French cos evince keen interest in bullet train project

Written by Press Trust of India | Mumbai | Updated: Jul 10 2014, 02:23am hrs
Bullet train projectThe government had unveiled these plans in the Railway Budget, 2014-15 presented in Parliament yesterday.
A day after the Centre announced plans to introduce a bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and to allow foreign direct investment into the railways sector, a number of French companies have come forward to participate in the project.

The government had unveiled these plans in the Railway Budget, 2014-15 presented in Parliament yesterday.

Some of the French firms which have evinced interest in the proposed high-speed rail project include SNCF, Alstom and Veolia.

"We have participated in the construction of the Delhi Metro and are doing consultancy for the ongoing Mumbai and Bangaluru metro projects," French mobility and logistics major SNCF Senior Vice President Philippe Lorand told PTI on the sidelines of an event here today.

"We would also like to participate in the high-speed train project too, if given an opportunity," he added.

Lorand is a part of a 28-member French business delegation which visited Mumbai to explore business and investment opportunities in India.

The company is present in the country through its four subsidiaries namely AERP, Geodis, Keolis and Systra.

After completing the renovation of the CST railway station in Mumbai, SNCF is now looking at investing in the renovation of other railway stations in the country like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Amritsar, he said.

Alstom Transport's representative also said that it would like to enhance its presence in the country by participating in more railway projects.

At present, the company has a presence in infra and services projects such as Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore metro railway projects.

"We would like to become partners in the modernisation of Indian railways and bring it to international standards," Alstom India Transport Managing Director Bharat Salhotra said.

French transport group Veolia said that it is keen to collaborate with Indian companies to participate in various ongoing rail projects.

"We are looking for other metro railway projects in the coming up at Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kochi and Lucknow," Veolia Transport RATP India Project Director Apurba Dhar said.

The company plans to target engineering project consultancy (EPC) contracts for such projects under the private-public-partnership (PPP) model.

"We also plan to focus on monorails at a later stage," Dhar said.

SNCF French Railways, which is a subsidiary of SNCF, has recommended a three-tier fare for the forthcoming high-speed trains or bullet trains in the country.

A report recently submitted by the company to the Centre suggested that fares to be charged from passengers travelling in the premium class from Mumbai to Ahmedabad on the proposed high-speed trains for single journey should be Rs 3,900 and for first class - Rs 1,900 and second class - Rs 700.

"To serve all, you need high-speed trains for all. You need to have high capacity and low cost for both the common man and business travellers as well," SNCF French Railways' India Advisor Michel Testard said.

The company had been assigned by the Indian government to conduct a development operation study. Prior to it, SNCF was awarded a feasibility study in 2009 for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed train to cover a distance of 540 km and the study was completed in 2010.

"We have recommended that while the high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will take 2.20 hours, the semi- high-speed train will take as long as 2.50 hours", Lorand said.

Total investment in the project would come to Rs 60,000 crore, he said.

As against the high-speed train which requires dedicated corridors to run, semi-high-speed trains can easily run on already existing tracks with a minimum investment, he said.

Currently, SNCF is involved in the construction of the Mumbai Metro. "We have done lots of work for the already existing Delhi Metro," he said.