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Rail minister envisions plans for trains to run at 500kmph

india Updated: Sep 01, 2016 20:46 IST
Srinand Jha
Indian railways

Indian railway minister Suresh Prabhu flags off 'Gatimaan' India's first semi-high speed train in New Delhi on April 5, 2016.(HT File Photo)

At a time when the Indian Railways is struggling with crumbling finances and a creaking infrastructure, rail minister Suresh Prabhu is setting the bar high by envisioning plans for the state-owned transporter to become “technology leaders” in ultra high speed rail technologies to run trains at speed of 500 kilometres per hour.

Even as plans to replicate the Gatimaan (India’s first semi-high speed train with a top speed of 160 kilometres per hour) has been lying in cold storage, the railways lately floated Expression of Interest to develop the Maglev – or the Maglev Levitation – trains that float over a guide way using the basic principles of magnet to replace the old steel wheel and track trains. “Swiss, Japanese and US firms have pitched in with bids that will open on September 6,” Railway Board member (Rolling Stock) Hemant Kumar said.

At least in theory, if not in practice, speed has come to thrill the Indian Railways. Opening today in New Delhi is the first international conference on ultra high speed rolling stock. The conference is being attended by major transportation majors, including HyperLoop Transport Technology and Quadralev of the United States, besides RTRI of Japan, Siemens and Knorr Bremse of Germany and the Prose of Switzerland. Approximately, 500 foreign and Indian delegates will attend, officials said.

With funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), India has been pursuing plans to build its first high-speed rail corridor from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, which is targeted for completion in 2024. At a time when high speed rail research remains non-existent, claims on the possibility of India’s emergence as leaders of future technology appear grossly exaggerated, sections feel.

Kumar, however, said exposure to such conferences would enable Indian rail engineers to broaden their horizons on emerging technologies worldwide. “The railway minister’s vision is to enable India to become a developer and designer for future rolling stock technologies. Such a transformation will become possible by focusing on the design and manufacture of high speed rolling stock,” he added.