"It's like a plane," exclaimed a school girl as she walked through the spotless, modern-looking compartment along with her school mates out for a joy ride on the inaugural run of the Vande Bharat train, which will run between the iconic Howrah station and New Jalpaiguri, the gateway to the North East.
Vaishnavi Mane, a Class IX student of Command Hospital Kendriya Vidyalaya, and Tanushree of Class VIII, were visibly happy to be part of the first run of the train.
The train has an aerodynamically designed engine whose nose does compare loosely with a jet-liner's nose. While the spanking new chair cars give the look of an airline interior.
Soham Mukherjee, a class XI student from Fort William, also on the train, excitedly said “it feels marvelous to ride this train".
The inaugural run of the Howrah-New Jalpaiguri is being piloted by Anil Kumar, who has been running trains for some 32 years, having driven among others, the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express, an official said.
He is assisted by senior assistant loco pilot Kamlesh Kumar, who has been in the job for six years, the railway official said.
Five sets of crew have been trained at Ghaziabad to run the six-day a week Howrah-New Jalpaiguri Vande Bharat Express service.
Jalpaiguri MP Jayanta Roy, who appeared no less excited, said that with the semi-high speed Vande Bharat service, a new era in connectivity starts in Bengal.
"It's a huge leap forward for the state and will boost tourism in North Bengal," the BJP MP said.
He said that developing the NJP station into a world-class one will also bolster connectivity in North Bengal, which boasts of the Himalayas, the forests and tea gardens.
This will be the seventh Vande Bharat express running in the country.
The blue-and-white train, which covers a distance of 564 km in 7.45 hours, will save three hours of travel time compared to other trains on the route, officials said.
It will have three stoppages at Barsoi, Malda and Bolpur.
The Vande Bharat express with modern passenger amenities is likely to be preferred both by regular passengers, tea industry executives and tourists travelling to the Himalayas in North Bengal and Sikkim.
The state-of-the-art train has 16 coaches, including two for drivers.
‘World Looking At India With Great Faith’: PM Modi at Vande Bharat Train Launch
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said world is looking at India with great faith as every Indian has to exert himself to live up to this expectation.
He also said railway stations, including New Jalpaiguri are being developed on lines of airports.
In this year of Azaadi ke Amrit Kaal, we will adopt forward-looking approach to take country ahead, he said.
He added Centre is also laying stress on preventing pollution of rivers.
West Bengal will have 25 new sewage treatment projects, out of which 11 are already completed, he said.
He added Centre is making record investment for railway infra modernisation.
He also said Vande Bharat train launch date of Dec 30 is significant as Netaji hoisted tricolour in Andamans in 1943 on the day.
He sid Vande Bharat train has been launched from land where 'Vande Mataram' slogan was coined.
Mamata refuses to sit on dais at Howrah Station
High drama prevailed at Howrah Station as a visibly annoyed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to get up on the dais from where the Vande Bharat express to New Jalpaiguri will be flagged off.
Banerjee seemed upset by the loud sloganeering from a section of the invited crowd at the railway station.
Attempts by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Governor C V Ananda Bose to pacify her did not bear fruit, as the chief minister chose to seat on a chair along with the audience.
PM Modi virtually flags off Howrah-NJP Vande Bharat express in presence of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday virtually flagged off the Vande Bharat express connecting Howrah and New Jalpaiguri in the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Also present on the occasion were Governor C V Ananda Bose and Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
The seventh Vande Bharat express started its journey at 11.45 am from platform number 22 of Howrah Station to travel to New Jalpaiguri, the gateway to the northeast.
The blue-and-white train, which covers a distance of 564 km in 7.45 hours, will save three hours of travel time compared to other trains on the route, officials said. It will have three stoppages at Barsoi, Malda and Bolpur.
Earlier, Banerjee, while speaking on the occasion, condoled the demise of Modi’s mother Hiraben. “Your mother is also our mother,” she said.
The CM also said work on four out of the five railway projects that Modi will launch on Friday were started during her tenure as railway minister.