High-speed rail in India

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High-speed rail (HSR) in India is currently under construction and the country does not have high-speed rail corridors, or lines operating at 200 km/h (120 mph) or above currently under UIC definition.[1] However, a total of twelve corridors are planned and one of the corridors which links Mumbai and Ahmedabad is under construction.[2] As of 2021, the fastest train of India is Vande Bharat Express with a top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph) which it attained during a trial run,[3] while the fastest operating train is the Gatimaan Express with a top operating speed of 160 km/h (99 mph).[4]

E5 Series Shinkansen set in Japan, which will be used by the Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor.
Vande Bharat Express set, the rolling stock for Indian Semi high-speed rail corridors during its launch.

The first high-speed railway corridor of length 508 km is currently under construction between Mumbai and Ahmedabad at a top operational speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) along the western coast.[5][6] The corridor will use Standard gauge line and will be built with Shinkansen technology. It is expected to carry passengers between the two cities in just three hours and the ticket prices are expected to be cheaper than aeroplanes i.e. ₹2,500 – ₹3,000. This project which was initially targeted for completion by December 2023, will now be completed by 2028, owing to COVID-19 Pandemic and land acquisition concerns for the section which falls in Maharashtra. However, a portion of this line is planned to be opened by 2026.[7][8]

Background[edit]

At the 2014 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had voiced its desire to build the Diamond Quadrilateral high speed rail project, which would connect the cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai via high-speed rail.[9] This project was approved as a priority for the new government in the incoming president's speech.[10] Construction of one kilometre of high speed railway track will cost 100 crore (US$13 million) - 140 crore (US$18 million) which is 10-14 times higher than the cost of construction of standard railway.[11]

India will have two types of gauges for high speed rail. The new high-speed rail lines with Japanese technology will be in Standard gauge, whereas older tracks upgraded to high-speed rail standard will be in 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) broad gauge. For this reason, there will be no interoperability between newly laid tracks and the older-upgraded tracks for passenger and cargo traffic.

Definition and terminology[edit]

According to the Ministry of Railways, a route which has trains that run between 160 and 200 km/h (99 and 124 mph), is considered as Higher Speed or Semi High Speed Rail line, while the routes which have trains running at speeds of less than 160 km/h (99 mph) are considered as conventional rail lines.[12] According to UIC definition, the commercial speed of over 250 km/h (160 mph) is the principal criterion for the definition of High-speed railways.[13]

Speed Type Length
<160 km/h (99 mph) Conventional rail 59,274 km (36,831 mi)
>160 and <200 km/h (99 and 124 mph) Semi-high-speed rail 8,682 km (5,395 mi)
>200 km/h (120 mph) High-speed rail 508 km (316 mi)(under construction)

History[edit]

WP class steam locomotive which propelled Independent India in the late 1940s and 1950s.

During the steam era of Indian railways, the trains barely managed to reach the speeds of 90 km/h mark. It was only until the introduction of WP class locomotive in the 1940s which managed to approach the speeds of 100 km/h.[14] The first leap from steam technology happened when the electrification was completed in Bombay Division. WCP-1 class electric locomotives were used to haul the coaches with a speed beyond 100 km/h and they had a theoretical maximum speed of 120 km/h. But due to the intervening of world wars, Indian railways were unable to introduce electrification beyond the Bombay Division and hence steam locomotives dominated the lines in the rest of India.[14] The era of Diesel locomotives took its shape in the 1960s when Indian Railways imported WDM-1 and WDM-2 class locomotives from the American company, ALCO. Although the WDM-1 struggled to cross the 100 km/h speed mark, the subsequent introduction of WDM-2 and WDM-4 locomotives did the job for the most of the decade.[14]

India made its tryst with high-speed rail by inaugurating the Howrah Rajdhani Express back in March 1969, five years after Japan inaugurated Shinkansen, the world's first high-speed rail which was running at twice the speed of Rajdhani Express.[15] With the initiation of various electrification projects in the 1970s on the trunk routes, the electric locomotives soon began to replace their Diesel counterparts. The WAP-1 electric locomotive broke the record to be the fastest locomotive in India during the 1980s, touching a maximum speed of 160 km/h during the trial runs and was certified for commercial operations at 140 km/h. The first service to reach a maximum speed of 140 km/h was WAP-1 hauled Shatabdi Express from New Delhi to Jhansi in 1989.[14]

WAP-5 locomotive in operation.

