High Speed Rail in IndiaHigh Speed Rail India
India does not have any railways that can be classified as high-speed rail (HSR) by international standards, i.e. railways with operational speeds in excess of 200 km/h (120 mph). The current fastest train in India is the Gatimaan Express with a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), which runs between Delhi and Agra.
Prior to the 2014 general election, the two major national parties (Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress(INC)) pledged to introduce high-speed rail. The INC pledged to connect all of India's million-plus cities by high-speed rail, whereas BJP, which won the election, promised to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project, which would connect the cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai via high-speed rail.
This project was approved as a priority for the new government in the incoming president's speech. Construction of one kilometer of high speed railway track will cost ₹100 crore (US$16 million) - ₹140 crore (US$22 million) which is 10-14 times higher than the construction of standard railway.
India's prime minister Narendra Modi approved the choice of Japan to build India's first high-speed railway. The planned rail would run some 500 km (310 mi) between Mumbai and the western city of Ahmedabad, at a top speed of 320 km/h (200 mph). Under the proposal, construction began in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2022.
It would cost about ₹980 billion (US$15 billion) and be financed by a low-interest loan from Japan. India will use JR East, wheel-based, 320 km/hr HSR technology, rather than the JR Central 600 km/hr linear motor or maglev technology to be used in the Chūō Shinkansen. Operation is officially targeted to begin in 2023, but India has also announced the intention to attempt to bring the line into operation one year earlier.
Current effort to increase speed to 160-200 km/h
High Speed Rail India Background
Indian Railways aims to increase the speed of passenger trains to 160–200 km/h (99–124 mph) on dedicated conventional tracks. They intend to improve their existing conventional lines to handle speeds of up to 160 km/h (99 mph), with a goal of speeds above 200 km/h (120 mph) on new tracks with improved technology.
Initially the trains will have the maximum speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), with railway coaches which can run at the speed of 200 km/h (120 mph) will be rolled out from Railway Coach Factory of Indian Railway from June, 2015. Indian Railway coach factories are manufacturing semi-high speed coaches, but tracks are not capable of supporting the same.
Dedicated Freight Corridors coming up across India will move cargo traffic from most of the current passenger railway tracks and will support Indian Railways effort increase the speed of the passenger trains to 200 km/h.
The Chinese Ministry of Railways ran a speed-up campaign from 1997 to 2007 to increase the speed of train travel. The campaign was implemented in six rounds and increased average speed of passenger trains in China from 43 km/h to 70 km/h. Several existing railway tracks were upgraded to run the trains at 250 km/h. India uses Broad-gauge, so it is expected that a speed-up campaign if implemented will increase the average speed to 90 km/h, currently India's express train average speed is 50.9 km/h.
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 the country should first upgrade the infrastructure to handle trains travelling 100–120 km/h (62–75 mph).
In July 2014, a trial run of a "semi-high speed train" with 10 coaches and 2 generators reached a speed of 160 km/h (99 mph) between New Delhi and Agra. The train, named Gatimaan Express, had its first commercial run at 5 April 2016.It is expected to reach the maximum speed of 160 kmph and an average speed of 113 km/h (70 mph).
Import of Global Expertise
China built its high-speed expertise with the help of license building of the high-speed railway coaches by local manufacturing units. Later those units used those hands-on expertise to build their own high-speed railway locomotives. India has taken a different path where the foreign railways will import or build their own factories in India.
French National Railways (or SNCF) proposed upgrade the Shatabdi train track between Delhi and Chandigarh to run the trains at a maximum speed of 220 km/h. This is 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.
Feasibility study of running semi-high speed trains on the 500 km Chennai–Bengaluru and Mysore section has been submitted by the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co Ltd (CREEC) to Railway Board. It envisions reducing travel time from existing 7 hours to 4 hour and 45 minutes. The German finance ministry has agreed to finance a government feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Chennai and Mysore, and had discussed a project to modernise the Chennai–Hyderabad route.
