New Delhi: Ashwini Vaishnaw has set targets for this calendar year soon after assuming charge as the Union railway minister for the second consecutive term, two officials aware of the matter said. 

Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw (Twitter/@AshwiniVaishnaw)

On Thursday, Vaishnaw chaired the first meeting after assuming his duty, and according to officials in the know of the development, the minister focused on increasing coaches for better accommodation and reducing overcrowding. 

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“The meeting was held with general managers (GMs) and divisional railway managers (DRMs) of all the zones,” one of the officials said. 

“The minister has set a target of enhancing the production of sleeper class coaches and completing 2,500 such coaches by the year-end.”

The decision comes as over 400 million people travelled in the Indian Railways (IR) just in the first 21 days of April this year, which was claimed to be the highest the IR had witnessed.

According to officials, 411.6 million passengers travelled during April 1 and 21 this year out of which 33.8 million passengers travelled on April 20 and 21. Around 370 million passengers travelled in the same period in 2023 and 35 million in 2019, a year before the pandemic hit the country. 

The railway minister has also asked the officials to enhance the production of general class coaches and to introduce clone Express trains on routes with heavier demand. 

When there is a significant demand for tickets on a specific route, an additional train, known as a clone train, is scheduled to run along the same route as the original train to accommodate the increased passenger traffic. The IR introduced a few of these trains in April this year to handle the summer peak travel rush. 

A second official close to the development said that the government is also keen on making the Vande Metro operational at the earliest. “Production of two Vande Metro coaches has been completed and the trails are expected to start any day,” he said. 

Vande Metro is aimed to cater to intercity passengers covering up to 250 km. It will have 12 coaches and seating like a metro train and may get extended up to 16 coaches as per the demand. 

With an aim to boost safety, these trains will be equipped with the Kavach system, which is a pivotal measure to prevent collisions. Moreover, each coach is to be equipped with sensors for fire and smoke detection and will contain a wheelchair-accessible lavatory in coaches.

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