“Forty thousand normal rail bogies will be converted to the Vande Bharat standards to enhance safety, convenience and comfort of passengers,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Union Budget 2024 speech on February 1.
What does the Vande Bharat standard mean?
Vande Bharat trains in their current form are all air-conditioned chair car services for short to medium distance travel. A sleeper version of Vande Bharat, expected to be superior to Rajdhani Express trains, is expected to be rolled out by March this year.
So when FM Nirmala Sitharaman announced that 40,000 Indian Railways coaches will be converted to Vande Bharat standards, what did she mean?
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According to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the upgrade of 40,000 coaches is based on the experience of Vande Bharat and Amrit Bharat coaches. By learning from the experience of these trains, Indian Railways is working on how these 40,000 coaches can be upgraded, he has said.
Giving examples, Vaishnaw explained that both Amrit Bharat and Vande Bharat trains have semi-permanent couplers, which enhance the safety of these trains. Similarly, these 40,000 coaches will have charging points for mobiles and laptops, automatic measurement system of water, GPS, CCTV cameras etc.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has also clarified that this upgrade will not mean that non-AC coaches will be converted to air-conditioned coaches. In case of non-AC coaches for example, the toilets will be upgraded to better quality, the seats will be made better etc.
From the Railway Minister’s statements it is clear that the national transporter will transform its existing conventional coaches to “Vande Bharat standards” by adding more passenger amenities and safety features, drawing from passenger feedback and experience on the Vande Bharat Express trains. An example of that can also been seen in the recently introduced Amrit Bharat Express train, which is a push-pull train with locomotives at each end for faster acceleration and deceleration. Several passenger amenities and safety features in the Amrit Bharat Express trains have been provided taking cues from the Vande Bharat trains – such as semi permanent couplers, sealed gangways, better toilets, mobile charging points, better cushioned seats, ambient lighting etc.