake|
|Track gauge||Indian gauge|
1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz AC 1-phase|
|Operating speed||130 km/h (81 mph)|
|Average length||376.64 metres (1,235.7 ft)|
The Vande Bharat Express, also known as Train 18, is an Indian semi-high-speed, intercity, EMU train which was designed and manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Chennai under the Indian government's Make in India initiative, over a span of 18 months. The unit cost of the first rake was estimated at ₹100 crore (US$13 million), although it is expected to go down with subsequent production. At the original price, it is estimated to be 40% cheaper than a similar train imported from Europe. The train was launched on 15 February 2019, by which date a second unit will have been produced and readied for service. The service was named 'Vande Bharat Express' on 27 January 2019. As of Aug 2021, the Indian Railways operates two Vande Bharat trains, one from Delhi to Varanasi and the other from Delhi to Katra. In January 2021, Indian Railways awarded the contract for supply of propulsion and control equipment of 44 rakes to Medha Servo Drives, based at Hyderabad.
Vande Bharat Express is designed to be capable of running at a maximum speed of 200 km/h (120 mph), but the tracks on which the train operates are not capable of supporting such high speeds, hence the train is operated at a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph). During the trials it achieved a record speed of 180 km/h (110 mph). This made it the fastest train to run in India and the second fastest operating train in India, behind the Gatimaan Express which operates at 160 km/h (99 mph).
India for a long period had plans to introduce a high-speed rail network to catch up with the rapidly growing world. But more than the speed and shortening travel time, the safety and cost were the primary concerns for the Indian railways. Some of the railway experts said that India has lagged in the high-speed transit technology race because it was very expensive and the Indian Railways had to deal with safety and its ageing tracks first. However, the Indian railways aimed at increasing the then-existing maximum speed of 85 km/h (53 mph) to 150 km/h (93 mph) in the coming years.
The Indian Railways went on to achieve the 99 miles per hour mark by the mid-2010s after the introduction of Gatimaan Express in 2016, which is still the fastest operating train to date. The next logical step for Indian Railways was to build a modern higher-speed rail. When the Indian railways had floated a tender in June 2015, they found none of the bids to be viable and hence decided to move ahead to build it completely in India. In early 2017, it was planned that the indigenous engine-less (EMU) semi-high-speed train, with modern facilities onboard would run at a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). Two new train sets were announced to be manufactured in ICF and were named 'Train-2018' since the manufacturing of these semi-high-speed services were targeted for completion in the year 2018.
The manufacturing of 'Train-2018' was finally completed in October of 2018 and it was rolled out. It consisted of 80% indigenous parts while 20% was imported. It was planned to replace the then-existing 30-year-old Shatabdi Express, which takes 15% longer time to complete the same journey. Since it took 18 months to be manufactured, it was renamed to 'Train 18'. During its test runs, the train achieved a record speed of 180 km/h which made it the fastest train to ever run in India.
After four years of planning, manufacturing and trial run, Train 18 was finally inaugurated on 15 February 2019 and was ready to write a new chapter in the history books of Indian Railways, with the commercial services beginning from New Delhi to Varanasi. It was soon renamed to 'Vande Bharat Express' by Railway minister.
After the success of the first two services between New Delhi–Varanasi and New Delhi–Katra, the Railway Board gave the approval to ICF to manufacture 45 new Vande Bharat train sets by 2021-22 when India celebrates its 75 years of Independence. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was 12.5% loss in annual production capacity, adding to this was other administrative issues, which further delayed the production of new rakes. However, the new Union minister decided to move ahead with the schedule and asked the officials to build 10 trains by August 2022.
The Vande Bharat Express's exterior appearance consists of aerodynamic design, narrowing at each end of the train which is designed to combat air resistance. It also has a driver cabin at each end, allowing for faster turnaround at terminating stations. The train has 16 passenger cars, with a seating capacity of 1,128 passengers. Two of the center compartments are first class compartments that seat 52 each, with the rest being coach compartments seating 78 each.
Alternate coaches are motorised to ensure even distribution of power and to help in quicker acceleration and deceleration. The gangways are interconnected and fully sealed to allow better mobility between coaches and to reduce noise respectively. The train also features GPIS-based passenger information system, bio-vacuum toilets, and rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (only in executive class).
The train's seats, braking system, doors, and transformers are the only elements of the train to be outsourced, with plans to make them domestically on the production of the next unit. Train 18 employs a regenerative braking system.
Indian Railways and ICF were also planning the development of Train 20, another semi-high speed train that was supposed to replace the Rajdhani Express. This new train was planned to have Aluminium body with sleeper coaches. Indian Railways also had planned to order 40 train sets of Train 18 by 2022, which would include modified cabin crash guard made out of aluminium along with a lithium-ion battery set.
