Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi Railway Station. The train, the fastest in the country, left the national capital for Varanasi with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and senior officials of the Indian Railways on board for its first commercial run. The Vande Bharat Express ticket price was recently reduced to make it more competitive.

Designed and manufactured indigenously at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 18 months, the train underwent a series of test runs for its speed, safety and features.

Originally called Train 18, it was renamed Vande Bharat Express on 27 January. According to IRCTC, the semi high-speed engineless train will cover the 770 km distance from New Delhi to Varanasi in 8 hours, including the time at its only two stoppages on route – Kanpur and Prayagraj.

Read More: PM Modi flags off Vande Bharat Express, India’s fastest train

Vande Bharat Express has 16 coaches of two types – Executive and non-Executive chair cars. The entire train is air conditioned and has the same number of seats as in a Shatabdi Express, which it will replace. The total seating capacity is 1,128 passengers.

Passenger comfort has been given detailed attention. Features include CCTVs, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, rotational seats, modular and disabled-friendly toilets with bio-vacuum systems, automatically-opening doors with retractable footsteps among other features.

Every coach has a pantry facility to serve hot meals and, hot and cold beverages. The insulation is meant to keep heat and noise to very low levels for additional passenger comfort.

Read More | Vande Bharat Express: Check Train 18 full schedule, fares, timings, stations on Delhi-Varanasi route

But the one downside is the fare. Tickets for Vande Bharat Express are around 40 per cent costlier than Shatabdi Express.

The Executive Class fare would be between Rs 2,800 and Rs 2,900 while that of the Chair Car would be between Rs 1,600 and 1,700.

This raises the question: Is travel on Vande Bharat Express costlier than a flight? We decided to find out.

Ticket for a single person travelling from New Delhi to Varanasi in the non-executive Chair Car will cost Rs 1,755 including all taxes. Since railway fares are uniform for any date within the booking window, the price of the ticket will remain uniform till the Indian Railways decide to change it. The screenshot below shows ticket price on 19 February.

 

(Photo: irctc.co.in)

A ticket for the Executive Chair car will cost Rs 3,300, inclusive of all taxes, on the same route.

 

(Photo: irctc.co.in)

 

Now compare this to air fares.

Airline ticket prices are never the same over a period of time. For the same distance and departure time, the ticket for any airline will be cheaper if booked way in advance than a ticket booked, say, a day before departure.

A quick look at air fares between New Delhi to Varanasi for 19 February reveals that the cheapest available ticket is of Spice Jet, which costs Rs 4,812 if the ticket is booked in the afternoon of 15 February.

 

(Photo: irctc.co.in)

 

Thus on the same day – 19 February – the ticket of an airline is around 175 per cent more costlier than the price of a Vande Bharat Express non-executive class train ticket and is around 45 per cent costlier than an Executive Class ticket.

But if one books a flight ticket from New Delhi to Varanasi on, say, 9 May 2019, the cheapest fare will be Rs 2,526, which is Rs 771 more than a non-executive Chair Car and Rs 774 less than that of an Executive Chair Car ticket.

 

(Photo: irctc.co.in)

 

While a flight takes approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes to cover the distance, Vande Bharat Express will take a minimum of 8 hours.

How to book Vande Bharat Express tickets on IRCTC

IRCTC has opened bookings for Vande Bharat Express. The train will start operations for the public from 17 February, Sunday, and will run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

At the time of writing, tickets on non-executive Chair Car were available for only 20 and 24 February as tickets on all other running days between 17 February and 24 February had been booked.

– Login to IRCTC official website irctc.co.in using ID and password

– Enter origin (New Delhi) and destination (Varanasi) station, and date of journey

– Click on ‘Check availability and fare’ tab next to Vande Bharat Express

– Click on ‘Book Now’ tab under the date you wish to take the journey

– Enter details as required

– Follow instructions to book ticket

It is noteworthy that there will be no concessions on the ticket fares — senior citizens, children discount etc.

The fares will include the catering service charges. However, those travelling from Allahabad to Varanasi and from Varanasi to Allahabad on the return journey can opt out of meals, saving Rs 222 on chair car tickets and Rs 244 on executive class tickets.