Japan to sell bullet train technology to India

India is seen set to use Japanese bullet train technology for a high-speed connection between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, a report said on Wednesday, the centrepiece of a huge package of infrastructure sales.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh will issue a joint statement at a summit later in the day giving details on a feasibility study for the railway, the Nikkei newspaper said.

Abe is to offer a sweetener in the form of 101.7 billion yen ($1.0 billion) in yen-based loans to India, the Nikkei said, as Tokyo fights off competition from nations such as France, which has the TGV high-speed rail network.

Japan under Abe is embarking on a renewed drive to sell roads, rail and power stations to emerging nations, including India, in a bid to offset lassitude in the domestic economy that has left it treading water.

Earlier this month Abe pledged he would travel the world on behalf of Japan Inc and said he wanted to treble sales of Japan’s well-respected infrastructure projects to 30 trillion yen a year.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail line would stretch 500 kilometres (312 miles) at a cost of up to one trillion yen, the Nikkei said, adding the two governments plan to finish technological reviews and costings by March 2014.

Abe was also expected to offer around 17.7 billion yen to India to build a conference hall and other facilities at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad, along with around 13 billion yen for the Tamil Nadu state government, the Nikkei said.

The pledges will come on top of a March offer of a 71 billion yen loan towards the construction of an underground rail network in Mumbai.

Japanese media have said the two sides will agree on drafting a master plan for new infrastructure in southern India, which could see Japanese know-how used to build a power grid, roads, railways and ports around Bangalore and Chennai.

The sales boom comes as the two countries — both democracies — eye the rise of China with increasing unease as Beijing presses territorial claims with growing insistence.

Singh on Tuesday called for the shoring up of military and security ties, Kyodo News said, stressing the commonalities between Tokyo and Delhi.

“We should intensify our political dialogue and expand our strategic consultations on… issues of mutual interest,” Singh said in a speech, adding that defence and security dialogue, military exercises and defence technology collaboration should also grow between the two countries, according to Kyodo.

Singh stressed that Japan is the only country with which India has held a “two-plus-two” meeting of foreign and defence ministers, Kyodo said.

Media reports earlier this week said Japan was expected to sell amphibious planes to India in what would be the first sale of hardware used by the Japanese military since a weapons export ban was imposed in the 1960s.


Published in: on May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train may hit tracks soon

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 becoming a 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 – one of the six proposed high speed railway lines – told HT that the exercise is in the final stages of completion.

Considered one of the oldest operators of high speed trains, SNCF has 850 bullet trains – called TGV – that run at an average speed of 320 km per hour.

“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.

Building the high speed corridor is expected to cost R60,000crore at present day prices. And once work starts it will take 10 years to complete it.


Options for reforms in Indian Railways

The embarrassment over Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal resigning amidst charges of his relatives having received bribe for ‘managing’ a top posting may be very uncomfortable for the government, but the existence of corruption in the largest public sector organisation is a phenomenon well established by a series of massive exposés over the years.

Recently, the Chinese government dismantled its railway ministry with the aim of improving efficiency and rooting out corruption. That raises the inevitable question: would such a move help the Indian Railways fight corruption too?

Corruption had been a major issue in China, with a senior functionary connected to the bullet train network being removed from office two years ago on charges of bribery. Another official of the Chinese railways was said to have bought a house in Los Angeles for $8,60,000, though his monthly salary was a few hundred dollars.

As in India, the Chinese railways was a mammoth organisation with 2.1 million people employed for its 80,000-km track. The Indian Railways employs 1.4 million people for its 63,300-km track. Even as its finances are in dire need of revival — the gross traffic receipts fell short of the target of Rs 1,32,552 crore by Rs 6,872 crore — there is no dearth of money to be made on the sly, to which the focus has now shifted following the crores-for-plum-post case.

