High-speed rail in India

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India has one of the largest rail networks in the world but does not have any high-speed rail (HSR) lines capable of supporting speeds of 200 km/h (124 mph) or more. High-speed corridors have been proposed but not implemented.

Currently, the fastest train in India is the Bhopal Shatabdi, which has a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph).[1] HSR can run at a top speed of 506 km/h (314 mph), if legacy technologies are not used.[2] Indian Railways use broad gauge[clarification needed] for trunk railways; if the same gauge is used for HSR, maglev HSR can have an operational speed of 550 km/h (342 mph), with maximum speed going above 600 km/h, as broad gauge allows bigger trains, higher speeds and more stability.

A standardization body will evaluate different options available and provide a common standard to be implemented across India. India also has a need to choose between Super Speed trains (max 581 km/haverage 450 km/h)[3] and high-speed trains (max 300 km/h – average 200 km/h) for the 21st century and beyond. HSR is still on the drawing board without any official long-term implementation plan for HSR announced, but first railway lines are expected to become operational between 2030 and 2035.

India is currently focusing on high-speed railway track rather than high-speed rail, so that Indian rails can run faster on the current tracks, with a maximum speed at around 160 to 180 km/h. India may not be able to replicate the success of China, which, in a span of five years, constructed the world's largest high-speed rail network.

Election manifestos for 2014 general elections of two major national parties of India, BJP and Congress, have promised high-speed rail for India. Congress has promised to connect all of India's million-plus cities by high-speed rail, whereas BJP has promised to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project – connecting four major cities of India located in four edges of the country.

Current effort to increase speed to 160-200 km/h[edit]

For the first time in the history of Indian Railways, it aims to increase the speed of passenger trains to 160–200 km/h on dedicated conventional tracks.

The railway minister said in 2012 that a combination of prudent investment decisions in the areas of track and bridges, signalling, doubling and train-sets is proposed to be adopted to enable train running at speed of 160 km/h and above. The proposal would significantly reduce travel time for passenger trains by 20-25%. Such infrastructure would also enable Railways to run Shatabdi trains on long distance trunk routes and between metros, he said in his speech.[4]

In February 2014, ET reported quoting Alstom, builder of France's TGV high-speed trains, that India is at least 5–10 years away from High speed trains. India cannot just jump into the trains with average speed of above 350 kmph, before upgrading the trains to the average speeds from 80 to 120 kmph. Indian trains does not have a good track record in average speed though trains have maximum operating speed of 130-150 kmph. "(It is) extremely important to upgrade the existing infrastructure. You should move from 60 to 70 to 80 (km/hr) and 100 to 120 (km/hr) and then in some corridors (after a few years) you could imagine running bullet trains, " Poupart- Lafarge said in an interview to ET.[5] As of now Increasing the maximum speed of tranins to 160-200 kmph(average - 110-120 kmph) have remained part of budget speech, without any long term strategy or operational project has been announced and nothing else has been concretly done.

Approach to high-speed

Indian Railways' approach to high-speed is incremental improvement on existing conventional lines for up to 160 km/h, with a forward vision of speed above 200 km/h on new tracks with state-of-the-art technology, such as Shinkansen/TGV/etc.[6] While they do not define high-speed, Indian Railways' approach matches the high-speed definitions of the Trans-European high-speed rail network, for upgraded lines and new lines built for high-speed.

Dedicate tracks to passenger trains

Dedicate tracks on existing trunk lines to passenger trains, by building separate corridors for freight trains, and build separate tracks for busy suburban traffic in Mumbai and other cities where traffic is equally busy. Without slower freight and suburban traffic, fast-express trains can run at the speed limit of rolling stock, the railway track or railroad switch, whichever is lowest among those that apply.[6]

Dedicated Freight Corridors[6] [7]
Upgrade tracks for 250–300 km/h

Upgrade the dedicated passenger tracks with heavier rails, and build the tracks to a close tolerance geometry fit for 250–300 km/h. This implied that the high speed gauge is 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) Indian gauge (broad gauge). High-speed tracks to be maintained and inspected using automation to ensure required track geometry. Perform more frequent inspection to ensure high confidence of safety at high-speed.[6][8]

Design, manufacture and deploy railroad switches, with thick web construction and movable crossings that permit 50 km/h to alleviate this bottleneck to speed.[6]

Upgrade locomotives and coaches

Improve coaches, which can support 160 km/h, with stainless steel bodies and crash-worthy designs, incorporating passenger and crew protection, and fire-retardant materials. Equip coaches with electro-pneumatic brake systems to enhance safe operations at 160–200 km/h.

Develop locomotives with output of 9000 to 12000 hp for hauling of 24-26 coach long passenger trains to 160–200 km/h.[6]

Indian railways has asked IIT Kharagpur to conduct research to obtain the technological knowhow to increase the maximum attainable speed to 200 km/h. The project, which will be conducted in the Railway Research Centre of IIT Kharagpur, has four main goals; improving speed, improving carrying capacity (heavy haul), use of advanced material, advanced signalling and maintenance for better safety. The research is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.[9]

Proposal to introduce 300-350 km/h trains[edit]


One of the first proposals to introduce high-speed trains in India was mooted in the mid-1980s by then Railway Minister Madhavrao Scindia. A high-speed rail line between Delhi and Kanpur via Agra was proposed. An internal study found the proposal not to be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and inability of travelling passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. The railways instead introduced Shatabdi trains which ran at 130 km/h.[10]

The Indian Ministry of Railways' white-paper "Vision 2020",[6] submitted to Indian Parliament on December 18, 2009,[11] envisages the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250–350 km/h, and planning for corridors connecting commercial, tourist and pilgrimage hubs. Six corridors have already been identified for technical studies on setting-up of high-speed rail corridors: DelhiChandigarhAmritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, HowrahHaldia, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna. These high-speed rail corridors will be built as elevated corridors in keeping with the pattern of habitation and the constraint of land.

