Average speed of Vande Bharats falls down, Rly blames it on infra

The Indian Railways did not seem to be in any hurry to strengthen tracks for full capacity run of Vande Bharat trains, which till March 31 this year carried more than 2.15 crore people

Average speed of Vande Bharat

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the railway’s claim of strengthening tracks, average speed of Vande Bharat trains in the country has come down to 76.25 kmph in the last fiscal against 84.48 kmph recorded in 2020-21. The railway ministry stated this in a reply to a right to information (RTI) Act query.

“Not only Vande Bharats, but average speed of many other trains has scaled down owing to the caution applied on certain sections, where massive infrastructural work is going on. Many Vande Bharat trains are operating with speed limitations as they have to pass through difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions,” said a railway official.

The official said that Vande Bharat express between Mumbai CSMT and Madgaon has been running with speed restrictions as most of the Konkan railway area is ‘ghat’ section where trains pass through low height mountain ranges. “It is a difficult terrain where increasing speed might be tantamount to compromising safety of the train and its passengers,” he added.

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The RTI response stated that Vande Bharat trains have to maintain the maximum speed of 75kmph during the monsoon seasons. An RTI activist from Madhya Pradesh, Chandra Shekhar Gaur, had sought the running data of the much-hyped semi high speed train.

“The data, obtained through the RTI, shows that the average speed of Vande Bharat trains was 84.48 in 2020-21, which decreased to 81.38 kmph in 2022-23. It further deteriorated in 2023-24 to 76.25,” said Gaur.

Launched on February 15, 2019, Vande Bharat trains are designed to run at a maximum speed of 160 kmph. However, most of the trains hardly exceed 130 kmph mark, except on the Delhi-Agra route, due to the condition of tracks. There are certain segments of tracks between Delhi and Agra which were developed in 2016 for India’s first semi-high speed train Gatiman express to run at 160 kmph. Only on those segments, the Vande Bharat also runs at 160 kmph speed.

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The Indian railways official said that speed limit has been put on Vande Bharat train, as tracks on many routes are being upgraded to meet the speed requirement. “It is because of these reasons there are cautions at various places. Once these upgrades are over, we will have trains which will go up to 250 kmph,” the official said.

Some of the routes on which the Vande Bharat’s speed is worse than its overall average speed are Dehradun-Anand Vihar (63.42 kmph), Patna-Ranchi (62.9 kmph) and Combatore-Bangalore Cantt (58.11 kmph). An expert engaged in track construction said the first Vande Bharat w launched in February 2019 and it has been more than five years since then, but the railways is yet to replace tracks on any route so that the train can run at its maximum operating speed of 160 kmph.

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“Whatever the logic for restraining speed of Vande Bharat, but one thing is sure that the Indian Railways has failed to raise the necessary infrastructure and lay appropriate tracks in the past five years for running semi-high speed trains,” said an expert, adding that the railway did not seem to be in any hurry to strengthen tracks for Vande Bharat trains, which till March 31 carried more than 2.15 crore people.

The Vande Bharat trains are equipped with a number of features including Kavach protection, faster acceleration and semi-high speed operation up to 160 kmph, fully sealed gangway for free passenger movement, automatic plug doors, reclining ergonomic seats and comfortable seating with revolving seats in executive class, better ride comfort among others. A total of 284 districts are now connected with 102 Vande Bharat trains on 100 routes.

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