The Goa-Mumbai Vande Bharat is all set for inauguration on June 3, and the Ranchi-Patna is next in line slated for later this month. With these trains, almost all states in India will have at least one pair of the semi-high-speed trains, except for the northeast that awaits its turn, according to the railway ministry data analysed by News18.
The ministry says at least 19 states and three Union Territories have Vande Bharat. While Vande Bharat trains start from 18 of these states/UTs, Chandigarh, Punjab, Bihar and Haryana are only stoppages. These four states/UTs do not have dedicated Vande Bharat trains.
At present, 18 pairs – 36 services – of Vande Bharat trains are functional. They cover Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Assam.
The states/UTs that are not connected with Vande Bharat are Goa, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizarom, Tripura, Puducherry and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
Due to their location and lack of railway connectivity, Sikkim, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are not on the list.
Goa, Jharkhand Vande Bharat Trains
While the official announcements are yet to be made, it is expected that the Mumbai-Goa Vande Bharat will be flagged off on June 3. It will be the first Vande Bharat for Goa and fourth for Mumbai.
The Vande Bharat between Patna and Ranchi, which is expected to be inaugurated later this month, is a first dedicated train for Bihar, even though the Howrah-New Jalpaiguri passes through Bihar and has a stoppage at Barsoi.
It will be the first Vande Bharat for Jharkhand, which is awaiting its turn even as surrounding states have got dedicated trains.
Lack of Electrified Tracks in Northeast
Since April 1, at least eight pairs of Vande Bharat trains have been inaugurated. At present, 18 pairs of these trains are operational.
Apart from Assam, which got its first Vande Bharat only this week, the north-eastern states in India are waiting for their turn to get a Vande Bharat. According to the ministry, lack of electrification is the main reason behind this.
“Vande Bharat can only be operated on the routes that are electrified. The electrification of routes in the northeast is not complete, hence, these trains cannot operate there,” a ministry official told News18, demanding anonymity.
It is important to note that only Dudhnai–Mendipathar (22.823 track km) single line section and Abhayapuri–Pancharatna (34.59 track km) double line section have been electrified making Meghalaya the only part of the northeastern states to have electrified routes, except Assam.
“Electrification of routes in the northeast is impacted as these are difficult regions. Due to the geographical location, these states lack goods and skilled workers needed for electrification,” the official added.
Further, in several parts of the northeast, gauge conversion is also needed to be done into the broad gauge before any talks of taking the Vande Bharat there could start, the official said. He further said work is underway in these states and the ministry is aware of the picture.
The construction of a broad gauge line in Ladakh and Sikkim is also underway, the official added.
While the rail connectivity to Ladakh may take some time, Sikkim is expected to be connected to the rest of the country next year as the work on the Sivok-Rangpo project is nearing completion. The railway line will run between Sivok in West Bengal and Rangpo in Sikkim.