INDIA: Indian Railways has introduced a new category of loco-hauled trains, which is intended to provide an enhanced travel experience for its ‘lower class’ passengers who account for the majority of its long-distance traffic.

Branded as Amrit Bharat, the trains will offer slightly less basic accommodation than IR’s regular Mail & Express services, but with lower fares than those charged for the various categories of premium and air-conditioned travel. Fares are expected to be 15% to 17% higher than those for Mail & Express trains.

Amrit Bharat trains will provide a mixture of seating and sleeper accommodation, and will be through-gangwayed to provide full access along the train, which had not previously been available in non-AC trainsets. For this reason, the LHB-derived rolling stock has been fitted with semi-permanent couplers within each rake. The toilet compartments are based on the latest design fitted to the Vande Bharat trainsets.

Unlike older coaches, the vehicles have cushioned sleeper berths, and larger luggage racks. Accessible vehicles for use by passengers with reduced mobility are provided at each end of the train.

In the initial phase, IR has introduced Amrit Bharat services between two city pairs: a 690 km route linking Delhi’s Anand Vihar station with Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state, and a 1 165 km route from Delhi to Darbhanga in Bihar.

The trains are expected to operate at up to 130 km/h, top and tailed by a pair of electric locomotives in a push-pull configuration. This will provide a higher commercial speed than many general long-distance trains, closer to the averages achieved by the air-conditioned Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto expresses and the growing fleet of Vande Bharat trainsets. The locos have been decked out in a saffron livery, and the coaches are distinguished by saffron stripes above and below the windows.

The Indian Railway Board has decided to introduce 50 Amrit Bharat trains in the 2024-25 financial year, subsequently increasing to 52. This will require the production of a dedicated fleet of 1 230 coaches. There will be 600 Type LWSCH sleeping cars, 440 Type LWS general purpose coaches and 190 Type LSLRD guard-cum-luggage vehicles.