Indian Railway set up a corporation called High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd (HSRC) on 25 July 2012, that will exclusively deal with the proposed high-speed rail corridor projects. The corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL), a special purpose vehicle that carries out the construction works for Indian Railways.[12][13] It will handle tendering, pre-feasibility studies, awarding contracts and execution of the projects.[14] The corporation will comprise four members, all of whom will be railway officials.[15] All high-speed rail lines will be implemented through PPP mode on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis.[16] The corporation was officially formed on 29 October 2013.[17] The HSRC will co-exist with the High-Speed Rail Authority of India (HSRA). The latter will determine the framework and the scope of works needed for India's high-speed railway plans, while the former will execute these decisions.[18]

Indian government has not taken any decision on building the High Speed Rail in India. India is still guarded in its view on HSR - "India will plan such projects based on its infrastructure priorities, commercial viability and financial resources in India".[19] But it is expected that by 2030-2035 India will have its first HSR line ready, if not operational. The joint feasibility study for Mumbai-Ahmedabad route should be completed by July 2015, if approved it will result in financial closure, land acquisition and resulting court cases, planning, engineering and construction.

If India chooses super-speed trains(max 581 kmph - average 450 kmph)[3] instead of high-speed trains(above 300 kmph, - average 200 kmph), maglev is only technological option available as of now for super speed. Maglev trains have very low operational and maintenance, resulting in low ticket prices to the end users, with a one-time high construction cost (till import of the components stops and local manufacturing starts). Democratisation of long-distance high-speed travel, as an alternative to the airlines is possible with super-speed trains. More people, more locations (stations on the way) and interior of India will have the super-speed travel, at an economical cost which is not possible with point-to-point air travel. General travel in India will change from days to hours, with maglev super-speed trains.


In a feasibility study published in 1987, RDSO and JICA estimated the construction cost to be Rs 49 million per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, that 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be Rs 439 million per km (US$ 9.5 million/km).[20] RITES is currently performing a feasibility study.[21] It is being estimated that dedicated high speed corridor will cost about INR100 crore per km.

According to news media, the costs for constructing such rail lines in India are estimated to be Rs 700-1000 million per km (US$ 15-22 million/km). Therefore the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route of 500 km, will cost Rs 370 billion (US$ 8.04 billion) to build and to make a profit, passengers will have to be charged Rs 5 per km (US$ 0.11/km). Delhi to Amritsar one-way, a distance of 450 km, will cost about Rs 2000 (US$ 43.48).[22] At US$ 15-22 million per km, cost estimates are in line with US$ 18 million per km of the recently completed Wu-Guang HSR line in China.

The Mumbai - Ahmedabad line is slated to cost Rs 650 billion.[17]

Land acquisition cost has trebled after the new land acquisition act passed by the government. High Speed Rail may remain in the drawing board itself, because of this law, as suddenly land acquisition is costing 3 times more for all kind of infrastructure projects.

India’s advantage is population density and the disadvantage is paying capacity. Worldwide most of the HSR networks are subsidised.[23] So India need to choose Broad-gauge along with Maglev for implementing the HSR, as it provides long term economic feasibility.[24] Double decker trains may help to reduce the cost per ticket, but the tunnels and bridges may be required to be designed for double decker in mind. Because operational(electricity use, efficient use of track, number of trips/day, cost per passenger, station occupancy, wear and tear damage, acceleration/deceleration time) and maintenance(moving parts replacement, electrical lines, guideways) costs are recurring and repetitive where as construction cost is one time.[25] Volume driven and most cost effective daily operations business strategy needs to be formulated, so that most of travelers prefer HSR, over airlines, railway or the land transport and to make Indian HSR not to dependent on the subsidies.

India's Indian National Expressway Network plan matches with the HSR network plan. Both INEN and HSR can be built on the same alignment to cut the cost of civil construction.


Potential High Speed Rail lines[6] [7]

In India, trains in the future with top speeds of 300–350 km/h, are envisaged to run on elevated corridors, to prevent trespassing by animals and people. This is an excellent way to isolate high-speed train tracks. The TGV tracks are completely fenced in and has no road crossing them at the same level. Wu-Guang’s 2-tracks line is laid, 468 km on bridges, 177 km in tunnels, and 323 km on embankments. The 336 km THSR tracks are 91% on bridges, flyover, or tunnels.

