IRCTC Kashi Mahakal Express: Third private train, premium Humsafar Express, to ply over Indore-Varanasi route

Devanjana Nag

IRCTC Kashi Mahakal Express: The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is all set to introduce the third private train on the Indian Railways network. The upcoming train named IRCTC Kashi Mahakal Express will ply on the Indore-Varanasi route. The new train service is expected to begin its operations around February 20. The overnight train would be fully air-conditioned and will boast similar rakes as those of Indian Railways' Humsafar Express trains. Recently, it was announced by Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav that the upcoming train service would run three days (two days via Lucknow while one day via Allahabad) a week.

The upcoming IRCTC Kashi Mahakal Express would be the first private train by the corporation to have only sleeper coaches, and not any chair car coach. The Humsafar Express trains are an upgraded version of Indian Railways’ Rajdhani Express trains. These trains are best suitable for overnight journeys. The train offers several passenger-friendly features like tea/coffee/soup vending machines, comfortable berths, extensive fire retardant, and suppression system, multiple mobile charging points, LED lights, GPS-based passenger information system, CCTV cameras, modular bio-toilets, toilet occupancy indicators, etc.

At present, IRCTC, which is a subsidiary of Indian Railways, operates two private trains on the Indian Railways network- IRCTC Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express and IRCTC Ahmedabad-Mumbai Tejas Express. It has been reported that in the coming years, as many as 150 trains will be operated by private players across 100 Indian Railways' routes. According to Yadav, the move by Piyush Goyal chaired Railway Ministry to let private entities run passenger trains has attracted more than two dozen private firms, including global majors Macquarie, Alstom Transport, Siemens AG, Bombardier, etc. Also, Tata has shown interest to run private trains on the network, he said.

A discussion paper was also issued by NITI Aayog and the Railway Ministry, which forecasted an investment of around Rs 22,500 crore to run the 150 private trains. The private entities will have to bid for a network of routes. However, the bids by these firms will be finalized on a revenue-sharing model.