Cruising for Speed: High-Speed Rail Projects in India

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Cruising for Speed: High-Speed Rail Projects in India
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High-speed Rail (HSR) in India is currently under construction and the country does not have high-speed rail corridors, or lines operating at over 200 km/h (120 mph) presently under UIC definition. A total of twelve corridors are planned and one of the corridor which links Mumbai and Ahmedabad is under construction. As of 2021, the fastest train of India is Vande Bharat Express with a top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph) which it attained during a trial run.

While the fastest operating train is Gatimaan Express with a top operating speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). The first high-speed railway corridor of length 508 km is currently under construction between Mumbai and Ahmedabad which would have a top operational speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) along the western coast. The corridor will use Standard gauge line and will be built with Shinkansen technology. It is expected to carry passengers between the two cities in just three hours and the ticket prices are expected to be cheaper than aeroplanes i.e. Rs. 2,500 – Rs.3,000. This project which was initially targeted for completion by December 2023, is now expected to be completed by 2028, owing to COVID Pandemic and land acquisition concerns for the section which falls in Maharashtra. However, a portion of this line is planned to be opened by 2026.

History

India made its tryst with high-speed rail by inaugurating the Howrah Rajdhani Express back in March 1969, five years after Japan inaugurated Shinkansen, the world’s first high-speed rail which was running at twice the speed of Rajdhani Express. With the initiation of various electrification projects in the 1970s on the trunk routes, the electric locomotives soon began to replace their Diesel counterparts. The WAP-1 electric locomotive broke the record to be the fastest locomotive in India during the 1980s, touching a maximum speed of 160 km/h during the trial runs and was certified for commercial operations at 140 km/h. The first service to reach a maximum speed of 140 km/h was WAP-1 hauled Shatabdi Express from New Delhi to Jhansi in 1989.

After Indian railways realised that the DC powered locomotives would soon be overtaken by AC ones, they introduced the AC powered WAP-5 class locomotives, a first of its kind in India. These locomotives were imported to serve the purpose of services on fast, short trains like the Shatabdi Express. They also featured fully suspended traction motors reducing the impact on tracks and allowing faster speeds. The first batch of these locomotives arrived in India in 1995 and was set to operate at speeds of 130 km/h. During the trial runs, this locomotive reached a record speed of 184 km/h which made it the fastest locomotive in India.

Indian railways achieved the next breakthrough in the late 2010s when the WAP-5 hauled Gatimaan Express became the fastest commercially operated semi-high-speed train in India, in April 2016, with a maximum operational speed of 160 km/h. Two years later, Indian railways saw another breakthrough as they successfully developed the first indigenously built, semi-high-speed, EMU train, the Vande Bharat Express. This train attained a speed of 180 km/h during the trial run and was designed to run at a maximum speed of 200 km/h, but due to the speed limitations on old tracks, the train’s operational speed is restricted to 130 km/h.

Initial Proposals

One of the first proposals to introduce high-speed trains in India was mooted in the mid-1980s by then Railway Minister Madhavrao Scindia. A high-speed rail line between Delhi and Kanpur via Agra was proposed. An internal study found the proposal to not be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and the inability of passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. In a feasibility study published in 1987, RDSO and JICA estimated the construction costs to be Rs.4.9 crore per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, the 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be Rs.43.9 crore per km (US$9.5 million/km). The railways instead introduced Shatabdi trains which ran at 140 km/h.

Further Developments

The Indian Ministry of Railways‘ white-paper “Vision 2020”, submitted to The Parliament of India on 18 December 2009, envisaged the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250–350 km/h, and planning for corridors connecting commercial, tourist, and pilgrimage hubs. Six corridors were identified for technical studies on setting up of high-speed rail corridors: DelhiChandigarhAmritsarPuneMumbaiAhmedabadHyderabadWarangalVijayawadaChennaiHowrahHaldiaChennaiBengaluruCoimbatoreKochiThiruvananthapuramDelhiAgraKanpurLucknowVaranasiPatna. These high-speed rail corridors were planned to be built as elevated corridors.

Feasibility studies

Multiple pre-feasibility and feasibility studies have been done or are in progress.

The consultants for pre-feasibility study for four corridors are:

In September 2013, an agreement was signed in New Delhi to complete a feasibility study of high-speed rail between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, within 18 months. The study estimated a total project cost of 500 million Yen with the cost to be shared 50:50 by Japan and India.

The feasibility study for the Chennai-Bengaluru high-speed rail corridor was completed by Germany in November 2018. The study found that the route was feasible. The proposed corridor would be 435 km long and would have an end-to-end travel time of 2 hours and 25 minutes with trains operating at a speed of 320 km/h. The study proposed constructing 84% of the track on viaducts, 11% underground and the remaining 4% at-grade. The current fastest train on the Chennai-Bengaluru route, the Shatabdi Express, completes the journey in 7 hours.

