A Joy to Ride On Afrosiyob – Uzbekistan’s High-Speed Train
By Ameya Sathaye (on board Afrosiyob)
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, April 18 Even as India contemplates introduction of high speed trains, a central Asian nation, Uzbekistan has already stolen a march by introducing its own 250 kmph bullet train, called the Afrosiyob.
It was an thrilling experience travelling on this train from Tashkent to Samarkand, covering the distance of over 400 kms or more, in a shade under two hours. I was travelling to Samarkand from Tashkent as part of my duties as an international election observer from India.
Afrosiyob was first introduced on July 22 last year by the Uzbek government. Built by the Spanish company Patentes Talgo SL , it was introduced to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
This was another feather cap in the Uzbek government which has brought the high speed train for the first time in central Asia.
The high speed train is composed of two locomotives pulling nine comfortable cars for the passengers. There are two wagons catering to the VIP class of passengers. Another two wagons cater to the Business Class and four wagons comfortably seat other passengers in the Economy Class.
There is a unique Bistro wagon, which is actually a Meal on Wheels (pantry car) that serves a menu ranging from as diverse Europe to Asian cuisine. In the Bistro passengers can enjoy a cup of tea, coffee or soft drinks, and they can savour a menu with a selection of Oriental and European dishes.
All zones of the train are zones are marked as non-smoking in compliance with international regulations on the ban on smoking in public places. Each of the wagons of the Afrosiyob carries a display board that informs passengers about the route, number of wagons, the air temperature in the cabin and the speed at which the train is traversing the distance at any point of time.
The Afrosiyob can peak to the speed of about 250 kms per hour( kmph). The track gauge is 1520 mm thick which actually allows the train to remain in a stable condition in high speeds throughout the two hour long journey.
The front main locomotive of the Afrosiyob high speed train is aerodynamically designed to withstand the wind shear it encounters. The train is 157 metres long and has a height of four metres.
All the carriages of Afrosiyob seat the passengers in the most comfortable manner. The train offers such comfortable seats to passengers that are composed of soft material with a folding backrest, table and footrest. Each seat is also fitted with a built in audio and video module, offering entertainment through video and audio clips. Each of the seats is also equipped with reading lamps.
The windows of the passenger cars are made of insulated laminated glass, equipped with sun-protective curtains. A comfortable climate is maintained in the cabin in any season of the year. All the salons of the train have hangers for clothes and storage space for large luggage. Luggage racks are also located over the seats.
The wagon’s salons are furnished with thick carpets that not only provide passenger comfort but also make up for good and sound insulation. The train also ensures that the comfort level of passengers who are physically challenged is at a high level replete with wheel chairs and specially designed toilets for them.
The Tashkent to Samarkand high-speed rail line is actually a 344-kilometre (214 mile) high-speed rail connection between the two largest Uzbek cities. The route passes through four provinces: Tashkent, Sirdaryo, Jizzakh and Samarqand in Uzbekistan. The train has a seven day frequency.
Construction began on the line on March 11, 2011, with completion planned for later that year at a cost of roughly US$70 million. The line includes both new and rebuilt trackage, as well as adding modern signalling systems to the route.
In addition to building trackage capable of supporting high-speed service, some track of lower standards was built to the cities of Bukhara and Khiva as part of the project.
The 344 kilometres (214 mile) high-speed line is capable of speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph), with a total travel time between Tashkent and Samarkand of about two hours. The line was originally planned to open for commercial operation in September 2011, but suffered from delays.
The author is the CEO and publisher and chief editor of the highly popular website sarkaritel.com which has also launched a new diplomatic site called diplomacyindia.com. He was in Uzbekistan as a state guest as an election observer recently concluded Uzbekistan Presidential Elections 2015 when he took the train ride.