After Indian railways realised that the DC powered locomotives would soon be overtaken by AC ones, they introduced the AC powered WAP-5 class locomotives, a first of its kind in India. These locomotives were imported to serve the purpose of services on fast, short trains like the Shatabdi Express. They also featured fully suspended traction motors reducing the impact on tracks and allowing faster speeds. The first batch of these locomotives arrived in India in 1995 and was set to operate at speeds of 130 km/h. During the trial runs, this locomotive reached a record speed of 184 km/h which made it the fastest locomotive in India.[14]

India's first indigenously developed EMU train at New Delhi railway station.

Indian railways achieved the next breakthrough in the late 2010s when the WAP-5 hauled Gatimaan Express became the fastest commercially operated semi-high-speed train in India, in April 2016, with a maximum operational speed of 160 km/h.[16] Two years later, Indian railways saw another breakthrough as they successfully developed the first indigenously built, semi-high-speed, EMU train, the Vande Bharat Express. This train attained a speed of 180 km/h during the trial run and was designed to run at a maximum speed of 200 km/h, but due to the speed limitations on old tracks, the train's operational speed is restricted to 130 km/h.[17]

First proposal[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 to not be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and the inability of passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. In a feasibility study published in 1987, RDSO and JICA estimated the construction costs to be ₹4.9 crore per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, the 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be ₹43.9 crore per km (US$9.5 million/km).[18] The railways instead introduced Shatabdi trains which ran at 140 km/h.[19]

Route plans[edit]

The Indian Ministry of Railways' white-paper "Vision 2020",[20] submitted to The Parliament of India on 18 December 2009,[21] envisaged 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 were identified for technical studies on setting up of high-speed rail corridors: DelhiChandigarhAmritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Warangal-Vijayawada-Chennai, HowrahHaldia, Chennai-Bengaluru-Coimbatore-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi-Agra-Kanpur-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna-Guwahati. These high-speed rail corridors were planned to be built as elevated corridors.

NHRCL formation[edit]

The Minister of Railways launching High-speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd.

Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL) had set up a corporation called High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd (HSRC) on 25 July 2013, which would deal with the proposed high-speed rail corridor projects. The corporation was a wholly-owned subsidiary of RVNL.[22][23] It was supposed to handle the tendering, pre-feasibility studies, awarding of contracts, and execution of the projects.[24] The corporation will comprise four members, all of whom will be railway officials.[25] All high-speed rail lines will be implemented as public–private partnerships on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, and Transfer (DBFOT) basis.[26] The corporation was officially formed on 29 October 2013.[27] Later on 12 February 2016, the Ministry of Railways replaced it with the 'National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited'. It acted as a government company to administer the construction and operation of high-speed rail corridors.[28]

First construction[edit]

Prime ministers of India and Japan at Ground Breaking ceremony of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project, at Ahmedabad.

Construction of the Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor, India's first high-speed rail corridor, was initiated in 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2028. The foundation stone ceremony was held on 14 September 2018 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, flagged off the construction work in Ahmedabad. The JR East/Hitachi E5 Series Shinkansen trains will be used in this line. It has a maximum operational speed of 320 km/h and an average speed of 260 km/h.[8]

Network[edit]

National Rail Plan's (NRP) proposed routes of high-speed rail corridors.

In India, trains in the future with top speeds of 300–350 km/h, are envisaged to run on elevated corridors to isolate high-speed train tracks and thereby prevent trespassing by animals or people. The current conventional lines between Amritsar-New Delhi, and Ahmedabad-Mumbai runs through suburban and rural areas, which are flat and have no tunnels. The Ahmedabad-Mumbai line runs near the coast and therefore, has more bridges, and parts of it are in backwaters or forests. The 1987 RDSO/JICA feasibility study found the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line to be the most promising.[18]

  Under Construction   Proposed   Approved

Summary of proposed and under construction high-speed rail lines in India (standard gauge)
High-speed Corridor Speed Length Further extension Status Planned opening (According to NRP) [29]
km/h mph km mi
North India[30]
Delhi–Varanasi high-speed rail corridor 320 200 865 537 DPR* under preparation 2031
Delhi–Amritsar high-speed rail corridor 320 200 480 300 (Via Chandigarh) Approved[31] 2051
Delhi–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor 320 200 886 551 (Via Udaipur) Land acquisition to begin 2031
Amritsar–Jammu high-speed rail corridor 320 200 190 120 (Via Pathankot) Proposed[32] 2051
East India
Varanasi–Howrah high-speed rail corridor 320 200 711 442 (Via Patna) DPR under preparation [33] 2031
Patna–Guwahati high-speed rail corridor 320 200 850 530 Proposed 2051
West India
Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor 320 200 508.18 315.77 (Via (Surat, Bilimora) Under Construction 2026 (Surat-Bilimora)

2028 (full completion)