The current conventional lines between Amritsar-New Delhi, and Ahmedabad-Mumbai runs through suburban and rural areas, which are flat, therefore have no tunnel. Ahmedabad-Mumbai line runs near the coast therefore have more bridges, and parts of it are in backwaters or forest. The 1987 RDSO/JICA feasibility study found the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line as most promising.[20]

Maharashtra state government has proposed a link between Mumbai and Nagpur which will be good for development of the state railway. This project's cost is estimated INR 60,000 crore. The government also wants a corridor which will connect to Navi Mumbai International Airport.[26]

High-Speed Corridor Route Track gauge Stations Speed Length (km) Further Extension Status
East India
Howrah - Haldia High-Speed Passenger Corridor Howrah-Haldia 1676 TBD 250-300 135 TBD Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
North India
Delhi - Patna High-Speed Passenger Corridor Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna 1676 TBD 200 - 350 991 Howrah Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Delhi - Amritsar High-Speed Passenger Corridor Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar 1676 TBD 450 TBD Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Delhi - Jodhpur High-Speed Passenger Corridor[27] Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur 1676 TBD 591 TBD Proposed
West India
Ahmedabad - Dwarka High-Speed Passenger Corridor Ahmedabad - Rajkot - Jamnagar - Dwarka 1676 TBD TBD
Mumbai/Navi Mumbai - Nagpur High-Speed Passenger Corridor Mumbai/Navi Mumbai - Nashik - Akola - Nagpur 1676 TBA TBA Proposed
Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed passenger corridor Mumbai-Ahmedabad 1676 11 320 534 Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Rajkot - Veraval High-Speed Passenger Corridor Rajkot - Junagadh - Veraval 1676 TBD 350 TBD
South India
Hyderabad - Chennai High-Speed Passenger Corridor Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai 1676 TBD 664 Howrah(Via Visakhapatnam) Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Chennai - Thiruvananthapuram High-Speed Passenger Corridor Chennai-Bangalore- Coimbatore - Ernakulam - Thiruvananthapuram TBD 350 850 Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Thiruvananthapuram - Mangalore High-Speed Passenger Corridor Thiruvananthapuram -Kochi-Mangalore 1435 9 300 585 Udupi Scrapped by Kerala State Government[28][29]

Approved by Planning Commission & PMO

Bangalore - Mysore High-Speed Passenger Corridor[30] Bangalore - Mysore TBD 350 110 Not planned Proposed

Potential ridership[edit]

Current ticket price

As of July 2010, there are currently 49 train services with fares from US$ 70-115 (Rs 3220-5290), or US$ 0.07-0.12 per km (Rs 3.33-5.46/km). Amritsar-New Delhi line has 22 daily services, with fares range from Rs 552-1434 (US$ 12-31). Ahmedabad-Mumbai has 32 daily services with fares from Rs 514-1475 (US$ 11-32). On the 2 Indian lines travelling cost Rs 1.14-3.19 per km (US$ 0.025-0.069/km).

Growth of India's middle class

India has growing population and millions of people moving out of poverty into middle class every year. Current railway network is overbooked almost all of the time. Waiting lists appears instantly as bookings are opened. There is more demand than the supply for Railway tickets.

Location of the HSR station

Location of the railway station will also play an important part in success of HSR. A railway station outside the city limit will have less patronage than the underground railway station in city centre with underground High Speed Railway lines within city limits. For example, airports would have more travelers if they did not had 30 km travel from the city centre in both originating and destination city. If a HSR in Mumbai starts from CST will have more people using it than if it starts from Thane.

Integration with the Public transport of the town/city with HSR

Accessibility to daily commute as well as the distance of the stations from the CBD, location of the all the stations in the route, total time of travel for short distance travel (travel to HSR station through public transport and the destinations public transport connectivity) and potential for one-day business travel all will affect the number of people using HSR.
Many HSR proposals world-over have been rejected or have to be dependent on the government subsidies, because they could not replace ordinary rail as door-to-door travel times would be similar, with stations away from the current railway and public transport system. An integrated transport hub with multi-level stations for HSR, ordinary rail, metro, monorail and the public transport bus service would have ripple effect on the patronage of HSR as the accessibility is key to usage of costlier service.

High end bus traffic and paying capacity

South India has India’s highest growth rate and large economy states with GSDP above 15% compared to India’s GDP of 6%. This part of India may be the best location to have High Speed Trains running profitably in the initial phase. Southern states have a Multi-axle jerk-free Mercedes-Benz and Volvo buses running between cities with good patronage. Tickets costs upward of Rs.1000, still buses have full bookings. This population can be migrated to HSR if the Rail starts from the centre of the city.

Fear of Unknown

HSR in the initial months needs to heavily subsidised so that people can experience it. When Air-conditioned Volvo buses were introduced for the public transport in bangalore, buses were running empty. BMTC then decided to lower the prices competitive to the ordinary buses. This became instant hit as word of mouth marketing of comfort of travel spread like wild fire. Today Bangalore has India’s biggest air-conditioned low-floor Volvo fleet for public transport with a large order in pipeline.

Cross Subsidisation in Indian Railways

Indian Railway Tariff Authority is expected to increase the patronage of high end rail.

Inflation of Diesel prices vs stable electricity prices

Super-speed/High-speed will become operational beyond year 2030. Since most of the indian railway is still on diesel, compared to the stable or decreasing cost of the electricity, by 2030 the ticket cost will become economical compared to the diesel trains.

Suburban/Regional Rapid Transport/Airport High-speed rail link/Commuter railway running on the High Speed Railway lines

Optimal use of railway lines can be achieved by creating a Regional Rapid railway system on the HSR system, with separate platforms in the stations.

