New Delhi: In a huge embarrassment to the Railways, India’s first indigenous semi high-speed Train-18, named Vande Bharat Express, developed serious technical faults near Tundla junction on Saturday, hours after its much awaited inaugural run was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.
Slated to begin its first commercial run tomorrow from here, the Rs 100 crore train faced “brake-binding” snag resulting in skidding of the wheel in its return journey from Varanasi. Though the railways maintains it is a “case of cattle run over”, there were no signs of damage on the front of the train.
A senior railway official who was on board said the train is entirely computerised and the brake-binding incident was recorded on the system. “It is clear case of malfunctioning of brake system,” the official said.
In the computerised system, a malfunctioning will enable the parking brake application automatically, which resulted in wheel skidding, the official added.
It took more than three hours to rectify the faults and the people on board, mostly railways officials and journalists, were shifted to another train.
“It’s a comparatively new technology and staff are not very conversant with it, so it took sometime,” he said.
The train was coming back from Varanasi to prepare for its first commercial run on Sunday. The incident occurred around 15 km from Tundla junction in Uttar Pradesh.
The fault led to control failures of the air-conditioners fitted inside the train.
According to the people on board there was power failure in some coaches of the train at around 5 am. “Before coming to a halt at Chamrola station, the train slowed down to a sluggish speed of 10 km per hour. There was also a foul smell and mild smoke, which was due to an internal system failure,” a person said.
After the fault was rectified, the train resumed its journey to Delhi at around 8.15 am. The train departed from Varanasi Junction at 10.30 pm for Delhi, nearly 45 minutes after reaching the holy city on its inaugural journey.
“It’s transient phase and malfunctioning of the brake system was shown in the computer. It is yet to be ascertained whether the malfunctioning is due to cattle run over or something else,” said the official.
The train is capable of running at a maximum speed of 180 kmph on the existing track. It went through extensive trials and “prodeural evaluation” as claimed by the railways. The launch was delayed several times before being finally rolled out on February 15.
Manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, Vande Bharat Express is equipped with many advanced facilities and amenities. It had all safety clearances, trials and tests in place.
The launch comes at a time when the country is planning to launch its first bullet train, that will clock over 250 kmph, by 2023 between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
The railways plan to make more such trains in future to make intercity travel faster.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.