Centre of Excellence for High Speed Rail to be set up.

Atkins and Heriot-Watt University have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a Centre of Excellence for High Speed Rail, aiming to push the boundaries of railway track research beyond high speed into the realm of ultra high speed. Atkins is an engineering and project management consultancy. The development centre will be based at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. High-speed technology is one of the largest civil engineering initiatives currently under development, with projects world-wide. Hence, there is a need to create a platform to share knowledge and practical innovation to deliver transformational railways. Uwe Krueger, Atkins’ CEO, said: “The MoU is a key moment for the development of high speed and ultra high speed railway technology. With 15,000 miles of new high speed track to be laid in the next decade or so, it is vital that we have a Centre of Excellence.”

Changing tracks to a faster railway

India should be looking at high-speed trains as a mass transport solution and focussing on urban rail networks

China opens about 15 Metro rail lines a year and is building expertise in operating high-speed trains, while India is only slowly warming up to mass transport solutions.

This is the contrast that France is highlighting, as its companies compete to supply a range of transport technologies and services to India. The public sector French train operator, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français), is emphatic that the possibility of using high-speed trains as mass carriers should not be neglected.

The competition for high-speed rail also involves Korea, China, and Spain which have operational technologies. Brazil is also looking to implement high-speed rail, but has specified that only accident-free systems can submit tenders, reducing China’s prospects.

The focal point of the Indian effort is the Mumbai-Ahmedabad section, for which SNCF is conducting a feasibility study, and for which the French government has contributed €600,000 out of the estimated total cost of €1 million; there is no charge to the Indian Railways.

The study, begun in January, is expected to go on for a year and define high-speed for India (which in France is 320 km per hour for TGV trains); what kind of fares people can be charged; benchmarking of finance practices including public private partnerships; and the roadmap for manpower training.

On what separates the French high-speed train technology from the Japanese, who pioneered the system, Philippe Dumont, in-charge of issues related to transport in the Directorate of European and International Affairs, Government of France, told visiting journalists that TGV trains could be operated at a normal speed (160 kmph), and on special sections, shifted to peak speeds. This made it possible to integrate them easily with the existing railways. Costs are high for such systems, at €20 million per kilometre in normal terrain, going up to €50 million to cover tunnels, viaducts and so on. But Indian labour costs would make construction cheaper.

Operationally, high-speed trains can optimally connect cities 500 to 1,000 km apart, and in one of the best-known sectors, Paris-Lyon, the peak capacity is 12,000 passengers per hour at 1,000 people per train, providing service once in four minutes. TGV fares are not subsidised.

Six per cent of the world’s transport is on high-speed trains, and France operates 600 trains against about 100 in Japan, meeting the 300 km-plus per hour standard and remaining accident-free over a 30-year period. The Japanese rails are installed on concrete slabs, requiring higher maintenance, while the French use ballasts. Ride quality is better on the Japanese trains, however.

Mr. Dumont candidly pointed out that domestic growth prospects for rail were limited, and there was considerable interest in countries like India.

Urban rail

Alstom, the French engineering group, is firmly in place with its Rs.1,500-crore order to supply 168 coaches by 2015 and six additional cars for the Chennai Metro. It has built a Metro rolling stock factory at Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, to cater to Indian demand and will participate actively in future projects. The company competes with Bombardier, Siemens, and General Electric, among others, in Indian railway expansion projects.

On modernisation of the Indian railway system to improve service, passenger comfort and capacity, Jojo Alexander, vice-president for Strategy, Alstom, said there had to be a radical change in approach on the part of agencies such as the Research Designs and Standards Organisation of the Indian Railways. The opening of the electric locomotive tender (to international competition for supply of 1,000 locomotives) represented the first big change.

Bangalore’s model of levying a cess on petrol and diesel to raise funds for its Namma Metro Phase I was encouraging. Such internal funding was important to expand urban rail systems in India, said Sunand Sharma, president, Alstom International, India and South Asia.

The urban rail story in France is centred on improvements to quality and introduction of new options. One component is the renaissance of the tramway system. In the 1960s, all but three cities in the country — Lille, Marseille and Saint-Etienne — had done away with tram tracks to make way for cars. But in the 1970s, the oil shock and car dominance issues helped to change policy, and led to the introduction of a tax on companies to fund public transport. Tramways were reintroduced, and a recent survey showed modern trams capable of carrying over 3,000 passengers per hour per direction, cater to between 33 and 75 per cent of passenger journeys on public transport (bus, Metro and high-service bus representing the rest) outside the Paris region.

