Indian Railways has played a significant role in the development of India since its inception in 1853. Indian Railways today has the largest passenger operation amongst all Railways in the world carrying over 23 million passengers every day or about seven billion passengers annually which is equivalent to the world’s population. The focus has been to provide a safe and affordable means of transport to the teeming millions.
Indian Railways over the years has taken many steps for modernization and technology upgradation. On the speed front Indian Railways is now running trains like Gatiman Express with maximum speed of 160 kmph. However the progress on high speed has not been much and most of passenger carrying trains and Goods trains have been running on low average running speed.
Countries like Japan, China, France, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea and Spain have developed high-speed rail to connect their major cities. The maximum commercial speed on most of these high-speed rail lines is 250 to 350 kmph. The first such high speed rail system began operations in Japan way back in 1964 and was widely known as thebullet train. China, today, has the world’s longest high-speed rail network.
In view of the Growing economy India too needs to increase the speed of its trains and also cater to the needs of high speed travelling segment. It has therefore started a multi pronged strategy for running of high speed trains (with a speed of 300 kmph +), semi high speed trains (with a speed of 160 kmph + – 200 kmph), running of existing trains with increased speeds and introduction of faster trains and faster train sets.
A high speed train (300 kmph +) has already been sanctioned on Mumbai – Ahmedabad high speed corridor with financial and technical assistance from Government of Japan. This train is based on Japanese Shinkansen high speed technology. A company for the implementation of this project with the name “National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited” has already been formed. The implementation of this project has already begun and is now targeted for commissioning in 2023-24. The study for this high speed train popularly referred to as Bullet Train has been done by JICA. Government of Japan is providing financial assistance in the form of loan upto 81% of the project cost at a very nominal interest rate of 0.1% per annum to be repaid in 50 years with a 15 year moratorium.
In addition to Mumbai – Ahmedabad high speed (300 kmph +) corridor, five more corridors on diamond quadrilateral in the country are being explored and Consultants have been appointed to undertake feasibility studies as per details given below : –
|S.No||High Speed Corridor||Consultants undertaking feasibility study|
|1||Delhi-Mumbai||Consortium of M/s. The Third Railway Survey and Design Institute Group Corporation (Chinese Consultant) and Lahmeyer International (India) Private Limited, India. Interim report 1 received. Interim report 2 expected in November, 2016. Final Report expected in January, 2017.|
|2||Mumbai-Chennai||Consortium of M/s. SYSTRA (French Consultants), RITES and Ernstand Young LLP. Interim report 1 received. Interim report 2 expected in November, 2016. Final Report expected in January, 2017.|
|3||Delhi-Kolkata||Consortium of M/s. INECO – M/s. TYPSA- M/s. Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited (Spanish Consultants). Interim report 1 & 2 received. Final Report expected in January, 2017.|
|4||Delhi-Nagpur||Government to Government cooperation with Chinese Railway Company. Inception report received.|
|5||Mumbai-Nagpur||Government to Government cooperation with Spanish Railway companies. Interim report 1 received. Interim report 2 expected in November, 2016. Final Report expected in January, 2017.|
Indian Railways is also exploring the option of introducing Maglev Trains in India. “MAGLEV “stands for MAGnetic LEVitation. The MAGLEV floats above the track on a “Cushion” of magnetic field. Magnets on the track push and lift the MAGLEV up in air by about 1 inch to 6 inches. These “track” magnets are controlled by computers which keep shifting forward the magnetic force of the “track” magnets so that the MAGLEV is pulled forward.
As the train levitates above the rails, the friction between the wheel and the rail is reduced drastically. This aides the trains to achieve very high speeds. Maximum speed achieved by the MAGLEV train is 500 km/h. One commercial installation is in China in Shanghai (appx 38 km of MAGLEV) and is currently running commercially. New technologies are coming up to decrease the power consumption of magnets that lift the MAGLEV by using liquid nitrogen or similar gases.
Holy Grail of Maglev magnets is superconducting magnets which consume very little current. Currently, superconductive magnets requires very low temperatures to be maintained in the magnet, however rapid research is going on to make high temperature superconductors.
Semi-High Speed Trains
Railways has also taken up a programme of running of semi high speed trains (160 kmph + – 200 kmph) in a big way. It has already started running such a train with the name Gatimaan Express between Hazrat Nizamuddin to Agra Cantt Station w.e.f. 05.04.2016 with a maximum speed of 160 kmph. In addition to this Delhi – Agra semi high speed corridor, Indian Railways have also identified eight more corridors for feasibility of semi high speed rail, Zone wise details are as under:
|2||Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore||Southern, South Western|
|3||Delhi-Kanpur||Northern, North Central|
|4||Nagpur-Bilaspur||South East Central|
|5||Mumbai-Goa||Central, South Western, Konkan Railway|
|7||Chennai- Hyderabad||Southern, South Central|
|8||Nagpur – Secunderabad||Central, South Central|
Indian Railways is also currently undertaking field trials for assessing savings in transit time by using special type Spanish Talgo Coaches on existing New Delhi-Mumbai corridor. These are faster trains which may run at around 200 kmph.
The main features of Talgo Coaches are:- Natural tilting leading to higher speed on curves, Independent Axle-less wheels, Lightweight Aluminum body coaches, Disc brake system, Articulated wheels to keep wheel parallel to track, Integrated suspension, Enhanced passenger comfort, Designed for operational speed of 200 kmph.
With a view to increasing speed of existing trains in Indian Railways, ‘Mission Raftaar’ has been announced in the Railway Budget 2016-17. The mission envisages a target of doubling of average speed of freight trains and increasing the average speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kilometre per hour (kmph) in next 5 years. The present level of average speeds in Indian Railways for non-suburban passenger trains is 46.3 kmph and for freight trains the average speeds is 24.2 kmph. In order to implement this, a cross-functional mission directorate has been created in Railway Board.
Action Plan for improving mobility and increasing average speed of trains, inter-alia, includes removal of speed restrictions, construction of road over bridges (ROBs) and road under bridges (RUBs), right powering of trains, introduction of twin-pipe brake system in wagons, and replacement of conventional loco hauled commuter trains by Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) and Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains.
Some of the important achievements in mobility improvement in Indian Railways are;
- Two pairs of trains between Kanpur-Allahabad section, and one pair of MEMU train between Asansol-Dhanbad section in place of conventional loco hauled passenger trains have already been introduced.
- Two more pairs of trains have been scheduled for switch over to MEMU in Allahabad-Mughalsarai section in July 2016.
- Mobility study of high density Ghaziabad-Allahabad-Mughalsaraisection completed. Short term Action Plan under implementation.
- Introduction of twin-pipe brake system in freight trains approved in-principle for implementation in all freight stocks. This will result in faster application and release of brake system consequent increase in speed of freight trains.
- Action Plan for Right powering of freight trains is being worked out. Optimum horsepower to trailing load ratio will speed up freight trains and reduce transit time, directly benefitting the customers.
- Removal of Level Crossing Gates for achieving faster speed and improved safety for 2787 level crossing gates targeted for removal in 2016-17.
Besides above mentioned measures, Ministry has also announced introduction of faster train services like “TEJAS” which requires minimal technological inputs and aims at attaining speeds above 130 kmph.
*The writer is an Officer of PIB.