Different Countries

France : In February 2014, Henri Poupart-Lafarge of Alstom, manufacturer of trains used on TGV in France, stated that India is at least 5–10 years away from high-speed trains. He suggested that the country should first upgrade the infrastructure to handle trains travelling at speeds of 100–120 km/h (62–75 mph).

In 2017, the French National Railways (or SNCF) proposed to upgrade the Shatabdi train track between Delhi and Chandigarh to run the trains at a maximum speed of 220 km/h. This was expected provide hands-on expertise for Indian Railways to implement Semi-High speed trains across India, specifically running Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains at maximum speed 220+ km/h with average speed of 150 km/h.

China : Feasibility study of running semi-high-speed trains on the 500 km Chennai–Mysore section was submitted by the China Railway Group Limited (CREEC) to the Indian Railway Board. It envisions reducing travel time from the existing 7 hours to 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Germany : The German finance ministry had agreed to finance a government feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Chennai and Mysore. It had also discussed a project to modernise the Chennai–Hyderabad route.

Germany is also conducting a feasibility study for running trains at a speed of about 300 km/h on the 450 km long Chennai–Mysuru route. A pre-feasibility study was already completed in 2016 by the consortium of consultants comprising DB E&C, Intraplan Consult and Ingenieurburo Vossing.

Spain : In 2016, there were plans to run Spain’s Talgo trains in Delhi–Mumbai route. During trial run, these trains reached the Talgo train reached a peak speed of 150 km/h (93 mph), observing laid-down speed cautions and halting at the usual stoppages as the Mumbai RajdhaniTalgo clocked an average speed of 117.5 km/h (73.0 mph). The Mumbai Rajdhani took 15 hours and 50 minutes at an average speed of 87.7 km/h (54.5 mph). This was later rejected by the Indian government since the trains were not suited for Indian tracks and since they could not reach their maximum speed. Instead, the government indigenously manufactured the Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 as a part of its Make in India campaign. It achieved a top speed of 180 km/h (110 mph) during trial runs.

High Speed Rail Project

Since the 1980s, India has proposed high-speed rail lines with train speeds surpassing 250 km/h. Multinational engineering corporations and countries (e.g., Japan, Spain, France, etc.) have developed numerous pre-feasibility studies, project reports, and pre-design documents since then in order to finalise cost, select the proper technology, and begin building work.

The National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) was established in February 2016 with the mission of financing, constructing, maintaining, and managing all high-speed rail tracks in India.

The Mumbai – Ahmedabad route is the first to be chosen for implementation (with Japanese assistance via Shinkansen (bullet train) technology), so NHSRCL was formed with equity participation by the Central Government through the Ministry of Railways and the state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The following is a detailed summary of all Indian high-speed rail systems that are now under construction (ongoing), approved (coming), or proposed (planned).

Key Figures

·         Operational Routes: 0 km

·         Under Construction Routes: 324.67 km

·         Approved Routes: 183.50 km

·         Proposed Routes: 6668 km

List of High Speed Rail Projects in India

Sr. No.Route (City & State)Route LengthUnder ConstructionStations PlannedStatusDeadline
1.Mumbai – Ahmedabad (Maharashtra & Gujrat)508.17 Km327.67 Km12Under ConstructionDec 2023
2.Delhi – Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)865 Km0 Km12DPR PreparationTBD
3.Delhi – Ahmedabad (Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujrat)886 Km0 Km12DPR PreparationTBD
4.Mumbai – Nagpur (Maharashtra)741 Km0 Km12DPR PreparationTBD
5.Delhi – Amritsar (Haryana, Punjab)465 Km0 Km13DPR PreparationTBD
6.Mumbai – Hyderabad (Maharashtra, Telangana)711 Km0 Km11DPR PreparationTBD
7.Channai – Mysore (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka)435 Km0 Km9DPR PreparationTBD
8.Varanasi – Howrah (Kolkata) (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal)760 Km0 Km10DPR PreparationTBD
9.Hyderabad – Bangalore (Telangana – Karnataka)618 Km0 KmTBDProposed Under National Rail PlanTBD
10.Nagpur – Varanasi (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh)855 Km0 KmTBDProposed Under National Rail PlanTBD
11.Patna – Guwahati (Bihar, West Bengal, Assam)850 Km0 KmTBDProposed Under National Rail PlanTBD
12.Amritsar – Pathankot – Jammu (Punjab, Jammu UT)190 Km0 KmTBDProposed Under National Rail PlanTBD

India’s high speed rail corridors are planned to run along major expressways, national highways, greenfield areas, and may pass through arterial roads of the intermediate city road network for high speed rail connectivity between different cities along the corridor.

