Notwithstanding the recent turmoil in the railway ministry following the cash-for-job scam, the government's ambitious plan to run a high speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is slowly inching closer to reality.
Philippe Lorand, vice president, business development, SNCF, the French National Railways which is assisting the Indian Railways to develop the techno-feasibility road map of the over 534 km corridor - which is one of the six proposed high speed rail lines - told HT that the exercise is in the final stages of completion.
Considered one of the oldest operators of high-speed trains, SNCF currently has 850 bullet trains -- called TGV - that run at an average speed of 320km per hour.
Lorande said it will be based on the recommendations of their study that the railway ministry will take a final call on various parameters like fixing the speed limit for the corridor, pricing of tickets, deciding the financial model for running the capital intensive project, etc. Only after these specifications are finalised that bids would be invited for constructing the green-field project.
Though the TGV trains that SNCF runs in France are state funded, it is exploring the potential of involving private players for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line. "We are in the final stages of completing our study and hope to submit our report by October. The Railways will take a final call on the specifications recommended by us before inviting bids. We expect that this process would start early next year," he said.
While currently techno-feasibility studies of all the proposed high speed train line is underway, it is the Mumbai-Ahmedabad stretch where the study is at a very advanced stage. Sources said that it is this stretch where work is expected to start first.
Lorande added that SNCF would also compete to bag the project. Asked if he was worried because of the recent developments in the rail ministry, he said, "It's a tough period but we are hopeful that India is going in the right direction in planning for a future mass transport project like this. We will bring in our expertise as operator of high-speed trains for 30 years.
SNCF's study focuses on four aspects - fixing the speed at which the trains on this route would be run, the financing model to be adapted, pricing of tickets and undertaking the road map development which includes training people who will work on the project.
The French government is funding the study.
Building the high-speed corridor is expected to cost Rs 60,000 crore and will take 10 years to complete.