Friday, July 22, 2016

High speed rail plans accelerate
By Suchanda Banerjee Posted On : July 22, 2016 in News - India & You , Tourism , Kolkata
Bullet trains in India – How feasible will they be? (P.C.: wikimedia)

Indian Railway plans to introduce a Diamond Quadrilateral to establish high speed railway (HSR) network connecting the main metros in India.

Connecting Metro Cities via Bullet Trains

Encouraged by the success of China in developing a vast high speed rail network, which is now the largest in the world, the Indian Railway is planning to set up its own network of trains criss-crossing the country at speeds approaching 300 kmph.

The Diamond Quadrilateral project envisages connecting the four metro cities of the country – New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The trains will run on broad-gauge tracks covering 14 states across India. The high speed trains are expected to cut travel time dramatically between these cities. For instance, currently the fastest train between New Delhi and Kolkata – the Rajdhani – takes about 17 hours to cover a distance of 1513 kms. A high speed or bullet train will take less than 5 hours. The train would pass through 12 key stations en route New Delhi, including Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi and Patna, according to the feasibility study conducted by Spanish train manufacturer, Talgo. The Spanish counterparts are also seeing competition from the Japanese, Chinese and French high speed train operators to build the network in India. The feasibility report says besides taking lesser time, Talgo trains will also save about 30 pc energy as these trains are more energy efficient than the existing ones.

Vijay Kumar, Executive Director Infra (Mechanical) of the Indian Railway says that Talgo were the first to contact the government about setting up HSR in India, besides claiming that they can raise the speed of trains on the existing tracks to 180 kmph, which is better than the fastest train currently running in India, the Gatimaan Express, which has a top speed of 160 kmph.

Challenges vs. Reality

Though government has projected the Diamond Quadrilateral project as the way ahead for the railways, it comes with numerous pitfalls. Implementing such large-scale infrastructure projects within the time and cost is a challenge in India as is land acquisition, which will certainly come into play for laying dedicated tracks for the HSR. Some railway experts believe that India’s current tracks can be improved to run trains at around 200 kmph, nearly 2.5 times faster than the 80-85 kmph speed that the Rajdhanis move at.

Moreover, the financial viability of HSR is also taken into account as these trains run at loss in every single country where they operate currently, despite the fact that tickets on these trains are often priced higher than an air ticket. For a country where a majority of the population finds even Rajdhani fares beyond its reach, the number of travellers using the fancy HSR would be very limited.

The HSR will arguably soak in the entire budget of the Indian railways, which badly needs to upgrade and modernise its creaking infrastructure as well as add new lines to improve connectivity with the remote parts of the country, which remain cut off even over 70 years after the independence.

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