The two-year-old plan favouring off-the-shelf purchase of high-speed train sets has been revived in the run up to new railway minister DV Sadanand Gowda’s maiden budget presentation in Parliament next month.
Proposals mooted are that two train-sets (costing between Rs. 170-300 crore a piece) be purchased to provide India the quantum technological jump that it needs to fulfill its ambition of joining the high-speed club – without having to re-invent the wheel.
Capable of clocking 300-350km per hour, the train sets are proposed to be run at speeds of 130km per hour on the existing tracks to reduce the travel time between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Howrah by an estimated three hours.
A presentation – envisaging the possibility of purchasing these on lease from the Japanese, French or German vendors – was recently made to the railway minister, sources said.
The ‘anti-import’ lobby opposes the idea of ‘splurging money’ on acquiring ‘fancy toys’ at a juncture when the crying need was to address bread and butter issues of providing for safe affordable travel to 2.3 crore Indians who travel by train on a daily basis.
They also point to the absurdity of running the train tracks on ‘mixed’ Indian tracks, which carry both passenger and freight trains.
The price of one coach of a high-speed train is estimated between Rs. 9 and Rs. 12 crore. “For the money that India will spend on importing train sets, the entire fleet of the LHB-design coaches can be upgraded to enable them to run at speeds of 160km per hour,” an official said.
The contrary view is that the railways can get a jump-start in high-speed technology by importing the train sets. Proponents of this idea point to studies conducted by the UIC (International Organisation on High Speeds), which show that the train sets are capable of reducing energy consumption by 29% and reduce travel time by 30%, besides providing for a 44% increase in average speeds.