If the Indian Railways were to tries a tagline for its achievements over this year, it would probably be “2018, a year of many firsts”.
For the railways, this year saw the national transporter manufacturing India’s fastest train, rolling out its first air-conditioned local train, commissioning its largest bridge and converting a diesel locomotive into electric.
But, perhaps its biggest achievement was the lowest accident figures in the last three decades, with 45 incidents reported between April and December 15 in 2018. It was 54 in the same period last year.
However, train delays, bad quality of food, overcharging by caterers remained constant pet peeves of passengers through the year.
“Over the last four and a half years we have inculcated a new culture of implementing transformative reforms, setting ambitious targets and pushing the boundaries to give a green signal to growth,” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said.
He said news agency PTI that “as a result, the past year has emerged as a year of many firsts for the Indian Railways.”
If the Indian Railways were to attempt a tagline for its achievements over this year, it would probably be – “2018, a year of many firsts”, Mr. Goyal said.
Regarded to be India’s fastest train, Train 18 (T-18) manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory in Rae Bareilly, at a cost of around Rs. 97 crores has touched a maximum speed of 180 kmph.
Its actual date of commissioning is yet to be finalized. T-18 will replace Shatabdi trains and will initially run from Delhi to Varanasi.
However, with just 0.3 percent of India’s railway tracks, spread over 60,000 km, are fit to handle trains running at speeds of up to 160 kmph, as per official assessment, only time will tell if such modern trains can actually run at full speed in the current network.
The railways, in another first, is established to come up with an elliptical 40-km track between Jaipur and Phulera at an investment of around Rs. 4 billion to conduct trials of its semi-high speed and high-speed trains.
Once this is complete, India will enter a league of countries, comprising the United States, Germany, China, and Australia, that have dedicated tracks for train trials.
“This year also saw the commissioning of the first state-of-the-art 12,000 HP electric locomotive to assist power a green and clean railway. The world’s first ever conversion of a diesel locomotive into electric will further our aim to become the world’s biggest electrified rail network.
The year will also be remembered as one in which the railways established its first transport university– the National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI), a university in Vadodara, Gujarat. This is the third in the world after Russia and China.
The university opened its doors to the first batch of 103 students from 20 states in two fully-residential undergraduate courses in September this year.
“With the establishment of India’s first Rail University in Vadodara, we have initiated an era of a skilled and talented ‘New Railways’, which places India’s youth in the driving seat of progress,” Mr. Goyal stated.
He also highlighted how this year the railways conducted one of the biggest recruitment drives to fill over 1.3 lakh positions to improve safety and services.
“From a revamped website to an app for booking unreserved tickets, ticketing was also modernized. Indian Railways is again becoming a symbol of modernity, which it had exemplified when the first steam engine chugged out of Boribunder,” Minister Goyal said.
This year is just the start of many first and the railways is set to get many more firsts, he said.