Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday flagged off the Bhopal-Delhi Vande Bharat Express train. which he said would help traders and professionals as well as boost tourism development and employment generation in Madhya Pradesh.
The semi-high speed train was flagged off from Rani Kamalapati railway station in Bhopal city in the afternoon in the presence of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Madhya Pradesh Governor Mangu Bhai Patel and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Modi, while addressing the gathering after flagging off the premium service, said the aim of his government was to transform the railway sector and make travel convenient for citizens.
The PM, who interacted with more than 300 schoolchildren who were selected through a drawing and essay competition on the theme 'Bharatiya Rail', underlined their sense of curiosity and excitement.
"In a way, Vande Bharat is a symbol of India's enthusiasm and excitement. It represents our skills, confidence and capabilities," Modi, who also spoke to staff onboard the train, opined.
The Vande Bharat service launched from Bhopal would benefit professionals and traders and make their travel to Delhi easy, while it will boost tourism and employment generation through increase in footfalls at Sanchi, Bhimbetka, Bhojpur and Udayagiri caves, the prime minister said.
Calling the railways as common family transport, the prime minister questioned why the massive network was not upgraded and modernised earlier.
He said he had visited the redeveloped Rani Kamalapati station to dedicate it to the nation last year and was here once again, adding it may have been among the rare instances where a railway station has got two prime ministerial visits in such a short period.
The vast rail network could have been upgraded and modernised but its development was sacrificed due to vested political interests, the PM said.
Highlighting the lack of development, Modi said several north eastern states were not connected to the main railway network for years after Independence, with work on many routes starting post 2014.
Before 2014, the railways were known for thousands of unmanned gates (level crossings), which caused accidents, the PM said.
There are no unmanned gates on the Indian Railways' broad gauge network today and news related to accidents causing loss of life and property were no longer common place, the PM said.
The railway is much more safe now, with the approach to safety not being limited just to curbing accidents but also emergency services during a journey, which are of immense benefit to women travellers, he said.
Issues related to cleanliness, punctuality and black-marketing of tickets have been addressed through the use of technology to give relief to commuters, the prime minister asserted.
The 'One Station One Product’ initiative of the railways was emerging as a powerful tool to help local artisans, allowing commuters to buy products of a particular district such as handicrafts, art, utensils, textiles, paintings etc at the station itself, he said.
"About 600 (one station, one product) outlets are already operational in the country and more than one lakh purchases have been made," the PM pointed out.
Listing upgrades in the railway network, Modi said 6,000 stations now had WiFi facilities and 900 stations were equipped with CCTV systems.
Highlighting the modernisation efforts of his government, the PM said 100 per cent electrification was being achieved on some stretch of the railway network every day.
Average electrification of routes per year had increased from 600 kilometres earlier to 6,000 kilometres since 2014, when the NDA came to power, the PM said.
A huge crowd had assembled on platform number two of the sprawling station to witness the Vande Bharat Express flagging off ceremony, which took place on the adjoining platform number one.
They were addressed by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as well.
This is the 11th Vande Bharat Express service on the Indian Railway network and will run on all days except Saturday.
It will depart from Rani Kamalapati station at 5:40am and reach Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 1:10pm. The Delhi-Bhopal leg of the train will start at 2:40pm and reach Bhopal at 10:10pm, officials said.
The train is scheduled to halt at Gwalior and Agra enroute, they added.
The state-of-the-art semi-high speed train has an intelligent regenerative braking mechanism that would save up to 30 per cent electricity, fully sealed gangways and interconnecting doors for dust-free environment as well as an improved air-conditioning system.
Assembly polls are scheduled to be held in MP at the end of the year.
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