India is working with Japan to make key technical changes in the bullet trains that are expected to run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad from 2023 so that they can handle extreme heat and high levels of pollution, according to officials familiar with the matter.
The National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL), which is executing the project linking the capitals of Maharashtra and Gujarat, believes the trains will have to be customized for Indian conditions so that they don’t break down due to heat and dust.
“The trains that run in Japan are built to handle the outside temperature of up to 35 degrees Celsius. But here in India, and especially the section it will run in Maharashtra, the outside temperature can cross even 50 degrees. So, we will need some modifications for that,” Achal Khare, managing director of NHSRCL.
Special provisions are also being made to combat dust.
“Keeping in view the environmental conditions in India, the air conditioners, blowers, and other important equipment fitted in the high-speed trains will have dust filters. These filters will be like a fine mesh as commonly used in air-conditioning units. The dust filters installed will work as a barrier and stop the dust entering inside the trains; this will be helpful in maintaining ambient air quality inside the trains. They will also safeguard the equipment from harmful dust mites and other pollutants,” said Sushma Gaur, spokesperson for NHSRCL.
India’s first bullet train, known as the Shinkansen in Japan, will mark the country’s shift to an era of high-speed trains capable of hitting speeds of up to 350km per hour. The air conditioning system in the bullet train is inside the body of the coaches, and not on the top like in the Metro system; it is therefore not exposed to the outside atmosphere.
According to Khare, the trains will have pressurized cabins similar to aircraft.
“To start with, we will have 24 train sets, of which 18 will come from Japan while six will be manufactured here. But when we say it will be manufactured in India, it means not 100% as critical parts will still come from Japan,” Khare said.
Another change that the corporation is making to the current design of the bullet train is providing extra luggage space for passengers. Every coach will have overhead space for hand baggage. In the last coach, some seats are likely to be removed to make space for the extra check-in luggage, for which passengers may have to pay extra the first for a train in India. “It is important to modify the train as per Indian condition since climate plays an important role. More issues may surface once the train will start running,” said Shri Prakash, a former member of the Railway Board.
The Narendra Modi government has set an ambitious deadline of completing the project by August 15, 2022, when India marks 75 years of Independence. NHSRCL expects to open one portion of the network by then and complete the entire Mumbai-Ahmedabad stretch by December 2023.
Of the 508.17km corridor, 155.76km will be in Maharashtra, 348.04 km in Gujarat and 4.3km in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Only about 35 % of the land required for the project has been acquired so far.
The foundation stone for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was laid by Prime Minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in 2017.