Germany is conducting a feasibility study for running trains at a speed of about 300 km/h on the 450 km long Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysuru route. It has already completed pre-feasibility study in 2016. A consortium of consultants comprising DB E&C, Intraplan Consult and Ingenieurburo Vossing are conducting the study.
India uses broad-gauge; the only other country which has the major broad-gauge R&D and manufacturing facility is Spain. During the trial run in Delhi–Mumbai route Spain's Talgo trains reached a peak speed of 150 km/h (93 mph), observing laid-down speed cautions and halting at the usual stoppages as the Mumbai Rajdhani, Talgo clocked an average speed of 117.5 km/h (73.0 mph) to cover the distance. The Mumbai Rajdhani clocks 15 hours, 50 minutes at an average 87.7 km/h (54.5 mph).
Semi-High Speed Systems Progress
The inauguration of the Gatimaan Express by Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu on 5 April 2016 ushered the beginning of semi-high speed trains in India. The Gatimaan Express runs at the top speed of 160 km/hr from Delhi to Agra. With the great success of Gatimaan Express, the Indian Railways plans to start additional semi-high speed services along the Delhi - Bhopal / Chandigarh / Kanpur / Lucknow routes shortly. Railway minister Mr Sadananda Gowda mentioned in his Rail budget 2014 speech that the railways are going to start high speed trains at 160–200 km/h (99–124 mph) on 9 routes. But as of 2016, no semi-high speed trains are running in India which are at the mid or high-end of 160–200 kph range.
Green background for the systems that are under construction. Blue background for the systems that are currently in planning.
Semi High-Speed Speed Track Distance Time Status
Corridor Gauge Reduced
Delhi - Agra 160 km/h 1676 195 km 30 min Inaugurated on
(99 mph) (121 mi) April 5, 2016
Mumbai - Goa 130 km/h 1676 579 km Inaugurated on
(81 mph) (360 mi) May 22, 2017
Chennai 160 km/h 1676 915 km Approved in 2014
- Hyderabad (99 mph) (569 mi) Railway Budget
Delhi 200 km/h 1676 244 km Approved in 2014
- Chandigarh (120 mph) (152 mi) Railway Budget
Delhi - Kanpur 200 km/h 1676 441 km Approved in 2014
(120 mph) (274 mi) Railway Budget
Mumbai 200 km/h 1676 493 km Approved in 2014
- Ahmedabad (120 mph) (306 mi) Railway Budget
Mumbai - Goa 160 km/h 1676 606 km Approved in 2014
(99 mph) (377 mi) Railway Budget
Mysuru 200 km/h 1676 495 km Approved in 2014
- Bengaluru (120 mph) (308 mi) Railway Budget
Nagpur - Raipur 160 km/h 1676 413 km Approved in 2014
- Bilaspur (99 mph) (257 mi) Railway Budget
Nagpur 200 km/h 1676 575 km Approved in 2014
- Secunderabad (120 mph) (357 mi) Railway Budget
Visakhapatnam 160 km/h 1676 444 km Approved in 2014
- Bhubaneswar (99 mph) (276 mi) Railway Budget
Delhi - Mumbai 200 km/h 1676 1,386 km Approved in
(120 mph) (861 mi) 2017 Budget
Delhi - Kolkata 200 km/h 1676 1,500 km Approved in
(120 mph) (930 mi) 2017 Budget
High Speed Rail India Criticism
India's quest to run rails at the 160 km/h (99 mph) has its own critics. Critics point out that Delhi-Agra time savings are not based on the speed of train but based on other factors.
Critics point out that the reduction in travel time due to speed is a mere three minutes, and other manoeuvrings are largely responsible for the drastic drop. Reduction of timing largely because of shifting the train's departure point from New Delhi railway station to Hazrat Nizamuddin and doing away with the scheduled stop at Mathura reportedly account for a saving of 14 minutes, limiting the locomotive to 10 coaches – Bhopal Shatabdi has 14 – leads to a decrement of another two minutes, approximately five minutes are being saved on account of track improvements and superior infrastructure, three minutes owing to route relay interlocking at Agra, and one minute each on approval to run a passenger train on the third line at Palwal and Bhuteshwar, installation of thick web switches at four points and in putting up a track station at Chhata.
