Travelled to Bangalore earlier this week. Having travelled innumerable times on Shatabdi earlier, the journey was more or less similar. The ceiling looks sleek and refreshing, so are the interiors. At the look of it, seems the makers have used high-quality materials which gives a (relatively) premium feel of travel.
Because of it’s build quality, the ride quality was far superior. The usual jerk that we face in normal trains was missing in this one, especially while crossing tracks, picking up speed or slowing down, etc. In a crude language, the ride was as different as an automatic vs. manual gear shift in a Car. Food (and it’s quality) is almost the same as in Shatabdi. Except that morning b/f had a Kesari ( a typical south indian sweet). in the plate. The presentation in aluminium containers spoils the otherwise premium feel of the train, but I guess there are fewer options otherwise.
Assuming that these pax have the wherewithal to spend on discretionary spends, what if one can preorder food at an additional yet nominal cost? As a diabetic, I may want to skip the Kesari and order something else. A low-sugar tea pack instead of a normal one. This could be done while booking the tickets, or a reminder SMS could be sent 48 hours before the date of travel. Of course, various other products like mobile Chargers, earphones, etc. could be sold inside the train through a catalogue, with an e-brochure being sent along with the ticket by email.
The seats are quite thinner (like in an Indigo flight) yet comfortable. What was very un-Indian was the water bottle holder was placed near the footrest. In Shatabdi trains, it is placed near the food train which is indeed cumbersome But to place it near the feet - poor design.
The plugs for charging devices are now placed in each seat unlike one per row in Shatabdi. Except that is is located right below the seat! I mean, who even designs all this? For older people, especially senior citizens, this is going to be super difficult. Of course, the design team has made up for this with a slick tray for keeping a laptop, table or even a mobile phone for viewing / watching media.
The train’s speed and other details are displayed on a digital screen. At many times during the trip, the train’s speed crossed 100 kmph. I am sure, that over time this will improve drastically, making the “Vande Bharath” a super fast and safe train to travel. The rest room has been designed well and looks classy, similar to an airplane. There is a handrail for passengers to hold, while seated or standing (as the case may be) and the entire cabin is more spacious than ever.
The automatic doors which are within the coach are now for ingress and egress to the main coach. Quite an international feel (though Metro rails already have it). I hope they integrate the doors with a QR code, so one can scan the same with their Aadhar biometrics and enter. We can get rid of the role of a TTE. Though humans will find ways to fool the system, I am sure this is just a matter of time.
To punish the haters, there is a video of the train’s inauguration done by Hon’ble Prime Minister at Bangalore on 11 Nov. ‘22, which runs in loop.
The only negative - if at all, is that the train departs and reaches almost at the same time as the Shatabdi Express. Not sure if they would curtail any of them in the near term or would retain both. Also, to reach the station earlier than the Shatabdi - Vande Bharath departs at 5.50am from Chennai and the Shatabdi at 6am is a pain, especially to get a taxi / public transportation. This could be well overcome by aligning the Metro Rail which comes to the Chennai Central Railway Station.
Overall, very well done ICF and Indian Railways.