Traversing the 195 kilometres that separate Delhi and Agra in 90 minutes, a ‘semi-bullet’ train tested on Thursday set a new national speed record of 160 kilometres per hour. The Bhopal Shatabdi – India’s fastest train till a day ago – takes an additional 30 minutes to make the trip, with a top speed of 150 kmph. But while commercial runs of the new train should begin in November, critics claim the reduction in travel time due to speed is a mere three minutes, and other manoeuvrings are largely responsible for the drastic drop.
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.
Apart from this, 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.
“The more important issue is that we have been able to devise a low-cost solution to increasing train speed,” said Rajeev Sachan, divisional railway manager (DRM) of Delhi.
Similar high-speed rail corridors are also being planned on the Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Kanpur routes.
“The commercial speed (average speed) of trains is what makes the critical difference in time-saving. The trial train ran at an average speed of 120 kmph – a substantial improvement on the commercial speed of 90 kmph of the Bhopal Shatabdi. Further improvements (in speed) are possible,” said an official of the High Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC) – the project integrator.
Establishment of high-speed links and bullet trains were key campaign promises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. However, even India’s fastest train is sluggish compared to the Japanese ‘Shinkansen’ admired by Modi, which reach speeds of 320 kilometres an hour.