Modi flags off Odisha’s first Vande Bharat, launches railway projects worth ₹8,200 cr

The Vande Bharat Express that will connect Odisha's Puri to West Bengal’s Howrah will be the fastest train on the route, covering the 500 km distance in around 6.5 hours, railway officials said

Students are all smiles onboard the newly launched Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express. Photo credit: East Coast Railway/Twitter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched railway projects worth Rs 8,200 crore in Odisha on Thursday and flagged off the state’s first Vande Bharat Express that will connect Puri to West Bengal’s Howrah.

Addressing the function through video-conferencing, Modi said, “The Vande Bharat Express will further strengthen the religious, cultural and spiritual connection between Howrah and Puri,” he said. Fifteen Vande Bharat trains are operational in the country at present and those are boosting both connectivity and economy, Modi said.

Also read: Vande Bharat Express train trial underway on Mumbai-Goa route

‘Time to strengthen unity’

“There was a time when new technologies and facilities used to remain limited to Delhi or the big cities. But now, India has chosen a new path. This new India is making technologies on its own and ensuring they reach different corners of the country,” he said, referring to the indigenously developed semi-high speed train.

The prime minister said that as the country celebrates the Amrit Kaal of its Independence, it’s time to further strengthen its unity. “The more India’s unity is strengthened, the more its collective capacity will increase,” he said. He also lauded the state for continuing India’s developmental streak amid challenges.

“Amid even the most challenging times, India kept its developmental journey intact. The reason behind this has been the participation of all the states, and India’s spirit of walking ahead collectively,” he said.

Fastest train on route

The Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express will be the fastest train on the route, covering the 500 km distance in around 6.5 hours, railway officials said. Modi also laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of Puri and Cuttack railway stations. He dedicated to the nation 100 per cent electrification of the railway network in Odisha. This will reduce the operating and maintenance cost and reduce reliance on imported crude oil, officials said.

Also read: West Bengal to get second Vande Bharat express on Howrah-Puri route

He also inaugurated the doubling of the Sambalpur-Titlagarh rail line, a new broad gauge rail line between Angul and Sukinda, the third line connecting Manoharpur-Rourkela-Jharsuguda-Jamga and a new broad-gauge line between Bichhupali and Jhartarbha.

These will cater to the increased traffic demands as a result of rapid industrial development in the steel, power and mining sectors in Odisha, and will also help ease the pressure on passenger traffic in these sections, officials said.

To run 6 days a week

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were present at the programme in Puri station. A cultural programme was also organised at the Howrah station to mark the flagging off of the Vande Bharat Express, which will be West Bengals second.

Regular run of the 22895/22896 Howrah-Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express will commence from May 20, officials said. The train, which will run six days a week except Thursdays, will depart Howrah at 6.10 am and reach Puri at 12.35 pm. In the return journey, it will leave Puri at 1.50 pm and arrive at Howrah at 8.30 pm, they said. The train, with 16 coaches, will stop at Kharagpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur Keonjhar Road, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road.

The fare for AC chair car is Rs 1,265, including catering charge of Rs 162, and Rs 2420 for executive chair car, including catering charge of Rs 195. If a passenger opts for no food option, the catering charge will not be added to the fare.

Also read: Modi in Kerala: Launches India’s first water metro and state’s first Vande Bharat train

Another Vande Bharat on cards

Meanwhile, Vaishnaw said Odisha is likely to get a second Vande Bharat Express. Speaking at a programme at Puri railway station after the flagging off, he said the railways is planning to launch Vande Sleeper and Vande Metro in Odisha.

The second Vande Bharat Express in Odisha is likely to run on Puri-Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Angul-Rourkela route, he said. There are plans to run Vande Metro in Puri-Bhubaneswar-Cuttack in January-February next, Vaishnaw, who is elected to Rajya Sabha from Odisha, said.

Vaishnaw said he along with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give another Vande Bharat and Vande Metro to Odisha. Odisha will now have world class railway, telecom, internet and highway connectivity, he said.

The Modi government has allocated around Rs 10,000 crore for the development of railway in Odisha. Apart from the railways, the telecom department has provided Rs 5,600 crore to improve connectivity in Odisha, he said.

(With Agency inputs)