New Delhi/Calcutta, Feb. 13: Travel time between Calcutta and Haldia could be cut down to less than half an hour if a feasibility test to operate high-speed bullet trains on specific routes passes muster.
Action is on for examining the feasibility of running bullet trains between Howrah-Haldia, Delhi-Amritsar, Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune, Hyderabad-Vijaywada-Chennai and Chennai-Bangalore-Ernakulam, railway minister Lalu Prasad said.
A pre-feasibility test will soon be initiated on the Delhi-Patna route, he added.
It takes about three-and-a-half hours to travel from Calcutta to Haldia by train now.
Officials said major metros could also be connected later by bullet trains that can travel at 250-350kmph.
However, special tracks — either elevated or fenced off — and a monitoring system will be required to run these fast trains, Lalu Prasad said.
The present track condition in the country is not conducive to running bullet trains, officials said.
About Rs 10,000 crore will be needed to build the infrastructure on what could be Lalu Prasads favourite route — Delhi-Patna.
The pre-feasibility study will be followed by detailed project reports.
Shatabdi and Rajdhani Express are now the fastest trains in India, travelling at 140-150kmph. The Howrah Rajdhani takes 17 hours and 10 minutes to cover the 1,446km distance. With bullet trains, this could be cut to six hours.
Lalu Prasad, who travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto on Japans famed Shinkansen high-speed train last month, said he had met Japanese railway officials to discuss introducing the bullet trains in high-traffic sectors in India.
Eye on poll
Out of 43 new trains, 10 will run from Bihar or pass through the state. The choice of towns the trains will cover shows that Lalu Prasad, who belongs to Bihar and has been trying to woo backwards and Muslims, had an eye on the Lok Sabha poll. The Bhagalpur-Ajmer Garib Rath, for example, should be popular with pilgrims from the town with a large Muslim population.
The Left, which could play a crucial role post-poll, has also got its wish list through.
The Calcutta Metro will get funds to extend it from Dum Dum to Dakshineswar.
Calcutta has got three new trains — Gandhidham-Calcutta, a weekly, Howrah-Hardwar, which will run five days a week, and a weekly Howrah-Delhi link express. The frequency of the special Puri-Howrah express has been increased from once to twice a week.
But sceptics pointed out that of the three Bengal trains announced in the last budget, two are yet to be launched.
Experts also dismissed the Howrah-Haldia bullet train as an election gimmick.
In Bengal, Rajdhani Express runs at a maximum speed of 130kmph…. More speed is not permissible taking into account the condition of tracks, a railway official said.