How the bullet train project will transform India’s train travel experience

The project has received all forest, wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) regulatory clearances. Out of a total land requirement of approximately 1,396 hectares (ha), approximately 1,193 hectares of land have been acquired.

The entire project has been divided into 27 contract lots, of which 12 lots have been awarded and the others are under evaluation.

However, with the project mired in land acquisition battles and construction delays, the likely date for the ride has been pushed back by several years – possibly to 2026, as Vaishnaw pointed out during an interview. a recent event.

What is a high-speed train?

According to union international railway (UIC), high-speed rail combines many different elements that make up a “complete and integrated system”, infrastructure (new lines designed for speeds above 250 km/h and, in some cases, existing lines upgraded to speeds of up to 200 or even 220 km/h), rolling stock (specially designed trains), telecommunications, operating conditions and equipment, etc.

In simple terms, a commercial speed of 250 km/h is considered the main criterion for defining LGV. However, high-speed rail does not represent an incremental improvement over conventional systems, but combines technologies to take rail transport to new dimensions.

What spurred the development of the HSR?

Conventional railway networks are widely used around the world. Most of these networks consist of mixed traffic routes. The maximum speed never exceeds 200 km/h (exceptionally 220 km/h).

Compared to other modes of transport, conventional rail has proven to be very safe and environmentally efficient. However, the aviation and automotive sectors have introduced many improvements and continue to introduce innovations into their respective systems. This created a strong negative impact on the rail market share.

More than 50 years ago, Japan, followed by France, decided to arrest the decline of conventional rail’s share in the medium and long distance market segment by introducing a completely new concept in the form of a high speed rather than modernizing existing structures. This is the birth of the high-speed train.

Historically, Japan was the first country to foray into HSR space with the Tokaido Shinkansen, which was launched between Tokyo Central and Shin Osaka on October 1, 1964 in time for the 1964 Olympics.

In Europe, France was the first country to inaugurate the high-speed rail line between Paris and Lyon on September 27, 1981, at a maximum speed of 260 km/h. Italy followed with an LGV system between Rome and Florence in 1988. Germany in 1988, Spain in 1992, Belgium in 1997, United Kingdom in 2003 and the Netherlands in 2009 joined the club countries offering LGV services in Europe.

Geographical distribution of HVT

High-speed train projects have been implemented in more than 20 countries around the world, including China, Japan, Korea, UK and France.

Globally, it covers a total network of more than 52,000 km across Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Africa as of February 27, 2020, according to data compiled by the UIC Passenger Department. This figure is expected to double to 104,413 km in the near future, with several countries planning to expand their networks and new ones entering the fray.

The 2019 International Energy Agency (IEA) report “The Future of Rail” revealed that high-speed rail activity around the world has increased fivefold in less than 10 years. Despite its limited geographic distribution, high-speed rail activity grew by more than 11% per year between 2000 and 2019, almost three times faster than the growth of any other non-urban transport mode, reaching almost 1 029 billion passenger-km in 2019.

Closer to home in Asia, China has largely embraced HSR and has an HSR network spanning 41,000 km, of which more than 35,000 km is already operational, according to the UIC. High-speed rail was introduced to China in 2003 with the Qinhuangdao-Shenyang High-Speed ​​Railway and now has the longest HSR network in the world, accounting for more than two-thirds of the global total. The HSR is used by 1.7 billion passengers every year, according to a World Bank report.

Almost all countries where high-speed rail systems have been introduced have reported significant gains in terms of their residents’ quality of life, economies and the environment.

Genesis of the HSR in India

The first mention of an HSR for India dates back to 2009, soon after a pre-feasibility study was launched for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor. This was followed by similar studies for other HSR corridors.

The groundwork for the HSR was laid in 2013, during a visit to Japan, then Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh agreed to a joint feasibility study to bring HSR technology to India in cooperation with the Japanese government.

Interestingly, all the technical aspects of this study were handled by the Japanese, who are the world’s experts on high-speed rail, but, due to shared funding, it was called a “joint” study. The Japanese government also presented its financial proposal on financing at concessional rates. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was the consultant for the project, submitted the final report in July 2015.

The cabinet finally approved India’s first high-speed rail project in December 2015. As a follow-up, the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation and Assistance in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-speed Rail Project was was signed during the India-Japan summit meeting between the two prime ministers, Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi. , on December 12, 2015. It became a turning point for India’s HSR trip.

As per the agreement, it was agreed that Shinkansen technology would be adopted for the project. The Shinkansen system offers one of the highest levels of safety in the world – there have been no passenger casualties since the first Shinkansen train started operating in Japan in 1964. They operate at average punctuality levels of 40 seconds, which is also flawless.

Cooperation with Japan also involves technology transfer and a Make in India (MII) clause. Japan has offered aid of over Rs 79,000 crore for the project. The loan is for 50 years with a 15-year moratorium, at an interest rate of 0.1%.

On September 14, 2017, a ‘groundbreaking ceremony’ for the MAHSR corridor in Sabarmati and the start of physical construction in Vadodara for the formation of the slab track took place in the presence of the two prime ministers and the NHSRCL team.

What awaits us?

The National Railway Plan for India envisages improving the reach of the HSR system and increasing connectivity with all major cities. To optimize high-speed rail connectivity between major cities/commercial/economic centers, it has developed a ranking system based on an index of five criteria.

The HSR project is poised to transform the rail travel experience, in addition to spurring infrastructure development and kick-starting the country’s socio-economic growth.

Jose P. Rogers