Sources said the first commercial run of Train 18 would begin next week, just ahead of the Kumbh Mela.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today said that Train 18 will run from Delhi to Varanasi. He said that the run-time of Train 18 between Delhi and Varanasi will be eight hours, "one-and-a-half-times" faster than the fastest train on the route.
While the railways had been saying that it had proposed two routes for Train 18– Delhi to Bhopal and Delhi to Varanasi– this is the first time that the route has been officially confirmed.
"We have successfully tested the train and the suggestions are being incorporated. Very soon the train will be dedicated to the nation and we have requested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi flag it off. This train will run between Delhi and Varanasi in eight hours and the fastest train between the two cities takes 11.30 hours," Mr Goyal said.
While Mr Goyal refused to give a date for Train 18's first run, he said it would "begin service soon".
Sources said that the first commercial run of Train 18 would begin next week, just ahead of the Kumbh Mela, which starts in Prayagraj on January 14.
"Train 18 will be flagged off by PM Modi ahead of the Kumbh Mela," the sources said.
It is likely to be one of the four special trains to ferry delegates of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas from the Kumbh on January 24 to New Delhi in time for the Republic Day event.
The sources added that a date would be finalised once the railways gets a go-ahead from the Prime Minister Office.
"This train has amenities of international standards, is Wi-Fi enabled and has CCTV cameras. Train 18 has no locomotive or engine. It is a trainset. It will cover the 750-km route at a maximum speed of 160kmph," said Mr Goyal, who inspected the rake at the New Delhi railway station.
There will be two classes of coaches in Train 18 — one regular and another executive class. Both will be fully air-conditioned, he said.
Mr Goyal said the Railway Protection Force (RPF) was running campaigns to sensitise people on the Train 18 route so that incidents like the one that happened recently near Delhi, where a stone was thrown at it during a trail run, were not repeated.
RPF officials said they were providing children in the slum areas with toys, chalkboard and footballs to play with so that they do not use stones.
While the fare of Train 18 is not finalised yet, it is expected to include the cover of food.
On its journey to Varanasi on its first run, it will have two stoppages — one at Kanpur and the other at Prayagraj.
The train has a number of features to enhance passenger comfort, which include interconnected fully-sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats that can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds, diffused LED lighting and differently-abled-friendly toilets.