Improving the Indian Railways has been among the major items on the agenda of the NDA government. The Bibek Debroy committee on railways had recently recommended private sector participation in the railways. All this while, the focus has been on spending billions of dollars to build high speed rail corridors linking major cities which could take years to happen.
The Euro 384 million, Spain-based Talgo has come with an entirely different solution. The manufacturer of intercity, high speed and passenger trains has suggested using the legacy network of the Indian Railways to provide faster connectivity. What Talgo plans to do is launch its lighter, faster trains in India for which it has an in-principle nod. If all goes well, the first of these light, fast train sets would be imported into India by the end of the year. The immediate impact will be a reduction in the travel time between Delhi and Mumbai by 30% to 12 hours.
The Talgo trains travel at speeds of 160-220 kilometres per hour, much higher than the current high of 130 kilometres per hour. Though they are slower than the 350 kilometres per hour achieved by high speed trains like Japan’s Shinkansen or France’s TGV, the investment too is much lower. With the government opening up investment in the sector, Talgo is open to setting up a plan to make the trains here.
It could well be the catalyst for other railway manufacturers to come here. Yes, it will make train travel more expensive than now, but would provide faster, comfortable travel to people. Also, since it can be deployed much faster, it will help build the case for high speed rail corridors to be built. All said, it’s the first step to quicker intercity connectivity that the average Indian long distance consumer has been seeking for years. But, what remains to be seen is how the Indian Railways will manage to run fast trains such as these on tracks where we have the slow passenger trains that stop at every station. That could be the biggest challenge.
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