But, India is not targeting lower end of 160–200 km/h speed of semi-high speed trains. So, focus is to achieve 180 km/h not the 160 km/h (99 mph).
There is serious question raised about the safety of the passengers as the infrastructure on which semi-high speed trains are running may not be able to run at such high speeds, for example it is preferred to run these trains on 60 kilogram tracks but now they are running on 52 kilogram tracks.
There are multiple railway projects which are in different stages of implementation like doubling of tracks, electrification, new track laying, changing of gauge etc. But Indian railways has not come up with any guidelines to channelize all current and new efforts to run trains at semi-high speed.
Progress in Introduction of 250-350 km/h Trains
High-speed rail India Current Status
India's 1st High-speed corridor Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor construction will start in 2017 and is expected to complete by 2022. Foundation stone ceremony was held on 14 September 2017 when Japanese and Indian prime minister flagged off construction work in Ahmedabad.
The JR East/Hitachi E5 series of Shinkansen train sets will be used in this corridor. It will have design speed of 350 km/h, with maximum operational speed of 320 km/h and average speed of 260 km/h.
Break of Gauges
India will have two types of gauges for High Speed Railway, new HSR tracks will be standard gauge, where as older tracks upgraded to the HSR standard will be in Indian gauge. So, there will be no interoperability between newly laid tracks and older-upgraded tracks for passenger and cargo traffic. New HSR network is not interoperable Indian Railways current network comprising 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track length over a route of 67,312 km (41,826 mi).
First HSR railway line in India will be using the standard gauge, so it will not interoperable with rest of the railway lines in the country.
Executive Vice President of Siemens Mobility asserts that India should adopt the Broad-gauge for HSR due to following reasons
High-speed rail India History
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 not to be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and inability of traveling passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. The railways instead introduced Shatabdi trains which ran at 130 km/h.
The Indian Ministry of Railways' white-paper "Vision 2020", submitted to Indian Parliament on 18 December 2009, envisages 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 have been identified for technical studies on setting up of high-speed rail corridors: Delhi–Chandigarh–Amritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, Howrah–Haldia, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Kochi-Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna. These high-speed rail corridors will be built as elevated corridors.
Ministry of Railways has set-up the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited as a government company on 12 February 2016 to promote high-speed rail corridors.
RVNL set up a corporation called High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd (HSRC) on 25 July 2013, that will deal with the proposed high-speed rail corridor projects. The corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL). It will handle tendering, pre-feasibility studies, awarding contracts, and execution of the projects. The corporation will comprise four members, all of whom will be railway officials. All high-speed rail lines will be implemented as public–private partnerships on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, and Transfer (DBFOT) basis. The corporation was officially formed on 29 October 2013.
High Speed Rail India Costs
In a feasibility study published in 1987, RDSO and JICA estimated the construction cost to be Rs 49 million per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, that 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be Rs 439 million per km (US$9.5 million/km). RITES is currently performing a feasibility study.
According to news media, the costs for constructing such rail lines in India are estimated to be Rs 700-1000 million per km (US$15–22 million/km). Therefore, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route of 500 km, will cost up to Rs 500 billion (US$8.04 billion) to build and to make a profit, passengers will have to be charged Rs 5 per km (US$0.11/km). Delhi to Amritsar one-way, a distance of 450 km, will cost about Rs 2000 (US$43.48). At US$15–22 million per km, cost estimates are in line with US$18 million per km of the recently completed Wuhan-Guangzhou HSR line in China.
The Mumbai - Ahmedabad line is expected to cost Rs 650 billion.
High-speed Rail India Proposed Routes
In India, trains in the future with top speeds of 250–300 km/h, are envisaged to run on elevated corridors to isolate high-speed train tracks and thereby prevent trespassing by animals and people.
