India's eighth Vande Bharat Express, indigenously built under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative, was flagged off virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid a cheerful crowd.
The Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam Vande Bharat Express will cover 700 km, reducing the travel time from an average of 12 hours to 8 hours and 30 minutes.
"It will connect two Telugu-speaking states, strengthening the connectivity between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and also further economic, social and cultural bond," said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who was part of the inaugural launch.
The semi-high-speed train is equipped with world-class features like better ride comfort, ergonomic reclining, Divyangjan-friendly, Kavach-enabled safety, and automatic doors with retractable footsteps.
From 16 January, the train will resume its commercial journey, and passengers travelling from Hyderabad to Vijayawada will reach their destination in four hours. It will be the quickest mode of public transport available between the capitals of the two Telugu-speaking states.
Though the train departs from Secunderabad, it will cover major cities such as Warangal, Khammam, Vijayawada, and Rajahmundry before reaching the destination Visakhapatnam.
The executive chair car price is Rs 3,170 from Visakhapatnam to Secunderabad and Rs 1,825 for Visakhapatnam to Vijayawada, while the AC chair car is Rs 1,720 for Visakhapatnam to Secunderabad and Rs 960 for Visakhapatnam to Vijayawada.
"It is a dream come true," said A Naresh, co-pilot of the train, who has six years of experience. "I am thankful to the Railways for giving me opportunities to run this most sought-after train," he added.
N Prakash and A Naresh are the pilot and co-pilot, respectively, of the Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam Vande Bharat Express.
"I am also happy that I got the chance to be in the driver's cabin of this prestigious train," said Prakash, who has 28 years of experience.
Both the drivers will get off at Vijayawada and two others will join the duty from there.
There is a strict safety protocol for train drivers, who have to take rest after certain hours of duty. Generally, drivers change shift after seven hours of duty. But, for this train, it is four hours for us, said Prakash.
Though there are four stops between Secunderabad and Visakhapatnam, the train stopped at 21 stations, such as Cherlapally, Jangaon, Kazipet, Mahbubabad, and Dornakal, along the route.
There were cheering crowds and felicitations throughout the route.
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