After the government had announced 75 new sets of Vande Bharat Express to be ready by August 2023, ICF is set to build an upgraded version of these rakes and has planned to test the two prototypes on trial runs by March 2022.
In addition to the previous facilities, the second version of this train will include upgraded amenities, seating, security and surveillance systems and the features designed for emergencies. When it comes to the safety features, the new rakes will be equipped with four emergency windows, disaster lights in all coaches in the event of light system's failure, fire survival cables inside of door circuits, availability of ventilation for three hours in case of Air Conditioner's power failure and emergency push buttons will also be increased to four per coach.
The new coaches are also set to be equipped with a centralised Coach Monitoring System for all types of electricity, climate control and other vital systems of the train. To address the seat reclining issues of the previous version, the new rakes will be equipped with a push-back arrangement for smooth reclining. An official added that the new coaches will be provided with a bacteria-free air conditioning system and higher flood protection of underframe equipment to ensure reliability during monsoons.
The train's first trial run occurred on 29 October 2018 in Chennai, focusing on crew orientation and testing the train's brakes, with further testing scheduled to be done in Delhi on 7 November and later in Rajasthan. An Indian Railways official reported that "some fuses went off" during the trial in Chennai, but that the issue was minor and quickly fixed. The train ended up leaving for Delhi later than expected, on 11 November, and arrived on 13 November.
Testing was set to commence along a section of track between Bareilly and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh on 17 November, but the location was subsequently changed to the stretch of rail between Moradabad and Rampur due to unspecified issues with the initial section of track. The Moradabad–Rampur testing occurred at low speeds ranging from 30–60 km/h (19–37 mph). After the lower-speed testing, the train was moved to a section of track between Kota and Sawai Madhopur to be tested at operating speed. A team put together by India's Research Design and Standards Organisation will supervise the testing and give the go-ahead for the final speed test.
During its trials, Train 18 reached speeds of 180 km/h (110 mph), the highest speed any train in India has reached in the trials but the due to speed limit of railway track of routes which used by Vande Bharat Express, the actual top operating speed is restricted to 130 km/h (81 mph). The train is capable of peak speed of up to 200 km/h (120 mph).
On 20 December 2018, one of the train's window was smashed by a thrown stone and the glass was shattered during its trial run from Delhi to Agra. The ICF's general manager, Sudhanshu Manu tweeted that a Vandal pelted a stone which broke the glass and hoped to nab him soon.
The train flagged off for an inaugural run by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, on 15 February 2019, with its commercial run started from 17 February 2019 onwards. It will be running on the Delhi–Varanasi route, via Kanpur and Prayagraj, connecting the holy city of Varanasi to the Capital city, reducing travel time along the route by 15 percent. The train's regenerative brakes are also expected to allow a 30% savings in electricity costs as compared to its predecessor. At an operating speed of 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph), it will outpace the Shatabdi Express by 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph). Although the trainset has been tested for speeds up to 180 km/h, operational speed has been capped at 130 km/h as an internal report by Indian Railways indicated that just 0.3% of the country's track is capable of supporting speeds of that magnitude. Every other car on the train is motorised. The 8-hour journey from New Delhi to Varanasi station has the Chair Car CC Class fare of ₹1,440.00 and covers the total distance of about 762 kilometers.
|No.||Train Name||Train No.||Zone||Frequency||Distance||Speed (km/h)||Inauguration||Operator|
|Maximum permissible speed||Average speed|
|1||Varanasi Junction - New Delhi Vande Bharat Express||22435/22436||NER, NR||5 days a week||759 km (472 mi)||130 km/h (81 mph)||94 km/h (58 mph) ||15 February 2019||Indian Railways|
|2||New Delhi - Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Vande Bharat Express||22439/22440||NR||6 days a week||655 km (407 mi)||130 km/h (81 mph)||82 km/h (51 mph) ||3 October 2019||Indian Railways|
After the train's inauguration, it created a buzz in India as well as in other parts of the world. Rajesh Agarwal, the Member of Rolling stock in Indian Railways is hoping to export the train to Middle-eastern, South-east Asian, South American, North American and European countries. The Indian Railways have also reportedly received queries of interest from some of the Southeast Asian and South American countries such as Peru, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and from some of the Middle-east countries. These countries have shown interest of purchasing the train sets because the average cost of a coach is around 6 crores which is four times lower than the world's average cost of 24-25 crores per coach and also for the fact that the train is passenger and environment friendly, as stated by Agarwal. He added that the train can be modified according to foreign needs.