Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday flagged off Kerala's first Vande Bharat train from Thiruvananthapuram railway station.
The excitement of the state getting its first Vande Bharat train has been in the air for the past one week when it arrived here with much fanfare.
Soon after the inauguration, the train is being run only for invitees. The first commercial service will start from Kasargod on Wednesday and will reach here in 7 hours and 50 minutes. The first service from here to Kasargod will begin on Thursday.
While the regular commercial service will have stops at Kollam, Kottayam, Thrissur, Shornur, Kozhikode and Kannur and terminating at Kasargod, the inaugural special train flagged by Modi will stop at more stations.
PM Modi, who arrived at Kochi on Monday evening, reached the Thiruvananthapuram railway station this morning.
After briefly interacting with a group of schoolchildren, who were given the opportunity to travel on the inaugural run, the PM got down and flagged off the train.
The train has 16 coaches of which two are executive with 104 seats.
On its inaugural run, all the who's who in the state capital drawn from various sectors of the civil society were invited and included religious leaders, businessmen and technocrats who were spotted seated in the train since morning.
Present along with Modi during the flagging off were Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, local MP-Shashi Tharoor among others.
On April 17, the first trial run was undertaken till Kannur and after that a furore was raised on why Kasargod is being left out and soon numerous BJP and Congress leaders approached the Centre and then it was extended till Kasargod and then came cries of a stop at Shornur which was also granted.
But what has upset the Vijayan-led state government is that the Centre kept the clearance for the Vande Bharat train a top secret. No one had any clue till the train started from Chennai early this month to Kochuveli station in the capital city.
With the media giving huge attention to its arrival, the cyber team of the CPI(M) and its close supporters have launched a massive campaign with some state minister's also joining stating that Vande Bharat is no replacement for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's yet to be cleared pet project K-Rail.
The campaign gives a comparative table of Vande Bharat and K-Rail and the table gives all details except the cost factor of K-Rail which is close to Rs two lakhs crore.