Project execution[edit]

A separate entity, High Speed Rail Authority of India (HSRA), has been set up to operationalise bullet trains in the country as part of 12th Five Year Plan (2012–17).[31]

To put the construction in perspective, in the period 2005-09 Indian Railways took on construction of 42 completely new conventional lines, a total of 4060 km at a cost of Rs 167 billion (US$ 3.63 billion),[32] or Rs 41 million per km (US$ 0.89 million/km).[6] A public-private-partnership mode of investment and execution is envisaged for such expensive 250–350 km/h high-speed rail project.[6]

China, unlike India financed its HSR network through debt with both Federal and state governments taking share of the burden. India plans to open the railway sector to 100% FDI for new routes along with reforms in the working of the Indian Railways.

Feasibility studies[edit]

Multiple pre-feasibility and feasibility studies have been done or in progress.

The consultants for pre-feasibility study for four corridors are:[33]

The state governments are ready to meet 50% cost of the consultancy. While Japan has shown interest in India's high speed train, it is funding 80% of the cost of construction of the 1,499 km-long Western Dedicated Freight Corridor[34]

On 21 March 2011, the British firm Mott MacDonald was asked to conduct a pre-feasibility study on the 993 km long Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna route. It cost the Railways INR8.8 crore for the report.[35]

The Indian Railways gave the go ahead for conducting a feasibility study on the Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram route. There was a plan to either include Mysore in the main route or to create a branch line to that city. With the Railways’ move, the Karnataka State government decided not to commission a separate feasibility study on implementing a high-speed train between Bangalore and Mysore.[36] The pre-feasibility study will be tabled in Parliament and the final feasibility study will begin in April 2012.[37]

During the 2012 Rail Budget speech, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi announced that pre-feasibility studies on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna, Howrah-Haldia, Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijaywada-Chennai and the Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram high-speed corridors have already been completed and study on Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur route will be taken up in 2012-13. In February 2013, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi demanded railway ministry for speedy implementation of pending Highspeed Rail projects in the country.[4]

In September 2013, an agreement was signed in New Delhi to complete a feasibility study of High Speed Rail between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, within 18 months.[38] The study will cost ¥500 million[39] and the cost will be shared 50:50 by Japan and India.[38]

High Speed Rail Corporation has called for international bidders for carrying out the pre-feasibility study of the 450-km Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar High Speed Corridor.

Non-Standardisation of High-speed rail Infrastructure[edit]

India has not standardized the infrastructure for High-speed rail projects to be executed across India. This has resulted in different projects using different gauges for their lines. Delay in standardisation may result in using inefficient use of High-Speed route for freight transport, as the both standard railway and high-speed railway using different kind of gauges. Delay in creating a standardisation for High-Speed railway in India may result in a project like Project Unigauge, which may be necessary as control of PPP projects are given back to the Indian Railway by concessioner after the concession period.

Standardisation will make Indian Railways more efficient, avoid the current break of gauges, increase the freight-carrying capacity and shorten the routes with many re-gauged links. It will also standardise the manufacturing of Railway components across India, thus bringing cost of manufacturing of the indigenous railway related components.

Using a Broad gauge is expected to bring down the cost of transporting freight from one place to another and necessary to keep trains stable in the face of strong monsoon winds. Broad gauge allows bigger trains, higher speeds, and more stability. The con is cost, it costs more than smaller gauge.

Broad gauge offers an advantage to freight movement, as trains in India can carry standard shipping containers double-stacked on standard flatcars, which is more economical than single containers. In contrast, standard-gauge railways in North American and elsewhere must use special double-stack cars to lower the center of gravity and reduce the loading gauge requirements.

Metro projects in India, like Delhi Metro (some lines), Bangalore Metro, Kochi Metro used the standard gauge. But, recent studies by international consultants have shown using Broad gauge is better suited for Indian high population density. Broad gauge provides more seating space and a better option for long term feasibility of railway projects.[40]

Fragmentation of the High-Speed Rail Network[edit]

There are 2 kinds of fragmentation which can seen in the High-Speed Rail Network in India. There is no single government agency which will own the stretch, there is also different gauges used by different projects and India has not defined a its own standard for its HSR(like China) using which it can bring in competition among the bidders and induce technology transfers.

In India, National Highways are being developed under BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) basis. NHAI is the sole authority which will have the control of all the National Highways at end of concession period. But, High-Speed Rail Network development in India is fragmented. There will not be end to end ownership or leasing out of the HSR in India. So, there can be no single Indian Government agency owning the complete HSR network in India.

Unlike NHDP, where the National Highways will come under the direct ownership of the Central agency National Highway Authority of India, after the end of concession period, High-Speed Rail development is still driven by multiple independent companies. This means high-speed railway infrastructure will remain fragmented across India, without any company controlling end to end Railway line from East to West or North to South, for unforeseeable future.

