AILING, BUT SOME PUSH… Indian Railways starts its first "corporate" train service from Oct 5

NEW DELHI : Indian Railways, ailing for long due to governmental disinterest, mismanagement by the Railway Board, and lack of initiatives and funds, may change slightly for the better now. The first privately managed train, the Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express, starts its regular services from October 5, Saturday. There, though, is nothing big to crow about. More such train services are on the anvil.

The train’s maiden journey was flagged off by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from Lucknow on Friday. A train of the Indian Railways, it will be run by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). The regular service from tomorrow will cover the distance of 535km between Delhi and Lucknow in six hours and 15 minutes. The average speed could be about 90km per hour — a far cry from world standards in rail speed. “This is the first corporate train in the country. I congratulate the first batch of passengers,” said the chief minister.
The train has some specialties. It will offer a refund to travellers if the train is delayed. If it delays for over an hour, passengers will get a compensation of 100. For a delay of two hours and more, the compensation will be 250.
This apart, the IRCTC would provide passengers an exclusive luggage pick-and-drop service. “IRCTC will pick your luggage from home and deliver it in the train and again deliver it from the train to your destination.”
All passengers travelling by Tejas Express will be provided a free insurance of up to 25 lakh by IRCTC. Tickets can be booked on Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express via IRCTC website or its mobile app. There will be no booking at railway reservation counters.

The ticket prices for the entire stretch will be 1,125 for AC chair car and 2,310 for executive chair car. A ticket on the reverse journey will cost 1,280 for AC chair car passengers and 2,450 for those opting for executive chair car. Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express will have advance reservation period of 60 days. There will be no facility of ‘tatkal’ ticket in Tejas Express.
From October 5, the train will run six days a week, and take an off on Tuesdays. The train will begin its journey from Lucknow at 6.10am, and reach Delhi at 12.25pm. On its return journey, the train will leave New Delhi at 4.30pm and reach Lucknow at 10.45 pm. 
Meanwhile, the Railway Board has asked zonal railways to consider the feasibility of running private trains on 50 key routes including Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah.

Successive Indian governments failed to give required attention to the Railways sector. In the past decades, railway services in China grew manifold and today matches world standards in relation to  high speed of trains and the like. Trains in China run at an average speed of 300km per hour, while in India, it is difficult to achieve a set target of over 100km per hour. Big talks by Narendra Modi government in its first term proved to be hollow. 

The five years of Modi could not effect any noticeable change to the Railways sector, other than gimmicks like introduction of the Tejas express. A public sector service that ran in high profits in the past is running in loss today, while the sector sees high levels of corruption. Not just the Railway Board, as was evident in the Pavan Bansal case, but even leftist trade union leaders in the railway sector too are part of several corruption rackets . 

The Modi era in Delhi saw disbandment of a separate budget for the Railways, a system that was in practice since Independence, and instead a merger of the railway budget proposals with the annually introduced Union Budget for passage in Parliament. Ministers who held the railways under Modi were themselves allegedly inept and of course glamourless. Modi’s claim to introduce Bullet trains in Indian Railways is yet to materialise, but work is under way for this in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector. 

The Quadrilateral Railway Project introduced during the UPA period is also dragging in many respects. It aimed at providing high-speed rail services between metropolises in the North, South, West and East. ==Agencies, IHN-NN


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