Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Railways aflutter with bullet train plans

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 02, 2014 Ahead of their expected meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the top rail bureaucracy seems aflutter with plans to build a high speed corridor connecting the 543 kilometer distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Within days of his meeting on Tuesday with secretaries of various ministries, the Prime Minister is likely to take a presentation on the futuristic plans of India’s public transporter. The presentation is likely to incorporate proposals to run bullet trains at speeds ranging 300-350 kilometers per hour, ministry sources said.

Given Modi’s reported favor to the plan, ministry officials have plunged into frenetic activities in finalizing the technical aspects and business models on the proposed corridor.

While the PMO has instructed the Railways board to remain prepared with a big-picture presentation, it is likely that the Prime Minister will take a separate presentation on high speed plans in the near future, sources said.

New Railways Minister D V Sadananda Gowda – who discussed the issue with the Prime Minister last Friday – is understood to have instructed officials to complete the paperwork required to enable him to provide for financial and administrative sanctions in his budget speech next month.

Although the detailed study report of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is scheduled to be submitted next May, the agency has been asked to submit a preliminary report next month, Chairman Railway Board, Arunendra Kumar told HT.

Meanwhile, the business development report for this corridor – being conducted by the SNCF (French National Railway – is likely to be submitted next month.

The Railways Minister has asked officials to engage in some out-of-the-box thinking to make high speed train travel affordable to general passengers.

“India’s passenger volumes being huge, it might be possible to keep a reasonable fare structure. One option can be to run high speed bullet trains at speeds ranging 300-350 kilometers per hour for only a few hours of the day, while operating the same train sets at lower speed with lesser facilities and on a lower fare structure on the same tracks for the rest of the time”, Chairman of the High Speed Rail Corporation Satish Agnihotri said.


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