Nagpur: The recent announcement by the railway ministry — in its brochure commemorating two years of the Narendra Modi government — of studies to plan a high-speed rail (bullet) route between Mumbai-Nagpur and Nagpur-Delhi has once again raised a debate. This is because the Mumbai-Nagpur line, which was first envisaged by the Congress-led Democratic Front government in Maharashtra, was shelved by the railways a few months ago.
Among the reasons officials had given at the time was that with the state government coming up with a high-speed expressway between the two cities and the Nagpur airport itself undergoing expansion, the economic feasibility of a bullet train was doubtful.
The Delhi-Nagpur HSR (railway lingo for bullet trains) study is part of the first phase of studies commissioned. The feasibility study of the line is yet to be taken up by the China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group company, said officials. Delhi-Nagpur is part of the Delhi-Chennai route being studied currently.
Subodh Jain, former Member Engineering, Railway Board, who also served as General Manager of Central Railway, said Mumbai-Nagpur HSR route isn’t feasible. “Even when we studied it at CR, the line was not feasible as there isn’t clientele for HSR at Nagpur. However, if the ministry makes Nagpur a hub for HSR and then lays routes to various cities from there, it will be a good idea,” said Jain, who was the railways’ topmost engineering authority in 2013-14 when a lot of bullet train studies were being envisaged and commissioned.
According to Jain, if Nagpur is made the hub, then routes can be constructed to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai, which would mean that Nagpur becomes the inter-change point for the country’s bullet train network.
“The advantage with Nagpur as a hub-cum-changeover point is that passengers will have to travel for lesser duration at a stretch in HSR trains having only seating arrangements. A journey of up to five hours is ideal for such sitting journeys; longer can inconvenience passengers. For railways, the construction schedule and commissioning of lines becomes easier with Nagpur as hub rather than building longer routes, which can be commissioned only when the entire route is ready,” said Jain.
Advantages of Nagpur as bullet train hub
1. It is at the centre of the country’s vast railway network with most important cities equidistant from it.
2. Land availability and cost considerations to make a massive hub terminal are better at Nagpur than at any metro city.
3. It will speed up development of the cities around Nagpur, which currently is a flashpoint for Left-Wing Extremism.
The Mumbai-Nagpur bullet train saga
The train’s feasibility is being studied by the Spanish government-owned railway infrastructure firm Adif, partnered by Ineco. Ineco had earlier studied the feasibility of a 135km high-speed line between Howrah and Haldia in West Bengal and is currently studying the Delhi-Kolkata HSR line. The counterpart agency from India in the study is the railway ministry-owned High Speed Rail Corporation. The consortium of Adif-Ineco-HSRC is expected to submit the first report on the Mumbai-Nagpur line by December this year, said the railway ministry officials.