The first Vande Bharat Express between Tirunelveli and Chennai began running on Sunday.
It was among the nine new VB Express services, including one on Vijayawada – Dr MGR Chennai Central route, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off virtually during the day.
A large number of people thronged the Tirunelveli station from where the train started around 1 pm on Sunday. There were cultural programmes by children at the railway station to mark the occasion.
Among those who travelled on the inaugural service were Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, Union Minister of State L Murugan, Tirunelveli MP S Gnanathiraviam, Tirunelveli MLA and BJP State vice-president Nainar Nagendran, and Palayamkottai MLA M Abdul Wahab.
Noting that the service, which is faster and cheaper than luxury buses that the people are dependent on, would be beneficial to the people of South Tamil Nadu, Tamilisai recalled her childhood memories when she used to frequently travel from the Tirunelveli station along with her father, veteran Congress leader Kumari Ananthan.
When the train reached Madurai station, IT Minister and local MLA PTR Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, Madurai MP Su Venkatesan, and Mayor Indrani Ponvasanth led the welcome party and cut a special cake along with the members of the Indian Railways Fan Club.