The ruling BJP promised in the election manifestos for 2014 Lok Sabha election, introduction of High-Speed Rail (HSR) in the country. It pledged to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project – connecting four major cities of India located in four edges of the country.
If implemented properly, the ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ HSR project has the potential to dramatically transform India much like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government’s ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ highway project.
Let us compare speed of trains in China with that in India. The distance between Shanghai Hongqiao and Beijing South railway stations is 1318 kilometers; the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai Central railway stations is 1380 kilometers. While the fastest train (several of them) between the former pair of stations takes exactly 4 hours and 48 minutes, the time taken by the fastest train between the latter pair of stations takes 16 hours and 5 minutes, three times longer.
Although India has one of the largest rail networks in the world, it does not have any HSR rail tracks capable of supporting speeds of 200 km/h (124 mph) or more. High-speed corridors have been proposed but not executed.
Now, a standardization body will examine different options available and provide a common standard to be emulated in implementation across India. Though HSR is still under discussion with no official long-term implementation plan announced, but first railway lines are expected to become operational between 2030 and 2035.
Right now, India is concentrating on high-speed railway track rather than high-speed rail, so that Indian rails can run faster on the current tracks, with a maximum speed at around 160 to 200 km/h; clocking average of 130 km/h.
Indian Railways’ approach to High Speed
Indian Railways’ will exercise an approach of incremental improvement to high-speed on current conventional lines for up to 160 km/h, with a foresight of speed above 200 km/h on new tracks with state-of-the-art technology, such as Shinkansen/TGV/etc. While they do not define high-speed, Indian Railways’ approach matches the high-speed definitions of the Trans-European high-speed rail network, for upgraded lines and new lines built for high-speed.
Dedicate tracks to passenger trains
Separate corridors for freight trains will be built which will provide dedicates tracks on existing trunk lines to passenger trains. Separate tracks will also be constructed for busy suburban traffic in Mumbai and other cities where traffic is equally intense. Without slower freight and suburban traffic, fast-express trains can run at the speed limit of rolling stock, the railway track or railroad switch, whichever is lowest among those that apply.
Track-Upgrade for 250–300 km/h
The dedicated passenger tracks will be upgraded with heavier rails, and will build the tracks to a close tolerance geometry fit for 250–300 km/h. Automation will be used for maintenance and inspection of high-speed tracks. Design, manufacture and deploy railroad switches, with thick web construction and movable crossings that permit 50 km/h to alleviate this obstruction to speed.
Upgrade locomotives and coaches
The train coaches will be improved to support 160 km/h, with stainless steel bodies and crash-worthy designs, incorporating passenger and crew protection, and fire-retardant materials. Electro-pneumatic brake systems will be fitted with coaches to enhance safe operations at 160–200 km/h.