For example, alongside Arabian Sea coast, Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd. (KHSRC) is driving a Standard gauge high-speed rail, where as Indian Railway is working on Broad gauge, for Ahmedabad-Mumbai corridor.[citation needed]

Speed of trains[edit]

Type of Train Operational Speed Average Speed Government Approval/Commitment Indigenous Technology Manufacturers/Operators(Non Indian)
Super Speed 500 – 550 km/h 450 km/h NO NO JR Central(Japan), Transrapid(Germany), Hyundai Rotem (South Korea)
High Speed 250 – 350 km/h 200 km/h NO NO TGV France, CRH China, Velaro/Zefiro/ICx Germany and JR Japan
Semi High Speed 160 – 200 km/h 110 km/h Proposed NO Imported coaches of Indian railway
Express Trains 130 km/h 70 – 90 km/h Already in operation NO (technology transfer) WAP-5 and LHB coaches of Indian railway
Passenger 40 – 50 km/h below 36 km/h Already in operation YES NA

Japan's next generation train[41] has a maximum speed of 581 km/h with an operational speed of 505 km/h. HSR has been in operation in Japan for 45 years carrying more than 9 billion passengers without a single fatality. So it is expected that India will have Trains above 500k/h speed, as High speed railway projects are still in planning stage and when the HSR is constructed and becomes operational, the best available technology of that time will be adopted (around year 2030-2035). Indian trains are expected to be Broad-gauge double-decker maglev to accommodate freight traffic, high population density, reduced price per ticket, non-subsidized HSR network,[42] lowest operational and maintenance cost[25] and long term Economic feasibility of the project. Japan adopted standard gauge for HSR to achieve higher speeds and stability for the HSR trains though its existing conventional tracks were built using narrow gauge. India has to build it's HSR with Broad-gauge to achieve higher speed, more passenger capacity with double-deckers and more stability.

Adopting High speed trains will reduce the fuel consumption of the country, reduce "time cost", provide major boost to manufacturing, services and the agriculture sectors, save foreign exchange by transporting large amounts of people and goods in a shorter time using less-inflationary electrical power instead of imported fossil fuels. India is mainly working with Japan and France for the High Speed Trains.

In 1969, The Rajdhani Express was introduced with speeds up to 140 km/h, a great achievement at the time. The top speed has remained almost the same for 45 years.

As of Interim Railway Budget 2014-15, no long term strategic and concrete policy measures have been taken regarding trains above the average speed of 70–90 km/h(Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto) trains.

As of 2014, Indian Railway network does not provide any significant benefit over the road transport. Railway infrastructure is unable to compete with the accessibility, last mile connectivity and door-to-door travel time of 120 km/h designed expressways.

Looking at current speed of implementation in DFC and other railway projects, first line of Super-speed/High-speed train may become operational by 2030 - 2035, and the subsequent lines becoming operational between 2030 - 2060 timeframe. This can happen only if government commits enough resources for the implementation of the same, as economic and manufacturing stimulation package. As of 2014, High speed rail is still in consultation and discussion stage.

High-Speed freight train[edit]

Optimal use of the High-speed Railway network and for the economic development of the country, it is expected that Freight trains will use the High speed network.

HSR network cannot break-even with just the passenger traffic. Freight trains needs to run on this lines to make them profitable. It may be a Road-rail synergy system or a container traffic. Freight trains result in efficient use of the tracks especially in the night time. JIT and reduction of the inventory is possible with HSR freight trains and overall productivity improvement.[43] However, a Scandinavian plan about HSR between Oslo and Copenhagen reports that costs of high speed lines with freigh-train capability is significantly higher than pure high speed lines.[44] Russia's next generation train freight corridor between Saint-Petersburg and Moscow will be built using the Maglev High Speed Train.[45]

HSR Technology[edit]

India has not decided on the HSR technology standard to be used for the High speed railway lines for 21st century and beyond. The new technology selected and standardised will be basis for railway lines built and used for next 50 – 100 years, with at least next 3 generations of the Indian population riding on such trains. Maglev and conventional HSR are the two competing technologies and one of them will be selected for building railway lines of the future. High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) will be formed to decide on the HSR standard to used across India.

Conventional HSR technology has reached its maximum operational speed possible and it cannot run faster than 320–350 km/h. Maglev has been chosen by Japan, China and South Korea for next generation railway lines as it can run up to of 581 km/h in the current form and may run faster as more implementation and research happen over the years. India has to decide on the cost-benefit analysis of replacing conventional HSR with Maglev when such need comes in 50–60 years compared to choosing Maglev in initial implementation of HSR itself. China wanted to implement its HSR network with Maglev, but could not do so as there were no commercial service in the world based on maglev during 1995 - 1998. But India is in an advantage position to understand and implement Maglev as many commercial maglev lines are in operation or construction stage at present around the world with India's first HSR becoming operational not until 2030 (As of 2014, India has not decided on the HSR itself).

China is the final phase of testing indigenous super-speed train technology with trains running above 500 km/h.[46]

The choice is between high construction cost, low maintenance, energy conserving, highly efficient super speed maglev and low construction cost, high maintenance, energy guzzler, low efficient high speed conventional HSR. The choice is between high one time high construction cost(maglev) vs long term high operational cost(conventional HSR).

Whatever the technology choice India makes, over the long run indigenisation along with local manufacturing and in the short term investment in R&D on the technology are the key factors for India.


Japan has moved from conventional HSR to the Maglev for the next generation railway lines for its Bullet trains. First Inter-city line is under construction from 2013, will take 14 years of construction time(Planning, Engineering and Construction) and set to ready for public use in 2027. A 100 km line will be made available as a technology showcase for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Maglev will be replacement for more than 50 year old conventional HSR technology of the today's Bullet trains.[2] This line will have operational speed of 506 km/h speed compared to today's Bullet train operational speed of 320 km/h.

Maglev is like an airplane flying in the ground level. Maglev trains touch down only when they are stationary. Because of this they don’t have any kind of resistance except air-resistance. Theoretically, Maglev can run at 3,500 km/h if air resistance is removed through a vacuum railway line.[47] Japan's L0 Series Shinkansen has operating speed of 506 km/h, with manned testing speed of 581 km/h.

