What it takes to introduce a Rajdhani

The Rajdhani is the most prestigious train in India. Period. Passenger response to the new service is testimony to this.

A new Rajdhani service (train numbers 22221 and 22222) was announced between Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and Hazrat Nizamuddin (NZM in Delhi) two days ago. Advance reservations began shortly afterwards.

Over 85 per cent berths (645 out of 756 berths) were booked within 2 days for the inaugural run on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

This Rajdhani will travel via Nasik, Jalgaon, Bhopal Jhansi and Agra on ward to Delhi unlike the other two which go via Surat, Vadodara and Kota.

Despite the naysayers who harped on the fact that the route via Bhopal was longer, a couple of ghat sections (Thull Ghat and Budhni ghat) had to be negotiated, the track was not fit to run the Rajdhani (which usually needs to run at about 120- 130 kmph) besides the absence of a clear path for a Rajdhani to consistently maintain punctuality, introduction of the service has been pushed ahead with.

Adjustment in the time table

Timings of Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) Lucknow AC express, Gorakhpur Jansadharan express, Sinhagad express, Sewagram express, Sahyadri express besides a couple of local trains in the fast corridor of Mumbai suburban have been changed following the Rajdhani’s introduction.

In its run towards NZM, the Rajdhani will take over the path earlier provided to Secunderabad Rajdhani and Chennai Central Garib Rath between Itarsi and Nizamuddin. Also, the days of service of Jabalpur Mumbai Garib Rath has been changed on one day to give way to the Rajdhani.

Sectional speeds and overtakes

The Rajdhani will have a maximum permissible speed (MPS) of 105 kmph between CSMT and Kasara (120 km distance), 60 kmph between Kasara and Igatpuri (18 km), 110 kmph between Igatpuri and Bhopal (706 km), 120 kmph between Bhopal and Lalitpur (202 km), 130 kmph between Lalitpur and Agra Cantt (306 km), 160 kmph between Agra Cantt and Tughlakabad (177 km) and 110 kmph between Tughlakabad and Hazrat Nizamuddin (11 km).

This Rajdhani will overtake 13 trains in its path while going from CSMT to NZM [Starting from Pune – Bhusaval express near Igatpuri, it will overtake, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) Manmad express near Devlali, LTT- Lucknow AC express between Bhusaval and Khandwa, Mangala express near Khandwa, Kamayani express near Itarsi, Nagpur Amritsar AC express between Jhansi and Lalitpur, Nanded Una express between Gwalior and Agra Cantt, Mahakaushal express near Morena, Shridham express near Mathura, Ujjaini express and Indore Dehradun express between Mathura and Kosi Kalan, Gujarat Sampark Kranti express and Bandra Haridwar express near Faridabad].

Behind the Scenes

Introduction of this Rajdhani has challenged several operational customs and practices prevalent on Indian Railways (IR).

For starters, it will skip Bhusaval, a divisional headquarters that has never been skipped by any train to date. Bhusaval is a designated station for crew change, cleaning and watering.

Instead, it will stop at Jalgaon (about 30 km before Bhusaval) which is the district headquarters, has a higher population and hence higher demand from passengers.

Another likely casualty is the practice of loco pilots driving the train in sections which they are totally familiar with.

Loco pilots (LP) belonging to Mumbai division are not normally familiar with the terrain between Igatpuri and Jalgaon.

Similarly, a Bhusaval division loco pilot would not know the terrain between Itarsi and Bhopal (which includes the Budhni–Barkhera Ghat).

With the Rajdhani crew change likely to happen at Jalgaon and Bhopal, every LP driving this train will have both known and unknown territory in their duty hours.

While the LPs are capable of learning the topography and contours of a section that they aren’t familiar with, they require time to assimilate the terrain in graphic detail, be it watching and memorizing signals and their locations, observing caution orders, speed restrictions, blind curves, gradients, and so on.

In this case, a loco inspector, an expert with the terrain of that section, will be dispatched on board alongside the LP.

The road learning exercise is usually done on the footplate providing a couple of day and night sessions to see and digest the landscape.

However, it remains to be seen if this practice of allowing them to pilot trains only in familiar territory will be done away with.

There are likely to be animated discussions between the unions and the rail administration on this issue before it is implemented.

Running rooms

Railways provide running rooms to their LPs, guards and travelling ticket examiners to rest and recuperate before they resume work on another train and go back to the town/city where they are stationed.

Jalgaon has no such facility while Bhusaval 30 km away being the traditional crew change point has them.

It is gathered that the Mumbai crew, if they pilot the train until Jalgaon, will be ferried from Jalgaon to Bhusaval and will return by another train to their headquarters.

The jury is still out on whether existing operational practices will prevail.

Process Driven

Akin to a philharmonic orchestra, the rolling stock, traction, Operating, commercial and public relations departments of the railway zones directly in charge of running the Rajdhani- Central railway, West Central Railway, North Central railway and the Railway Board have worked in sync to introduce a Rajdhani on a route which was never considered fit for such a train.

There is no doubt tremendous passenger patronage on this route but the success of this Rajdhani will depend on how well IR runs and maintains it. Only time will tell.

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About the Author: Raghavendra Rao

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