Mumbai–Nagpur high-speed rail corridor 320 200 736 457 (Via Nashik, Aurangabad) DPR under preparation 2051
Mumbai–Hyderabad high-speed rail corridor[34] 350 220 711 442 (Via Pune, Solapur) Approved 2051
Central India
Nagpur–Varanasi high-speed rail corridor 320 200 855 531 Proposed 2041
South India
Chennai–Mysuru high-speed rail corridor 320 200 435 270 (Via Bengaluru)[31] DPR under preparation 2051
Hyderabad–Bengaluru high-speed rail corridor 320 200 618 384 Proposed 2041
Total
12 corridors 320 200 7,856 4,881 0/12 2051

*DPR = Detailed Project Report

Feasibility studies[edit]

Potential High Speed Rail lines (2011)[35][36]

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

The consultants for pre-feasibility study for four corridors are:[37]

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]

Location of the stations, its accessibility, integration with public transport, parking and railway stations design[40] will play an important role in the success of the high speed railway system. Mumbai may have an underground corridor to have high-speed rail start from the CST terminal.[41] European experiences have shown that railway stations outside the city receive less patronage and ultimately make the high-speed railway line unfeasible.[42]

The feasibility study for the Chennai-Bengaluru high-speed rail corridor was completed by Germany in November 2018. The study found that the route was feasible. The proposed corridor would be 435 km long and would have an end-to-end travel time of 2 hours and 25 minutes with trains operating at a speed of 320 km/h. The study proposed constructing 84% of the track on viaducts, 11% underground and the remaining 4% at-grade. The current fastest train on the Chennai-Bengaluru route, the Shatabdi Express, completes the journey in 7 hours.[43]

Diamond Quadrilateral project[edit]

Potential Diamond Quadrilateral route map.

The Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail network project is set to connect the four major metro cities of India namely: Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.[44][45][46] President of India mentioned in his address to the joint session of Parliament on 9 June 2014 that the new Government was committing to build the dream project. Although the route is not yet planned, the alignment could follow the existing Golden Quadrilateral railway line which links other major cities.[47]

Diamond Quadrilateral project's proposed and probable lines (standard gauge)
High-speed Corridor Speed Length Via Status Planned opening (According to NRP) [29]
km/h mph km mi
Delhi–Kolkata 320 200 1,576 979 Varanasi DPR under preparation 2031
Kolkata–Chennai 320 200 1,500 930 Vishakapatnam TBD TBD [note 1]
Mumbai–Chennai 320 200 1,200 750 Hubli TBD TBD [note 2]
Delhi–Mumbai 320 200 1,394 866 Ahmedabad and Jaipur One section under construction 2031
Delhi–Bengaluru 320 200 1,900 1,200 Bhopal and Hyderabad TBD TBD [note 3]
Mumbai–Kolkata 320 200 1,800 1,100 Nagpur TBD TBD [note 4]

Cost[edit]

Japan will cover 80% of the 98,000 crore (equivalent to 1.2 trillion or US$16 billion in 2020) Mumbai-Ahmedabad project's cost through a soft loan. It is estimated that of the total 110,000 crore (equivalent to 1.3 trillion or US$18 billion in 2020) crore that will be spent on the 508-km-long high-speed rail corridor project, 88,000 crore (equivalent to 1.1 trillion or US$14 billion in 2020) crore will be given to India as loans. These loans will be available at 0.1 percent interest and India can repay them in fifty years with a moratorium on repayments of up to fifteen years.[48]

Delays[edit]

After the foundation stone was laid in September 2017, Prime Minister of India had set the deadline of August 2022 to complete the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line. A senior board member of Railways had also said that they were in no mood to delay the project.[49] As of October 2018, a year since the foundation stone was laid, only 0.9 of 1,400 hectares land required was acquired due to the protests from farmers against the project. The farmers cited that a lower compensation was provided for the land acquired. This initiated the risk of delay by pushing the deadline beyond 2023.[50] Two years later, the land acquisition was further delayed due to the change in the state government of Maharashtra. The new government reviewed the projects of previous government, including the bullet train project in order to arrange the priorities.[51]

Land acquisition issues, low participation from Japanese companies, steep rates quoted by the bidders were some of the factors which pushed the deadline by five years and the NHSRCL set a new deadline of October 2028, as opposed to the original plan of December 2023, which was decided after conducting a feasibility study. However, India was keen on operating a portion of the line by August 2022.[7] Later in December 2021, the new railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in an interview that people can start boarding the bullet train by the year 2026, even if the project is delayed in the future, it won't be for more than a year and could see the light of the day by 2027.[52]

Semi-high-speed rail[edit]

Semi-high-speed services[edit]

