Tea and Paranthas ( stuffed Indian bread) at Shivaji Stadium after the Bhopal Shatabdi transfer. It is a cosy spot where people like me met for early morning tea and parathas, to bond, to exchange trade gossip, to curse for what is generally wrong with life and our lives and to have one more tea just for the road. At times, after the Bhopal Shatabdi transfer, it was a drive straight to Jama Masjid to pack Nihari; the favourite breakfast of Old Delhi, for friends back in office. We would make the plan and collect money a day before. The incentive: the person going to Old Delhi to pick up Nihari will get his free. Nihari for breakfast guaranteed an early start at work because nobody, having paid for it in advance, wanted their Nihari cold. Dot 8 in the morning everybody was at office. Nihari first, and then work. 10 places to eat Nihari in Old Delhi – click here



November/February were particularly insane. I remember going to the airport just after midnight to receive clients, checking them into the city centre hotel and heading out again for a departure transfer on the Bhopal Shatabdi. No chance of catching forty winks in between because of the mortal fear of not waking up and a missed transfer. We called that then, including the chauffeurs– Raat Kali Karna (meaning having to go through a black sleepless night). And I am told they still call it something like that in 2016. A triple whammy was an arrival transfer on Emirates Airlines after Bhopal Shatabdi.




We travelled to Agra on Executive Class and returned to Delhi on Chair Car. Both are air-conditioned and require reservations (opens 120 days in advance- so make sure that you don’t forget to ask for clients’ passport details once you have included the train in the itinerary). The Gatiman Express at present has 2 Executive Class coaches (56 pax per coach to seat | 2+2 seating arrangement like a passenger airliner) and 8 Chair Car coaches (78 pax per coach to seat| 2+3 seating arrangement). Given that the Executive Class of Gatiman Express was 50% more expensive than the Bhopal Shatabdi (prices etc are mentioned in the Good to Know section in this report), I thought the seats would be bigger. But that was not the case. The seats of both the Executive Class and Chair Car of Gatiman Express had the same look and feel as the Bhopal Shatabdi. Same size. Even the upholstery was the same. That was kind of disappointing.

So what should your clients take? The Executive Class or the Chair Car on the Gatiman Express ? Remember the price difference between the two is 100%.

Given its excellent departure timing from Delhi, I would imagine more and more tour operators from overseas and their DMCs using the Gatiman Express and its Executive Class for their clients travelling to Agra. So yes!! Go for the Executive Class for no other reason than that your clients travelling with fellow passengers from overseas and a slightly more spacious aisle compared to the Chair Car. But hey!! No need to raise hell about it if the waitlisted Executive Class tickets don’t clear. 100 minutes to Agra on the Chair car is not bad at all. We have a nice Bhopal Shatabdi vs Gatiman Express video later in this report.



This is a first in Indian Railways. Inside the Gatiman Express your clients will be attended (both Executive Class and Chair Car) by English speaking hostesses and stewards in cheerful blue coats and black trousers. It was amazing to see them weaving in and out amongst the seats, surefooted like the Sherpas of the higher altitudes, enquiring about your choice of meals, balancing trays of food and tea and coffee pots. But I could see they were a bit anxious and unsettled. How do I put it? Think about a team here in our Gurgaon office with very little experience being given a very prestigious demanding account to handle with the brief that you cannot afford to go wrong or say- No and have a reputation to uphold. That’s where you can see the rough edges – lack in co-ordination and team work – the milk arrived before the cereals for example. Then the cereals arrived and milk took a long time but breakfast arrived before the milk. The milk for the cereals did arrive finally with an apology. They were not clued in about the trains “WiFi” facility (details below) either. They knew there was WiFi, but couldn’t help or explain how it works or knew who could help. These are some flaws and there is definitely scope for improvement. But hey, it was just 4 days after the train was launched and let me set the expectations right- don’t board the Gatiman Express expecting services of Orient Express just because it is India’s fastest train. You will be disappointed. But it is good to know and you will be glad to know that most of the men and women in blue are from very humble socio-economic backgrounds– be it from Delhi, or smaller towns/cities like my native place in Assam; quite funnily categorised as a C class city, or some of North India’s most economically backward areas. Many were previously working at the Delhi international airport assisting passengers before they were picked by the Indian Railways. Their intentions were right and they were trying hard - probably a little too hard. But they didn’t spill tea/coffee on anyone’s clothes nor did they bang the food trolley into anyone’s leg. “You should relax a bit. Don’t worry you are doing a great job,” I told Neelam, our hostess in the Executive Class, while saying goodbye and getting off the train at Agra. “I am trying my best Sir. It is a very challenging job,” she replied in impeccable English. Neelam is from Shahadra, East Delhi and is the youngest among the 5 daughters of the family. Father is a retired employee of the Municipal Corporation. Mother is a housewife. On our way back in the chair car Jagdish, our Steward belonged to Etah in Uttar Pradesh, one of the India's 250 most backward districts. This is a refreshingly different young and restless India.



Really doesn’t matter or is a factor because our clients will either have breakfast at the hotel before boarding the train or carry packed breakfast. But the food served at the Gatiman Express is definitely an upgrade from the Bhopal Shatabdi including the presentation (see the Bhopal Shatabdi vs Gatiman Express video). A welcome change in the Gatiman Express are the tiny milk pots. Each pot, which is shelf stable, is an ideal portion of milk for use in a cup of tea or coffee if you like it strong and which our clients may most likely have on the train. Feel free to ask for any number of milk pots. Easy to peel off and pour unlike the powdered milk sachets of Bhopal Shatabdi or most Indian trains which you have to tear. More often than not these plastic sachets are a struggle in a moving train and can be really annoying if you have to use your teeth.



