India’s first semi-high speed freight train is likely to hit the tracks by December, officials said Friday. Replicating the concept of Vande Bharat trains, the 16-coach ‘Gati Shakti’ train can clock 160 kmph and will be manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai.

In order to implement the PM Gati Shakti initiative in a focused manner, the Railways has created a separate directorate at the Railway Board with its branches at Khurda, Bilaspur, Delhi and Bengaluru divisions to expedite the ambitious scheme. “The design work for these trains has already started. We have also given the order for material…By December this year, we will be able to manufacture two of these trains,” ICF General Manager A K Agarwal said, adding that an overall target of 25 such trains has been set.

The final number of trains will depend on how the initial ones are received by the market, he added. The Railways is planning to target the e-commerce and courier parcel segment through these trains, officials said. Each train will also have refrigerated wagons in the rear end and in the front to carry perishables like milk products, fish, fruit and vegetables.

Electricity connection for these wagons will be provided from the coach. The rest of the coaches will have rollers for moving the container. Each coach will have two wide doors for loading and unloading the containers. According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, with a turnover of USD 50 billion in 2020, India has become the eighth largest market for e-commerce.

“India’s e-commerce market is expected to reach USD 111 billion by 2024 and USD 200 billion by 2026 and expected to reach USD 350 billion by 2030,” the official said, adding that Indian Railways plans to capture the small size parcel shipments by running dedicated high-speed freight trains.

The Indian Railways is aiming to increase its share in freight transportation from the present 27 per cent to 45 per cent by 2030 through better infrastructure and business development plans, according to the National Rail Plan.

The Indian Railways has identified 74 new ‘Gati-Shakti Multi-Modal Cargo Terminal (GCT) locations across the country, with 20 of them in the South Indian states under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Gati-Shakti Multi Model Cargo Terminal’ policy.

The policy was launched in 2021 in order to boost investment in the development of additional terminals for handling rail cargos.

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