Gatimaan Express : In 2016, the Gatimaan Express was built between Delhi and Agra with a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). This became India's first Semi-high-speed train.[53] Due to low occupancy, Indian Railways first extended this train from Agra to Gwalior on 19 February 2018 and then to Jhansi on 1 April 2018.[54] With the great success of Gatimaan Express, the Indian Railways plans to start additional semi-high speed services along with the Delhi - Bhopal / Chandigarh / Kanpur routes shortly.[55][56]

Tejas Express : On 22 May 2017, the Tejas Express was built, featuring modern onboard facilities with doors which are operated automatically.[57] On 24 May 2017, The first line was opened from Mumbai to Goa.[58] On 1 March 2019, second Tejas Express of the country was flagged off between Chennai and Madurai by the Prime minister.[59] A third route from Lucknow to Delhi was inaugurated on 4 October 2019. This became the India's first train which was operated by private operators, IRCTC, a subsidiary of Indian Railways.[60] A fourth line from Mumbai and Ahmedabad is also operated by IRCTC was inaugurated on the 17 January 2020.[61]

Vande Bharat Express : In 2019, the Vande Bharat Express (Train-18) was inaugurated between Delhi and Varanasi with a top operating speed of 180 km/h (110 mph). However, due to the speed limit of railway track of routes, the speed has been restricted to 130 km/h (81 mph). It was made by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Chennai under the Indian government's Make in India campaign.[62][63] In October 2019, the second Vande Bharat Express was opened from Delhi to Katra.[64] Following success in the initial two lines, the government plans on rolling out 10 new Vande Bharat Express trains, connecting over 40 cities.[65]

Tejas Rajdhani Express: Indian Railways started to upgrade Rajdhani Coaches to Tejas coaches. These trains are called the Tejas-Rajdhani Express. This replaced its traditional LHB Rajdhani coaches On 15 February 2021,The Agartala Rajdhani Express was upgraded with Tejas livery Sleeper coaches. On 19 July 2021, the Mumbai Rajdhani Express was upgraded to Tejas class smart Coaches.[66][67] On 1 September 2021 the Rajendra Nagar Patna Rajdhani Express was upgraded to Tejas rakes. This increased the speed of the train to 130 km/h. The train can travel at a top speed of 160 km/h.[68]

Indian railways plans to increase the speed of several routes to 160 km/h (99 mph). These routes were raised from 110 km/h (68 mph) to 130 km/h (81 mph) earlier.[69]

  operational   under construction   planned

Upgraded Semi-high-speed rail lines (1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge)
Route Rolling stock Speed Length Status
Delhi–Varanasi Vande Bharat 180 km/h (110 mph) 762 km (473 mi) Inaugurated on 17 February 2019.
Delhi–Katra 180 km/h (110 mph) 655 km (407 mi) Inaugurated on 5 October 2019.[64][70]
Mumbai–Goa Tejas 160 km/h (99 mph) 552 km (343 mi) Inaugurated on 22 May 2017.
Luknow–Delhi 160 km/h (99 mph) 512 km (318 mi) Inaugurated on 4 October 2019.
Chennai–Madurai 160 km/h (99 mph) 493 km (306 mi) Inaugurated on 1 March 2019.
Ahmedabad–Mumbai 160 km/h (99 mph) 490 km (300 mi) Inaugurated on 17 January 2020.[61]
Delhi– Agra – Jhansi Gatimaan 160 km/h (99 mph) 403 km (250 mi) Inaugurated on 5 April 2016.
Agartala–Delhi Tejas-Rajdhani 160 km/h (99 mph) 2,423 km (1,506 mi) Inaugurated on 15 February 2021
Mumbai–Delhi 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,387 km (862 mi) Inaugurated on 19 July 2021.[71]
Mumbai–Delhi(Hazrat Nizamuddin) 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,377 km (856 mi) Inaugurated on 12 December 2021.[72]
Delhi–Patna 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,005 km (624 mi) Inaugurated on 1 September 2021[73]
Pune–Nasik TBD 250 km/h (160 mph) 231 km (144 mi) Land acquisition to begin.[74]
AhmedabadRajkot 220 km/h (140 mph) 247 km (153 mi) Approved[75]
Nagpur–Secunderabad 200 km/h (120 mph) 575 km (357 mi) DPR Submitted[76]
MumbaiHowrah (Kolkata) 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,965 km (1,221 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
MumbaiChennai 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,276 km (793 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
ChennaiHowrah (Kolkata) 160 km/h (99 mph) 1,652 km (1,027 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
BengaluruChennai 160 km/h (99 mph) 362 km (225 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
ChennaiDelhi 160 km/h (99 mph) 2,164 km (1,345 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
BengaluruHyderabad 160 km/h (99 mph) 632 km (393 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
ChennaiHyderabad 160 km/h (99 mph) 715 km (444 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
Howrah (Kolkata) – Puri 160 km/h (99 mph) 502 km (312 mi) DPR Submitted[69]
New Semi-high-speed rail lines (1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) Standard gauge)
Route Speed Length Status
Delhi–Meerut 180 km/h (110 mph) 82 km (51 mi) Under construction[77]
Delhi–Alwar 180 km/h (110 mph) 164 km (102 mi) Under construction[77]
Delhi–Panipat 180 km/h (110 mph) 103 km (64 mi) Approved[77]
Thiruvananthapuram – Kasaragod 200 km/h (120 mph) 575 km (357 mi) Approved by the Union Cabinet in 2021.[78][79][80] Land acquisition begins.
DelhiRohtak 180 km/h (110 mph) 70 km (43 mi) Proposed[81]
DelhiPalwal 180 km/h (110 mph) 60 km (37 mi) Proposed[81]
Delhi-Baraut 180 km/h (110 mph) 54 km (34 mi) Proposed[81]
GhaziabadKhurja 180 km/h (110 mph) 83 km (52 mi) Proposed[81]
GhaziabadHapur 180 km/h (110 mph) 57 km (35 mi) Proposed[81]
DelhiJewar 180 km/h (110 mph) 67 km (42 mi) Proposed[81] To connect with Jewar International Airport

