Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the third Mahamana Express, which will connect Varanasi with Vadodara.

Modi inaugurated the service through video conferencing, with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal present at the Vadodara Railway Station and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha in Surat.

“Such a big project [the Mahanama Express] has not been launched in Varanasi for several decades,” Modi said after flagging off the train. “All our [the government’s] programmes are made keeping in mind the empowerment of each and every section of society. We lay the foundation stones for projects, and we also inaugurate them.”

Modi added that development was the solution to every problem Varanasi faces. “Previous governments seemed to hate development and looted public money to win elections,” the prime minister said, according to PTI. “Our aim is to see that the dream of development is fulfilled and lives of poor changes and they get opportunities. No poor person wants to give their children their poverty in inheritance.” He said the government wanted to “wipe out” poverty.

The Mahamana Express, first launched in 2016 under the “Make in India” initiative, currently runs on two routes – Varanasi to New Delhi and Bhopal to Khajuraho.

In its inaugural special run, the train departed from Vadodara on Friday and will reach Varanasi on Saturday. It will leave for its return trip from Varanasi on Saturday night.

Starting September 27, the train will run weekly services, starting from Vadodara every Wednesday and from Varanasi every Friday, a release by the Indian Railways said. The 1,531-km route will take 27 hours and 30 minutes to cover.

The train service is named after former Hindu Mahasabha President Madan Mohan Malviya, who is also known as “Mahamana”.

The Railway Ministry has claimed that the train’s features include “ergonomically-designed ladders” to climb to upper berths, LED lighting across coaches, and berth indicators-cum-night-lights to assist passengers who board the train at night. The ministry said the train’s bathrooms have bigger mirrors, platform washbasins, odour control systems, exhaust fans and LED lights.

The Mahamana Express will have 18 coaches – one AC 1st class, two 2nd class AC, eight sleeper, four general coaches, one pantry car and two guard brake vans. The train does not have an AC-3 tier coach.

Other projects inaugurated

Modi also inaugurated the Deendayal Hastkala Sankul – a trade facilitation centre for handicrafts and crafts museum. Referring to development projects for weavers in Varanasi, the prime minister said, “Our weavers need a global market that will enhance their economic prospects significantly.” He also launched a Jal Ambulance (Water Ambulance) and Jal Shav Vahan (water ambulance for carrying bodies), and dedicated it to the people of Varanasi.