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High-speed rail in India

While India has one of the largest rail networks in the world, as of 2014 it does not have any kilometers classed as high-speed rail (HSR), which allowing a operation speed of 200 km/h or more. For a line to be classed as high-speed rail, the speed must be at least 250 km/h (155 mph) on lines specially built for high speed, or 200 km/h (124 mph) on existing or upgraded lines.[1] Compared to China, which has 15,448.7 km in operation and 18,149.4 km under construction.[2] The current fastest train in India is the Bhopal Shatabdi that runs with a top speed of 150 km/h.[3]

Prior to the 2014 general election, the two major national parties (BJP and INC) both pledged to introduce high-speed rail. The INC pledged to connect all of India's million-plus cities by high-speed rail,[4] whereas BJP, which won the election, promised to build the Diamond Quadrilateral project, which would connect via high-speed rail the cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.[5] The project was confirmed as a project of priority for the new government in the President's speech.[6]


  • Current effort to increase speed to 160-200 km/h 1
    • Current Semi-high speed systems 1.1
      • Criticism 1.1.1
  • Proposal to introduce 300-350 km/h trains 2
    • History 2.1
    • Cost 2.2
    • Routes 2.3
    • Project execution 2.4
    • Feasibility studies 2.5
    • Speed of trains 2.6
    • Diamond Quadrilateral project 2.7
  • Plan to introduce 500 - 550 km/h trains 3
  • R&D institutions 4
  • Manufacturing base 5
  • See also 6
  • External links 7
  • References 8

Current effort to increase speed to 160-200 km/h

Indian Railways aims to increase the speed of passenger trains to 160–200 km/h on dedicated conventional tracks. They intend to improve their existing conventional lines to handle speeds of up to 160 km/h, with a goal of speeds above 200 km/h on new tracks with improved technology.[7]

In February 2014, Henri Poupart-Lafarge of Alstom, manufacturer of trains used on TGV in France, stated that India is at least 5–10 years away from high-speed trains. He suggested the country should first upgrade the infrastructure to handle trains travelling 100 to 120 km/hr.[8]

In July 2014, a trial run of a "semi-high speed train" with 10 coaches and 2 generators reached a speed of 160 km/h between New Delhi and Agra. The railways plan to introduce such trains commercially from November 2014.[9] The semi-high speed train that proposes to reduce travelling time between Delhi and Agra to 105 minutes will be named Gatimaan Express.[10]

Dedicated Freight Corridors

Initially the trains will have the maximum speed of 160 km/h, with railway coaches which can run at the speed of 200 km/h will be rolled out from Railway Coach Factory of Indian Railway from June, 2015.[11]

Current Semi-high speed systems

Currently there are no semi high speed rail routes in India. A trial run has been successfully completed on Delhi - Agra section and plans are to start these trains on Delhi - Bhopal / Chandigarh / Kanpur / Lucknow sections after starting on Delhi - Agra section.[12][13] The Delhi - Agra semi high speed train is expected to start in November 2014. Mumbai Rajdhani Express will be upgraded to 200 kmph.[14] This will reduce 8 hours of traveling time. Railway minister Dr. sadananda Gowda mentioned in his Rail budget 2014 speech that the railways are going to start high speed trains at 160-200 kmph on 9 routes.[15]

Green background for the systems that are under construction. Blue background for the systems that are currently in planning.

Semi High-Speed Corridor Speed Track gauge Distance (km) Time reduced Operations per day Start Operations Status
Delhi - Agra 160 kmph Broad Gauge 195 30 min November 2014 Successful trial run in July 2014. This service may start operations from November 2014.
Chennai - Hyderabad 160 kmph Broad Gauge 915 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Delhi - Chandigarh 160 kmph Broad Gauge 244 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Delhi - Kanpur 160 kmph Broad Gauge 441 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Mumbai - Ahmedabad 160 kmph Broad Gauge 493 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Mumbai - Goa 160 kmph Broad Gauge 1230 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Mysore - Bangalore - Chennai 160 kmph Broad Gauge 495 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Nagpur -Raipur - Bilaspur 160 kmph Broad Gauge 413 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget
Nagpur - Secunderabad 160 kmph Broad Gauge 575 Approved in 2014 Railway Budget


India's quest to run rails at the 160 km/h has its own critics. Critics point out the that Delhi-Agra time savings are not based on the speed of train but based on other factors.