Details about first under construction Indian Bullet Train Project

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR Bullet Train) project is a 508.17-kilometer High-Speed Rail line that will connect Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, via 12 stops, at a cost of Rs. 1.1 lakh crore (US$15 billion).

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd. (NHSRCL) is carrying out the project with a 50-year Rs.88,087 crore (US$12 billion) loan from Japan at a 0.1 percent interest rate, with repayments beginning 15 years after the line is operational. The current deadline for the project is December 2023.

Except in Mumbai, where the line will be built underground using three giant Tunnel Boring Machines, trains on the line will travel at a speed of 320 km/h on an elevated bridge 10-15 metres above the ground (TBM). The line will travel for around 2 kilometres under the sea at Thane Creek between Mumbai and Thane stations.

The line’s rolling stock will be Shinkansen E5 trains, which can travel at a top speed of 350 km/h (220 mph) and have a maximum operational speed of 320 km/h (200 mph).

On September 14, 2017, the prime ministers of India and Japan laid the foundation stone for the project, after which work on a 4000-employee training centre in Vadodara began. The Indian government set an August 15, 2022 deadline, but it will not be met due to land acquisition concerns (825 hectares are required), mostly in Maharashtra.

Construction on the housing structures at the Vadodara Training Centre is complete as of May 2020, while work on the Sabarmati HSR Terminal Station is begun. On February 10, 2021, work on the main-foundation line’s began with the pouring of concrete.

Key Figures

Operational: 0 km

Under Construction: 324.67 km 

Approved: 183.501 km

Elevated: 468 km

Underground: 27 km (2 km under sea at Thane Creek) | At-Grade: 13 km

System Specifications

·         Maximum Speed: 350 kmph

·         Operational Speed: 320 kmph

·         Average Speed: 250 kmph

·         Track Gauge: Standard Gauge – 1435mm

·         Signalling: ETCS Level-2 of ERTMS

·         Rolling Stock: 24 trains x 10 coaches

·         Train Capacity: 750 passengers

·         Traction: 25 KV AC overhead catenary (OHE)

·         Safety: Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System (UrEDAS) for automatic breaking in case of an earthquake

Project Cost: Rs. 1.1 lakh crore

Funding Pattern / Sources

  • Government. of Japan (JICA): Rs. 88000 crore
  • Government of India: Rs. 17,000 crore
  • Governments of Maharashtra & Gujarat: Rs. 5000 crore

 Mumbai – Ahmedabad HSR Route Information

·         Length: 508.17 km

·         Type: Elevated, Underground & At-Grade

·         Depots: Sabarmati Rail Depot, Surat Rail Depot and Thane Rail Depot

·         Number of Stations: 12

·         Station Names: Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex), Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand/Nadiad, Ahmedabad, and Sabarmati

Mumbai – Ahmedabad HSR Operational Plan

The line’s Operational Control Centre (OCC) will be located at Sabarmati. Trains will be operated with 2 types of services for riders –

  • High Speed (2.58 hour journey): Ahmedabad (Sabarmati) – Ahmedabad (Kalupur) – Anand – Vadodara – Bharuch – Surat – Bilimora – Vapi – Boisar – Virar – Thane – Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex)
  • Rapid High Speed (2.07 hour journey): Ahmedabad (Sabarmati) – Vadodara – Surat – Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex)

Mumbai – Ahmedabad HSR Fares (Prices)

The fare structure is yet to be finalized but is expected to be 1.5 times the existing first class AC fare on the Indian Railways’ current service. The line’s official fare structure, prices and rules are expected to be finalized closer to the start of commercial operations.

