Thursday, April 7, 2016

Visibly proud:Pankaj Kumar Garg, the loco pilot for the inaugural run of Gatimaan Express.— Photo: R. V. Moorthy

Relaxing on a folding bed at the loco lobby of the Agra Cantonment railway station with a smile on his face, 49-year-old Pankaj Kumar Garg answers congratulatory calls in chaste Punjabi. The soft-spoken man is the one who ran the 5,400-horse power beast pulling the 10-coach Gatimaan Express.

The two-man team of Mr. Garg and his colleague Sudesh Kumar hauled India’s fastest train on its inaugural run and return to Delhi. Interestingly, the duo, along with the loco inspector and crew controller, are all from the 1986 batch of trainees.

“While I was still under training, the Bhopal Shatabdi, the fastest train before this, was launched. Since then, I have always dreamed of driving a high-speed train myself. That dream was fulfilled on Tuesday and now I want to drive trains clocking 200 kmph,” said a visibly-proud Mr. Garg.

His daughter, a BTech student, has been calling him since morning, along with many of her batch mates, to congratulate him. The duo had to undergo a month-long training to be able to run the train that can go up to 160 kmph.

“We took counselling sessions by experts who are specialists in the field of high-speed trains. We also had to pass a high-speed psychological test,” Mr. Kumar added.

While most trains have only one main loco pilot, trains with a speed of over 110 kmph need two equally-trained loco pilots, Mr. Kumar said. In fact, a third loco pilot was also kept on standby at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station for any eventuality.

Mr. Garg said while the engine of Gatimaan Express is not very different from other high speed trains, it is definitely superior technologically. “It is equipped with a Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS), which makes chances of accidents almost nil,” he said.

“The Railways has put in a lot of effort behind Gatimaan Express, including upgrading of tracks, signalling, etc.” He said the inaugural run was a smooth one, with the train not facing any obstacle, including technical, on the way to Agra. The train did slow down at some points, but that was due to some geographical constraints like curves, he said.


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