India on Thursday catapulted itself to veritable exclusive club of the Asian countries with economy-boosting, high-speed rail networks, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the ceremonial foundation stone for the 508-km, Rs 1.1 -lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad “bullet train” project at the packed Athletics Stadium here.
The facility, slated to come up by 2022-23 on Japan’s financial support and its half-century-old Shinkansen network technology, will reduce the rail travel time between the two Indian cities from over seven hours now to less than three hours. The project will help de-congest the two urban agglomerations, trigger development of other cities on the network, cut carbon footprint and by being able to stand on its feet, could possibly curb the drain on the exchequer from rail fare subsidy. “The area between Mumbai and Ahmedabad would become a Shinkansen economic zone, where trade will get a push,” Modi said.
While it is estimated that the high-speed train fares will be around 1.5 times the 1AC fare on Indian Railways’ network, the prime minister said, “our aim is to make technology so affordable through maximum use that it becomes associated with the poor.” The next generation growth would take place in places which have high-speed corridors, he added.
Speaking at the occasion, Abe said Japan-India relationship signified a “special strategic global partnership” which is key to the security of the Indo-Pacific region and will boost the economic growth of the entire area. “Japan and its companies are committed to provide all help to establish high-speed rail in India,” Abe said.
Japan’s Kawasaki and India’s BHEL will be manufacturing the components of the rolling stock in India. Railway minister Piyush Goyal said the partnership will boost the National Democratic Alliance government’s flagship Make in India programme.
While there will be a total of 12 stations on the route, two categories of train will operate on the network· one stopping at all 12 stations and completing the journey in two hours and 58 minutes, and another stopping at four stations and completing the journey in two hours and 7 minutes.
While the maximum design speed will be 350 km per hour, the trains are expected to operate at 320 km per hour. Of the 508-km corridor, 468 km or 92%, will be on an elevated corridor whereas 27 km or 6% will be under tunnels and 13 km or 2% will be at ground level. It will include the longest tunnel of 21 km l with 7-km distance under sea (Thane Creek).
To be up and running on 2022-23, the 75th year of India’s Independence. Japanese experts are expected to train 300 officers and 4,000 staff of Indian Railways for seamless operations of the high-speed trains. Around 137 officers have already been trained by Japan. The railways created the National High Speed Rail Corporation will execute the Mumbai–Ahmedabad HighSpeed Rail Project (MAHSR).
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, also attended Thursday’s ceremony.
As per estimates of the Indian Railways, 36,000 passengers are expected to commute daily on the MAHSR network when the services are commissioned and the number go up eventually to 186,000 per day by 2053. During this period, the one-way 35 daily trains at the start will go up to 105.