Published On: Mon, Mar 20th, 2017

India’s First High Speed Railway Project Has Formally Begun

Indian government bringing forward the groundbreaking ceremony of its first bullet train project in 2017 as the detailed design study for high-speed railway project, has formally begun.

The project involves the construction of a 505 km line using Japan’s shinkansen technology, shortening the journey time between the two station Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat and the country’s commercial capital Mumbai to just over two hours with expected  speed at 320kph by 2023, revolutionizing India’s transportation infrastructure, an area in which the country has lagged behind of China.

Plans foresee the Mumbai terminal station built under the Bandra Kurla Complex, a modern business hub in the north of the city where a large number of major domestic and foreign companies have offices. India’s first undersea tunnel will be built between Mumbai and the next station Thane.

According to feasibility studies, the line will have 12 stations between Ahmedabad, where the adjacent Sabarmati station will serve as the terminal, and Mumbai. A rapid service will only stop at Surat in Gujarat, home to diamond processing plants and textile companies, and the ancient city of Vadodara, famous for its oil industry.

The minimum two hours and seven minutes it will take the bullet train is a mere third of what the existing express train takes. The planned fare for the entire route will be about 3,300 rupees ($50.38), 1.5 times the price of a first-class ticket for an air-conditioned coach on the existing special express.

High Speed Railway Corp. of India, which is tasked with implementing the project, plans for 10-car trains to make the round trip 35 times a day during the initial year, carrying 35,800 passengers a day. By 2053, the company aims to increasing the number of cars to 16 per train, daily services to 105 and number of passengers to 185,800 a day.

The high-speed trains will run on the same 1,435 mm track gauge as Japan’s shinkansen bullet trains. Rail yards will be built in Sabarmati and Thane.

The feasibility study proposes constructing embankments for 64%, or about 322 km, of the line; elevating 28%, or 144 km; and building tunnels and bridges for the rest.

Aggregated project costs, including land-purchase, are estimated at 980 billion rupees, with Japan ready to help financing primarily through yen loans.

Late last year, the Japan International Cooperation Agency signed a contract to entrust the detailed design study to a consortium led by Japan International Consultants for Transportation, or JIC, a subsidiary of East Japan Railway, in which West Japan Railway and Tokyo Metro have also stakes.

The design study will address not just the technical side of the project but also the “soft” aspects, such as assisting in environmental control and monitoring and preparing guidelines for acquiring land and moving residents. Additionally, it will plan for a health and sanitation campaign, including HIV prevention education, for construction workers coming from across India.

If all goes to plan, construction will begin and end in years immediately preceding general elections — slated for 2019 and 2024. The project will therefore likely become a hot topic during both campaigns. The construction schedule reflects such intention of the Modi government, said sources close to the project.

In this project , an underwater tunnel and underground station are just two of the many engineering challenges involved. In Ahmedabad and some other stations, platforms for bullet trains need to be built right above or next to existing railway stations to ensure easy transfer, said a director of the Railway Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism.

Another challenge is procurement conditions. The Japanese side wants to bring rolling stock and other equipment from Japan. Modi’s “Make in India” campaign means New Delhi insists on manufacturing them domestically to promote the transfer of technologies.

The states of Gujarat and Maharashtra – strongholds of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party — through which the line will run, are expected to cooperate with the project.

If they are to succeed in creating the first high-speed rail project in South Asia, India and Japan have to contemplate extensive supportive measures, including developing areas along the railway and luring industries to the area.

One of the most important features of the super-fast train is that for most of its journey, the train does make contact with the ground, but hovers few centimeters above as it’s run hrough the air with electrically-charged magnets on both side of the track. Just like in flights, its wheels go up when it gets good amount of speed.

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