The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 8 , 2014
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High-speed trains to get priority

New Delhi, July 7: The Narendra Modi-government’s maiden railway budget is likely to give a big push to plans for a high-speed train network.

The heavily crowded Mumbai-Pune-Ahmedabad route will be the first to have the fast trains.

According to railway ministry officials, Modi wants the Mumbai-Pune section to be ready within three years. A year back, as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had held a seminar on high-speed trains in collaboration with Japan in Ahmedabad.

He had spoken of the urgent need to have such trains along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor.

“His views have been consistent since then and high-speed trains have figured in his priority plans since he became the Prime Minister,” top officials said. High-speed train services are expensive and typically a 250km stretch could cost up to Rs 30,000 crore.

However, long-term costs are low compared with air travel.

Railway officials said the trains could cut down a 6-7-hour journey to around 2-3 hours. Carbon emissions can be 7.7 times less than planes and 4.5 times less than cars. Besides, the networks will use 30 per cent of the land needed for expressways.

“It’s costly, but it could be viable on routes with heavy traffic with high-speed travel time of up to 2-3 hours, as the ticket prices would still be lower than airfare,” said R.C. Acharya, former member of the Railway Board.

The plans for such trains had been announced several years ago.

However, there has been little progress other than a couple of feasibility studies.

The railway ministry has over these years also been readying a cabinet note to set up the National High Speed Authority, which can implement and monitor the projects.

Officials said the high-speed train service was now being pushed actively by the Prime Minister’s Office, which wants to set up a demonstration service at least.

China leads

Neighbouring China has set up a high-speed rail network — a 2,298km service linking Beijing with Guangzhou — with trains running at 200-300 km per hour. Japan’s Shinkansen, or bullet trains, run at top speeds of 300km per hour. The US, Spain, France, Germany and Russia have similarly set up networks where trains run at speeds between 200km per hour and 570km per hour.