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Railway study for bullet train
- Pre-feasibility survey for Delhi-Patna high-speed corridor on the anvil

Patna, Oct. 29: Wish to fly on the tracks from New Delhi to Patna? The railways has begun laying the groundwork for a High Speed Rail (HSR) network linking the state to the national capital through a fast-track corridor on the lines of that in place in countries such as Japan, France, Germany and China.

Preparations are afoot for assessing the feasibility of an HSR corridor on the Patna-New Delhi route via Varanasi, Lucknow and Agra. Once operational, commuters would be able to cover the distance of a little over 1,000 kilometres in less than fours hours at a speed of 300kmph.

At present, the same distance takes around 12 hours to cover.

The per kilometre cost of constructing the HSR corridor is expected to be Rs 80 to Rs 100 crore. Sources said the fare of the HSR would be close to airfares on this route — around Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per passenger.

The trains would be on the lines of France’s TGV and the Japanese Shinkansen. The TGV runs at approximately 325kmph while the Shinkansen — also known as the Bullet Train — travels at around 280kmph.

The railway ministry had submitted a project paper called “Indian Railways Vision 2020” to Parliament on December 18, 2009. “Vision 2020” envisaged the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250-350kmph. Subsequently, a decision was taken to appoint a consultant to carry out a pre-feasibility study to evaluate the financial and technical feasibility of construction, maintenance and management of facilities on each of the six following HSR corridors, through public-private partnership (PPP):

n Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar

n Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad

n Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai

n Howrah-Haldia

n Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam

n Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna

The pre-feasibility study for the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is already completed and that for Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar is being finalised. The pre-feasibility studies conducted for the two corridors indicate that per kilometre cost of the project may work out to around Rs 80 to 100 crore, whereas that of laying a conventional track is Rs 5 crore per kilometre.

For the Patna-New Delhi corridor, IRCON International Limited (Ircon), an undertaking of the ministry of railways, was made the implementing agency for preparation of the pre-feasibility report. Later, Ircon awarded the consultancy contract, including pre-feasibility study for the HSR corridor, to the UK-based Mott Macdonald Group. Mott Macdonald has been involved in a number of high speed and other railway projects worldwide and has built over 3,000km of tracks in Egypt, US, China, Taiwan, Netherlands and the UK.

Under the agreement, Mott Macdonald is conducting the technical, financial and environmental pre-feasibility study for implementing the high-speed service from Delhi to Agra and Lucknow to Patna via Varanasi. Mott Macdonald submitted an inception report to the railway board in March.

The proposed New Delhi–Patna corridor passes through four major states — Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The route starts from southwest Delhi, connecting Faridabad and Palwal in Haryana to meet Agra located on the western side of Uttar Pradesh through Mathura. It would further pass on to the eastern side of Uttar Pradesh to connect its capital Lucknow and Varanasi. From Varanasi, it enters Bihar connecting Ara to Patna.

The inception report outlined the concept of HSR, its global history and the scope and objectives of subsequent reports among other aspects. Subsequently, an interim report-1 was submitted in the last week of August. This suggested three alternative routes between the state and New Delhi and technical aspects of HSR with regard to the infrastructure, technology, base year passenger traffic etc.

Railway board officials also confirmed receiving interim report-2 from Mott Macdonald for the Patna-New Delhi HSR corridor in the first week of October. According to the officials, this report has zeroed in on the “straight line” route between the different cities to minimise the distance (around 1000km). Also, new and dedicated tracks that would be constructed for HSR would be free from conventional level crossings to avoid accidents. These would also be provided with proper fencing, or embankments would be constructed to prevent cattle and vehicles from straying on to the tracks. A stretch (1 to 1.25 per cent) of the entire corridor may also be underground.

Apart from railway officials, the respective state governments are also required to appoint their own nodal officers for the pre-feasibility study. Pratyay Amrit, the secretary in the state road construction department, is the nodal officer of the Bihar government for the Patna-New Delhi corridor.

“As of now, I have received only the inception report with respect to the pre-feasibility study being conducted by the railways. While the pre-feasibility report is going on, prima facie evidence suggests that the HSR corridor on the Patna-New Delhi route is quite feasible. The pre-feasibility report is supposed to be finalised by December this year,” said Amrit.

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