For votes, they won’t raise fares

The railways operating ratio, or working expenses as a ratio of traffic receipts, deteriorated from 75.9 per cent in 2007-08 (when Lalu Prasad was the Railway Minister) to 94.7 per cent in 2009-10 (when Mamata Banerjee was the minister) before improving to 88.8 per cent in 2012-13. But there is little that the minister or officials at Rail Bhavan have done over the years to improve the health of the Railways.

A mere 13,000-km of rail line has been added in the 66 years since Independence while ministers over the years have used the organisation as a political tool to keep their constituency happy.

The penchant of every Railway Minister to announce a slew of new trains has put so much pressure on the organisation that it is bursting at its seams with no solution in sight. The perception is that those concerned — whether serving boys on trains, ticket checkers or members of the Railway Board — are only interested in making money, rather than improving the health of the Railways, which pays Rs 20,000 crore in pensions. This amount is more than 60 per cent of its passenger earnings of Rs 32,500 crore for 2012-13.

Ministers are reluctant to raise passenger fares. Instead, they keep increasing freight rates to fill the coffers.

As a result, passenger fares in India are among the lowest in the world, and the freight rates are among the highest, leading to people transporting their goods by road rather than rail. Roads account for 57 per cent of the freight traffic in the country, much higher than the US (44 per cent) and China (22 per cent).

India, according to a World Bank report, has much more passenger service than freight, which constrains productivity, raises cost and invites political interference in operations and pricing.

Reaching new heights, only in corruption

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) also sees the Railways as the most corrupt government organisation in the country. In its 2011 annual report, the CVC stated that the Railways topped the list of government organisations, with the maximum number of complaints of corruption lodged. Of course, that will also have to do with it being the largest employer.

In that year alone, the CVC received over 8,800 complaints of graft against railway employees — 500 more than the 8,330 in 2010. The 2010 figure had registered an 80 per cent increase over the preceding year.

The 2010 CVC report reveals that every third official penalised for corruption in the country belonged to the Railways. Out of the 2,982 officials who faced action in 2010, as many as 911 were from the Railways. In fact, the corruption index in the Railways has doubled since 2009, when 509 officials had faced the heat for corruption following the recommendation of the CVC.

The CBI has also exposed numerous cases of corruption by railway staff, the one involving Bansal’s nephew only being the latest. Among the cases that came to light were that of AK Bora, then Chairman of the Railway Recruitment Board, Northeast Frontier Railway, Guwahati (recruitment scam); and Vinayak Ramchandra Shewale, then station master of Byculla in Mumbai (was sentenced to two-year rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 4,000 for demanding Rs 2,100 from a person to sell juice) at Byculla station.

In December 2012, Arvind Vijeta Mittal, then senior divisional engineer, Central Railway, was sentenced to three-year rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 75,000 for amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

In October 2012, the CBI arrested a sub-inspector of the Railway Protection Force at Satna in Madhya Pradesh for accepting a bribe of Rs 2 lakh from a scrap vendor. He had allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 10 lakh from the complainant for not implicating him in a theft case.

In August 2012, the CBI arrested a senior divisional engineer of South Western Railway at Hubli in Karnataka for accepting Rs 1.10 lakh from a contractor for passing a bill. The list has many more names.

Curtains to dispensers, there’s money in all

Officials say crores of rupees are gifted to vendors by the Railways, which lets them charge exorbitant rates for curtains and hundreds of other items that it buys every year — all this for the kickbacks they receive.

Atul Kumar, a railway store service official, had written to the then Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, detailing the modus operandi for the leakage of around Rs 5,000 crore each year. But his letter was not acknowledged.

“The Railways buys stuff from pre-approved vendors. After getting approved, the vendors take advantage and form cartels and quote exorbitant prices. They dictate prices and this is known to all. But due to the large kickbacks involved, or perhaps bureaucratic apathy, nothing fruitful is done,” Atul Kumar had said in his letter.

What is even more disconcerting about the cartels is that the Railways itself first breeds the cartels, and then the cartels bleed the organisation.

