Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday, October 3, flagged off commercial operations of the Vande Bharat Express. The train will run between New Delhi and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Popularly known as Train 18, the Vande Bharat Express will begin its commercial run between New Delhi and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra October 5 (Saturday) onwards and booking of tickets is open on the IRCTC website.

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and ministers Jitendra Singh and Harsh Vardhan were also present at the flagging-off ceremony.

Speaking at the event, Shah said, “I believe that not only was Article 370 a roadblock for the unity of this country, but it was also the biggest roadblock for the development of Kashmir. I am sure that after the removal of this Article, we will be successful in completely eradicating terrorism and the ideas promoting terrorism in the area.”

“Within the next 10 years, Jammu and Kashmir will be one of the most developed regions of the country and the journey of development has begun with Vande Bharat Express which is set to boost development and promote religious tourism,” he said. 

Shah also said he was proud that the train being flagged-off was ‘Made in India’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hailed the new service on Twitter calling it, “A Navratri gift for my sisters and brothers of Jammu as well as devotees of Maa Vaishno Devi!”

Train number 22439 New Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express will depart from the New Delhi railway station at 6 am to reach Katra at 2 pm.  En route, the train will halt at Ambala Cantonment, Ludhiana and Jammu Tawi for two minutes each.

 The train will run on all days of the week except Tuesdays.

 The minimum fare for travelling between New Delhi (NDLS) to Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra (SVDK) will be Rs 1,630 and the maximum will be Rs 3,015.

The luxury all air-conditioned chair car service, with 16 coaches, is engine-less and self-propelled. This allows for faster acceleration and deceleration, therefore reducing travel time by 40 percent.

The new train has a bigger pantry compared to the first Train 18 or Vande Bharat Express. It also has windows with a special provision to protect against stone-pelting and a cattle guard in the front to prevent damage to the train or derailment in case of cattle run.

The first Vande Bharat Express was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The railway is expected to manufacture 40 more such trains by 2022, according to senior officials.