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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Old King of Trains

Do you like long-distance train travel? I do. More often than not, it gives quality time to ponder, read, write, work, see lovely landscape and meet people. I try to take trains wherever, whenever possible.

I never traveled by Rajdhani express, arguably the king of non-touring trains in India. Hence I grabbed an opportunity to travel from Delhi to Secunderabad in Bangalore Rajdhani. Points in favor of Rajdhani (as opposed to flying, the default mode of business travel) were (a) I can get nice, quiet time to think and work, (b) travel is 'only' 22 hours, (c) It has been so long since I did north-to-south travel in India, (d) I never experienced the so-much-hyped Rajdhani hospitality, and (e) even AC first class costs Rs. 2000 less than the flight ticket.

So got into Rajdhani AC first class last night at Hazrat Nizamuddin. I am still in train, will get off in 20 minutes or so. My key impressions?
  • The train is much worse maintained than I would have liked.
  • Maintenance of time is good. It reached every station before time.
  • Food is great. I was groaning under the weight of food served, by the time I came to the last meal
  • Service is, simply, not bad. All needs are taken care of, eventually. But, like in most other things in India, more people are thrown at a problem to solve it better. IMHO, fewer, better trained attendants would have done a much better job.
  • There are advertisements everywhere in the compartment. I wonder why the Railways is desperate for additional revenues from the Rajdhani; I would have thought that this activity is handsomely profitable already. Windows were hazy because of perforated flexi-sheet advertisements wrapped on them on the outside. I would have preferred larger, well-cleaned windows so travelers could drink in the lovely landscape in UP, MP, Maharashtra and Andhra.
  • The best thing about Indian trains, irrespective of the class of travel, are the acquaintances you make, especially if you enjoy meeting people. The acquaintance I forged with my wonderful 65-year old co-traveller, an ex-MLA from Maharashtra, will I am sure stay with me a lot longer than the relish of Rajdhani luxury.

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