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All aboard India’s new luxury affordable train

Published: Updated:

India’s passenger trains are notorious for being rickety and spartan, but the government is hoping to change all that with a new “luxury” service.

The popular image of rail travel in the country of 1.2 billion people is of hundreds of people crammed into carriages, perching on roofs and hanging off the sides.

But with its reclining seats and “in-rail” entertainment featuring Bollywood movies, the Tejas Express may be getting the country on a different track.

Of course it is a far cry from the luxury train recently unveiled in Japan -- complete with Michelin-starred chefs, solid cypress bathtubs and a cosy snug with roaring fire.

In this photograph taken on May 21, 2017, Indian staff paste stickers below an emergency window of the Tejas Express luxury train before its first journey between Mumbai and Goa. (AFP)
In this photograph taken on May 21, 2017, Indian staff paste stickers below an emergency window of the Tejas Express luxury train before its first journey between Mumbai and Goa. (AFP)

But by Indian standards the new service, which also boasts wifi, a selection of games and audio channels and allows passengers to press a button to call attendants, is a hit.

“It is like what airlines offer,” said Adarsh Parsekar, who was on the inaugural journey on Monday.

Gone are the ubiquitous tea sellers and samosa vendors who sell snacks to hungry travelers through the open windows of regular trains during platform stops.

an Indian child plays a game on a touch-screen onboard the Tejas Express luxury train. (AFP)
an Indian child plays a game on a touch-screen onboard the Tejas Express luxury train. (AFP)

In their place are vending machines offering coffee and a catering trolley that passes through the aisles of the cool, air-conditioned carriages, whose windows are sealed tightly shut.

The doors are automatic and centrally controlled rather than manually operated and each coach is equipped with CCTV cameras.

Railway officials are billing the service, which runs between Mumbai and the tourist state of Goa, as India’s first luxury, yet affordable train.

Tickets in second class cost around 1,190 rupees ($18) while in first class the price is in the range of 2,590 rupees.