India’s first semi-high speed train broke down yesterday after colliding with a cow on the tracks, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new passenger service.
The Vande Bharat Express, touted as India’s fastest train and built under the Modi government’s flagship “Make in India” programme, made its first journey on Friday from New Delhi to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
But on its return to the capital the next day a collision with a cow disrupted electricity supply to four carriages and damaged the brake system, according to Indian Railways.
“The train later experienced technical issues and was stranded on the way to Delhi,” railways spokeswoman Smita Vats Sharma said.
The train reached the capital “safely” ahead of its first commercial journey today, she added.
Considering the pre-inaugural publicity it had got from the time the train rolled out of Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, it has been overbooked for the inaugural journey as well as subsequent days.
The train came to a halt at Chamraula, just before dawn, 18km ahead of Tundla station, after its wheels started skidding.
The train came to a halt around 5.30am near Chamraula station, according to railway officials.
After some checking, the train started its onward journey but slowly and haltingly before it came to a stop.
A couple of hours later, it left for Delhi after 8.30am.
Officials said the braking system could not cope with the speed of the train and so the on-board mechanical engineers decided to put a halt to the train and carried out a complete check.
Northern Railway spokesperson Deepak Kumar said: “There was some communication and electrical failure due to which the brakes of the train got jammed.”
He said that the wheels of the affected coaches started skidding.
However, the train later resumed its journey after the on-board engineers fixed the problem, Kumar said.
The 16-coach train will have two executive compartments with 52 seats each and chair car coaches with 78 seats each.
Cattle obstructions on roads and rail tracks are common in India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh.
Since coming to office, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party launched a crackdown on the slaughter of cows which has led to crisis numbers of stray and unwanted cattle in the state.
India is struggling to upgrade its colonial-era railway system, which relies on creaking and outdated infrastructure to transport 23mn travellers each day.
The locally-made express train has a rated top speed of 180km an hour, 20% quicker than the next fastest train in service.
Railways authorities say the train is expected to reduce the 850km journey between the two cities from 14 to eight hours.
Yesterday’s accident is the latest controversy for the express train – a pet project of Modi’s government, which has vowed to debut India’s first bullet train in 2022.
Last week Railways Minister Piyush Goyal was left red-faced after he tweeted a digitally altered video of the train zipping by a station at lightning speed.
He was later accused of altering the video to make the train appear faster, triggering widespread social media ridicule.
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