Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge today formally launched the High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd. (HSRCIL), a subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL), that will develop high-speed rail corridors i India to run passenger trains at speeds upto 350 km per hour.
Speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day international technical conference here on “High Speed Rail Travel: Low Cost Solutions”, he also unveiled the logo of HSRCIL which has been designed by the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.
Mr Kharge said that the Indian Railways currently carry more than 7 billion people annually, which is equal to the entire human popuation on earth. He said the Railways’ recent focus on technology upgradation had been driven largely by the objective of achieving higher levels of safety for passengers.
“Despite the fiscal constraints in upgrading the aging infrastructure and in the face of rising costs, the number of train accidents per million train kms has reduced from 0.41 to 0.13 over the past decade,” he said.
He said Indian Railways had attained speeds of 120 kmph on its Mumbai and Kolkata Rajdhani Express trains way back in 1973. In 1998, the Bhopal Shatabdi Express became India’s fastest train, attaining a speed of 140 kmph which was further increased to 150 kmph in 2006.
Meanwhile, many countries like, China, France, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea and Spain have developed high-speed rail to connect their major cities. The maximum commercial speed on most of these high-speed rail lines is 250 to 300 kmph.
He noted that, since the first such high speed rail system began operations in Japan way back in 1964 and became widely known as the bullet train, several countries have built extensive high-speed networks, and there are now several cross-border high-speed rail links.
“Most countries consider high speed capability to be in the range of 250 to 300 kmph which requires a dedicated track with fencing and can be prohibitively costly. For a country like ours track fencing also has its own set of associated issues. Thus, leveraging rolling stock technologies may provide a lower cost solution to meet the immediate needs of achieving speeds of 160 to 200 kmph and that too on the existing track,” he said.
Mr Kharge said that for speeds above 200 kmph the costlier and time consuming solution of providing a separate dedicated track with fencing would become inescapable.
“Therefore, the focus of this conference is to consider achieving higher speed trains in the range of 160 to 200 kmph with marginal inputs in the existing infrastructure.
“Achieving this higher speed train travel of 160 to 200 kmph will also need understanding of many new technologies which Indian Railways has not been extensively exposed to, such as aerodynamic profiles, light weight technologies, cab signaling etc.,” he said.
“This intermediate step can be considered preparatory to achieve high speed train travel of 250 to 300 kmph in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said the Railways had undertaken pre-feasibility studies of seven high speed corridors. A preliminary study for Mumbai-Ahemdabad route has estimated its cost to be around Rs. 65,000 crore.
Mr Satish Agnihotri, Chairman of HSRC and CMD of RVNL said that HSRC would undertake project activities such as preparation of project related studies, preparation of the technical standards for HSR Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor and any other corridor decided by the Government. It will provide support to Ministry of Railways and Government of India in finalizing the financial and implementation models.
The conference is being attended by policy makers, senior administrators, rolling stock manufacturers, research institutions, consultants and industry professionals from India and abroad.