Atul Kumar had came out with startling ‘facts’. In the case of fragrance dispensers installed in AC 2-tier coaches and toilets in 2005, the Railways Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) told the management to install a specific brand of odour-control system in trains. The brands were ‘Auto Janitor’ and ‘Microburst’ produced by a UK-based company and supplied by only three suppliers from Mumbai.

One of the companies imported the dispensers for Rs 415 each and sold them to the Railways for Rs 4,600 a piece. The dispenser refills were imported for Rs 226 and sold to the Railways for Rs 1,300 each.

Moreover, the Railways cut out competition by making specifications match a particular brand, leading to high pricing when similar locally made dispensers were available for about Rs 700 each.

Also in the case of side-bearer pads, which cost Rs 300 each in 2007, specifications were changed to benefit vested interests. By the end of 2008, they were sold to the Railways at Rs 4,160 each — 14 times the original cost.

Officials say every year the Railways buys goods worth around Rs 20,000 crore. The overpricing is by about 30 per cent, which goes from the exchequer into the pocket of the officials. Money can be made in all departments in the Railways. In 2004, a CAG report said the Railway Board undertook no independent cost analysis when a new product replaced an old one. Select firms approved to supply the new product ganged up, started quoting exorbitant prices, and made a killing.

Sources say not only do suppliers fix prices among themselves, but also find ways to fix the introduction of new modifications in collusion with the Railway Board and RDSO officials.

World experiments with privatisation

Analysts say like most PSUs, the Railways, too, has become a liability for the government. Its annual loss is a whopping Rs 27,000 crore. By privatising the Railways, India can turn the world’s third-largest rail network into a profitable entity, they claim. Japan, the US, UK and Argentina have shown the way, and China is the latest. Before privatisation, Argentina was losing more than $1 billion a year.

China’s state railways administration, to be supervised by the ministry of transport, will take up the existing administrative functions of the railway ministry, while a private entity, China Railway Corporation, will carry out the commercial functions of the railway ministry.

Experts say India can also draw up a model that works best for the Railways and implement reforms by seeking international expertise.

Though privatisation may lead to increase in travel costs, the money collected from the higher passenger classes can be used to subsidise travel in the general compartments. The government cannot wait any longer to improve the health of the terminally-ill behemoth. And this scam has given it the chance to start the clean-up process.


Railway ministry plans to set up National High Speed Rail Authority

he Indian Railways does a commendable job transporting an estimated 20 million people to the remotest parts of the country every day. Yet, modernisation eludes it even as nations like China and South Korea have stolen a march over us.

Indian Railways may have the most extensive network in the world, but its trains still run at speeds between 60 kmph to 130 kmph. Successive populist union rail ministers have turned down every attempt to raise fares, which would have helped upgrade the network and offer more comfort to commuters.

So far, the ministry has only proposed feasibility studies for high speed trains. The ministry of railways, in consultation with state governments, proposed high speed corridors between Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar, Pune- Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijaywada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulum, Howrah-Haldia and Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna. The ministry also planned to set up a National High Speed Rail Authority for standard setting, implementing and monitoring these projects. The estimated cost of construction cost per km would be up to Rs 100 crore.

The Railways intends to run high-speed passenger trains at about 250 kmph on these routes.

While India’s ambitions are still on paper, Japan, which was completely devastated in world war II, introduced its first Bullet Train way back in 1964. The Shinkansen— as the Bullet Train is more popularly known all over Japan— revolutionised train travel when it took to the tracks, touching speeds of 210 kms an hour.

Today, it criss-crosses across Japan at speeds of upto 300 kms an hour. This correspondent was fortunate to travel on a bullet train some years ago. We were on our way to the city of Kitakyushu, a distance of 67.2 kms from Fukuoka. At precisely 12.59 pm, the Shinkansen starts its run. The urban landscape whizzes past the window at almost the same speed as a Boeing 737 taking off a runway. The scenery changes so swiftly, it is hard to believe a train can move so fast. At exactly 1.15 pm, our Shinkansen enters the Kokura station in Kitakyushu—a distance of 67.2 kms covered in just 16 minutes. It is akin to travelling from Churchgate station to Palghar (a little beyond Virar) in such little time.