Maglev trains are gaining prominence because of the efficiency they bring into the country's economy by reducing country's dependency on imported fossil fuels and travel time efficiency for people and cargo. Maglev trains provide fastest travel option compared to air travel, when city centre to city centre travel times are considered. China, Japan and South Korea all have built operational railway systems based on this technology. Magnetic energy will replace the fossil fuels in such kind of railway systems, decreasing the import bill of the country.

Highest speed levels, insignificant maintenance requirements, all weather operations, power efficient systems as there are no wheels, axles and bearings, systems are computer controlled as no human operator can react at such high speed are the benefits of Maglev systems compared to the mechanical railway systems.

In India, Mumbai - Delhi (travel time of 3 Hours), Mumbai - Nagpur and Chennai - Bangalore - Mysore[48] Maglev lines have been proposed. Chūō Shinkansen runs at 505 km/h. If same train is recommended for Mumbai-New Delhi sector, rail will take 2 Hours 50 minutes, compared to 18 Hours journey time of the fastest train on this line, Duronto express. Ahmadabad-Mumbai High speed Maglev rail will have travel time of 1 Hour, compared to 2 Hours of Conventional HSR or the 7 Hours taken by Ahmedabad Duronto Express.

The positive economic effects on such kind of railway line has been calculated to 5 and 17 trillion yen.[49] To reduce the “time costs" and to increase efficiency of the country's economy China is building a railway system based on Maglev which can run at 1000 km/h.[50]

Maglev trains provide higher operational efficiency for the train operator as higher speed trains results in more trips per day with less number of trains resulting in small number of staff, number of trains needed is less, optimum use of the track and almost no maintenance between the trips.[51]

Country will benefit in negative growth in import bill of petroleum products as hundreds of buses, cars and traditional trains plying between cities will be replaced by the multiple HSR trains journeys by the Maglev train, road accident reduced to a great extent, a great reduction of “time cost”, overall speeding up of the economic activity, a major boost to tourism and integration of the country as people can travel to the different parts of the country in much faster way.

Maglev trains are costlier to implement in the initial phase, but will become competitive once the economies of scale comes into play. Technology transfer, local manufacturing and competitive bidding will make Maglev’s cost competitive to the conventional HSR. For example, Solar energy was considered one of costliest ways generate electricity compared to conventional sources. But India’s efforts have placed India amongst the lowest cost destinations for grid-connected solar power in the world.

India choosing Maglev for HSR is expected to speed up traveling in India, as the manufacturing base created will compel the Metro, Suburban Railway, Airport Link, Monorail, Light Rail and Dedicated Freight Corridor infrastructure to migrate to the Maglev.

A future upgrade to remove the air resistance to the maglev HSR network may make the New Delhi - Mumbai travel 25 minutes affair.[47] China likes to do things bigger and better than anyone else and is in process of building 1000 km/h trains by combining Maglev and air-resistance removal technologies.[52]

Conventional High Speed Rail[edit]

This is a time-tested and more than 50 years old technology. Japan pioneered conventional HSR with first line becoming operational in 1964.[53]

The US federal government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory states on their website LANL.gov, "So conventional trains have reached the end phase of their development".[54] - “However, this [bullet train] technology has also reached the end phase of its development. One limiting factor for these trains is the expensive and time-consuming maintenance of the rails. So it is the mechanical friction between train wheels and metal tracks that limit this technology. This leads us to the development of the magnetically levitated (no friction) trains.” So bullet trains are an obsolete technology.[54]

Chinese have the highest speed rail systems in Conventional High Speed Rail. CRH3C and CRH2C designs have an Maximum Operating Speed of 300 km/h, and can reach up to 350 km/h, with a top testing speed more than 380 km/h. However, in practical terms, issues such as maintenance costs, comfort, and safety make the maximum speed of more than 380 km/h impractical and remain limiting factors. Japan's Tōhoku Shinkansen and France's TGV have maximum operational speed of 320 km/h. India can upgrade its conventional track in a gradual manner to this technology, where as Maglev requires a new track to be laid out. For Maglev systems speed is the double edged sword, as they require underground or overbridge lines for safety reasons to get a protection from crossing over of animals or the humans.

European high speed trains reach top speeds of 250 to 350 km/h, but their average speed is much lower. For example, the average speed of the Thalys between Paris and Amsterdam is below 170 km/h. This is well within reach of "slow" EuroCity and EuroNight trains, which can reach speeds of 200 km/h.[55]

India most probably going choose this railway technology for the 21st century and beyond, as the initial cost of implementation will be less, though cost of maintenance and the life cycle cost will go high as higher speeds are achieved(Maglev has only two weeks of labor over ten years for the guideway). Since Conventional HSR runs much slower than Maglev, redundancies to be built into the system is also less. But, both Conventional HSR and  Maglev need dedicated lines as both run above 200 km/h. China's conventional HSR has the average operational speed of 200 km/h, compared to Shanghai Maglev's operational speed of 431 km/h.

China has reduced the speed of trains to save money on operations, maintenance, and power costs. Conventional HSR running at highest speed makes operational costs prohibitive because of the friction at electrical lines and tracks, which will translate into high ticket prices for end user, resulting in less number of people using the service. A maglev has minimal operational cost and almost zero-maintenance. A high ticket price for a conventional HSR system makes it unaffordable for Indian consumer. High Speed Railway across the world have been successful, only if they are affordable. Average speed of Conventional HSR is much lower than the top speeds claimed by it.

