IR issues EoI for MagLev Train Technology roll out in India

If Indian Railways had its way, you’ll ride at 500 kmph on Maglev trains; here’s how

The Indian Railways issued an Expression of Interest (EoI) for Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) train technology on 2nd August 2016, apparently following a briefing to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.

The EoI invites interested companies to design, build, operate and maintain MagLev systems for both passenger travel and cargo transportation. The deadline for submittal is 6 September.

Technical and commercial bids would be called for at a later stage.

The Indian Government would provide the land, while the company awarded the contract would design the train and build a 200 – 500 km long elevated track, after successfully demonstrating the technology over a test distance of 10 – 15 km.

Once completed the MagLev system would be operated under a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model.

The Indian Ministry of Railways has shortlisted four railway routes for the implementation of MagLev technology:

  1. Bengaluru – Chennai
  2. Hyderabad – Chennai
  3. New Delhi – Chandigarh
  4. Nagpur – Mumbai

The expected average speed would be 350 km/h, with a top speed of 500 km/h.

The maximum speed recorded so far in the country was clocked on 14 July 2016 during the ongoing Talgo High Speed Rail (HSR) train trials: 180 km/h. The previous national record belonged to the Gatimaan Express, a semi high speed train that runs between Delhi and Agra.

The world’s fastest commercial MagLev train currently operates in Shanghai at a top speed of 430 km/h. The 30.5 km line connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the outskirts of central Pudong.

Private players to run Malgev trains at 500 kmph. On the lines of civil aviation sector, Indian railways is keen to bring in private companies to build and operate private rail in India just like the private airlines.

Invitation of foreign private players to run high-speed trains running at 500 km per hour, faster than the proposed bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is on the lines of civil aviation sector, and Railways is keen to bring in private companies to build and operate private rail in India just as like private airlines.

According to railway officials, these trains will operate on magnetic levitation (Maglev) technique, which allows trains to run at very high speed. The minimum speed of these trains will be 350km per hour.

At present Maglev technology is used in countries like Japan, China, and Germany. An expression of interest has been issued by the Railway Ministry and private firms have been asked to submit their response by September 6. The modalities and specifications for the project will be finalised at a later stage.

The government proposed to undertake the Maglev project on a public private partnership (PPP) mode. Under this, the railways will provide land required for the project while the private firms will execute and operate the trains.

“The entire transportation infrastructure including railway stations, platforms, tracks, signal syetem, fare structure, and time table will be developed by the private firms while the land related issued will be taken care of by the railways. Revenue thus generated will be shared between the two parties,” said a railway ministry official.

Sources in Rail Ministry said the proposal is in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of taking railways to the age of high speed trains. While the railway ministry is working on several projects of bullet trains, high speed and semi-high speed trains, the Maglev trains will be a different experience all together.

This also assumes significance as the cash-strapped railways is exploring external sources of revenue to fund its projects. Of late, the railways have also been losing traffic to roads and air routes. For financial year 2015-16, the railways earned revenue of Rs 45,384 crore from passenger traffic against a target of Rs 50,175 crore. The target for the current financial year has been set at Rs 51,012 crore.

Experts believe that the rail traffic may further reduce after the regional air connectivity is improved. However, to counter this aspect, the railways are identifying the routes so as to make the private rail network financially viable.

A senior official of the Ministry of Railways says four routes – Bengaluru-Chennai, Hyderabad-Chennai, New Delhi-Chandigarh and Nagpur-Mumbai – have been identified for the Maglev trains. Since these routes are heavily congested, Maglev trains will be a big respite for the passengers. Officials said trains on these routes are running nearly 120 per cent saturation.

“The Indian Government shall provide land for the 200 to 500 kilometre-long project while the company that will eventually bag the contract will be expected to design the Maglev train and build an elevated track for running the train; all this only after it successfully gives a demonstration of the Maglev systems over a distance of 10 to 15 km,” the government proposal said. Globally, only a small number of countries have used the Maglev systems. These include Germany, China, Japan, South Korea and the US.

In China, the Maglev trains ply between Shanghai city and its airport, covering a distance of about 38 km. To make Maglev trains financially viable, the Indian Railways will also allow the private operator to introduce non-fare revenue models like wi-fi, movies, food and other add on services to be charged from passengers.

Maglev trains, are trains which use electromagnetic suspension systems to levitate on steel rails, which essentially reduces friction and allows the train to reach very high speeds

Paving the way for introducing levitation-based train systems (maglev trains),Indian Railways has floated a global tender inviting private entities for designing, building, operating and maintaining such train system on the public-private partnership model. The scope of work includes setting up a centre for levitation train technology, which will be jointly owned by the transporter.

Magnetic levitation trains, or maglev trains, are trains which use electromagnetic suspension systems to levitate on steel rails, which essentially reduces friction and allows the train to reach very high speeds. The transporter expects the developer to connect two major cities with levitation-based trains plying on an elevated corridor at the speed of 350-500 km per hour.

The levitation-based train is expected to carry passenger as well as cargo traffic. The land requirement for the project will be met by the transporter but all other works including building, designing, testing, operation, maintenance, and all other associated infrastructure works, will be carried out by the selected company. Currently, only China, Japan and South Korea have trains which run on levitation-based systems.

The project is part of the transporter’s overall plan to run high-speed (above 300 kmph) trains and semi-high-speed trains (above 160 kmph) along the golden quadrilateral. Indian Railways (IR) has already formed a company, National High Speed Rail Corporation of India, which is looking after the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, which is expected to be operational in 2023-2024.

IR, as part of its project to develop high-speed and semi-high-speed corridors, has already introduced the Gatimaan Express, a semi-high-speed train, on the Delhi-Agra route.

The transporter is also in the final stages of introducing the Tejas, another semi-high-speed train, and is conducting trials for semi-high-speed compatible Talgo coaches that it will run on the Delhi-Mumbai route.

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