An even cheaper alternative, in service in France’s second city Lyon, is the trolley bus that uses overhead traction on the road and is similar to the conventional articulated bus. On a per kilometre basis, a tram costs a fifth of a Metro, while a trolleybus with dedicated corridor costs a fourth of a tram system, based on French costs.

(This writer was part of a group of Indian journalists invited by the Government of France.)


Published in: on June 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor has got a boost with France agreeing to examine the possibility of running trains at the speed of 300 km per hour on the route. A delegation of the French National Railway Corporation (SNCF) is currently in Mumbai to discuss the pros and cons of the bullet train project on the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad ro-ute, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
As per the MoU signed between the Railways and SNCF, the two will jointly carry out operations and development feasibility project on the high-speed rail corridor. The project will be funded by SNCF with support from the French ministry of finance.

The delegation also visited CST and then Chur-chgate station on Friday. “They showed keen interest in understanding one of the most densely operated suburban services,” Subodh Jain, GM of CR said. One of the officials of WR also said that the French delegation led by SNCF chairman G. Pepy, showed interest in the elevated Churchgate-Virar Corridor.


India and France Sign M.O.U. to Strengthen Cooperation in Railway Sector

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on here on 14.2.2013 between the Ministry of Railways, Government of India and the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the French National Railways, for Technical cooperation in the field of Railways. The MoU was signed by Shri Vinay Mittal, Chairman, Railway Board, from Indian side and Mr G.Pepy, Chairman and CEO SNCF from the French side. The MoU was signed in the presence of H.E. Francois Hollande, the President of France.

Four areas of cooperation have been identified in the MoU. These are:

1. High speed and semi-high speed rail;
2. Station renovation and operations;
3. Modernisation of current operations and infrastructure;
4. Suburban trains.
Under the High Speed Cooperation Programme, the Parties have decided to carry out jointly an ‘operations and development’ feasibility project on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail. This project will be funded by SNCF with a support from the French Ministry of Finance.

The MoU is valid for a period of 5 years and is extendable by 1 year with mutual consent. Specific cooperation projects would be undertaken under the MoU as agreed by both the parties.

The French delegation led by SNCF Chairman Mr G. Pepy is visiting Central Railway and Western Railway installations in Mumbai today i.e. 15.2.2013 and holding meetings with the Railway officials.


Published in: on February 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Indian Railways finally moving on its dream project — high-speed trains

After policy flip-flops over decades, here is a concrete sign of India getting its first bullet train. The Indian Railways quietly formed a company called HSRC Ltd in July last to run its dream project, high-speed rail.

And if the buzz in Rail Bhawan is anything to go by, minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has more to announce on the subject when he reads his first Rail Budget next month. Even before Indian policymakers made any formal announcement on this big-ticket project, Japan’s ambassador to India Takeshi Yagi recently said in Gujarat that India’s first high-speed rail would run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

This means a lot for business travellers shuttling between two financial hubs in western India, as rail travel would then be reduced to two hours from the existing eight. For India Inc, there is something more to cheer about. With Rail Bhawan desperately seeking Rs 20,000-crore support from potential private investors, it could well be a public private partnership project.

But that’s where the challenges begin. Finding resources from private parties amid the current market mood is an uphill task. And in the run-up to the general elections, the government of the day can’t be seen to have snatched social sector funds to achieve financial closure of a mammoth project that could cost over Rs 50,000 crore.

ET Magazine tracks the Indian rail’s policy uncertainties, and how late-entrant China is emerging the new poster boy of global high-speed rail.

On a slow policy track

On March 10, 2006, Lalu Prasad’s deputy and MoS for Railways R Velu informed Rajya Sabha that there was “no plan” for running high-speed trains in India. He proudly announced that Indian Railways had already “introduced a passenger train running at a speed of 150 km per hour” on the Delhi-Agra section.


The government quickly changed its mind. Lalu Prasad’s budget speech in 2007-08 surprised many when he announced that the Ministry of Railways would conduct pre-feasibility studies for high-speed trains that would run at 300-350 km per hour. Railways approached 12 state governments asking them to participate in pre-feasibility studies. Nine gave “in-principle” nod. These were: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.


Railways’ Vision 2020 document, presented to Parliament in 2009 gave a thumbs-up to high-speed dream machines but widened the speed range to 250-350 km per hour. In other words, Indian high-speed trains would be relatively slow at 250 km per hour.