Track upgrades[edit]

Indian Railways aims to increase the speed of passenger trains to 160–200 km/h (99–124 mph) on dedicated conventional tracks. Indian railways also intend to improve the existing conventional lines to handle speeds of up to 160 km/h (99 mph), with a goal of speed more than 200 km/h (120 mph) on new tracks with improved technology.[20] Trains have already been built by native companies that can reach speeds of 200 km/h, but these trains are limited to lower speeds on legacy tracks due to safety restrictions.[82]

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India is overseeing the development of dedicated freight corridors across India to move cargo traffic from most of the current passenger railway tracks and to support Indian Railways effort to increase the speed of the passenger trains to 200 km/h.[83]

Proposals[edit]

France : In February 2014, Henri Poupart-Lafarge of Alstom, manufacturer of trains used on TGV in France, stated that India is at least 5–10 years away from high-speed trains. He suggested that the country should first upgrade the infrastructure to handle trains travelling at speeds of 100–120 km/h (62–75 mph).[84]

In 2017, SNCF proposed to upgrade the Shatabdi train track between Delhi and Chandigarh to run the trains at a maximum speed of 220 km/h.[85] This was expected provide hands-on expertise for Indian Railways to implement Semi-High speed trains across India, specifically running Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains at maximum speed 220+ km/h with average speed of 150 km/h.[85]

China : Feasibility study of running semi-high-speed trains on the 500 km Chennai–Mysore section was submitted by the China Railway Group Limited (CREEC) to the Indian Railway Board. It envisions reducing travel time from the existing 7 hours to 4 hours and 45 minutes.[86]

Germany : The German finance ministry had agreed to finance a government feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Chennai and Mysore. It had also discussed a project to modernise the Chennai–Hyderabad route.[87]

Germany is also conducting a feasibility study for running trains at a speed of about 300 km/h on the 450 km long Chennai–Mysuru route. A pre-feasibility study was already completed in 2016 by the consortium of consultants comprising DB E&C, Intraplan Consult and Ingenieurburo Vossing.[88]

Spain : In 2016, there were plans to run Spain's Talgo trains in Delhi–Mumbai route. During trial run, Talgo train reached a peak speed of 150 km/h (93 mph), observing laid-down speed cautions and halting at the usual stoppages as the Mumbai Rajdhani, Talgo clocked an average speed of 117.5 km/h (73.0 mph). The Mumbai Rajdhani took 15 hours and 50 minutes at an average speed of 87.7 km/h (54.5 mph).[89] This was later rejected by the Indian government since the trains were not suited for Indian tracks and since they could not reach their maximum speed.[90] Instead, the government indigenously manufactured the Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 as a part of its Make in India campaign. It achieved a top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph) during trial runs.[91]

Criticism of Delhi-Agra line[edit]

Critics point out that Delhi-Agra time savings are not based on the speed of the train, but based on other factors. According to critics, the reduction in travel time due to speed is sheer three minutes, and that the other manoeuvrings are largely accountable for the drastic drop. The reduction of time is greatly due to shifting the train's departure point from New Delhi railway station to Hazrat Nizamuddin and doing away with the scheduled stop at Mathura reportedly saving 14 minutes. Limiting the locomotive to 10 coaches (Bhopal Shatabdi has 14) leads to a reduction of another two minutes. Thus track improvements and superior infrastructure lead to a reduction of only five minutes, three minutes owing to route relay and interlocking at Agra, and one minute each due to the approval to run a passenger train on the third line at Palwal and Bhuteshwar, installation of thick web switches at four points and putting up a track station at Chhata.[92]