Though it may be argued that HSR using conventional technology on current railway is cheaper. But it has been seen in Chinese experience that HSR on upgraded conventional lines are a stop-gap step, before such services are migrated to the high-speed passenger-dedicated rail network. So a country's railway network will have semi-high-speed trains run on a conventional upgraded railway line along with high-speed railways on new dedicated railway tracks. Indian Railways forward vision envisions HSR above 200 km/h on new tracks with state-of-the-art technology, separate from the current network.


No new act of parliament or parliament-approved policy measures has been planned for the high-speed railway in India. It is expected that Railways Act, 1989 along with Ministry of Railway will be guiding the implementation of the high-speed railway in India.

As a parallel comparison, In 1998 the US Congress passed the "Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century" (TEA 21). As part of this act the so-called Maglev Deployment Program was created in order to promote and apply the Magnetic levitation technique. Similar to the approach in Germany several routes were planned and evaluated. Due to lack of funding and political will these activities were not continued.

Government authorities[edit]

  • High Speed Rail Corporation - This has been set up to evaluate ways to implement high-speed train projects in India. HSRC will be under Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd and will be an institution that will do ground level work. HSRC would undertake project activities such as preparation of project related studies and technical standards high speed rail corridors.
  • High Speed Rail Authority - This is a planned High Speed Rail Regulatory Authority. HSRA will be under the Ministry of Railways to form standards on ticketing, tracks, rolling stock. HSRA is a medium to set technology standard. High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) as a regulatory body which will supervise administrative, institutional, and financial issues.
  • Railway Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) - RDSO will help to setup standards, before the HSRA takes over from it.

R&D institutions[edit]

  • Centre for Railways Research, IIT Kharagpur
  • Research Designs and Standards Organisation

India does not have indigenous the high-speed or super-speed railway technology. It is currently dependent on other countries. Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate from the NDA has promised to build four railway universities, so that India can be world leader in High speed railway.[56] This may be next big thing for Indian economy as countries prefer India over China for political reasons, if India provides the manufacturing and implementation know-how. Lakhs of jobs may be created in Manufacturing sector. Opening of Airport to private Indian industry has created companies, which are bidding and acquiring airports across the world. This may be replicated in the Railway sector too.

China's approach to acquiring technological expertise was very different in all sectors of economy, including Railways. Through policy, it not only insisted that foreign companies share the technology with local partners but efforts were also made to ensure that this knowledge was absorbed by local engineers efficiently. The compensation package was designed in such a manner that the engineer who had acquired technical skills from a foreign company got better emoluments if he moved to a local company and shared his knowledge.[57]

Manufacturing base[edit]

  • Bombardier India
  • Alstom India

Possible cultural and economic effects[edit]

