The government will begin work on the 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed train, modelled on famed Shinkansen or bullet train, with ground breaking in 2017, followed by the construction of the super structure.
The project is to be completed by 2023 with the help of Japanese soft loan. The viability of the project will also depend on passenger fare, footfall and last-mile connectivity at both ends.
The “Future of High Speed Rail in India” was discussed here under the aegis of International High Speed Rail Association (IHRA) Forum last week with participants from over 22 countries, including India.
The forum, attended by politicians from the Asia-Pacific as well as the heads of Japanese Railway companies, discussed the Asia-Pacific connectivity and the future of trains such as the super-conducting MAGLEV that clock speeds of over 500 km per hour at the Yamanashi test facility in Japan.
While India is looking to launch its first bullet train in 2023, Japan and US are on schedule to commercially launch the SCMAGLEV on Tokyo-Nagoya route and New York-Baltimore route next decade. The passenger fares will match the then existing air fares.
At the forum, organised by chairman Masafumi Shakuri, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia talked about the need for semi-high speed rail to co-exist with the bullet train technologies given the latter’s requirements for dedicated corridors and higher passenger fares.
NK Singh, who heads the committee to review the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003, discussed the zero-fatality rates, precision and predictability of the Japanese Shinkansen, which was launched in 1964. Shaurya Doval, director, India Foundation, said India was ready for foreign investment in latest rail technologies so long as fares were competitive.
During his visit to Japan on November 11-12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken a Shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Kobe and visited the Kawasaki factory which makes high-speed train cars.
In his meetings, the PM emphasised on the need to complete the Ahmedabad-Mumbai corridor by 2023 before India seriously started looking at Chennai-Bengaluru, Delhi Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh corridors.
The Ahmedabad-Mumbai project is estimated to cost USD 15 billion with the train expected to achieve top operating speeds of over 320 kmph and completing the distance in mere two hours.
(The writer was invited by IHRA to attend the 2016 Forum at Kyoto)