The Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express, the second premium train to be run by Railway subsidiary IRCTC, completed its inaugural run on Friday in six
hours, covering the distance of 491 km. Such speeds are rarely seen on this busy route. The train was flagged off by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani from Ahmedabad at 10.45 am, and it arrived at
Mumbai Central station at 4.45 pm, almost half an hour before its scheduled travel time.
As per the train tickets, it was to depart from Ahmedabad at 9.30 am for its maiden run. Railway officials said it was rescheduled to 10.45 am due to some change in the time of the flagging off ceremony.
The train stopped only at its scheduled halts at Nadiad, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, Vapi, and Borivali.
Passengers and rail enthusiasts were thrilled to be part of the first run of the train.
"In some sections, the train was running at a top speed of 130 kmph. Despite such a high speed, riding comfort was quite better than Shatabdi and other trains on the route," said Sandeep Yadav who runs `Railgyankosh', a video blog.
But a Western Railway official, who did not wish to be named, said the train covered the distance in a short time on Friday because it was given "priority and clear path", which regular trains hardly get.
The Ahmedabad-Mumbai Duronto Express and Shatabdi Express cover the same distance in 6 hours 25 minutes and 6 hours 35 minutes, respectively.
The Tejas Express is scheduled to cover the distance in 6 hours 30 minutes once its commercial run starts from January 19.
As per the railway timetable, the train will depart from Ahmedabad at 6.40 am and arrive at Mumbai Central at 1.10 pm. For the return journey, it will depart from Mumbai Central at 3.40 pm and reach Ahmedabad at 9.55 pm.
The fully air-conditioned train has two executive class chair cars having 56 seats each and eight chair cars having a capacity of 78 seats each.
The total carrying capacity will be 736 passengers.
A total of 842 passengers travelled during its maiden run on Friday, IRCTC officials said.
Several top officials of IRCTC were also on board, along with media persons.
The train was flagged off from Ahmedabad with a lot of fanfare. Artists performed traditional dances and played music to welcome the passengers.
The train's exterior was decorated with garlands and rail hostesses and hosts, dressed in traditional Kathiyawadiattire, greeted them with flowers.
During the return journey, round caps of rail hosts and hostesses were replaced with Maharashtrian white "Gandhi topi" (cap) as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena raised objection and warned of a protest.
Most of the passengers were happy with the food and cleanliness as well as facilities like CCTV, automatic doors, seats, infotainment system, luggage rack and big wide windows with automatic curtains.
"Though ticket is high-priced, people will prefer to travel on this train if they get such better service," said Asgar Ali, 62, a businessman from Mumbai who traveled from Surat.
Outside, people were seen standing along the tracks to catch a glimpse of the train, some even clicking selfies as it streaked past them.
IRCTC also made the journey memorable for few lucky passengers whose birthdays coincided with the inaugural run; cakes were duly cut and merriment followed.
But the travel experience was not pleasant for everyobdy. Several passengers from executive car complained about non-functional infotainment screens.
A senior citizen had a narrow escape as a tubelight cover crashed next to him within a few minutes after he boarded the train at Vadodara.
"I am diabetic and a heart patient. It would have banged my head and injured me," said Subhashchandra Dube, 77, a retired engineer.
Rajni Hasija, director (marketing) of IRCTC, said the the reason for the mishap could be that the train was non-operational for almost one and a half years after the coaches were made ready.
"We will check the entire train and fix all the issues brought to notice by the passengers," she said.
Unions of Western Railway employees, meanwhile, staged protest against `privatisation' of trains at Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and other stations.
Anticipating protests, there was tight security at all the stations. Union activists claimed that the police detained some of their associates at Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal was supposed to flag off the train from Ahmedabad, but he did not attend the function.
A Western Railway spokesperson said Goyal was held up at Kevadiya station where he had gone for inspection.