There were also serious questions raised about the safety of the passengers as the infrastructure on which semi-high speed trains are running may not be able to run at such high speeds. For example, it is preferred to run these higher-speed trains on 60-kilogram tracks, but as of now they are running on 52-kilogram tracks.[93]

Super-high-speed rail[edit]

Maglev[edit]

Indian Railways is exploring the possibility of super-speed, also called ultra-high-speed, rail network in India. The Railway Ministry's vision was to make rolling stock the driver for India's shift from being a technology importer to a manufacturer and developer, by becoming a designer for future rolling stock technology.[94] Maglev technology has consistently been shown to be more than double the cost of "standard steel-to-steel bullet trains" and thus has been a major economic hindrance to the beginning of any construction of the Chuo Shinkansen in Japan.

The Andhra Pradesh state government has decided to build its metro train system in major cities using the Maglev technology. The Changsha Maglev system was studied by a team to gain better understanding of running the metro using Maglev. Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and Amaravati metro railway systems will be built using low speed Maglev train systems.[95][96] It is expected to make the industrial sector in Andhra Pradesh the most cost efficient and exports competitive in world market by reducing the logistics cost for the transport of people and freight.[97] Maglev based metro systems improve the quality of life in cities and provide efficient, high-speed rail systems to generate far higher levels of economic output.[98] This is expected to create an industrial base, hands-on expertise and lower costs for Maglev in India.

Kochi Metro explored using the South Korean Maglev technology used in the Incheon Airport Maglev, but it was not fully operational in 2011. So, Kochi Metro opted for wheeled-train set technology for initial routes. But, future routes may use Maglev technology.[99]

India may build its future metro train systems using Maglev as it has faster acceleration and deceleration than traditional metro systems. China is building new lines for Beijing Metro and Changsha Metro using Maglev technology to retain Chinese cost competitiveness in the world market by reducing the transportation time and cost.

Earlier in 2016, Indian Railways announced a seminar with ultra-high-speed train manufacturers to explore the possibility of introducing an ultra-high-speed train system on a public–private partnership basis.[100] The corporation has issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) to global investors to implement an over-500-kilometre-per-hour (310 mph) rail system. Transport infrastructure (including stations, platforms, tracks, signal systems, fare structures and timetables) would be developed by private firms; Indian Railways would handle land-related issues, and the revenue would be shared.[101] The new railway system, parallel to the current one, should support passenger and freight traffic.[102] In February 2019, a train model based upon MagLev systems was unveiled by scientists from Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology for a speed of 600 km (370 mi) per hour.[103] In September 2020, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited signed a pact with SwissRapide AG to bring MagLev metro systems in India.[104]

Hyperloop[edit]

There is no currently operational hyperloop system in the world today, Although there has been human testing. Speed projections depend on significant engineering advances, and have not yet been observed.[105]

Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop

It is a proposed 1,000 km/h hyperloop system that will take 14 minutes compared to the current 3 hours to commute between these two cities while carrying 10,000 commuters per hour (5,000 in each direction). Hyperloop One, the firm proposing the route, believes that it is feasible and can be made operational by 2026 as per its Detailed Project Report submitted to Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) in January 2018. Hyperloop One propose three possible terminal end-points options in Mumbai, namely Dadar, Santacruz and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. Currently, 3,00,000 people commute daily between these two cities daily in 1,10,000 vehicles (including 80,000 cars and 6,000 buses).[106]

Amritsar-Chandigarh Hyperloop

Virgin Hyperloop signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state of Punjab on 3 December 2019. The Hyperloop transportation project will connect Punjab's largest cities of Amritsar Ludhiana and Chandigarh, covering a total of 226kms in 19 minutes. The trip taken by the Hyperloop system is estimated to be at least 10 times faster than a trip taken by existing transport infrastructure of road, rail or flight.[107]

Vijayawada-Amaravathi Hyperloop

The Andhra Pradesh state government is currently studying the feasibility of the project and if introduced, the 40 km distance between the two cities can be covered in just six minutes. AP Economic Development Board (AP-EDB) and US-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the same.[108] Andra Pradesh already has decided to build its metro train systems using Maglev technology and has sent the study teams to China for practical study of the operational Maglev based metro train systems.[96]

Bengaluru-Chennai Hyperloop

Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, has signed a MoU with Karnataka government to conduct a feasibility study for the route between Bangalore and Chennai. According to its sponsors, such a Hyperloop will reduce the travel time to 20 minutes between the two cities.[109]

Technology[edit]

Shinkansen[edit]

Depiction of modified E5 series Shinkansen in background at the ground breaking ceremony.