Hopefully, someday in the distant future, a passenger will be able to travel between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in less than three hours.


Bullet train plan on the fast track, steering panel set up

Pushed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, railways minister Mukul Roy has got into top gear to implement the bullet train concept, which is expected to dash about the countryside at speeds ranging from 300 to 350 km per hour.

After mid-July’s meeting convened by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to discuss the concept, the railway officials have swung into action to implement the plan.

A High Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC) was set up last week and the project is planned to be executed through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), sources said. A formal announcement on the plan is likely to be made later this month.

The Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) — a PSU — has been given the task of putting in place the institutional and administrative mechanisms for creating the SPV.

The railways minister has also set up a steering group to oversee implementation plans and work out the financial models. Led by railway board chairman Vinay Mittal, this group includes finance commissioner Vijaya Kanth and two other railway board members.

The group’s first meeting in last week saw an emerging consensus on the 650 km-long Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed corridor which will be taken up as the inaugural project. Consultancy for pre-feasibility studies on the corridor — conducted by Ms Systra (France), Ms Italffer (Italy) and Ms RITES — has been completed and the final report has been submitted to the railways ministry.

In the five years that the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor has been in the pipeline, project cost has continued to jump from an estimated

Rs 30,000cr to Rs. 70, 000cr. Current estimates suggest cost might go up to Rs. 100, 000 cr.

PMO clears roadmap for Mum-Ahd bullet train

Putting the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail corridor on the fast track, the railways will constitute a project steering group to examine options for executing it.

The prime minister’s office (PMO) on Friday announced a roadmap for implementation of flagship infrastructure projects, which include high-speed corridors, the elevated rail corridor for thesuburban Mumbaisection and redevelopment of stations.

The high-speed rail corridor project between Mumbai andAhmedabad andother six routes is technologically the most advanced railway project. A pre-feasibility study has been conducted by RITES in association with other experts.There are various alternatives for implementing the high-speed corridor project but out of all, only the special purpose vehicle (SPV) or the public–private partnership (PPP) options, seem viable, said a senior railway ministry official.

The group will examine options for implementing the project and finalizing the feasibleones,suggesting waysof strengthening the capacity of railways to design and executehigh-speedtrain projects and suggest mechanisms for quickly moving forward on chosen options.
The elevated rail corridor in Mumbai, the other key infrastructure project of the railways, also got the PMO’s nod. According to the official, the projectwillbeimplemented in PPP mode and a concessionaire will be finalized by March 15, 2013. — PTI
Estimated Cost 60,000 crore Expected Speed 300kmph Distance 492 km Travel Time 2.5 hrs Duronto takes 7 hours to cover the distance.

Bullet train project gets closer to realisation

The dreams of Amdavadis to reach Mumbai in less than two hours have moved a step closer to realisation. The detailed project report for the bullet train between Ahmedabad-Pune has been finally submitted to the railway board.

The report has pegged the cost of the project, which covers nearly 530 km between Ahmedabad-Pune, at around Rs 56,000 crore. Of this, around Rs 50,000 crore will be used for the construction of tracks and other infrastructure alone. Officials in the western division said that once the detailed project report gets a clearance, the fund sharing will also be decided between the Maharashtra and the Gujarat governments. The bullet train, which is capable of running at 350 km per hour speed, aims to reduce the travel time between Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune to less than three hours.

The current travel time for the 450 km distance between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is six hours and thirty minutes by the non stop Duronto train. The same for the 100 km Pune-Mumbai is three hours. The report has also suggested alignment, fare structure and volume of passengers in the proposed high-speed corridor, the first of its kind in the country.

