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Mumbai-Pune in a Vistadome, and why trains are becoming key again

Recently, a Vistadome compartment was added to the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express. Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter feels there are valid reasons why train travel could boom in a post-Covid, environmentally concerned world.

June 29, 2021 / 03:56 PM IST
Indian Railways’ new Vistadome tourist coach has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai.

Indian Railways’ new Vistadome tourist coach has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai.

On June 26, the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express acquired a spectacular new feature. One of its coaches is a Vistadome, with large windows, glass roof and revolving seats.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted, “Enabling a World Class Travel Experience: A glimpse of the first trip of the fully booked Vistadome coach on the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Express Special Train. Passengers can enjoy unhindered views of rivers, valley, waterfalls while experiencing the scenic beauty of Western Ghats.”

It’s a small step for Indian Railways, but in sync with worldwide optimism about the future of train travel due to Covid. Post-pandemic travel precautions and global warming concerns are necessitating expensive and complex modifications in airplanes. With trains, however, it is a bit easier, some experts feel.

“Much of the rail industry hasn’t been innovating for 30 years and now it’s like we’re jumping from rotary phones to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) in one step,” Michael Peter, CEO, Siemens Mobility, which has operations in India, told Monocle in an interview. “The efficiency gains and opportunities to travel differently in the next 10 years will be huge.”

With virus-related safety and the environment becoming priorities, more people are receptive to the benefits of train travel than maybe a decade ago. Ten years ago, the element of fighting global warming and considering how we will move around in the future was not there, Peter said.

“With coronavirus, if you look at where government stimulus money is going, there are usually two requirements: it should be intelligent infrastructure that creates good job opportunities and it should bring us closer to CO2-reduction targets,” Peter said. “These stimulus packages are bringing a new dynamic to our market.”

This also means scope for reviving traditional train travel pleasures, such as quality dining.

As Peter told Monocle,The biggest difference between a car and a train is that you have your hands free. The biggest difference between a plane and a train is that you can move around. We have to leverage that. Trains still need to be efficient but what you can do while you’re on a train (in terms of options) is an important part of that.”

According to Peter, transportation is responsible for 25% of global CO2 emissions. He believes trains can be 100% clean if renewable energy is used. Peter’s wish is to maximise the pollution-reducing potential of trains.

“There will be clean and efficient transportation in future, which will free up more space for living and strolling around cities as a tourist or for going to the office,” he said. “This is what I most want to see happening in my lifetime.”

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