The current conventional lines between Amritsar-New Delhi, and Ahmedabad-Mumbai runs through suburban and rural areas, which are flat and have no tunnels. Ahmedabad-Mumbai line runs near the coast, therefore, has more bridges, and parts of it are in backwaters or forest. The 1987 RDSO/JICA feasibility study found the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line as most promising.
Maharashtra state government has proposed a link between Mumbai and Nagpur. The government also wants a corridor to connect to Navi Mumbai International Airport.
The below are only proposed routes with no work started on many of the routes.
High Speed Rail India Project Execution
To put the construction in perspective, in the period 2005-09 Indian Railways took on construction of 42 completely new conventional lines, a total of 4060 km at a cost of Rs 167 billion (US$3.63 billion), or Rs 41 million per km (US$0.89 million/km). A public-private-partnership mode of investment and execution is envisaged the 250–350 km/h high-speed rail project.
High Speed Rail India 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 will cost ¥500 million and the cost will be shared 50:50 by Japan and India.
Location of the station, its accessibility, integration with public transport, parking and railway stations design play an important role in the success of the high speed rail. Mumbai may have underground corridor to have high-speed rail start from the CST terminal. European experiences have shown that railway stations outside the city receive less patronage and ultimately making the high-speed railway line unfeasible.
High Speed Rail Corporation has called for international bidders for carrying out a pre-feasibility study of the 458-km Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar High Speed Corridor.
Speed of Trains
Type of Train Operational Average Government Indigenous Manufacturers/
Speed Speed Approval Production Operators
Super Speed 500 – 550 km/h 450 km/h NO NO JR Central(Japan),
(Max. Speed 603 km/h) Transrapid(Germany)
High Speed 300 – 350 km/h 250 km/h Yes NO Shinkansen Japan, AGV France,
Hyundai Rotem South
Korea KTX, SRT Zefiro/ICx and CRH China
Semi-High 160 – 200 km/h 110 km/h Yes YES WAP-5 locomotives,
Speed (Only max. 160 km/h (99 mph) Kapurthala Rail
is allowed for operation in India) Coach Factory (Indian,
max. speed of 160 km/h (99 mph)), WAP-7
(Indian, max. speed of 160 km/h (99 mph))
Express Trains 110 – 140 km/h 60-90 km/h Already YES WAP-5, WAP-7,
in operation WDP-4/B/D, WAP-5 and LHB coaches of Indian Railways
Passenger Train 50 – 70 km/h 30-40 km/h Already YES WAM-4, WAP-1,
in operation WDP-4/B/D, WDP-3A, WDM-3A/D.
Diamond Quadrilateral Project
The Diamond Quadrilateral high speed network connecting the four major cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai was a key plank in the BJP's election manifesto.
PM Modi mentioned in his address to the joint session of Parliament on 9 June 2014 that the new Government was committing to launch the project.
Proposal to Introduce 500 - 550 km/h Trains
High-speed Rail India Current Status
As of November 2016, the Indian Railways has asked Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) to prepare a detailed project report within the next six months. The railways aims to implement the first stretch of the project in less than three years’ time.
Andhra Pradesh state government has decided to build it's metro train system in major cities using the maglev technology. Changsha Metro system was studied by the state team to gain better understanding of the metro running using maglev. Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and Amaravati metro railway system will be built using low speed maglev train system. It is expected make industrial sector in the andra pradesh most cost efficient and exports competitive in world market by reducing the logistics cost for transport of people and freight. Maglev based metro systems improve the quality of life in cities and provides efficient, high-speed rail systems to generate far higher levels of economic output. This is expected to create industrial base, hands-on expertise and lower cost for maglev in India.
Kochi metro explored using the South Korean maglev technology, but it was not fully operational in 2011. So, Kochi metro opted for wheeled-train set technology for initial routes. But, future routes may use the maglev technology.
