On my usual Goa to Delhi trips I decided to try out Rajdhani first class instead of the usual flight option. I had a spare sunday at my disposal and was tired of flying so decided to try the best that the Indian Railways had to offer.
I booked a single normal first-class(1AC) ticket from Madgao(Goa) to Hazrat Nizamuddin(Delhi) on 22413/Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express. It cost me ₹6175. While this was way more expensive than flight, it more than made up with the luxury, better schedule and savings on hotel room for late night flight and cab ride. I had accidentally forgotten to select lower birth to be preferred. I had a knee injury so climbing up on the upper birth would be hard. The chart for Rajdhani is prepared at the last moment and as such I tried to get in touch with IRCTC and Indian Railways to help me out on email, phone and Twitter; all to no avail. Phone had inter-connection issues for me from anything other than BSNL, email took days for a response and reply was that they couldn’t do anything once the booking was confirmed. More on that later.
I will be speaking more about service, food and the journey in this section.
As soon as I reached the station I approached the Train Ticket Examiner(TTE) to help me out with a lower birth. He told me to adjust for then but will help me out with something later in the night. The train was running almost full but I ended up getting an entire cabin for the night! During daytime for the journey till Mumbai I was accompanied by a senior citizen, who made for very good company.
As for the rest of the service, you are made to feel like a king. Everything is taken care of. You get very nice blankets, cushions, bedsheet, towels and any other thing that you may need. There is even a mirror provided for you. They will help you out with anything that you may need. I was even offered to be woken up in the morning. Everything is with a big smile, which was great to see. The downside? They expect hefty tips. I ended up paying ₹100 3 times, twice for food and once for room service. The service certainly justified the tips but it was clearly against Indian Railways’ no-tipping policy. It was also good to note that the toilets were sparkling clean as well and everything including soap was in place. AC was working very well and was at just the right temperature. They also ask you to fill up feedback forms.
This is one area which is absolutely not a disappointment. The servers will absolutely pamper you with food. I was even offered extra food after the server insisted on it several times. There is a separate tray table brought in so that you can have your food more easily and everything is served in premium quality crockery. The only negative was that I had hoped for the food to be a little more healthy. A way to pre-book a more healthy menu would have been nice.
This is what I had:
- Pre-lunch – Tropicana juice, water, tomato soup, breadsticks, butter.
- Lunch – Chicken curry, vegetable sabji, chapati, rice, dal, curd, gulab jamun.
- Evening snacks – Kachori, namkeen, tea, bread butter, caramel popcorn.
- Pre-dinner – Veg clear soup, breadsticks, butter.
- Dinner(continental) – Noodles, macaroni, fried chicken, boiled vegetables, bread, ice-cream.
- Breakfast – Egg omlette, french fries, boiled vegetables, bread, veg cutlets, tea, butter, cereal.
The stops for this journey were Madgaon(starting), Thivim, Kudal, Ratnagiri, Panvel, Vasai Rd., Surat, Vadodara, Kota, Hazrat Nizamuddin(ending). The train started on 27th May 2018 at 10 AM sharp from Madgaon and was ahead of schedule by the time it approached Nizamuddin. I got down at Okhla(few kms off Nizamuddin) when the train had stopped momentarily since that was way closer to where I intended to go once I was in Delhi. The total journey is of approximately 26 hours and covers 1909 kms. The train takes a lot more time when monsoons approach since it has to follow the monsoon time table and is often delayed by pre-monsoon maintenance.
The train was hauled by 2x WDM-3D(diesel) locos till Vadodara, and then by a WAP-7(electric). Consequently the max speed for the train in the first part of the journey was 110 km/hr and it cruised at 140 km/hr in later parts of the journey. The train has LHB rakes, which makes for a very smooth journey.
The sights that you will witness will be breathtaking, especially the Konkan area near Goa and Maharashtra. They close all doors since the train is travelling fast but you do get huge windows to see the sights. You will get to do lots of rail spotting including lots of passenger/express/mail trains, goods trains, EMU/MEMU trains in Mumbai. I also got to try Railtel Wi-Fi at a few stations, which worked very well. The only thing I would have liked and wasn’t there was in train Wi-Fi. Indian Railways has implemented this in collaboration with ISRO using satellite internet on a few routes and trains, but it has not yet made it’s way to most of the Rajdhani class trains.
This was a very positive experience for me. I will not be taking this option every time since it is very time intensive and expensive, but it certainly makes a lot of sense for short haul. The service is excellent, food is fantastic, train is clean, fast and on-time. I had very high expectations, which were thoroughly met and then some!