Critics point out that the reduction in travel time due to speed is a mere three minutes, and other manoeuvrings are largely responsible for the drastic drop. Reduction of timing largely because of shifting the train’s departure point from New Delhi railway station to Hazrat Nizamuddin and doing away with the scheduled stop at Mathura reportedly account for a saving of 14 minutes, limiting the locomotive to 10 coaches – Bhopal Shatabdi has 14 – leads to a decrement of another two minutes, approximately five minutes are being saved on account of track improvements and superior infrastructure, three minutes owing to route relay interlocking at Agra, and one minute each on approval to run a passenger train on the third line at Palwal and Bhuteshwar, installation of thick web switches at four points and in putting up a track station at Chhata.[16]

Also, India is targeting only lower end of 160–200 km/h speed of semi-high speed trains. So, focus is to achieve 160 km/h not the 200 km/h.

There is serious question raised about the safety of the passengers as the infrastructure on which semi-high speed trains are running may not be able to run at such high speeds, for example it is preferred to run these trains on 60 kilogram tracks but now they are running on 52 kilogram tracks.[17]

There are multiple railway projects which are in different stages of implementation like doubling of tracks, electrification, new track laying, changing of gauge etc. But Indian railways has not come up with any guidelines to channelize all current and new efforts to run trains at semi-high speed.

Proposal to introduce 300-350 km/h trains


One of the first proposals to introduce high-speed trains in India was mooted in the mid-1980s by then Railway Minister Madhavrao Scindia. A high-speed rail line between Delhi and Kanpur via Agra was proposed. An internal study found the proposal not to be viable at that time due to the high cost of construction and inability of travelling passengers to bear much higher fares than those for normal trains. The railways instead introduced Shatabdi trains which ran at 130 km/h.[18]

The Indian Ministry of Railways' white-paper "Vision 2020",[7] submitted to Indian Parliament on December 18, 2009,[19] envisages the implementation of regional high-speed rail projects to provide services at 250–350 km/h, and planning for corridors connecting commercial, tourist, and pilgrimage hubs. Six corridors have been identified for technical studies on setting up of high-speed rail corridors: DelhiChandigarhAmritsar, Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, HowrahHaldia, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna. These high-speed rail corridors will be built as elevated corridors.

Indian Railway set up a corporation called High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd (HSRC) on 25 July 2013, that will deal with the proposed high-speed rail corridor projects. The corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd. (RVNL).[20][21] It will handle tendering, pre-feasibility studies, awarding contracts, and execution of the projects.[22] The corporation will comprise four members, all of whom will be railway officials.[23] All high-speed rail lines will be implemented as public–private partnerships on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, and Transfer (DBFOT) basis.[24] The corporation was officially formed on 29 October 2013.[25]


In a feasibility study published in 1987, RDSO and JICA estimated the construction cost to be Rs 49 million per km, for a line dedicated to 250–300 km/h trains. In 2010, that 1987-estimated cost, inflated at 10% a year, would be Rs 439 million per km (US$9.5 million/km).[26] RITES is currently performing a feasibility study.[27]

According to news media, the costs for constructing such rail lines in India are estimated to be Rs 700-1000 million per km (US$15–22 million/km). Therefore the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route of 500 km, will cost Rs 370 billion (US$8.04 billion) to build and to make a profit, passengers will have to be charged Rs 5 per km (US$0.11/km). Delhi to Amritsar one-way, a distance of 450 km, will cost about Rs 2000 (US$43.48).[28] At US$15–22 million per km, cost estimates are in line with US$18 million per km of the recently completed Wu-Guang HSR line in China.