Officials said the pre-feasibility study by a French rail transport company reveals a travel time of 1 hour 52 minutes between Ahmedabad-Mumbai without any stops at a speed of about 350 km per hour. The same from Mumbai to Pune is estimated to be around 40 minutes.

The study has also predicted that 26.6 million passengers would travel by the bullet train every year with 2021 as the horizon year.

Officials said that the major issue would be the fund sharing between Mumbai and Pune. Gujarat wanted the train to run only till Mumbai, but on the request of the Maharashtra government the project was extended till Pune.

Officials said that the railways have already made it clear that the entire project would be on a public-private-partnership. Earlier this year, a French rail transport company was awarded the contract for conducting pre-feasibility study.


Published in: on December 11, 2010 at 11:38 am  Comments (4)  

Budding engineers design modified prototype of bullet trains

VADODARA: The concept of magnetic levitation train, commonly known as bullet train or maglev, has caught the attention of budding engineers from the city. Six students of a private engineering college have designed a prototype of this train as part of an academic project.

Krutisha Patel, Akash Patel, Pratik Patel, Jay Sheth, Mihir Shah and Shalin Mehta are final year electrical engineering students of Babaria Institute of Technology. These students after almost a year’s work have put together a maglev train using linear induction motor (LIM) with permanent magnets instead of electromagnets used in such systems.

“This is first phase of the project that our students completed by putting together an LIM system. In the next phase, we plan to make propulsion coils needed for electromagnets. We need funds or sponsors for further research,” said research guide professor Dipesh Patel, head of electrical engineering department.

Patel said the maximum speed of such trains is 450 km per hour, which are a common sight in countries like Japan, France, US and China.

“The model designed by our students can run up to 300 km/hr and the unique aspect is that the control system is different. As per the system, one can interchange any two of the three phase polarity which leads to reversing the current directions. This ensures that even when power supply is cut off the train is in motion and also helps in halting the train in a safer mode,” he added.


Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 10:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rlys to carry out survey for Bullet Trains

PATNA: A high level team of the Railway Board officials held a meeting with Bihar chief secretary R J M Pillai recently in connection with the survey work of the proposed running of bullet train between Patna and Delhi. The railways intend to carry out survey work soon so that its feasibility could be assessed.

According to sources, the total cost of the survey work on Patna-Delhi route is likely to cost about Rs 11 crore. This route falls under Bihar, UP and Delhi. Accordingly, the cost of survey is to be shared with the railways by these states. Of about 1,000 km stretching from Patna to Delhi, about 200 km falls in Bihar. The Bihar government is to share half of the cost to be incurred on the survey work of about 200 km, sources said.

A board official described the talk with the chief secretary as positive and said the state government has expressed its willingness to co-operate with the railways on the project. This ambitious project would surely herald development in the state and benefit the people, he said.

According to sources, the railways are conducting survey on the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Chandigarh, Patna-Delhi, Bangalore-Chennai and Chennai-Hyderabad routes. The survey work and feasibility report are being prepared by a reputed company of France. If everything goes well, the railways would complete the survey work in a couple of months, the board official said.

Bullet trains are specially designed to run at the maximum speed of 250 km to 300 kmph per hour in foreign countries. In fact, separate tracks are required to run bullet trains which are substitute to air traffic in foreign countries. Besides, no goods trains would run on the special tracks of bullet trains for safety reasons, a technical expert said, adding the railways have been running the fastest Shatabdi Express on Delhi-Gwalior route at 140 kmph.

The railways will require at least Rs 10,000 crore to build up the infrastructure to run bullet trains. Though maintenance of bullet trains, particularly locomotives, is very costly, the Indian Railways are capable of maintaining bullet train coaches with the help of advanced technology, sources said.

A technical expert of the railways told TOI that the Indian Railways have the largest network in the country and introduction of bullet trains would fill railway coffers as elite class passengers would prefer journey by such high speed trains paying fare at premium cost, he said.