Indian Railways is working on a lease agreement to operate the light-weight, energy efficient Spanish Talgo trains on short routes such as Delhi-Amritsar, Delhi-Lucknow, Bengaluru-Chennai or Mumbai-Ahmedabad on a profit-sharing basis.
While finance minister Arun Jaitley is expected to announce the plan in his upcoming budget speech, the specifics are likely to be formalised by February-end, when Talgo CEO Jose Maria Oriol visits India, sources said.
The Talgo plan fits in with the NDA government’s intent to ramp up average speeds of Mail and Express trains from the existing 65 kmph to 100 kmph.
Talgo trains have articulated bogies, light-weight shells with all aluminium coaches and a design that allows natural tilting of coaches, enabling it to negotiate curves at high speed.
While Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains are able to achieve a top speed of 160 kmph, their average speed is much lower on account of their heavier wheel and axle load. Talgo coaches weigh 17 tonnes against the 51 tonnes of conventional Indian coaches. The load per passenger is estimated to be approximately four times lesser in a Talgo.
Talgo being the world’s only company manufacturing such coaches, it is difficult for the Indian Railways to go in for a formal contract, but “a lease agreement could work”, an official said.
In a three-phased trial conducted last year, Talgo trains clocked a top speed of 180 kmph on the Mathura-Palwal route and covered the Delhi-Mumbai distance in 11 hours 48 minutes.
“It has now been proven that the Indian Railways can use the Talgo trains to reduce transit time by 25% without investing on infrastructure,” said Subrata Nath, company director for India and Asia Pacific.