The Mumbai - Ahmedabad line is expected to cost Rs 650 billion.[25]


Potential High Speed Rail lines[29][30]

In India, trains in the future with top speeds of 300–350 km/h, are envisaged to run on elevated corridors to isolate high-speed train tracks and thereby prevent trespassing by animals and people.

The current conventional lines between Amritsar-New Delhi, and Ahmedabad-Mumbai runs through suburban and rural areas, which are flat and have no tunnels. Ahmedabad-Mumbai line runs near the coast therefore have more bridges, and parts of it are in backwaters or forest. The 1987 RDSO/JICA feasibility study found the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line as most promising.[26]

Maharashtra state government has proposed a link between Mumbai and Nagpur. The government also wants a corridor to connect to Navi Mumbai International Airport.[31]

High-Speed Corridor Route Track gauge Stations Speed Length (km) Further Extension Status
Diamond Quadrilateral Delhi - Mumbai - Chennai - Kolkata - Delhi 1676 TBA 250 - 350 6,500 - 7,000 No Extension Approved in Rail budget 2014
East India
Howrah - Haldia High-Speed Passenger Corridor Howrah-Haldia 1676 TBD 250-300 135 TBD Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
North India
Delhi - Kolkata High-Speed Passenger Corridor Delhi-Agra-Kanpur-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna-Kolkata 1676 TBD 200 - 350 991 Howrah Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Delhi - Amritsar High-Speed Passenger Corridor Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar 1676 TBD 450 TBD Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Delhi - Jodhpur High-Speed Passenger Corridor[32] Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur 1676 TBD 591 TBD Proposed
West India
Ahmedabad - Dwarka High-Speed Passenger Corridor Ahmedabad - Rajkot - Jamnagar - Dwarka 1676 TBD TBD
Mumbai/Navi Mumbai - Nagpur High-Speed Passenger Corridor Mumbai/Navi Mumbai - Nashik - Akola - Nagpur 1676 TBA TBA Proposed
Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed passenger corridor Mumbai-Ahmedabad 1676 11 320 534 Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Rajkot - Veraval High-Speed Passenger Corridor Rajkot - Junagadh - Veraval 1676 TBD 350 TBD
South India
Hyderabad - Chennai High-Speed Passenger Corridor Hyderabad-Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai 1676 TBD 664 Howrah(Via Visakhapatnam) Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Chennai - Thiruvananthapuram High-Speed Passenger Corridor Chennai-Bangalore- Coimbatore - Ernakulam - Thiruvananthapuram TBD 350 850 Approved by Planning Commission & PMO
Thiruvananthapuram - Mangalore High-Speed Passenger Corridor Thiruvananthapuram - Mangalore 1435 9 300 585 Udupi Scrapped by Kerala State Government[33][34]

Approved by Planning Commission & PMO

Bangalore - Mysore High-Speed Passenger Corridor[35] Bangalore - Mysore TBD 350 110 Not planned Approved in Rail budget 2014

Project execution

To put the construction in perspective, in the period 2005-09 Indian Railways took on construction of 42 completely new conventional lines, a total of 4060 km at a cost of Rs 167 billion (US$3.63 billion),[36] or Rs 41 million per km (US$0.89 million/km).[7] A public-private-partnership mode of investment and execution is envisaged the 250–350 km/h high-speed rail project.[7]

Feasibility studies

Multiple pre-feasibility and feasibility studies have been done or are in progress.

The consultants for pre-feasibility study for four corridors are:[37]

  • Systra, Italferr and RITES Limited for Pune – Mumbai – Ahmedabad,
  • British firm Mott MacDonald for Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna
  • INECO, PROINTEC, Ayesa for Howrah-Haldia
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff India for Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijaywada-Chennai

In September 2013, an agreement was signed in New Delhi to complete a feasibility study of high-speed rail between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, within 18 months.[38] The study will cost ¥500 million[39] and the cost will be shared 50:50 by Japan and India.[38]

Location of the station, its accessibility, integration with public transport, parking and railway stations design[40] play an important role in the success of the high speed rail. Mumbai may have underground corridor to have high speed rail start from the CST terminal.[41] European experiences have shown that railway stations outside the city receive less patronage and ultimately making the high speed railway line unfeasible.

