Two global firms keen to make maglev trains for India

American Maglev Technology and SwissRapide, and four Indian firms have responded to an ‘expression of interest’ sought by railway ministry


A file photo of a Maglev train in Japan. Photo: AFP
A file photo of a Maglev train in Japan. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Two global companies, American Maglev Technology Inc. and SwissRapide AG, have conveyed to the government their interest in developing high-speed trains using magnetic levitation technology for India, the rail ministry said on Tuesday.

Apart from these two, four Indian applicants—state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) and three lesser known entities—have also responded to an ‘expression of interest’ sought by the ministry for developing high-speed trains.

The other Indian firms are Surat-based Agile Setu Pvt. Ltd and Telangana-based Medha Servo Drives Pvt. Ltd. A third Indian applicant was not an incorporated entity, but an individual from Gurgaon, Haryana, called Sharad M. Marathe.

According to a ministry official who asked not to be named, the Indian firms do not have the technology for maglev—short for magnetic levitation—trains, which travel at an average speed of 350km per hour without touching the ground, propelled by a system of magnets. The magnetic lift enables these trains to move frictionless at high speeds.

Emails sent to SwissRapide, Medha Servo Drives, Bhel and Marathe remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

American Maglev said in response to an emailed query that the company is keen to transfer new intellectual property in order to partner with Indian Railways to create a unique and new mobility solution. “At less than $22 million per kilometre, this technology will have wide application on a global basis. India is not well-suited to high-speed rail, with its thousands of dangerous road crossings and very high capital and operating costs. India has the great opportunity to leapfrog into a new environmentally friendly 21st century transportation solution. We look forward to joining hands with Indian Railways to make this a reality in the near term,” said American Maglev.

Aashutosh Kapadiya, who is associated with Agile Setu, told Mint that the company’s incorporation is under process.

“The responses from prospective bidders/developers were to be deposited with the Railway Board by September 6. The responses are now being examined for framing detailed request for proposal,” said the ministry.

The national carrier wants the company that wins the bid to do the entire designing, simulation, testing, validation, construction, trials, modifications, operation, running and maintenance of the levitation-based train systems. Once the companies show proof of concept, the railways will conduct a safety audit and finalize the project.

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Indian Railways, which is now in the midst of a major restructuring, wants a makeover of its network by adding high-speed and semi high-speed trains in addition to adopting high-end technologies to improve its safety record.

It is already in the process of developing a high-speed passenger rail corridor from Ahmedabad to Mumbai with Japanese assistance, for which a feasibility study is underway. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has announced the setting up of a National High Speed Rail Corporation for the purpose.

Modernizing its infrastructure, introducing reforms in accounting and budgeting and creating a holding company for entities under the railways are among the key steps being taken to transform the national carrier from a government department into a modern organization.

Maulik Pathak in Ahmedabad contributed to this story.

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