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Travel luxuriously to India’s heritage destinations (Travelogue)

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New Delhi: Fancy travelling to two popular Unesco World Heritage Sites and a city of old-world charm and multiple religious faiths on a single journey? Come January 2016 and that’s exactly what you can do aboard a new ‘semi-luxury heritage circuit tourist train’ launched by IRCTC, a subsidiary of Indian Railways.

Departing from the rather languid Safdarjung railway station here, the five-day-four-night package first takes you to Varanasi and thence to Khajuraho and Agra, before returning to Delhi.

“Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra are immensely popular among not only foreign tourists but also for Indians. There are no trains that directly connect these three spots. We, therefore, launched this train to make it easy for tourists to visit these three places in a solo trip,” IRCTC Tourism Manager AS Pandey told IANS during the inaugural run of the train.

The itinerary has been drawn up taking into account all the needs of travellers. From accommodation to transportation and food, everything is the responsibility of IRCTC.

“We have Maharaja packages and normal trains (aimed specifically at tourists). We wanted to come up with something that fills up the gap between these two extremes.

The package has been made keeping in mind the different economical sections of society,” IRCTC Public Relations Officer Sandip Dutta told IANS.

The effort put to maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of the train is appreciable.

“Apart from cutlery, the food provided by IRCTC is same for all the three categories on the train (1st a/c, IInd a/c, three-tier a/c). The travellers are put up in luxury hotels at the three destinations and a/c buses are arranged for ground transportation,” Dutta added.

Spending the first night on the train, I and my fellow travellers arrived in Varanasi early in the morning. The air was nippy but that did not take away from the excitement. We soon headed to Sarnath, the place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. Considered pious by Buddhists, the place attracts many foreign tourists from across the world. The calm and serene atmosphere of this holy place give solace to the soul.

After spending some leisure time hopping around the city, it was time to witness the quintessential “Ganga Aarti” at Dashashwamedh Ghat, one of the oldest in Varanasi and the boat ride across the holy river. Thousands gather every day to watch this event where the priests offer prayers to Hindu gods and goddesses.

With Day 2 coming to an end, we wrapped up our Varanasi moments and headed towards our next destination, Khajuraho, which greeted us with an early morning wintry chill and misty surroundings, marking the beginning of Day 3.

The Khajuraho set of temples, located in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, which was built by the Chandela dynasty between the 9th and 11th centuries, is spread across four zones – the western part being the main tourist attraction. The temples, built in Indo-Aryan style, not just represent architectural finesse but are also the amalgamation of two religions – Hinduism and Jainism. This is proof of the acceptance and respect for each other’s communities.

The erotic sculptures of the temple are something to be perceived beyond the Kama Sutra. The bold sculptures range from self-pleasing acts to orgies to bestiality – and exotic sexual positions. With the sun setting behind the temples, I headed for a musical show that highlighted the diversity of Indian culture, ending the stay at Khajuraho.

On Day 4 we arrived at Agra and, without much delay, were taken to the Taj Mahal. The sun was setting, the fog had gathered and the cold breeze sweeping across the Yamuna made us shiver but nothing could take away from the majestic view and the white beauty of the monument as the sky got enveloped in a pinkish hue.

One of the Seven Wonders of world, Taj Mahal, which is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in India that draws crowds in the thousands every day, still holds the power to mesmerise with its beauty, no matter the innumerable times one visits it.

Capturing every moment spent at the Taj, the day ended, making way for the final destination of the trip on last day.

Braving the shivering morning cold of Agra city, we headed towards Fatehpur Sikri. The fort has a rich historical background attached to it. Built by Emperor Akbar, the city was the capital of the Mughal empire during 1571-1585. The structure, a combination of Persian and Hindu architecture, looked glorious as the early rays of sun kissed its red sandstone walls.

It was then time to board the train for one last time for the return journey to Delhi but what will endure are some of the memorable moments spent on those five days. (IANS,  Somrita Ghosh), (image courtesy: newsforindia.com)

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Indian Railways to Introduce New Technology to Generate Power; Aims to Add 4 Lakh Berths

"Once the power cars are removed, they will be replaced with two additional AC-3 tier coaches, adding 130 berths," the official said

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indian railways
"By adopting the HOG technology we will make way for more coaches," the official said, adding that it will also save Rs 6,000 crore in fuel bills annually," said the official. Wikimedia Commons

The Indian Railways which carries over 12 lakh passengers every day, aims to provide four lakh more berths for passengers every day from October when it will adopt the technology to generate power from the locomotives instead of the two power cars, railway officials said on Wednesday.

A senior Railway Ministry official related to the development told IANS: “Currently there are one or two power cars attached to the train with diesel generators to supply electricity connection to run the air conditioning units, fans and lights in the train coaches.”

The power cars are also called as End on Generation (EOG). The official said that from October onwards, the railways will introduce the new technology known as “Head on Generation” (HOG), which is currently used worldwide to generate power for the AC units, fans and lights in train coaches.

The official said with the HOG technology, the power to provide electric supply to the AC units, fans, lights from the overhead power lines and then is distributed to train coaches. According to the railway ministry officials, by October 2019, over 5,000 coaches of the Indian Railways will operate on the new technology.

indian railways
“Once the power cars are removed, they will be replaced with two additional AC-3 tier coaches, adding 130 berths,” the official said. Wikimedia Commons

“By adopting the HOG technology we will make way for more coaches,” the official said, adding that it will also save Rs 6,000 crore in fuel bills annually,” said the official.

He pointed out that a power car needs about 40 litres of diesel per hour per non-AC coach while an AC coach needs 65-70 litres of diesel per hour. The official also said the new system is eco-friendly as no air or noise pollution will be there and it will help in reducing carbon emissions by 700 MT per year per train.

The official said by removing one power car from the train, the railways can add a passenger coach in the train thus increasing the number of berths in the train without increasing the train length.

Giving the example of Rajdhani Express, the official said the Rajdhanis are currently hauled by a single locomotive with two diesel-powered generator cars at the rear to provide air conditioning and lighting within the train.

“After carrying out extensive tests, we have decided to remove the power cars. Power, obtained from the overhead cables through the pantograph of the lead engine, will be converted for providing air conditioning and lighting. This will be done through what in technical parlance is known as a hotel load converter,” he said.

“By doing so we can attach two more AC-3 tier coaches to the train,” he said. Rajdhani Express trains currently have 22 coaches with over 1,200 berths of various categories. “Once the power cars are removed, they will be replaced with two additional AC-3 tier coaches, adding 130 berths,” the official said.

Indian Railways
The official said by removing one power car from the train, the railways can add a passenger coach in the train thus increasing the number of berths in the train without increasing the train length. Wikimedia Commons

He said that once all LHB coaches are on this system, there will be an increase of more than four lakh berths everyday and thus additional revenue as well. The railways earlier this year tried to increase the speed and number of berths in Hazrat Nizamuddin-Mumbai Rajdhani Express by hauling it with two locomotives, one from front and the other at the rear.

The official said the trial run was approved on Feb 7 by the Research Design and Standard Organisation (RDSO). The pilot project led to the saving of over 105 minutes of travel time between New Delhi and Mumbai as it covered the 1,543 km in about than 17 hours from the previous 19 hours.

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The official pointed out that the push-and-pull technology, being tried out, is successfully adopted globally. This not only increases a train’s hauling capacity but also reduces jerks when the brakes are applied as the load gets equally distributed through all the coaches,” the official said.

A senior railway ministry official said the railways has last year experimented with twin-locomotives on the Rajdhani, with both engines in front. However, it was found that this did not make for a smooth ride. (IANS)