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Haldia & Calcutta on high-speed rail radar

New Delhi, July 28: India’s first high-speed train, supposed to travel at 250-300km per hour, would run between Haldia and Calcutta, railway sources have said.

An interim study for the high-speed service has been submitted by a Spanish consortium to the government for the 135km Calcutta-Haldia stretch.

Officials said since the Haldia stretch was the shortest of the six proposed high-speed corridors for which the studies were being done, its report “came in the first and will probably take the least time to set up”.

The railway ministry is also readying a cabinet note to set up a National High Speed Authority that will monitor and implement the project.

Railway officials said the high-speed trains would cut down a six to seven-hour train journey by more than half. Haldia, which is a four-hour local train ride from Calcutta, would barely take an hour to reach then.

The fastest train in India now is the Shatabdi Express that has a maximum permissible speed of 140kmph.

The rail officials also said the high-speed trains had 7.7 times lower carbon emission compared to airlines and 4.5 times less than cars. Laying the tracks would take lesser land than what a government would require to make an expressway.

Last year, during her tenure as railway minister, Mamata Banerjee announced the plan for high-speed rail corridors in her budget speech. Apart from Haldia-Calcutta link, the other proposed routes were Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Ernakulam and Delhi-Agra-Varanasi-Patna.

The high-speed train service has got a push from the Prime Minister’s Office as well.

Neighbouring China has set up a high-speed rail network, with Shanghai’s Maglev train service running at a 430kmph and most of its other railway longer high speed network running at between 200-300 kmph.

Japan’s bullet trains run at the top speed of 300km per hour.

The US, Spain, France, Germany and Russia have high-speed rail networks too. running at speeds between 200 kms per hour to 570 kmph.

India will either have to import or buy designs for the high-speed locomotives and will also have to work on new stainless steel coaches using fire-retardant materials and which have electro-pneumatic brake systems, in order to introduce any high speed train project.

Officials said many in the railways preferred the trains to run at 200kmph-250 kmph in the beginning “as this is something new for us”, but the government may choose to run them at a higher speed around 350 kmph to demonstrate that India can bridge the technology gap as other Asian rivals have.

India is a major player in railway exports, selling railway consultancy, construction and railway engines and coach sets to Asian and African countries.

Separately, the Kerala government has approached the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for a high-speed train project. The DMRC is carrying out surveys to connect Kasargode to Thiruvananthapuram.

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