On Board Vande Bharat Express: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off India's first semi-high speed train, the Vande Bharat Express, carrying a contingent of journalists and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal from New Delhi to Varanasi.

Paying tribute to the victims of an attack on a convoy of security personnel in Kashmir the day before, the government kept the inaugural run a low-key affair by not decorating the train.

Goyal expressed his condolences and prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured. He also announced that the tendering process for 30 more such trains had started and the prime minister had given clearance for 100 semi-high speed trains. “We have also identified routes and it includes the Golden Quadrilateral and its arms," he added.

Goyal said work on Train 18 started two and a half years ago. "India never tried to make a train and copied German and Swiss coach designs. With Train 18, Indian railway engineers have proved their calibre," he said, adding during the inaugural run, the train will complete a journey that used to take 13-15 hours in just 8 hours.

Vande Bharat Express, popularly known as Train 18, is an indigenous electric multiple unit (EMU) manufactured by the Chennai-based Integrated Coach Factory. Built at cost of 100 crore, each train has 16 compartments, including two first-class coaches. Its carrying capacity is 1,128 passengers, with each coach accommodating 78 people and the first class 52. The train has electrically operated, automatic sliding doors similar to those in metro coaches. It has cushioned comfortable seats, vacuum toilets and a better interior design than the Shatabdis.

Train 18 can run at a maximum speed of 180 km per hour and during trials, the highest operational speed achieved was 160 km per hour.

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