The Indian railways will construct bullet train assembly facilities on a Public-private participation (PPP) model. According to National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), Japanese companies are likely to set up manufacturing facilities in India to build the parts for bullet train sets.[110] The initial sets will be imported from Japan in phases one and two, with the 18 sets in the first phase costing ₹7,000 for Mumbai-Ahmedabad line, but starting from phase three, India plans to manufacture the sets locally under Make in India initiative. The Indian railways in September 2018 gave a presentation to the working representatives of Japan and India about the Modern Coach Factory (MCF) in Raebareli as a potential manufacturing site for bullet trains. The official said that MCF has robotic production lines and can be ideal for manufacturing bullet train coaches.[110]

Indigenous technology[edit]

Indian Railways currently do not have the technology to develop high-speed rail sets but they have been developing EMU train sets which can operate at a semi-high speed of (200 km/h). In 2019, The Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 replaced Shatabdi Express on two routes and has been planned to replace all the available Shatabdi services after subsequent production. 'Train 20' is another proposed Semi-high-speed train service, which is expected to run on longer distances and hence it will be an overnight train replacing the existing Rajdhani Express service. Vande Bharat Express had begun commercial operation on 15 February 2019, while the Train 20 was supposed to roll out in 2020, but owing to some of the internal issues, the train has not seen any light of the day yet. However, both of these trains will be manufactured by Integral Coach Factory (ICF).[111]

These trains have driver cabins on both ends, which eliminates the time needed for turnaround at the terminal station. Since these are EMU train sets, the time and distance taken to accelerate and decelerate is reduced, enabling the train to travel at a top speed for longer distance. The coaches have automatic sliding doors, onboard Wi-Fi service, GPS based information system, wide windows, bio-toilets and are fully air-conditioned. The rake of Vande Bharat Express has sixteen coaches, consisting of two Executive Chair Cars and fourteen AC Chair Cars, it is being operated at 130 km/h due to track limitations. Train 20 is set to have twenty coaches consisting of AC First Class sleeper, AC II Tier sleeper, AC III Tier sleeper classes and an AC Chair Car, it is set to operate at 160 km/h. Train 20's proposed top speed was announced to be at 176 km/h.[112][113]

Construction technology[edit]

A prefabricated section of the elevated track being installed with the help of Mega Carrier and Launcher on the Chinese Harbin-Dalian High Speed Railway in October 2010

The Mega Carrier and Launcher Machines or Transporter, Gantry and Full Spam Launcher Machines are the machines that are used to construct viaducts (elevated structures) for bullet train corridors in China. These vehicles carry a full girder by traveling on an already launched girder to place the next girder. The speed was seven times faster compared to the previous girder launching mechanism in India. While the Chinese machine laid two girders a day, the previous Indian girder launching mechanism placed one and half girder in a week.[114] The NHSRCL had posed a challenge to build such machines for L&T which is currently constructing the 325 km stretch of Mumbai-Ahmedabad line. Each of these machines would cost around ₹70-80 crores, and 30 such machines would be required to construct 237 km stretch within next four years as told by managing director of NHSRCL, Achal Khare.[114]

On 9 September 2021, India joined Norway, Italy, China and South Korea to possess Full Span Launching Methodology (FSLM) technology after L&T was successfully able to develop it indigenously. NHSRCL will acquire 20 of such machines for their Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project in order to ramp up the construction progress. These machines can be further used to build viaducts for elevated roads and rapid transit systems across India.[115][116]

Rolling stock[edit]

Name Origin Manufacturer lines Engine Power supply Maximum speed (km/h) In
Service
Picture
Top speed Operational speed Designed speed
High-speed
E5 Series Shinkansen Japan Japan Hitachi Rail
Kawasaki
None Currently,

12 planned

Engineless Electric (25 kV 50 Hz AC) 320 320 320 2026[7] Shinkansen_(bullet_train)_:_The_Hayabusa_super_express_(Series_E5_train)
Semi-high-speed
Vande Bharat India India ICF 2 Engineless Electric 180[117] 130[118] 200[119] 2019[17] Vande Bharat exp.jpg
Tejas India India RCF 4 WAP-7

WDP-3A

Electric

Diesel Electric

160 130 200 2017[120] Rajendra B.Aklekar.jpg
Gatimaan India India RCF 1 WAP-5 Electric 160 160[53] 160 2016[121] Gatimaan express.jpg
Tejas-Rajdhani India India RCF 4 WAP-7

WAP-4

WAP-4A

Electric 160 130 160 2021[122]

Research and Development[edit]

Railway University[edit]

