New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the indigenous Train 18, renamed Vande Bharat Express, from the New Delhi railway station to his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi in the backdrop of the terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir which killed 45 troopers.
A sombre Modi told a gathering at the station that he was "grateful to designers and engineers behind Vande Bharat Express" which set off at 11.20 a.m.
The train will clock 160 km per hour -- the fastest on the Indian rail network.
The Prime Minister said with "our sincerity and hard work in the last four and half years, we have tried to improve the railways".
Earlier, Modi inspected the coaches and the engine cabin of the Vande Bharat Express along with senior railway officials.
The flagging off was delayed by over 80 minutes as Modi presided over a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to discuss the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and members of the Railway Board were on board the train on its inaugural journey.
Bookings on the Vande Bharat Express opened on Friday. All the seats of were booked within four hours.
The train, which will start replacing Shatabdi Express trains, will run between Delhi and Varanasi.
The train has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai.
The gleaming blue-nosed train comes fitted with world class amenities on board like high-speed on-board WiFi, GPS-based passenger information system, touch-free bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting, mobile charging points and a climate control system that automatically adjusts the temperature.
The 16-coach train will have two executive compartments with 52 seats each and trailer coaches with 78 seats each.
The executive class will have rotating seats to match the direction of the train.