It was a festive look around the city, with all roads leading to the busy Gorakhpur station of Uttar Pradesh spruced-up, having festoons and posters of Vande Bharat train all over.
There was a heavy presence of Government Railway Police, Railway Protection Force and the local policemen at the cordened-off station playing out for the big event of the day at platform-1 of the station.
After getting through three-tier security clearances on the red carpet with luggage screened, one enters the coach to be welcomed by a train hostess with a red rose.
One had to wait patiently at the reclining cushioned seat enjoying the Bhangra dance by an eight-member local cultural troupe till the big moment of flagging off the Gorakhpur-Lucknow Vande Bharat Express by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though the schedule was delayed by 35 minutes because of the Prime Minister’s Gita Press engagement, the eight-coach train was full with guests mostly consisting of school students, young scouts and guides and NGO volunteers selected for the inaugural ride.
The students were selected through an essay and drawing competition on Swachh Bharat, organised by the authorities before the event.
By the time the train was flagged off by Prime Minister Modi amid joyous noise and chanting of slogans, the excitement was palpable inside and outside.
There were about 80 students from 11 schools, including Army Public School, St Joseph School, CMS Lucknow School, Kendriya Vidyalaya and Railway schools who were onboard the Gorakhpur-Lucknow Vande Bharat Express.
“I have read a lot about Vande Bharat trains so I was keen on travelling on this,” said Swarnim, a local school student.
Bhumi, a Lucknow school student said, “This is an occasion which we want to remember for long and if possible we will travel again in this train.”
Khusi, also a Lucknow student who has drawn a sketch of Azadi Ki Amrit Mahostav, said “I feel proud to represent my school in the inaugural run.”
While many students were busy clicking pictures of their mates, Kirti, a student from Gorakhpur wants to create a photo album of the entire journey.
Shivi, a Class-XI student, said, “I am quite excited to travel on the inaugural run. Since PM would inaugurate the train and there are celebrations all around here for the occasion, we want to be part of the event.”
Aryahi, another student from a public school, said that the train was special because the train would run at a high speed of 160 kmph. There were many such students like Bhanu, Mahesh, Jyoti, Sweta etc and their teachers who seemed to be enjoying the ride on Vande Bharat.
Asked about the food packets being served to them onboard, the students had varied opinions.
While some liked the hot kachori and Samosa, some enjoyed the fruit cakes and fried peanuts.
Sourav, the manager of the catering unit of the train, expressed that the food being served in Vande Bharat has to be of the best quality because the passengers pay more for the service.
“It was a challenging task for us to ensure the smooth flagging-off of the Vande Bharat Express at Gorakhpur station”, said a senior railway official of Gorakhpur Division, who was posted here for the last four years.
He added that it was not only a big event for the division but also for Gorakhpur town, as it is being connected with the Indian Railways’ premier service through the Vande Bharat Express.
The owners of a book stall and food stall at the Platform-1 were also very excited as they now expect more footfall on the station, after the launch of the premier service. Both maintained that Vande Bharat attracts a distinguished clientele and that they are eager to cater to them.
They were also aware that the station premises would undergo big changes as Gorakhpur station is expected to be redeveloped as a world class station with shopping complex, food courts, budget hotels, parking lots etc.
Gorakhpur-Lucknow Vande Bharat Express will connect Baba Gorakhnath Mandir to Lord Ram’s hometown Ayodhya and to Lucknow.
Tourist destinations such as Kushinagar, Siddharthnagar and Sant Kabir Nagar are also expected to benefit from the increased connectivity.
Though there are two more trains that ply between Gorakhpur to Lucknow via Ayodhya, the Vande Bharat Express is 2 hours 20 minutes faster than the existing fastest train on this route.
According to the Indian Railways, after the inaugural run, the train has been fully booked on this route.