India may build its future metro train systems using Maglev as it has faster acceleration and deceleration than traditional metro systems. China is building new lines for Beijing Metro and Changsha Metro using maglev technology to retain Chinese cost competitiveness in the world market by reducing the transportation time and cost.
Earlier in 2016, Indian Railways announced a seminar with ultra-high-speed train manufacturers to explore the possibility of introducing an ultra-high-speed train system on a public–private partnership basis.
The corporation has issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) to global investors to implement an over-500-kilometre-per-hour (310 mph) rail system. Transport infrastructure (including stations, platforms, tracks, signal systems, fare structures and timetables) would be developed by private firms; Indian Railways would handle land-related issues, and revenue would be shared. The new railway system, parallel to the current one, should support passenger and freight traffic.
High Speed Rail India Purpose
Indian Railways is exploring the possibility of a super-speed also called ultra-high-speed rail network in India. The Railway Minister's vision is to make rolling stock the driver for India's shift from being a technology importer and manufacturer to becoming a developer and designer for future rolling stock technology.
It takes around 12–15 years for a railway line with a new technology. Looking at the history of DFC and HSR in India, a maglev train is not expected to become commercially operational by 2030 and if India wants to build a pan-India railway network based on maglev, completion may extend up to 2050-2060.
India has large broad gauge network, which supports higher speed than the standard gauge. In the Indian context, high-speed trains built on the newer standard gauge tracks and older broad gauge tracks upgraded to run high-speed trains do not have much difference in terms of the speed of train they can support, but new high-speed tracks are very costly compared to the upgrade of older tracks. But, ultra high-speed trains running on maglev will bring in efficiency, time-saving and cost-saving to the Indian industry, general public and overall economy of the country with almost same cost as the wheeled high-speed trains. Such trains could make Indian industry and economy the most efficient in the world.
China wanted to build its High Speed Network using the maglev technology. But, in 1998 there was no commercial train service running on maglev anywhere in the world. Then, China took a decision to go with the older wheel-based technology for its HSR network. Now, after around 20 years, India has opportunity to take a decision to build its HSR network using maglev as presently there are multiple maglev railway lines are in operation and construction stages in multiple countries.
India is focusing on bringing 500–550 km/h trains within next 5 years through a Public-Private partnership model, where Indian Railway will be a partner by providing land for the railway lines and infrastructure. Every other aspect of the system will be decided and operated by the private partner. It is expected to provide following benefits to the Indian economy.
Air Travel vs High Speed Trains
High-speed trains provide almost the same speed as air travel, while providing multiple additional benefits:
- 2 hours to travel to the airport (1 hour in each direction of travel), whereas railway stations are located nearer to more travelers' points of origin.
Maglev Trains in Other Parts of the World
Japan, China, South Korea and Germany have built maglev train systems and few other countries are conducting research projects on implementing futuristic railway systems. China is building new Metro trains using maglev systems. It will reduce the travel time and improve the efficiency of the economy. Beijing Maglev, Changsha Maglev, Shanghai Maglev, Incheon Airport Maglev and Linimo are examples of maglev intracity trains. In October 2016, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that six global companies had expressed interest and Indian Railways was building tracks to test trains at speeds of over 400 kilometres per hour (250 mph).
High Speed Rail India Technology Choice
India is preferring magnetic attraction than magnetic repulsion technology for cost competitiveness purposes. Because of this India may not build world's fastest maglev trains as Japan did. India is expected to standardise the High-speed railway locomotives and systems, as China did for interoperability between multiple private and public players operating the high-speed railway within the country.
Cost Reduction and Economic Viability
These are the few proposed solution to reduce the cost of maglev trains in India
High Speed Rail India R&D Institutions
India does not have indigenous high-speed or super-speed railway technology. It is currently dependent on other countries. In a campaign promise made in January 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to build four railway universities so that India can be a world leader in high-speed railway technology.
High Speed Rail India Manufacturing Base
A manufacturing base will be constructed for production of high-speed trains in India. The project will be executed on PPP basis, though no formal announcement has been made yet, as the project is still in planning stages, and is yet to be executed.