Indian Railways are not yet capable of manufacturing indigenously built high-speed trains, in a step towards it, the Indian railways had planned to set up Railway Universities for students who would help in building modern railway infrastructure. These universities will fill the void left by existing technological universities where Rail Technology was not taught because there were not many students who would take this course, since it did not offer higher-paying jobs. The Rail-wheel interaction is the most important concept which needs more practicality than the textbook concept, this came out as another issue for universities, since it takes a lot of infrastructure to set up test tacks. These issues would be eliminated thanks to dedicated Rail-technological universities.[123]

One such Railway University was opened in Vadodara in 2018, inside of the existing National Academy of Indian Railways in the Pratap Vilas Palace of the erstwhile Gaekwad state. Both the institutions would run from this campus until a greenfield campus is constructed. The Ministry of Railways had identified a 100-acre plot in Vadodara for this purpose.[124] In August 2019, the Gujarat government allotted 76.6 acres of land in Waghodia at the 50 percent of market rate to construct the first Railway University. The campus is set to include various academic buildings, training centres and a hostel.[125]

Other institutions[edit]

Records[edit]

Speed records[edit]

As of today, Indian Railways is yet to touch the 200 km/h speed mark. Speed and punctuality were never the primary concerns for the railways since safety was always considered a priority. However, with the recent introduction of services such as Gatimaan, Tejas and Vande Bharat Expresses, Indian railways hope to bridge the gap between world standards and themselves.

Date System Type Speed Picture
1947 WP class Steam 100 km/h[14]
682 IndiaDelhiMuseum 19931226.jpg
1969 WDM-4 Diesel 120 km/h[14]
WDM-4 18001 locomotive.jpg
1971 WDM-4 Diesel 130 km/h[14]
WDM-4 18001 locomotive.jpg
1971 WAM-2/3 Electric 140 km/h[14]
Wam-2. SVG.svg
1982 WAM-4B Electric 145 km/h[14]
AJJ WAM4.jpg
1988 WAP-1 Electric 160 km/h[14]
AJJ WAP1.jpg
1996 WAP-4 Electric 169 km/h[14]
BRC WAP4.jpg
June 1997 WAP-5 Electric 184 km/h[14]
BRC HOG WAP5.jpg

Criticism[edit]

After the project was announced, it drew huge attention and was considered to push India into the elite list of high-speed rail capability, but at the same time, it drew criticism from rail-fans and other experts. It is said that when the Shinkansen technology was built in Japan in the sixties, it challenged air travel which was not as advanced as today and hence was very successful. But the bullet train might not be viable in the modern-day world where the aviation industry has advanced in leaps and bounds in reducing fuel intake, safety, better engines and efficiency. The ticket prices are also said to be more or less the same as air travel between the two cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Critics also point out the fact that the 'White Elephant' project is paid on the loan which not only makes it difficult to attain profits but also pushes the responsibility of returning it to India's next generations.[126]

It is also said that the cities such as Bilimora, Bharuch and Surat are not languishing today for the sole reason that they do not have high-speed rail connectivity. The critics add that although India is capable of constructing bullet trains, it cannot afford the bullet train in its current configuration. Instead, India can put a great deal of effort into its ageing railway system, expanding existing metro systems in tier-one cities and constructing new ones in tier-two cities.[126]

The critics conclude with a point that India with their help of young and large youth population can rather invest in future technology such as Maglev in a similar way how Shinkansen in Japan was developed in the sixties. They add that India has already proven its scientific capability with the Mangalyaan mission which cost less than a Hollywood movie and hence can involve its huge pool of scientists and engineers in developing a modern technology that can replicate what Shinkansen did in Japan.[126]

Other critiques also say that the Standard gauge for high-speed rail goes against the Project Unigauge which was initiated by the railways in 1992.[127] It was also cited that broad gauge provides better stability and therefore the broad gauge railway would be equal or better suited for high-speed rail in India, this would also reduce the cost of constructing a greenfield line.[128]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "This route is not yet planned and it represents the most feasible route for Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail line between these two metro cities.
  2. ^ "The Mumbai–Chennai route is not planned yet. This route represents the most feasible route for Mumbai-Chennai section of Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail line. Although a section of this potential route between Chennai and Bengaluru has been planned to be operational by 2051.
  3. ^ "This route is not planned yet and it represents the most feasible route for Delhi-Bengaluru section of Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail line. However, one section of this potential route between Hyderabad and Bengaluru is planned to be operational by 2041.
  4. ^ "This route beyond Nagpur is not planned yet and it represents the most feasible route for Mumbai–Kolkata section of Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail line. However, the Mumbai–Nagpur section of this line is planned to be operational by 2051.

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External links[edit]