A Sneak Peek into India's High-Speed Railway Ambitions

For a long, governing agencies in India contemplated developing high-speed train corridors in the country. The fascination for high-speed trains probably came from Japan, known for its bullet trains, and with whom India shared a long history of economic cooperation. The idea though mostly remained restricted to contours of government discussions and could not see any real-world implementation. For a nation, which was rebuilding itself after independence, investments in High-Speed Railways (HSR) looked like a far-fetched luxury.

However, finally, at the onset of the last decade, things changed. Growth in the Indian middle-class, exponential rise in urban population, and a pressing need to achieve sustainable development, made governing bodies think seriously about building HSR corridors. Such rapid railway networks were also thought to be essential towards improving the investment climate and spur economic growth through the seamless, reliable, and, mass-level commute.

Finally, in 2016, the idea took off with the incorporation of National High-Speed Railway Limited (NHSRL). It has been formed under the Ministry of Railways to finance, construct, operate, and manage HSR corridors in the country.  

Work has begun in the inaugural HSR corridor connecting Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country with Ahmedabad, another prominent business hub in the western parts of the country. The project will be developed with an aggregate price of USD 13.4 billion, which will be funded by JICA through soft loans.

Earlier the project was set to be completed by 2023-24 but now has been extended to 2027-28 due to a delay in land acquisition. 49 rolling stocks will be imported from Japan for USD 1.34 billion. These trains will run at a speed of 320 Km/ hr.

In addition to the inaugural bullet train line in Mumbai-Ahmedabad, contracts to carry out feasibility studies and Detailed Project Report (DPR) have been awarded across six more lines.

 

The Rise of Semi-High-Speed Railway Networks

Work is also underway in a few Semi€“High Speed Railway (SHSR) projects, which will augment HSR lines, running at speed of around 160-200 km/h. These SHSR projects will be mostly developed at the provincial/ state level and play a significant role in improving commute time between major urban and economic centers.

Land acquisition has begun in the Pune-Nasik line spread across 235 Kms. The overall budget of the project is pegged at USD 2.2 billion, wherein both the state and center will invest 20?ch. The remaining 60% will be funded through private institutions.

In the province of Kerala, a cabinet nod has been received for over 500 Km long SHSR line connecting Trivandrum with Kasaragod. The mega project is worth USD 8.7 billion and will be funded through state and central infrastructure funding agencies along with loans from other private agencies.

A 225 Km long Semi HSR has been announced to link Ahmedabad and Rajkot in the province of Gujarat. The project, which will be produced at the cost of USD 3.83 billion, will be built on an elevated corridor and also work as a feeder line for the Mumbai- Ahmedabad HSR. 

The HSR and SHSR corridor will also give impetus to a whole new range of commercial activities. New opportunities will unlock for Railway contractors, rolling stock manufactures, railway transmission system suppliers, operations and maintenance companies. Such mega-projects will also contribute towards reducing carbon footprints.

Suburban Transport Gets a Makeover

India is also giving a facelift to suburban transport through Regional Rapid Transport Systems (RRTS). These networks will be instrumental in offering seamless and faster transport services to city dwellers. Work has already begun in Delhi-Ghaziabad- Meerut line stretched across 82 Kms. Alstom been has awarded a USD 270 million contract to develop 30 regional commuters with 6 cars each alongside 10 commuters with 3 cars each. 

A couple of other lines have been proposed in Delhi namely Delhi-Gurgaon- Rewari-Alwar (192 Kms) and Delhi-Panipat (103 Kms), for which the DPR is currently been prepared. These two projects will require an investment of around USD 8 billion.  Collectively the three lines can manage 2 million passengers daily, once fully completed and operationalized.

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