Project report on rail corridor soon

E. Sreedharan, principal adviser, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), has said that the project report on the Rs.1-lakh-crore Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod high-speed rail corridor will be submitted to the Union government soon for approval.

Talking to presspersons at the Government Victoria College (his alma mater) here, where he was given a reception on Wednesday, Mr. Sreedharan said a train could run at a speed of 350 km per hour on the 560-km-long railway line.

‘‘It could be completed in a period of seven years. Later, the line could be extended to Mangalore,’’ he said.

Mr. Sreedharan said ‘‘the railway line could be constructed without evicting people except in extreme cases. There will be 11 railway stations, which will be constructed on vacant land, already identified by the DMRC, which is preparing the project report.’’

The project report requires sanction from the Central government and Railways, he said adding the problem with the ambitious project is only the funds and not land, technology, or viability.

He said that Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) would go for loan from the French financial institution Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) as it was ready to give the money immediately so that the work could be started soon. The proposed funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) can wait as it will take one year to release the money.

Indian Railways’ need for speed

There are multiple agencies working towards building high-speed rail corridors and the Railway Ministry is doing pre-feasibility studies.

That India needs high-speed rail systems — trains running at approximately 250-350 km per hour-speed is known. But, it would augur well for different agencies of the Government to identify one dense stretch, pool in all efforts to implement such a project fast. The lessons from this stretch could be applied to some other stretches.


At present, there are multiple agencies working towards building high-speed rail corridors. The Railway Ministry is doing pre-feasibility studies for six stretches across the country. Then there are some State Governments which are doing parallel exercises for running high-speed trains. The Kerala Government has commissioned a pre-feasibility study for high-speed rail (HSR) along the West coast of Kerala — Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod. Similarly, the Haryana Government is evaluating running of high-speed trains on the Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat route.


The costs involved are huge. The Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam link is expected to cost in the range of Rs 40,000 crore. Similarly, the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is expected to cost more than Rs 50,000 crore. How will they be funded?

In this context, it is important to note that for the Railway Ministry proposals, even the cost of the pre-feasibility studies is being shared with the various State Governments, who are likely to benefit.

Given such costs, all implementing agencies have admitted that these projects will have to be taken in public-private partnership (PPP) mode with private participation. The exact model of PPP will have to be evaluated and decided. That process itself could take four years at the minimum — going by the time taken by the Government to decide such issues for railways’ factories and highways in India.

Should the whole project be given out to a consortium on design-build-finance-operate-transfer basis? Or should the project be unbundled — by breaking it up into station management, train operating companies — with the network being owned and managed by another agency?

“Which agency should run the trains? Who should then build and maintain the infrastructure,” asked Mr V. K. Dutt, former additional Member (Electrical), Indian Railways’, while speaking at a seminar on high-speed trains, jointly organised by the Institution of Engineers (India) – Delhi State Centre, IET (UK) – Delhi Local Network and Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers (IREE).


Then there are some technical issues. Should the new lines be made interoperable with the current system? Simply put, should the new rolling stock be such that they can move on the existing railway lines, something that France did? This is desirable because it would allow the new train sets to access much deeper areas on the existing network.

But this requires a lot of extra time and money because the existing railway lines and signalling systems have to be upgraded. It also means that the new network has to be built on a broad gauge — globally, the railway lines and rolling stock are on standard gauge.

Many experts who are outside the Indian Railways’ system per se, favour a non-interoperable standard gauge network.

The views of DMRC, which is doing the study for the Kerala Government, are well known. They are all for standard gauge — Mr E. Sreedharan has publicly stated his disappointment with the Indian Railways for not allowing the initial Delhi Metro network to be built on broad gauge. But Indian Railways has traditionally been quite rigid on this issue, insisting on interoperability.

What should be the proposed revenue box model? What share of the revenue can be taken out by monetising land? Who should be made to pay for the development — there have been examples like Manchester, where all beneficiaries — corporates and users — were made to share the cost.


Pricing of tickets is another issue. The high-speed trains — while requiring Government support — cannot be allowed to become a tool for populist measures.

“Do you want to target the aam admi (common man)? TGV — the high-speed train of French Railways — is approximately 20-30 per cent cheaper than some other European railways running high-speed trains. It enjoys an 80 per cent load factor,” says Mr Michel Testard, Indian Business Development Consultant to the SNCF (French Railways).

Mr Testard suggests: “Target a stretch — which is on an even terrain — that connects two cities separated by a distance of 300 km or so; and each city should have a population of at least 10 million.” The even terrain is important because of the cost implications — the cost of building one km of railway line could double in difficult terrain, such as mountainous region or those with water bodies.

These are just some key questions that have to be addressed before the projects start getting implemented. After all, it took almost 30-35 years for Delhi to get its metro system, after it was first proposed in 1972-75.

Jaipur Metro to be superior to Delhi’s

JAIPUR: The Jaipur Metro will be on standard gauge line, the most widely used system globally. On Thursday, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRCL) for the construction of a 9.2 kilometre corridor from Mansarovar to Chandpole.

The MoU was signed by JMRCL chairman G S Sandhu and DMRC director Mangu Singh in the presence of chief minister Ashok Gehlot and DMRC chairman E Sreedharan. The chief minister lauded Sreedharan for his contribution to the successful development of Delhi Metro and expressed confidence that the work of Jaipur Metro will be held as per schedule. Assuring fast pace and quality work, Sreedharan said that the Jaipur Metro will be a more advanced one than the Delhi Metro.

In fact, Delhi has four broad gauge corridors, with the new ones being developed on standard gauge. The standard gauge coaches are slightly smaller than the broad gauge coaches but they have better speed and flexible turning. Along with the technical advantages, global acceptance of the standard gauge also increases the options of suppliers to choose from.

The ground work on Jaipur Metro is expected to begin by year end. “The tenders for civil works of the initial phase have already been released. The work will be completed by July 2013,” said Sreedharan.

Jaipur Metro is proposed to have two corridors — the east-west corridor from Mansarovar to Badi Choupar and north-south corridor from Ambabari to Pratap Nagar. The entire project is expected to cost Rs 9,100 crore and the Union urban development ministry has assured a grant of 20% of the cost.

However, the state government has decided to fund the initial phase of construction. As per the MoU, DMRC will develop the initial phase from Mansarovar to Chandpole at an estimated cost of Rs 1,250 crore. The remaining infrastructure is expected to cost Rs 600 and will be developed through private partnership.

Urban development minister Shanti Dhariwal, transport minister Brijkishore Sharma, Jaipur MP Mahesh Joshi, mayor Jyoti Khandelwal and senior officials of urban development department were present at the chief minister’s office to witness signing of the MoU. According to Dhariwal, it has been the largest project ever initiated by a state government in independent India.