High Speed Rail Corporation has called for international bidders for carrying out a pre-feasibility study of the 450-km Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar High Speed Corridor.

Speed of trains

Type of Train Operational Speed Average Speed Government Approval/Commitment Indigenous Production Manufacturers/Operators
Super Speed 500 – 550 km/h 450 km/h yes NO JR Central(Japan), Transrapid(Germany)
High Speed 250 – 350 km/h 200 km/h NO NO Shinkansen Japan, AGV France, Velaro/Zefiro/ICx Germany and CRH China
Semi-High Speed 160 – 200 km/h 110 km/h Tentatively scheduled to start operation in Nov, 2014 YES Kapurthala Rail Coach Factory (Indian)
Express Trains 130 km/h 70 – 90 km/h Already in operation YES WAP-5, WAP-7 and LHB coaches of Indian Railways
Passenger 40 – 50 km/h below 36 km/h Already in operation YES Rail Coach Factory of Indian Railway

Diamond Quadrilateral project

The Diamond Quadrilateral high speed network connecting the four major cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai was a key plank in the BJP's election manifesto.[42][43] Modi mentioned in his address to the joint session of Parliament on 9 June 2014 that the new Government was committing to launch the project.[44]

Plan to introduce 500 - 550 km/h trains

India is considering running a high speed train using magnetic levitation Maglev technology.[45] High speed rail in India is still in feasibility study stage with the running of first high-speed rail is at-least 15 years away(2025-2030, considering DFC implementation). Japan's new high-speed rail lines will be built to run trains above 500 km/h.[46] New railway lines in China, Russia[47] and South Korea[48] are built to run above 500 km/h. In 1990s when China was discussing the technology choice for the high-speed railway to be built in the country, it wanted to build it's high-speed railway network based on next generation railway running at 500 km/h. But there was no commercially run super-speed rail-line at that time. So, China choose to build it's high-speed railway network on 50-year old wheel-rail based technology, with a maximum speed of 300 km/h (avg. 250 km/h).[49] But now, there are multiple Super-speed/ Ultra-Speed commercially run railway lines in the world, India may choose this technology as the standard for the high-speed railway in India.[50]

R&D institutions

  • Centre for Railways Research, IIT Kharagpur
  • Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO)

India does not have indigenous high-speed or super-speed railway technology. It is currently dependent on other countries. In a campaign promise made in January 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to build four railway universities so that India can be a world leader in high-speed railway technology.[51]

Manufacturing base

  • Bombardier India
  • Alstom India

See also

External links

  • Official website of High Speed Rail Corporation India Limited


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  5. ^ BJP Manifesto 2014
  6. ^ Diamond quadrilateral of high-speed trains - A Dastidar, Indian Express, June 10, 2014
  7. ^ a b c d "Indian Railways: Vision 2020". Indian Railways. December 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Sood, Varun (1 March 2014). "High-speed trains in India viable after 10 years’ - Economic Times".  
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  29. ^ "Indian Railways: Vision 2020". Indian Railways. December 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  30. ^ Dedicated Freight Corridors & High Speed Rails, India's Ultra Low Carbon Mega Rail Projects - Anjali Goyal, Executive Director (Budget), India
  31. ^ State requests ‘bullet train’ from Mumbai to Nagpur
  32. ^ "Rail Budget 2012: High speed trains may be introduced". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
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  35. ^ Bangalore, February 16, 2012, DHNS: (2012-02-16). "HSRL to Mysore under consideration". Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  36. ^ White Paper on Indian Railways - December 2009, Government of India Ministry of Railways
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  51. ^ "Modivision for new India: 100 smart cities, bullet trains, national gas grid & more". VCCircle. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
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