Inspired by China's plans to develop the world's fastest bullet train, the Indian Railways have taken the first step to construct high-speed corridors on the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad route for bullet trains running at speeds between 300 to 350 km per hour.
In collaboration with German engineering giant Siemens, China is developing an indigenous bullet train for the 1,318 km from its capital Beijing to its economic heart, Shanghai. It will run at 380 km, currently the world's fastest.
Construction of the rail line is on, and it is expected to be complete in 2012, a year ahead of schedule.
So, in theory, India's grand plan to catch up with China sounds good: When and if these plans are implemented, it could mean the 93 km between Mumbai to Pune could be done in 20 min. The fastest train on this route, The Deccan Queen, now takes 3 hours 15 minutes. . Similarly, the 444 km distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad could be done in 120 minutes. The fastest train on this route, the Shatabdi Expresss, now takes 6 hours 45 minutes.
Global tenders have been floated for a consultant to study if the high-cost rail lines can and should be built. Proposals from global consultants will be accepted until October 7 and the contract for the study will be issued 40 days later, Railway Board Chairman KC Jena told the HT.
If implemented, the entire stretch between Pune and Ahmedabad would be constructed on an elevated track and it would be a private-public partnership, said Jena. While the Railways will retain operational control, funds will come from bank loans and multilateral agencies.
On April 22, the Hindustan Times had reported that global tenders for preliminary studies have been issued for the Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar route. A decision on a consultant for this route will be taken within two weeks, said a senior ministry official, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
But India isn't China, and there are serious doubts if we could ever produce such a rail line (see accompanying boxes)
A high-speed track is an engineering and financial challenge. Such a rail line between Pune and Mumbai will cost between about Rs 500 to Rs 800 crore per km, 200 per cent costlier than the conventional Broad-Gauge line on Indian Railways, the world's second largest rail network
At current prices, it would cost upto Rs 74,400 crore — that's more than the Railways' entire estimated earning for 2008-09 — to build a rail line between Pune and Mumbai; Rs 3,55,300 crore from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.