Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to flag off the first Vande Bharat Express of northeast, connecting Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri, on April 14, a senior official said on Friday.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has already begun preparatory work for the grand launch of the fastest train of India in this region.
"Yes, it is true that Vande Bharat Express will be launched soon in the northeast. We are targeting April 14 to launch this special train when the Prime Minister will be visiting Guwahati," the official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
Modi is scheduled to visit Guwahati on April 14 to witness a Bihu performance by 11,140 dancers and drummers, in their attempt to register it as the 'largest recital of the folk dance form' in Guinness World Records.
According to the official, he may also flag off the new service during his visit to the state.
The NFR, at present, runs Vande Bharat Express only between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri, both in West Bengal.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had on March 6 said the prestigious Vande Bharat Express will reach Rangpo in Sikkim by December, 2024.
The Vande Bharat Express has a maximum commercial speed of 160 km per hour. The speed exceeded 180 km per hour during testing. As most Indian tracks are not capable of supporting such high speeds, the train is operated at a maximum speed of 130 km per hour.
An NFR official said that the new Guwahati-New Jalpaiguri train will be able to run at a maximum speed of 110 km per hour.
"The speed taken by a train depends on the rolling stock capacity, which is very high in Vande Bharat Express, and the track capacity," he said.
Notably, Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express, too, run at a maximum speed of 110 km per hour in the northeast, he added.
In a letter issued on March 17, NFR Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer Jyotindra Digi had asked departments concerned to prepare various allied services for smooth running of the Vande Bharat Express.
"...Vande Bharat Train set is likely to be inaugurated for service between GHY (Guwahati) and NJP (New Jalpaiguri) in first week of April or latest by 2nd week of April, 2023," he said in the letter, which was accessed by PTI.
Digi asked the mechanical department to have trained manpower at Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri coaching depots, arrange maintenance spare parts, keep ready the on-board housekeeping service (OBHS) (most likely from Guwahati).
He also issued instructions to the electrical department to form a crew of trained personnel to run the trains.
Earlier this month, a parliamentary standing committee on Railways had raised concern over the pace of production of Vande Bharat trains and said that only eight rakes have been manufactured thus far in 2022-23, against the target of 35 for the year.