Karmali, Goa: It was a carnival-esque debut for the India's newest Tejas Express when joyous children, overwhelmed adults and excited TV crews boarded the gleaming new train wrapped in bright yellow. Inside, a flight experience awaited the first set of travellers.
The much talked about Tejas Express was headed from Mumbai to Goa. NDTV brings you a sneak peek into the inaugural journey. The train started half an hour behind schedule, but to everyone's surprise reached minutes before its arrival time at Karmali, about 15 km from Panaji.
This is India's fastest train, capable of running at 200 kilometres per hour. On Monday, it became the fastest train on Konkan Railway touching 120 km per hour. 400 excited passengers aboard said it felt like they were travelling in an airplane on the tracks and much cheaper, just Rs 1,500 one way as compared to Rs 2,500 by air.
Sadashiv Parulekar, 83, a businessman, who frequently travels on this route, said, "This feels like an airplane. It's comfortable and very impressive."
One of the many exciting things about the Tejas Express is the WiFi, which was patchy and can be made better. I quickly connected my phone and surfed the internet. We were provided a host of other entertainment options like the LCD screen. This is what makes the Tejas special -- connectivity and entertainment.
Payal Singh, an actor from Mumbai, said it was a delight to have train attendants in Goan print shirts and hats, who offered an impeccable service. "It's a welcome change on the Indian Railways. India is changing and it's high time we introduced services like these. I have seen this abroad and it's great to see it in India," she said.
The train also has CCTV cameras, besides fire and smoke detection facilities.
My first meal on the Tejas Express comprised soup, coastal curries pulao, buttermilk,gulab jamun among other things. The food was a refined version of what is served on the Shatabdi and Rajdhani, the premium Indian trains.
Catering manager Vinay Gawde said, "We have included Kothambir Wadi, a Maharashtrian delicacy, and Xacuti, a Goan speciality."
The Sahyadri Mountains through the Tejas Express' wide windows offered a lot more than the beautiful Konkan scenery. At every station excited passengers went click click using their cellphones.
It was interesting to meet fellow traveller, Uday Bodas, who has travelled on the inaugural journey of 20 trains on the Konkan Railway. "From the first train on this route to this, the last 25 years have seen an amazing transformation of the Railways," Mr Bodas said.
The Railways will now have to ensure that feeder services from Karmali to Panaji are also improved to ensure sustained bookings on the service. With major losses to compensate for, the Railways hope that trains like these will enhance travellers' experience. Once that happens, more ambitious projects that require huge investment, like the Bullet train, will be easier to roll out, officials say.
As we arrive at Karmali, we are told the initial bookings for the Tejas Express are impressive for the next few days. The train will run between Mumbai and Goa five days a week. During monsoon, it will run for three days.