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India’s new high speed train breaks down after hitting cow on first trip

India’s new high-speed train broke down on its first trip after after hitting a cow on the tracks – just a day after it was launched.

The Vande Bharat Express made its first journey from New Delhi to the Hindu holy city of Varanasi on Friday after being inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi.

But on its return the following day it collided with cattle causing the brakes to fail, according to Indian Railways.

It comes after rail bosses were left red faced when they were mocked for altering footage of the train on social media to make it look twice as fast.

Soon after the collision with the cow, the drivers noticed smoke billowing from the last four carriages and the electricity stopped working.

‘The train later experienced technical issues and was stranded on the way to Delhi,’ Indian Railways spokeswoman Smita Vats Sharma told AFP.

The train reached the capital ‘safely’ ahead of its first commercial journey on Sunday, she added.

The accident is the latest controversy for the express train – touted as India’s fastest and a special project of Modi’s government.

Last week India’s rail minister Piyush Goyal was mocked after he tweeted a digitally altered video of the train zipping by a station at lightning speed.

He was later accused of altering the video to make the train appear faster, triggering widespread social media ridicule.

A member of a trainspotters Facebook group wrote under the Twitter post that the video appeared to be sped up footage he had taken in December.

The Vande Bharat Express, touted as India’s fastest train was built under the Modi government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme.

Cattle obstructions on roads and rail tracks are common in India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh state where Saturday’s collision happened.

Since coming to office, Modi’s nationalist party launched a crackdown on the slaughter of cows – considered sacred by many Hindus – which has led to crisis numbers of stray and unwanted cattle.

India is struggling to upgrade its colonial-era railway system, which relies on creaking and outdated infrastructure to transport 23 million travellers each day.

The locally-made express train has a rated top speed of 180 kilometres (111 miles) an hour, 20 percent quicker than the next fastest train in service.

Railway authorities say the train is expected to reduce the 850-kilometre journey between the two cities from 14 to eight hours.