Mumbai – Ahmedabad HSR Major Contractors

Sr. No.ContractContractor
1.Feasibility StudyJICA – Ministry of Railways (RVNL) JV
2.General ConsultantJapan International Consultants for Transportation Co., Ltd. (JIC) – Nippon Koei Co., Ltd. – Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd. JV
3.Project Management Consultant (PMC)Tata Consulting Engineers – Consulting Engineers Group – Aarvee Associates – PADECO Co. JV
4.Geotechnical Investigations by Borehole Drilling & Plate Load TestK.C.T. Consultancy Services
5.Geotechnical Investigation of 2 km undersea section at Thane CreekKawasaki Geological Engineering – RITES
6.Design and Build Works for Construction of Lodging (Phase – I) of Training InstituteCube Construction Engineering Limited
7.Construction of Quarters, Offices, Out house Garages and otherJ.R. Construction
8.Miscellaneous works in National Academy of Indian Railway Campus Lalbaug Vadodara
9.Construction of Various Building Structures in Vadodara Yard and nearby areasVijay Agarwal & Associates
10.Design and Build Works for Construction of Sabarmati HSR TerminalB.L.Kashyap & Sons Ltd.
11.Package C1: 1.028 km Underground Station at BKC, MumbaiBids Invited in November 2019 ; Current Submission Deadline: December 7, 2021
12.Package C2: 20.377 km underground tunnel between BKC Station to Shilphata, Thane ( 3 Mega TBMs to be used)Bids Reinvited October 2021
13.Package C3: 135.450 km elevated line between Shilphata, Thane and Zaroli Village (MH/GJ Border)Tender Notice Pending
14.Package C4: 237.1 km elevated line between Zaroli Village (MH/GJ Border) and VadodaraLarsen & Toubro
15.Package C5: 8.198 km elevated viaduct and station within Vadodara3 bids received
16.Package C6: 87.569 km elevated viaduct between Vadodara and AhmedabadLarsen & Toubro
17.Package C7: 18.133 km elevated viaduct and station within AhmedabadIRCON – DRA JV is lowest bidder
18.Package C8: 2.126 km viaduct, building works at Sabarmati DepotSCC – VRS JV is lowest bidder
19.Package P1(a): Construction of 1 PSC Bridge & 10 Steel Truss Bridges between Shilphata and ZaroliTender Notice Pending
20.Package P1(b): Construction of 4 PSC Bridges & 7 Steel Truss Bridges between Zaroli and Vadodara.MG Contractors is lowest bidder
21.Package P1(c): Construction of 1 PSC Bridge & 4 Steel Truss Bridges between Vadodara and Ahmedabad.MG Contractors is lowest bidder
22.Package P2: Construction of PSC Bridge No. GAD 10 over NH48, Navsari District.Bids Invited August 2019
23.Package P3: Construction of PSC Bridge No. GAD 11 over NH48, Navsari District.Bids Invited August 2019
24.Package P4: Procurement of Structural Steel, Fabricating & Supplying Steel Structures (Truss) of various sizes at workshops, to be erected by Special Bridges packages P-1(A), P-1(B), P-1(C).Larsen & Toubro – IHI Infrastructure Consortium
25.Package T1: Design, Supply & Construction of Track & Track related works between HSR station at BKC/ Mumbai and Zaroli Village on MH/GJ border (156.855 km)Tender Notice Pending
26.Package T2: Design, Supply & Construction of Track and Track related works between Zaroli Village and Vadodara (237.10 km)IRCON International is lowest bidder
27.Package T3: Design, Supply & Construction of Track and Track related works between Vadodara and Sabarmati Depot and workshops (114.60 km)Bidding Underway; Bids to be opened Dec 23, 2021

Other Major Developments in High Speed Rail Network in the Country

Diamond Quadrilateral project

The Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed rail network project is set to connect the four major metro cities of India namely: ChennaiDelhiKolkata and Mumbai. President of India mentioned in his address to the joint session of Parliament on 9 June 2014 that the new Government was committing to build the dream project. Although the route is not yet planned, the alignment could follow the existing Golden Quadrilateral railway line which links other major cities.

Diamond Quadrilateral project’s proposed and probable lines 

High-speed CorridorSpeed (Km/Hr)Length (Km)ViaStatusPlanned opening (According to NRP)
Delhi-Kolkata3201576VaranasiDPR under Preparation2031
Kolkata – Chennai3201500VishakhapatnamTBDTBD
Mumbai – Chennai3201200HubliTBDTBD
Delhi – Mumbai3201394Ahmedabad and JaipurOne section under construction2031
Delhi – Bengaluru3201900Bhopal and HyderabadTBDTBD
Mumbai – Kolkata3201800NagpurTBDTBD

Semi-High-Speed Rail

The various Semi-High-Speed Rail Services is also under progress in India. The details as under:

Gatimaan Express: In 2016, the Gatimaan Express was built between Delhi and Agra with a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). This became India’s first Semi-high-speed train.[51] Due to low occupancy, Indian Railways first extended this train from Agra to Gwalior on 19 February 2018 and then to Jhansi on 1 April 2018. With the great success of Gatimaan Express, the Indian Railways plans to start additional semi-high speed services along with the Delhi – Bhopal / Chandigarh / Kanpur routes shortly.

Tejas Express: On 22 May 2017, the Tejas Express was built, featuring modern onboard facilities with doors which are operated automatically. On 24 May 2017, The first line was opened from Mumbai to Goa. On 1 March 2019, second Tejas Express of the country was flagged off between Chennai and Madurai by the Prime minister. A third route from Lucknow to Delhi was inaugurated on 4 October 2019. This became the India’s first train which was operated by private operators, IRCTC, a subsidiary of Indian Railways. A fourth line from Mumbai and Ahmedabad is also operated by IRCTC was inaugurated on the 17 January 2020.

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