Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, while presenting the railway budget last year, had opined that every Indian has a dream that the bullet train would be launched in the country at the earliest. Stating that the Indian Railways is on the right path to fulfill that dream, he proposed India’s first bullet train to run from Ahmedabad-Mumbai. The proposal envisaged by the minister is set to cost around USD 9.17 billion or INR 60,000 crore per train [i]. And since then, the Government has been engaged with investors for raising funds as a part of alternative sourcing for the project.
With that, a lot of feasibility studies were conducted by the Government to understand the economics of running the train between the two cities as mentioned above. As of the current status, the fastest train to run between cities is Shatabdi Express. It has been estimated by the analysts that these high-speed bullet trains would run at a speed of 320 km per hour – maximum speed.
In the budget, the minister had also said that other routes proposed for the bullet train include Delhi-Agra, Mysore-Bangalore-Chennai, Delhi-Chandigarh, Hyderabad-Secunderabad and Mumbai-Goa.
Launching the bullet train in India had been a key campaign for Narendra Modi. He had also announced diamond quadrilateral for bullet trains which would connect the major metros in the countries – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The speed of the trains would be around 160km-200km per hour. This was as per the announcement made by the railway minister.
With this, India has seen a lot of investment interest from countries such as China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany as well as Spain.
Companies from Japan have become too keen to collaborate with the Indian counterparts on these rail projects. This is under the ‘Make In India’ initiative launched by the Prime Minister of India. Japan has been able to finance the first bullet train in India. The estimated cost of the project is around USD 15 billion, given at an interest rate of less than 1 per cent [ii].
Japan has been able to offer 80 per cent of the project cost for Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. This is under the condition that India is able to buy nearly 30 per cent of the equipments which also includes coaches as well as locomotives from Japanese firms. The Cabinet in India would be taking a decision on this soon.
JICA – Japan International Cooperation Agency – has given a report to the Railway Ministry and has said that the time taken for travelling 505-km long corridor between two cities would reduce to two hours from the present seven hours or more. And this bullet train would run at a speed of approximately 300-350 km/hour [iii].
The agency was able to conduct the feasibility survey and had revealed that travelling time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai would come down drastically from the seven hours. This route would require 11 new tunnels and one undersea near Mumbai.
In the recent past, even China was able to secure a contract for assessing high-speed train from Delhi to Mumbai. The distance of 1,200-km route would be double the cost for Ahmedabad-Delhi route[iv]. No companies or countries have given their offer as yet.
Subsidiary of China Railway Corporation – Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group Corporation – would be working with Indian firms and dispatching experts for initiating study for this route.
India has also been able to invite global tenders for three high-speed rails which includes New Delhi-Mumbai sector. This has attracted 12 consortiums to show interest from seven countries looking for the contracts.
And along with this, China has been conducting feasibility study for the section between New Delhi-Chennai.
The Government of France would be signing a pact with the Indian Government in November for developing semi-high speed train track from Delhi to Chandigarh. This project would be completed within the period of five years. After the corridor comes to place, the distance between the two cities would be cut to two hours [v].
Representatives from the Government had visited the city railway station and were able to collect data from the platforms. The data included passenger footfall as well as the services being offered at the stations. This was done to understand the estimated cost as well as time span by which this project could be completed.
A delegation from Germany has recently come to India, and there had been a deal for German initiative on high-speed rail. This would help in getting collaboration on various fronts, including technology, financing, training and operation [vi].
Also, high-speed trains were one of the top priorities of India during German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the country in October 2015.
Spain would be undertaking a feasibility study as well. It would be able to find the cost and project timeline for running high-speed trains on the high demand sector of Delhi-Kolkata. Spain company, Ineco would be undertaking this exercise for the route. And, this would be a part of the Diamond Quadrilateral project [vii]. Railways in the year 2012, had signed a MoU with Spain for cooperating in building high-speed rail [viii].
On the other hand, Talgo – which is also a Spain based company – plans to launch its lighter as well as faster trains in the country. In principal, the company has already gotten consent. And, if everything goes in accordance to the plan, fast train sets might be imported inside the country by the end of the current year. Tango which is a manufacturer of intercity passenger trains – that runs on high-speed, was able to suggest that they would be using legacy network for Railways in India for providing connectivity at a faster pace [ix].
Transport industry in India is looking bright with the announcement of launching high-speed trains. And if they are introduced, it would give a tough competition to domestic airline companies, as in the countries like Italy.
But, a lot of investments might be needed for making this a reality. With new tracks to be laid down, advanced automatic signaling systems to be introduced for seeking higher success for high-speed trains, the Government has been inviting tenders for foreign participation.
With the introduction of high-speed trains in India, the railways industry in the country is poised to provide many investment opportunities to foreign companies – in infrastructure, rail components and railways, technology transfer and other areas.
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