Hold on, the WiFi on Gatiman Express is not the WiFi you think where you log in by typing the password to check emails/Facebook or Tweet. You can’t do any of that. Not at the moment. It is actually an entertainment hotspot which you log into by typing an URL and the information is transferred wirelessly to be displayed on your phones, laptops and tablets. There is no internet usage, neither do you have to pay for the same + there is no buffering. At the moment Movies, Videos, Cartoons and whatever content is available are in Hindi – save for 2 songs in English. I am hoping this will change once we have more overseas tourists using the train.



I was hoping that the toilets, at least of the Executive Class, will be somewhat swanky. But they are simple and efficient both in Executive Class and Chair Car. Guess Indian Railways have quickly learnt from the Mahamana Express – the super-fast train between Varanasi and Delhi. Launched in January this year, it was tom-tommed as the first major upgrade in in facilities and design of long distance passenger trains in India. It took passengers just one week to reduce the train from swanky to stinky, some even walked away with the expensive fixtures of the toilets and the LED lights.


While planning our trip on the Gatiman Express with our MD, Mr. Dipak Deva, we dwelled on the idea of whether, one of the talking points could be - Hazrat Nizamuddin station (from where Gatiman Express starts its journey/Platform no 5) is less chaotic than New Delhi Railway Station. Well, the approach/entry to the Hazrat Nizamuddin station was definitely less chaotic vs the New Delhi Railway Station when we reached to board Gatiman Express in the morning. But when we returned from Agra the same day (reached Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 19:30 hrs dot on time/stopped at platform no 3) there was a sea of people waiting to board an overnight train to Khajuraho from the same platform. It was chaotic and surprising actually, because platform no 1, not too far away, was completely empty. So “ this is less chaotic than that ” doesn’t work and can’t be a talking point. At least for the moment.

Stick to the Gatiman Express’s super timings as your sales pitch which also makes it the most ideal train for clients who want a day trip to Agra


Back in the days – yikes!! I am sounding ancient – but from whatever experience I have had from 2005-09- a day trip to Agra was always exhausting and inconvenient. Clients would wake up early to catch the Bhopal Shatabdi at 6am, reach Agra by 8am and do their sightseeing of the Taj Mahal and Red Fort. Post that was like – What do we do now? OK let us head to Sikri. OK we have done Sikri, but still have 3 hours at hand. The Bhopal Shatabdi departed from Agra only at 8pm to reach Delhi at 10 pm. The Taj Express which departed at 6:55 pm, earlier than the Bhopal Shatabdi, but reached Delhi at 10:05 pm and was not a comfortable train at all. Even for those clients who used to return by surface to Delhi after a leisurely lunch, it was a long drive through the old highway battling traffic jams. There was no Yamuna Expressway (inaugurated 2012) then. Not that the Yamuna Express Highway now in 2016 makes any difference if you reach the Greater Noida end (on the Delhi side) from Agra during peak office hours.

But with the Gatiman Express, a day trip to Agra can be done without any stress. Add to that the AC lounge in the Agra Cantt station which opened with the Gatiman Express. It is a great place to relax while waiting for the train to depart. Charges are Rs 100 per person for 2 hours – water, tea/coffee, WiFi included in that cost – it is a steal. I would recommend to add it to the costs whenever you use the Gatiman Express for a day trip to Agra.

And here is the video of our day trip to Agra on the Gatiman Express.



Have a look at the video. I am tired of writing now! And you must be tired of reading! In this video we are showing you the Executive Class of both the trains.



…to and from New Delhi Railway Station
…to and from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station
DEPARTURE TIME ETD Delhi - 06:00 hrs / ETD Agra- 20:00 hrs ETD Delhi - 08:10 hrs / ETD Agra- 17:50 hrs
STOPS 1 (Mathura) 0 (Non-stop)
ARRIVAL TIME ETA Agra- 08:00 hrs/ETA Delhi-22:00 hrs ETA Agra- 09:50 hrs/ETA Delhi-19:30 hrs
TOP SPEED 150 kms/hr (93 miles/ hr) 160 kms/hr (100 miles/ hr)
TIME TAKEN 120 minutes one way 100 minutes one way
PRICE Executive Class – Rs 1010 + service charge, Chair Car - Rs 515 + service charge Executive Class – Rs 1500 + service charge, Chair Car - Rs 750 + service charge



You may want to provide small paper bags to clients, which can be used as waste bags when they travel on the Gatiman Express. They can leave it on the train after usage. No issues. I missed one for sure during our day trip.



The Gatiman Express’ top speed is 160kms/hr (100 miles/hr) which makes it the fastest train in India. That’s nothing compared to China or Japan you may say. But considering the fact that most trains in India travel at an average speed of 70kms/hr (43 miles/hr), the Gatiman Express with an average speed of 112kms/hr (70 miles/hr) opens up a whole new world of possibilities for high speed rail travel in India. Gatiman (गतिमान) is a Sanskrit word which means on the move/in motion and it is a terrific start to the idea of reaching your destination faster on Indian trains.

If you have read the entire report, you are a rock star. Thank you for being with me till here.



Kuntil Baruwa | Explorer - in - Residence | Destination Knowledge Centre