Suresh Prabhu-led Indian Railways has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to implement its high-speed train projects on various routes across India.
Suresh Prabhu-led Indian Railways has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to implement its high-speed train projects on various routes across India. The high-speed train programme has two aims; one to run trains at a speed of over 300 kmph and the other to have semi-high speed trains that will ply at 160-200 kmph speeds. Additionally, the idea is to run existing trains at higher speeds and to introduce faster train sets.
Bullet trains: Apart from, the famous Mumbai to Ahmedabad high-speed corridor (bullet train), which has been sanctioned, and will be built with the assistance of Japan, five other corridors for over 300 kmph speed trains have been identified by Indian Railways. These are: Delhi-Mumbai high speed corridor, Mumbai-Chennai high speed corridor, Delhi-Kolkata high speed corridor, Delhi-Nagpur high speed corridor and Mumbai-Nagpur high speed corridor. Feasibility studies are being conducted for all these five routes and the final reports for all except Delhi to Nagpur are expected in January 2017. In case of the Delhi to Nagpur corridor, the inception report has been received.
As far as the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project goes, it will be based on the Japanese Shinkansen high-speed technology. A company “National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited”, that will implement the project, has already been formed. The project is expected to be completed between 2023 and 2024, and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has recently assured that the tariff for travel on this bullet train will be less than airfare. The Japanese government is providing financial assistance for the project in the form of a loan upto 81% of the cost at a a nominal interest rate of 0.1% per annum. This loan has to be repaid in 50 years with a 15 year moratorium.
Semi high-speed trains: The Gatimaan Express, that plies between Delhi and Agra at a maximum speed of 160 kmph is the first big step by Railways in the direction of semi high-speed trains. Apart from this the Indian Railways have also identified eight more corridors for feasibility of semi high-speed trains. These are: Delhi-Chandigarh, Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore, Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur–Secunderabad. While the Delhi-Chandigarh route’s feasibility-cum implementation study has been taken up by France’s SNCF, the Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore feasibility study is beind done by ERYUAN Group of Chinese Railways. For the other six routes, the quantum of technical inputs required for upgradation of speed to 160 kmph have been identified by the concerned Zonal Railways and Konkan Railway.
The Talgo trials: Yet another move in the direction of high-speed train involves the extensive trials of Talgo coaches by Indian Railways. Talgo, a Spanish manufacturer of high-speed trains, has given its coaches for test run, claiming that their lighter weight would help Indian Railways achieve higher speeds on the existing tracks. The coaches, which are being pulled by an Indian Railways engine, have already clocked a speed of 180 kmph on the Mathura-Palwal stretch and are now all set to be tested on the Delhi to Mumbai Rajdhani route. Talgo has claimed that at a speed of 150 kmph, its train will be able to complete the journey between the two cities in less than 12 hours.
Watch: Indian Railways moving on high speed and bullet train projects
EMUs: There is also a proposal to acquire modern electrical EMU train sets. These train sets will have a good average speed, thereby saving travel time substantially, says Indian Railways.
Mission Raftar: Suresh Prabhu is also working on ‘Mission Raftar’, an initiative announced during the Railway Budget 2016, to increase the speed of existing trains. This aims to double the average speed of freight trains and increase the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kilometre per hour (kmph) in next 5 years. This involves improving mobility and increasing average speed of trains; includes removal of speed restrictions, construction of road over bridges (ROBs) and road under bridges (RUBs), right powering of trains, introduction of twin-pipe brake system in wagons, and replacement of conventional loco hauled commuter trains by Main Line Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) and Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains.
Apart from these five ways, Railways is also working on the introduction of Tejas, a faster train service, which it claims requires minimal technological inputs. The aim is to attain speeds of above 130 kmph with Tejas trains.