Way Too fast & furious?
Indian Railways introduced Tejas, a high-end train between Mumbai and Goa, continuing the legacy of Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan-Shatabdi, Sampark Kranti, Duronto and AC Double Decker.
To cater to safety standards when trains run at a maximum speed exceeding 100 kmph, these trains generally have Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, unlike the conventional coaches (otherwise called ICF coaches) attached to mail/express and ordinary trains.
The LHB coaches meant for Tejas have been fitted with well thought out interior facilities, the likes of which Indian rail passengers have not witnessed before. Hence it was no surprise that Tejas attracted the attention of media and the passengers alike.
But now that the hype around the launch is settled, it’s time we take stock of Tejas. With only one executive class coach and 44 seats, it is essentially a chair car train and hence any analysis can be done only on chair car parameters.
The big question is will Tejas get enough patronage, given the fact that passengers have to pay Rs 3,090 for executive class, including food, and Rs 1,595 for chair car with food — about 20 per cent more than the existing train fares of the similar class?
To answer that let’s first look into the three other alternatives available for the passengers travelling between Goa and Mumbai.
There’s air travel, where even end-to-end travel time will not be more than four hours. Airfares booked a month in advance are in the range of Tejas’s chair car fare and hence the new train may not be for those who plan their travel well in advance.
However, airfares shoot up to Rs 4,500 a few days before travel, making Tejas a cheaper alternative for passengers.
The buses, both ordinary and high-end AC, are the other popular mode of transport for day as well as night travel. Although AC buses between Mumbai and Goa may cost as much as Tejas chair car fare, the travel time on average is 12 hours compared to the 8 hours 30 minutes of Tejas. So, for those who prefer to travel during the day, Tejas is still a better option, with no extra cost.
Then there are the existing trains. Although Indian Railways operates more than dozen trains in one direction via Mumbai and Goa, except a few, the trains essentially connect Kerala and coastal Karnataka with cities of western and northern India.

There are not many seats allotted to passengers who travel between Goa and Mumbai. Given that, Tejas is a saving grace for those who plan their travel between Mumbai and Goa at the eleventh hour.
The media has been reporting about the unprecedented amenities created for the passengers of Tejas and how they are even better than air travel. The train wins hands down in that respect.
But where it falls really short is its much- touted speed. Tejas takes about 8 hours 30 minutes during non-monsoon season to cover the 725-km stretch, resulting in an average speed of about 85 kmph.
However, it was reported in the media that the Tejas (with the coaches manufactured at Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala) could run at a maximum speed of 200 kmph. But that given the restrictions of Konkan Railway route, the train will run at a maximum speed of 160 kmph.
In reality, the major chunk of the rail route between Mumbai and Goa is a single non-electrified line on hilly terrains, which already caters to more than its capacity.
Without constructing the second line and electrifying the entire route, it is virtually impossible for Indian Railways to operate trains at a maximum speed of 200 kmph, at least during non-monsoon period.
It is left to the discretion of the Indian Railways to decide the maximum and average speed of the train, while considering various aspects like topography, strength of tracks, number of trains that use that particular route and, above all, safety.
Indian Railways has one of the best practicing safety standards in the world and the speed of trains should subscribe to the safety standards of Indian Railways.
Accordingly, Indian Railways decided to operate Tejas with a maximum and average speed of 160 kmph and 85 kmph, respectively.
However, any claim that the locomotive and the coaches of the Tejas have been designed to run at a maximum speed of 200 kmph is plain bravado and may not capture the imagination of people, given the fact that Tejas is merely five minutes faster than Jan Shatabdi, which takes 8 hours 35 minutes to cover the Mumbai-Goa stretch.
International Union of Railways defines high speed clearly as “specially built high speed lines equipped for speeds generally equal to or greater than 250 km/h”, and “specially upgraded high speed lines equipped for speeds of the order of 200 km/h”.
The desire on the part of Indian Railways and railway minister to increase the speed of trains is well intended. However, Indian Railways may have to overcome bottlenecks such as track infrastructure and operational efficiency before achieving the higher speeds defined by International Union of Railways.
Till that time, whenever new trains are introduced at the existing speed, Indian Railways should claim only the speed it provides and nothing more.
(The writer is a doctorate from IIMA, teaching at TAPMI Manipal)
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