Indian Railways (IR) have selected a 200 km/h upgrade option for the Delhi – Chandigarh line which will be improved to allow a ‘semi-high speed’ operation at speeds of up to 200km/h. This decision follows a study by the Indian and French governments in partnership with SNCF and its subsidiary Systra since 2015. The line was first inaugurated in 1891 running 245km at a speed of 130 km/h. SNCF believe this will be a “significant investment” for one of the busiest lines in northern India. It would “save considerable time for passengers and deliver the greater benefits to local communities.” 100 trains pass the route on a daily basis with a current annual ridership of 40 million passengers, which is only expected to increase by four percent year on year. Two years on since the initial agreement between the two operators, design studies are to be carried out with the hope that a design and build tender will be selected by the end of the year.
"SNCF said the project would benefit the nation’s operator with an insight into future upgrades especially now 6,400km of route is being considered for the semi-high speed upgrading."
The agreements build on a protocol for co-operation which was signed by SNCF and IR in April 2015. Their 2015 study analysed three main options:
- 160km/h with minimal investment
- 180km/h for a two hour journey
- 200km/h with electric cars
It was also established that SNCF would prepare for the future implementation of the chosen option. Another proposal was also agreed that Ambala and Ludhiana stations would be modernised as a pilot for IR's programme to redesign 400 stations to “world class” status. SNCF will use its experience to help devise a suitable approach to station architecture, property development and project financing.
As part of the latest agreement between IR and SNCF, the upgrade will also involve traffic segregation, the introduction of EMUs in addition to new operations and maintenance standards. SNCF said the project would benefit the nation’s operator with an insight into future upgrades especially now 6,400km of route is being considered for the semi-high speed upgrading.
The French multinational will submit the upgrade strategy and implementation model with detailed cost of the 245km semi-high speed route.
IR still pins their hopes on high-speed dreams however. India’s bullet train is a widely talked about development but the proposal has also caused some controversy as the final cost of the project is expected to amount to three times the size of India’s annual health budget. However, there is no doubt that the infamous high-speed bullet train is expected to revolutionise passenger journeys in India by 2023. Reaching speeds of up to 350km/h – whilst not as impressive as developments China and Japan are working on, will still travel between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in just two hours. The line also involves some complex engineering as a 21km tunnel will need to be built under the sea.
Plans estimate that this will cost around ₹97, 636 crore with 81% of the funding being provided from a Japanese loan. The estimate includes possible cost escalation, interest during construction and import duties. As part of this agreement, rolling stock and other equipment like signalling and power systems will be imported from Japan. Construction work is likely to begin by the end of 2018.
One key aspect about the train is that it will be the cheapest high-speed rail in operation designed to be cost effective for common people to be able to buy a ticket. The semi-high speed routes are planned to connect: Delhi-Chandigarh, Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore, Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Hyderabad and Nagpur-Secunderabd.
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