Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 1st of March flagged off the “Tejas Express” from Chennai to Madurai. The train is already making rounds for being the Fastest Train in Tamil Nadu with its ability to clock about 140 kmph. However, what truly sets the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) manufactured Tejas Express a class apart from the rest, is not just the speed but the fact that it is the most luxurious premiere train from Chennai to Southern Districts of Tamil Nadu. The Tejas Express comes loaded with state-of-the-art amenities like Luxurious reclining seats with snack trays, USB charging points, Wi-Fi, water purifiers, Bio-toilets, GPS enabled personalized LCD screens and an automatic cabin entrance plug type door. All in all the Tejas Express comprises of 15 air-conditioned coaches out of which there are 12 chair coaches with 78 seats each, and One executive chair car coach with 56 seats and finally 2 Power cars, and hence can accommodate close to 1000 passengers.
The Tejas Express is scheduled to depart from Chennai Egmore to Madurai at 6 am in the morning and is expected to reach Madurai at 12:30 pm. In fact with a travel time of 6h30min , the Tejas express leads by more than One hour when pitted against its only rival in this regard the Vaigai Express, which covers the same distance by a travel time of about 7h40min. Moreover it also covers other major destinations like Trichy and Kodaikanal and is anticipated to reach Trichy by 10:20am and Kodai road by 11:30 am. The travel time of 4h20 min to Trichy and 5h30min to Kodaikanal makes the Tejas Express far more appealing and will increase the revenues from Railways substantially. Interestingly, although the Tejas trains are equipped to operate at a speed of above 150 kmph, the Chennai – Madurai section has a track strength which can only permit a train speed of 70 to 110 kmph. On a more positive note, plans to strengthen the tracks to withstand the speed of 120 kmph have already been set in motion, and this would cut back the travel time even more considerably. The Tejas Express offers its service on 6 days a week, with Thursday being the day off provided for dealing with maintenance and service related issues.
The fares of the Tejas Express are admittedly competitive with the Executive Class seats from Chennai to Madurai charged at Rs 1950 and Chair Car seatings at Rs 895, similarly for the train journey from Chennai to Trichy the Executive Class seats are charged Rs 1485 and a Chair Car seatings at Rs 690. The Tejas Express also provides onboard catering of various cuisines at affordable costs.
As mentioned earlier the Tejas stands apart from its predecessors, which is why it is unfortunate that a certain degree of scrutiny has been raised regarding the fares. It is quite clear that a fair analysis of the pricing would be inaccurate unless all factors are been taken into consideration. For one, it would be unfair to compare its prices to other trains since no other trains provide the facilities or the comfort that the Tejas does. Furthermore, the Tejas express has never been claimed to be for those belonging to EWS(Economically Weaker Section), the train is a premier luxury train for the urban middle class who seek to strike the right balance between comfort and convenience. That being said, the Central Government has introduced a Lion share of railway provisions for people belonging to the EWS, and cynics who question such facts need to look no further than the Antyodaya Express.
The Antyodaya Express are super fast train services trains targeted towards high-density routes while assuring convenient and comfortable travel for people belonging to EWS, the first proposal was made by then railway minister Suresh Prabhu in the 2016 railway budget. The Antyodaya Express consists of 18 Unreserved or General coaches with various modern facilities like Bio-toilets, water purifiers, charging ports, enhanced capacity dustbins, fire extinguishers and even CCTV with Anti-theft provisions. In the case of Tamil Nadu, the first Antyodaya Express was the Tambaram-Tirunelveli Antyodaya Express train which was flagged off on the 8th of June 2018 by the Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain. The Tambaram-Tirunelveli Antyodaya Express train, which is a daily, unreserved express train will halt at 9 railway stations namely, Chengalpattu, Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Tiruchchirappalli, Dindigul, Madurai, and Virudunagar.
The introduction of this train has proved to be a boon for the poor and downtrodden, who now have an option of an affordable train journey sans having to worry about paying through their noses for the same. In order to understand the significance of the Antyodaya Express, we need to understand the demand for it. To begin with the Tambaram/ Tirunelveli route is connected by 19 trains out of which there are 9 Express Trains, 8 Super Fast Trains, and 2 Suvidha Trains. The Express Trains consist of 4 unreserved coaches, the Super Fast trains on an average have 3 Unreserved Coaches and out of the two Suvidha Trains only one has Unreserved Coaches, thus it would be safe to say there would be 64 Unreserved coaches in total. It is crucial to observe that these unreserved coaches are always jam-packed, and most people are thus forced to consider alternate or unaffordable options, like either upgrading their train seats or taking uncomfortable buses. All these facts, shine light on the relevance and the necessity of the 18 coach Antyodaya Express, which is not only more accessible but far more comfortable when compared to the unreserved coaches in existing trains.
One more development in regards to Tamil Nadu’s Antoyadaya Express was the inclusion of Nagercoil into the existing route of the Antyodaya Express. The year pending demand was raised by Minister of State for Shipping and Finance Pon Radhakrishnan who successfully saw towards the materialization of the project after seeing that there was a dire need for affordable train connectivity to Nagercoil. The train was flagged off on the 6th of March by the Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan himself. The train is touted to be a tri-weekly operating on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is expected to depart from Tambaram at 11pm and stop at Valliyoor for a minute and reach Nagercoil at 2.20am. Similarly the Nagercoil – Tambaram Antyodaya daily express (16192) will leave Nagercoil at 3.40pm, stop at Valliyoor and reach Tirunelveli at 5pm and will reach Tambaram at 9.45am the next day. It would be fair to say that by introducing two polar opposite trains, the Tejas and Antyodaya Express, the ever proactive Modi Govt has proved that it has got its priorities, right and balanced.
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