The entire coaches of the Vande Bharat trains which are currently conducting services in Kerala are chair cars. However, passengers are demanding sleeper coaches on the popular train so that they can travel in comfort to destinations such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai, where a large number of people from the state reside. The wait of such travellers will end soon as the railway has officially launched production of Vande Bharat sleeper coaches.
These sleeper coaches have been designed to meet the requirements of long-distance travellers and the facilities would be better than those in Rajdhani Express trains, said authorities. “In fact, the Vande Bharat sleeper services will meet the standards of European trains,” said a railway official. The concept design of these latest trains was shared by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently on X platform.
As per the information obtained so far, even though the railway will not significantly change the existing arrangement of coaches in long-distance trains, the Vande Bharat sleeper train will be fully air-conditioned. Each of the new trains would have one AC 1, four Second AC and 11 Third AC coaches, with a total capacity of 832 passengers.
Having an aerodynamic exterior design, the trains will also flaunt a most modern modular pantry. The doors will be automatic, similar to those in Metro trains. Special berths and washrooms will be available to physically disabled passengers. Loco pilots also would have a washroom for themselves. Yet another unique facility would be a hot water supply in the washrooms of AC 1 coaches. A public announcement system to alert travellers on the upcoming station, noise insulation in the interiors and an expansive luggage room are among the other attractions which indicate that the standards of the Vande Bharat sleeper train would match those of airlines.
Designers are also making an effort to create a better Vande Bharat, compared to the existing trains. For this purpose, lightweight and rust-proof GFRP panels would be used in the interiors. GFRP – glass fibre reinforced polymer – is a combination material of fibreglass and polyester and has been utilized in the boat-building industry for several years owing to its corrosion-resistant feature.
The prototype Vande Bharat sleeper coach is expected to be unveiled by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) by April 2024. The first batch of coaches would be built jointly by BEML and Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai. Currently, work on the prototype is underway at the BEML complex in Bengaluru. BEML has received a contract worth Rs 675 crore to build 10 sets of trains, each having 16 coaches. “The train has been designed to maintain the highest safety standards,” said BEML chairman and managing director Santhanu Roy. BEML has earlier manufactured MEMU and Metro coaches and track machines. The company is now planning to produce aluminium coaches for Vande Bharat.
Trains with a speed of 200 kmph
After Vande Bharat, the railway would be introducing more advanced trains. For instance, a deal has been signed with a consortium of the Russian firm TMH and Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) to build 120 sleeper trains and the prototype of this project will be ready in 2025. The design of the trains rolled out by this consortium would be different from the ICF’s. These trains would be built at a factory at Latur in Maharashtra.
A contract for 80 trains has also been given to a consortium of Titagarh and BHEL. In addition, a deal to build 100 Vande Bharat sleeper trains with aluminium coaches has been signed with the French firm Alstom. These trains will have a speed of 200 kmph. In total, the railway has given contracts for 300 new Vande Bharat sleeper trains.
Routes in Kerala
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has already announced that the first Vande Bharat sleeper service in Kerala would be on the Thiruvananthapuram – Bengaluru route. The heaviest traffic from Kerala is witnessed to Bengaluru and with a large number of AC multi-axle luxury buses conducting services on the route, a Vande Bharat between these places is expected to receive a good response. Incidentally, a Vande Bharat between Bengaluru and Kerala would also most certainly affect the demand for flight tickets.
In the first phase, Vande Bharat sleeper services would be introduced on the routes of Rajdhani and Duronto trains. Railway authorities said that both the Vande Bharat services conducting services in Kerala were a success and this had made them give special consideration to the state. Meanwhile, passengers have urged the railway to increase the number of coaches in the Vande Bharat along Alappuzha from eight to 16.
Currently, 34 Vande Bharat chair car trains ply in the country and the plan is to increase the number to 75. New routes mooted with chair cars include Bengaluru – Ernakulam, Mangaluru – Ernakulam, Kottayam – Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram – Coimbatore.