New Delhi: The railways may be starting a bullet train service at a cost of Rs25,000 crore in a bid to cut travel times and lure more passengers.
In what could mean more competition for airlines, the government plans to introduce high-speed trains (HST) in the northern, southern, western and eastern regions in the country, that will cut travel time by much more than half.
Sources said the ministry has already identified four routes for running HSTs. These are: Amritsar-Chandigarh-Delhi-Ajmer, Patna-Kolkata, Ahmedabad-Mumbai and Kochi-Bangalore-Chennai-Vijaywada-Vishakhapatnam.
The railways estimates that the track would cost around Rs20,000 crore, while the assets would cost Rs5,000 crore.
The advantages offered by HSTs vis-à-vis airlines range from competitive pricing, more legroom and baggage space, and more passenger load. A lot of business travellers between London and Paris take the Eurostar high-speed rail service instead of flying, as it takes them into the heart of the cities and reduces the wait at airports and the commute into the city centre.
The ministry says the assets required for the project such as wagons, coaches and signalling technology can be procured through leasing model, as opposed to buying them, in order to keep costs down. In order to nip the governments’s costs further, some elements such as electrification could be undertaken as a public-private partnership.
Lalu Prasad announced that the ministry had decided to conduct pre-feasibility studies for construction of high-speed passenger corridors, equipped with state-of-the-art signalling and train-control systems for running HSTs at speeds of 300 to 350 km/hr, more than double existing speeds.
By introducing high-speed rail movement in the country, India will join the elite list of nations with members such as Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The railways plan to go ahead with the project as it offers a safer and faster alternative to road travel along with low fuel consumption. It is also speedier for end-to-end travel for longer journeys.