Gatimaan Express is finally on tracks, the much awaited and hyped train was flagged of on April 5th 2016 by the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and he said “It’s a proud moment”. I respectfully disagree, It was a overstatement !! Since its announcement in Semi- High speed category train it has always been in news for some reasons or other. Be it delay in issuing safety clearance, Confusion in origin station (whether New Delhi or Hazrat Nizamuddin), the trial run and subsequent killing of 2 students, Etc.
Was it something worth for this hype?? It was just a marginal up gradation of speed. We already have New Delhi – Bhopal Shatabdi Express which starts from New Delhi railway station at 6:00 am arrives at Agra Cantt at 7:57 am, i.e. 1 hour and 57 minutes, just about 15 minutes more than Gatimaan Express. Now, considering the distance between New Delhi station and Hazrat Nizamuddin, the Gatimaan Express was faster than the Shatabdi Express from Nizamuddin to Agra Cantt by a mere 7 minutes. Besides, the Bhopal Shatabdi anyways is known to have hit a top speed of 155 km per hour too between Palwal and Agra Cantt.
Not taking anything away from work the Indian Railways has done but we will have to wait and see the patronage it gets in times ahead. Bad patronage leading to lower occupancy might hurt the railways financially which is already going through bad financial conditions since years now. The most important would be looking after safety measures as we don’t have track fencing as yet and how is it going to run without affecting other trains on that route.
My take on why Gatimaan Express is not that great…..
- The ticket is priced 1.25 times as compared to the Shatabdi already running. For a 2 hour journey the pricing is significant. Especially when we are used to using railways as the cheapest medium for travel. This would run packed during weekends, festivals and other peak seasons but the occupancy level in normal working days is doubtful. It would benefit Foreign Tourists and business persons more and would be used for commuting during festival seasons. Since the train is originating from Hazrat Nizamuddin there would be a large population for whom reaching there would be a herculean task in morning hours. We would still find Bhopal Shatabdi preferred if timings are not a problem for passenger. Also, initially we might have first time travellers just to have a feel of the much talked baby of the Indian Railways.
- This would be a non-stop train with the highest priority on New Delhi – Agra sector and there would be few trains bearing the brunt of being shunted for this mighty speedster. There would be trains which will be forced to have unscheduled halt for the mighty Gatimaan to cross over eventually bringing financial losses. The cost analysis exercise has been carried out for trains which precisely tell the cost of halting a train for 2 minutes.
For Example – 12904/Golden Temple Mail which does not have a scheduled stop at RUNDHI, will have to be forced stop at that station for the Gatimaan to overtake. The cost for 24 coach train hauled with Electric loco costs Rs. 13000 for a 2 minute stop. There would be quite a few numbers being overtaken in this busy route.
- In regards to safety, it is said by the railways that the fencing would be completed by March 2017 post which it would not be a concern at all. Hopefully we do not have safety issues by that time.
What could have been an alternative?
Upgrade Shatabdi itself, It had to be speeded up by few km/hour which could have been easily done. However, There would have been 1 issue arising out for rake allotment had the Gatimaan rake been allotted to Bhopal Shatabdi and run that at enhanced speed because the trial was done for 10 coaches + 2 EOG, Shatabdi runs with 16 coaches + 2 EOG. Now since Shatabdi is already known to hit 155 Km/Hr on that sector I am sure railway engineers are way too competent to find an answer to this. Creating too many categories of trains with different type of coaches increases your manufacturing cost and we should try getting away with this. We already have so many categories the Rajdhanis/Shatabdi’s/Jan-Shatabdi’s/ Garib Rath / Duronto’s/ Double Deckers Etc.. and increasing.
Taking nothing away from the Indian Railways, it’s certainly a small step forward but not really a proud moment. My congratulations to the Indian Railways & Team for their new baby & wish it leads a healthy & safe life. Presented views might go wrong but “Facts don’t get wrong too often”