  • Yoshiyuki Kasai, Chairman of the Central Japan Railway Company, India does not have the choice but to build the high-speed railway system achieve higher growth rate.[58][59][60]
"High-speed railways makes travel time between cities shorter by several hours. Due to this, different cities are integrated into a single economic lifezone. The long-term economic and social impact of such systems will be huge."
  • India's transition to "world's back-office" has helped only the educated and skilled youth of the country. India needs to change itself into "world's manufacturer" to provide job opportunities to the biggest youth population in the world. India is in an advantage position to take up the leadership position in manufacturing at the cost of China for next 20–30 years, because of India's demographic dividend which is available for next 20 years or so, before it turns into demographic liability. But, India has plains in interior of India where it can set up large-scale manufacturing bases without causing much environmental degradation. India needs to build infrastructure to connect interior of India to seaports through mega infrastructure projects. High Speed Rail is one of such projects which can accelerate India's growth rate.[61]
  • India’s double-digit GDP growth – “Investment cycle” created by the High Speed rail will result in India making a major jump to the double-digit growth rate. Indian economy will be converted from Social sector focused Expenditure based economy with 4–5% growth rate and low value jobs to the Investment based double digit growth rate economy with high-value jobs helping India to effectively use the Demographic Dividend for next 30 years, before it turns into a Demographic Liability without major pension reforms.
  • Job generation - Micro, small, medium and large-scale industries will benefit by the HSR. A company manufacturing nut and bolts to the company working on high tech steel will all get benefited, taking India's manufacturing share to 25% of the GDP. It all depends on the government’s domestic content, technology transfer and competitive-bidding policies.
  • HSR as a national brand[62] - It will establish  the idea of India as the most advanced country in the world, with all the prestige (and the commercial advantages) that came with that.
  • Hi-Technology research - Maglev/HSR implementation is going to open high technology research in multiple areas of science and technology. Whenever India wanted to pursue such technologies there were criticism saying India cannot afford it. But, investments in Space, Nuclear, Satellite communication, Ocean technology have helped India in many different areas.
  • India will lose diversity - India had multiple cultures and language, as the rivers, mountains and forests had separated the people to people contact, helping local cultures to prosper. HSR will change that as India will move to a single identity and culture, which may emerge as time passes.
  • Productivity improvement - one-day business travel will become norm(without six hour extra time related to the air travel - airport travel time and check-in buffer, both ways). India can gain from carbon credits, "time cost" savings, increased productivity as workers can go to their home town in north India from south India in 4 hours than the current three days (on maglev trains). A round trip will require 8 hours from the current six days. Maglev are beneficial than the airports as they connect intermediate towns, which is not possible with airplanes. Maglevs use electricity compared to airplanes, decreasing the India's dependency on the foreign countries.
  • Railways will gain against the road and airlines - Railways will become major mode of transport with unmatchable door-to-door travel time (with 500 km/h - avg 450 km/h) compared to airlines, standard train and bus. As one day of travel is converted into one hour, it will compel people to dump bus, cab and car based group travel to HSR.
  • Airlines and airports will close down - HSR in Taiwan has resulted in many small airlines and regional airports closing down, as most of the travelers shifted to the HSR.[63][64]
  • Cheapest production cost for goods - Long-distance travel (air and rail) will move away from petroleum-based inflationary fuel to the electricity, whose real cost of production is decreasing and is non-inflationary, as India is one of the biggest producer of renewable energy in the world.
  • Emergence of ghost towns - Migration may accelerate, if towns of interior India are not provided with job opportunities and facilities matching available in major towns. Forceful investments in middle part of India which has a large distance from seaports may be way to avoid it. Towns or cities which whose economy based on the bus and truck travellers resting place, they will loose business.
  • Straw effect - South and West of India will attract best talents from across India for NMIZs, EPIPs, IT parks, ITIRs, SEZs, DFCs, Biotech park, ESDM Park, Textile park, aero park, gem and jewellery park, Financial districts, Expressways, seaports and industrial towns. Education institutes in South will make sure that people leave their home early in their teens, as seen after 1990s.[65]
  • Tourism and other services sectors growth - Access to NE and Kashmir will be hours of travel from Days. Foreign and domestic tourists can cover more places in the same time, thus bringing wealth to more places. Tourism may emerge as a major source of Income, if enabling environment is created.[citation needed]
  • Religious tourism - Temples will become accessible in one hour from current one night journeys. This may have major inconvenience for the common people in free darshan which may result in a two-day waiting period from the current one day in places like Thirupathi and Shiradi as there will be more special darshan devotees, as seen in the recent years after the highways have become better.[citation needed]
  • Conquering of world railways by India – Investment in a sector will result in genesis of companies with unmatchable know-how and money power, which go on to acquire companies and invest in sector across the world. India’s investment in airports, space, petroleum, telecommunication, renewable energy etc. have created companies, mainly in private sector which have gone international and acquired companies world wide. GMR (Istanbul and Mactan-Cebu), GVK (Bali airport), Airtel (Africa), Indian Oil, ISRO, ONGC Videsh, Suzlon (5th-largest in the world). India's investment in space with missions to mars, moon and largest constellation of remote sensing satellites have stimulated the manufacturing sector, with large order pipeline for outsourced satellite launch. China’s China’s CSR Corp and China CNR Corp have helped China to spread its soft power across the world.
  • Poverty alleviation - India’s expenditure-based poverty alleviation has been a failure against the investment-based growth.[citation needed] Highest GDP through job generation against the one-time subsidy payouts have helped India to uplift record number of people out of poverty, year after year. As seen in Japan, HSR lines bring along with them investment and prosperity.[65][66]
  • Railways will take centre stage again - Most of the world economies are ageing with heavy social sector expenditure with little money for investment, but they are unable to accept that the world's high-speed railways are built in China and India.[citation needed] The US, not able to accept that best railway networks are being built in other parts of the world. India jumping into HSR bandwagon may result in rekindling of interest in railway across world. India choosing maglev for investment may result in major business for India, as conventional HSR manufacturing is very competitive with much competition from France, China, Spain and Japan, where as maglev manufacturing does not have such competition.[citation needed]
  • Manufacturing and alternative to China – India may become a major manufacturing hub as the interior of India with barren land can connect with seaports, which are surrounded by greenery. It is difficult to set up industries in the green-zone, but interior India has enough land to set up NMIZs.
  • Rail diplomacy – China has effectively used HSR to build relationships with neighboring countries by building deep tunnels to build the economic corridors through mountains.[67][68]
  • Agriculture sector growth - Perishable goods can be transferred from one place to another, cutting down the wastage.
  • Military might and a true cold start may be possible if broad gauge is used for HSR - Deployment of tanks and other mechanized forces transferred in hours to the borders. A repeat of 2003 may not happen again, where India lost initial momentum before international players come into picture.[69] China has built HSR close to Indian borders, near the chicken head in sikkim, to deploy the mechanized forces in a few hours time from the garrisons located deep inside the coutry.[70]
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emission
  • India has been wealthy in olden days through the trade and commerce through seaports of south, east and west and the silk route of the north. A maglev connectivity with 4–5 minutes travel time to the airports, may position India as a transit hub, as Airports have mostly replaced seaports as the entry point for the businessman. Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore have all benefited from becoming a transit hub, initially as a seaport and later as an airport.
  • Tunneling technologies will become widespread, bringing down travel times across the country, as seen in China. Tunneling through the mountains and undersea will reduce the "time cost" of the economy and make products competitive in the world market.[71] Undersea tunnels between Colaba, Mumbai to Mandve(Maharastra) or a Kolkata to Mizoram then forward to East Asian countries may be possible.
  • Indirect benefits outweigh the direct benefits in high-speed railway. India will save crores of rupees in import bill as railway network of India will be migrated to electricity from the current diesel trains.


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