Shinkansen Vs Rajdhani
How Indian Railways had a good start but preferred to remained slow over years:

1964 – Japan hogged the limelight by introducing the first bullet train in the world. The speed at 240 km per hour is not extra-ordinary by today’s standard.

1969 – India too caught up with the trend and introduced fast rail travel experience by deploying the nation’s first Rajdhani Express. The speed at 130 km per hour was commendable in those days.


The world moved on, and Indian Railways remained a slow moving transport system. Only in 2005-06, Shatabdi Express, the fastest of Indian trains experienced a maximum speed of 150 km per hour in Delhi-Agra segment. But, the speed was later reduced to about 130 km per hour because of what railways called “technical reasons”.

The first bullet train in India is likely to come up between these two stations. Though pre-feasibility studies were done on the entire 650-km long Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad section, the government may place Mumbai-Ahmedabad stretch on a priority. It will reduce travel time between the two commercial cities from current 8 hours to just 2 hours.

Cost to Nation:

Rs 2 lakh crore – The cost for 2,000 km of high-speed rail corridors.

Rs 49,076 crore – Construction cost for Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor.

Rs 6,783 crore – Cost of rolling stock for Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad (2009 price level, pre-feasibility study report)

Executing Vehicle

A company named High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd (HSRC) was incorporated on July 25, 2012. It is a subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) which has a mandate to raise extra budgetary resources for implementation of rail projects.

Coming Next

The Rail Bhawan is currently examining reports of pre-feasibility studies of two more high speed corridors:

a) Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna (991 km) b) Howrah-Haldia (135 km)

Lesson: The argument that India is too poor to dream for bullet trains is now old-fashioned.

Threat: A couple of more accidents like the one in Wenzhou in July 2011 may slow down the momentum.


Published in: on January 27, 2013 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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High speed rail will help cut down on environmental pollution

There could be a welcome spin-off to introducing the High Speed Rail between Bangalore and Mysore. It may cut down carbon dioxide emission by 31.32 % according to experts from the Indian Institute of Science following a recent survey.

The experts found that a large chunk of carbon emissions currently comes from private mode users (cars and two-wheelers) as their emission rate is high. “The policy-makers should look at ways to make rail-based mode of transport more attractive. Instead of investing in highway corridors, improvement can be done in the HSR corridor and movement within the city can be improved,” said Ashish Verma, assistant professor, department of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Science. Varun Raturi, along with Verma, did this survey.

The Indian government is looking at HSR as a possible mode of transport. Many feasibility studies have been undertaken and the state government too has done many infrastructure projects, one of which is the HSR link. However, given that HSR has not yet been implemented in India, there are few studies. asWe have undertaken this study to largely look at the practicality of introducing HSR in the state. “We will submit it to state government officials,” said Verma.

Data collection

* Data collected through surveys at bus-stands, railway stations, onboard trains between Bangalore and Mysore and National Highway 17 and restaurants

* Provided information about socio-economic status and travel behaviour of sample population and their willingness to shift to HSR. Bangalore-Mysore corridor taken as study area

* Target population were passengers travelling from Bangalore to Mysore with 290 interviews

* Each individual given six choice situations, thus making a total of 1740 observations

Emission calculation

* Daily passenger kilometres of travel: Derived by multiplying daily number of passengers with distance of trip i.e. 144km.

* Calculating total emission from vehicle travelled during a year: Determined by multiplying annual passenger kilometre with standard value of vehicle emissions for different modes

High Speed Rail to Connect Udupi – Kerala in 3 Hours

The ambitious high speed corridor project of Kerala government will commence next year, according to Kerala chief minister Ooman Chandy. The 1.20 Lac crore project will have 80% private funding through loans, and remaining amount will be invested by state and central government jointly, he stated.

Chandy was in Mumbai for a road-show to showcase the forthcoming ‘Emerging Kerala 2012′ global investor meet, which would be held from September 12 to 14 in Kochi.

The first phase of the project will be completed in 2018 when Thiruvananthapuram – Cochin route for high speed rail is ready.

Though the initial plan was to establish high speed rail project only up to Cochin – Kasargod, later it was decided to extend Mangalore and Udupi. In 2020, high speed corridor high speed project will be completed with Thiruvananthapuram – Udupi route.

Currently 634 km Thiruvananthapuram -Udupi route is travelled by train for about 15 hours, but high speed rail will enable passengers to complete this route within three to four hours.

Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation chief T Balakrishnan said that high speed rail facility is available in Japan and China for years, we would initially introduce 200km per hour speed rails here. He said that, in Japan high speed rails run for 350 km per hour.