Indians have been offered a new travel experience with Vande Bharat. Post the launch of first Vande Bharat Express on 15 February 2019, six more have been flagged off. Of the seven, the earliest one - between New Delhi and Varanasi, covers the longest distance - 759 kilometers, followed by the Express between New Delhi and Katra that covers 655 kilometers. The latest addition to the fleet is between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri that was flagged off on December 30, 2022, just 19 days after the sixth one between Bilaspur and Nagpur was inaugurated.
While six Vande Bharat Express trains run beyond the state of origin, the only one, between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri, runs within the state covering 561 kilometers — the third longest route. Shortest length for a running Vande Bharat Express is 412 kilometres, between Nagpur and Bilaspur and also between New Delhi and Ambala Cantt.
Average speed of these trains vary; the highest being 95 kilometers per hour for the one between New Delhi and Varansai, followed by 85 kilometers per hour between Mumbai and Gandhi Nagar. The ones between Nagpur and Bilaspur and between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri clock an average speed of 75 kilometers per hour. The next Vande Bharat Express could run between Secunderabad and Vijayawada.
It is expected that Odisha too would soon have such a facility. It is hoped the operation would commence on Utkal Divas, on the First of April. It may be relevant to discuss a few routes the Odisha Vande Bharat Express could run on. A few routes have been shortlisted carefully. It is hoped Railways would consider them. It would be a matter of emotional pride if Vande Bharat Express for Odisha could originate and end within the state. It could connect Paralakhemundi with Baripada through Bhubaneswar. The two places - Parlakhemundi and Baripada - hosted crucial players who worked towards creation of Orissa as a separate state. The train would cover 579 kilometers and pass through Berhampur, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Balasore. Other alternative could be to join Bhubaneswar either with Bilaspur (522 kilometers) via Angul, Sambalpur, Jharsugauda or with Tatanagar (452 kilometres) through Kharagpur. Another route could be between Rayagada and Rourkela (423 kilometres) via Bolangir and Sambalpur.
Apart from one Vande Bharat Express, there’s a need for more Inter-city Express trains as well. These would benefit thousands of people on high use sectors within and near Odisha and help faster growth of trade and commerce. Against each proposed route, time taken by the existing fastest long distance trains to cover the distance has been indicated. These routes could be as follows:
Bhubaneswar—Berhampur (165 kms)( 2 hours 3 minutes); (ii) Berhampur—Vishakhapatnam ( 277 kms)—( 4 hours 30 minutes); (iii) Sambalpur—Bolangir (118kms)—( 1 hour 30 minutes); (iv) Rourkela – Sambalpur (150 kms)—(2 hours 33 minutes); (v) Bhubaneswar—Sambalpur (273 kms) — ( 4 hours 15 minutes); (vi) Bolangir – Rayagada (203 kms) —( 4 hours 25 minutes); (vii) Rayagada—Berhampur (342 kms) (5 hours 30 minutes) ; (viii) Rayagada –Raipur (342 kms) —(6 hours 30 minutes); (ix) Rourkela—Howrah ( 406 kms) —(5 hours 4 minutes) ; (x) Rourkela—Ranchi (165 kms) –(2 hours 42 minutes); (xi) Rourkela—Raipur – (416 kms) –(6 hours 5 minutes).
The least journey time mentioned above, however, relates to long distance trains most of which operate at a time of the day and night not convenient for inter-city travellers. What needs to be pointed out is the necessity of introducing inter-city express trains, not necessarily Shatabdi ones, but equally speedy and comfortable ones, having both AC and non-AC Chairs only, with food, at convenient time of the day and night. Such an arrangement would provide a very people-friendly railway experience.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at email@example.com)