Train journeys are seldom uneventful. Yesterday, Jayadev and I went on a one-day business trip to Ernakulam (Kochi) and back to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). This was my first trip on the Jan Shatabdi Express (the link says how these trains came about). Though conceived as a 'cleaner', faster and slightly costlier service, it is does not even come close to what would internationally be considered fast and clean. A google search also drew out this undated document lamenting its low occupancy rate (? - our train was pretty full; the doc seems to have been written in 2003)
Anyways, this train is better than the average Indian 'train' on all counts (more on that later). Though low cost carriers like Air Deccan may soon threaten its existence - there are quite a few who'd prefer to travel well grounded :) So the good things first:
1. Pretty fast with just a few stops and pretty comfy luxury bus kinda push back seats.
2. GPS / GSM (?) based station display which shows ETA at the next stop, the time we passed last waypoint etc.
And now the bad things:
1. Whoever designed the air-conditioning system, gave no thought to the noise it made! It made a constant shrill high pitched tone almost throughout the journey! Unfortunately, no one else seemed to share my sensitivity towards this sound - they seemed happily unaware of the sound that was driving me crazy.
2. Tea / coffee / snacks. Although the entire journey hardly last a quarter of a day - it does make one hungry. I was pleasantly surprised to find Nescafe coffee vending machines and microwave ovens inside the compartments (Now that sounds like a first inside indian railways). However, I was told that these had just been there for a few weeks and might take months to get functional. I sure hope railways can make it operational asap.
3. Now for the (dangerously bad) icing on the spoilt cake ;) This is something that we Indians are pretty good at - being terribly unprepared for emergencies. The pictures are self explanatory. However, for those who cannot see the writing on the image clearly, here's the text - "HAMMER FOR BREAKING THE WINDOW GLASS DURING EMERGENCY". The only problem is - there is no hammer inside the beautifully sealed enclosure (or it is of the invisible kind). A quick glance revealed that even the next compartment had a non-existent emergency hammer.
Now, I do not know for sure how much difference that hammer might make in an emergency, but I sure do hope and pray that no-one gets into such a situation!