Gearing up for its meeting with the global ultra-high-speed train manufacturers on 2 September, the Indian Railways will shortly issue an expression of interest (EoI) to design and develop ultra-high-speed rail levitation technology in the country.
The national carrier aims to increase the average speed of trains to ease congestion and attract traffic on the railways network, thereby increasing its freight and passenger revenues.
The EoI is aimed to promote domestic manufacturing and is part of the National Democratic Alliance government’s ‘Make in India’ strategy. The EoI will invite agencies to discuss the concept and establish a development process under the public-private-partnership mode.
“First we want to know what all is coming up. The scope here is huge—there is first-generation Maglev and then there’s second generation. There are also hyperloop trains—so we have quite a few options. The EoI is for all types of levitation trains,” said a railway ministry official requesting anonymity.
InfraCircle on 19 July reported about the national carrier’s plans to scout for ultra-high-speed rail technology.
“The idea is that we need to create the opportunity within the country, maybe in 10-15 years, and make a breakthrough in this space so that India can benefit. We intend to start on this now. The conference will be along these lines. We have given a brief to the railway minister (Suresh Prabhu) and we will issue the EoI in a day or two,” said the official quoted above.
This comes at a time when the Indian Railways has also signed an agreement with Japan entailing an investment of Rs.97,636 crore to run a bullet train using Shinkansen technology. India is also experimenting with the Spanish Talgo, which is currently under trials.
“We will be inviting a number of knowledge holders such as national and international universities, manufacturers and researchers. We want to attract any reputed agency which will come forth with its investors, designers and a concept, and show that concept to us,” said the official.
Maglev stands for magnetic levitation, and is a transport system that uses magnetic levitation to suspend and propel vehicles with magnets without touching the ground.
“We are going to issue an EoI for calling levitation train knowledge holders but all these things are at a conceptual stage. The plans may materialise in more than a decade down the line,” another senior official, who also did not want to be named, at the ministry of railways said.
Queries emailed to a spokesperson of the ministry of railways on 28 July remained unanswered.
According to experts, although it is imperative for the national carrier to keep pace with modern technology, the financial viability of such projects must also be considered carefully.
“When technology is progressing, we should always try to keep pace with it. But financial viability is also a crucial aspect for any organisation. If it is not financially viable, the railways must also find out how the viability gap funding can be arranged as these are very costly propositions. A seminar is the right place for the railways to discuss all these points,” said former chairman of the Railway Board, Vivek Sahai.
The Indian Railways plans to invest Rs.8.5 trillion in the next five years with a total capital for infrastructure for the current financial year set at Rs.1.21 trillion.
Of late, the railways has been losing traffic to roads and air routes. For financial year 2015-16, the railways earned a revenue of Rs.45,384 crore from passenger traffic against a target of Rs.50,175 crore. The target for the current financial year has been set at Rs.51,012 crore.