May 18, 2016

Arvind Panagariya-led team to discuss Bullet Train project in Tokyo

Indian team in Tokyo to finalise bullet train project schedule

Moving train on underground station

New Delhi: In a bid to facilitate the commencement of work on India’s dream bullet train (high-speed rail corridor) project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai from 2017, a high-level joint committee, consisting of Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, chairman railway board A.K. Mittal would hold talks with its Japanese counterparts on Monday in Tokyo.

The joint committee was constituted by the PMO for an inter-ministerial co-ordination and is mandated to be a single point decision-making body for the high-speed rail corridor project. “During the meeting, the joint committee will finalise the schedule of project, terms related to the appointment of general consultant and procurement conditions,” said a senior Railway Board official. Taking a step further towards realisation of bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya along with Chairman Railway Board A K Mittal and several top bureaucrats, has gone to Japan to discuss a way forward for India’s dream project.

The government has floated National High Speed Rail Corporation with a paid up capital of Rs 200 crore to implement the bullet train project.

The Pangariya-led high-level team consisting of top bureaucrats from Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, and External Affairs has left for Japan yesterday, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

The Indian team will explore the possibilities of participation of Japanese companies in the bullet train project under the Make in India initiative.

The Japanese side will be led by Hiroto Izumi, Special Adviser to the Japanese Prime Minister, the railway ministry said in a statement here. The high-level team will also discuss the finalisation of the general consultant for the Rs 98,000 crore flagship project with senior Japanese officials including the Special Advisor to Japanese PM Hiroto Izumi on May 16 in Tokyo. The general consultant oversees the project design and other related issues involved with the high speed train.

Under the instructions of the PMO, said the official, the joint committee is seeking to impress upon its Japanese counterparts to allow a larger participation of Indian companies in building the high speed rail corridor, which is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The joint committee has been briefed about the challenges faced in the execution of the western dedicated freight corridor, which is also funded by the JICA, in which the Railways faced single vendor situations. As the terms and conditions of the JICA funding mandated, the lead construction firm has to be from Japan, the DFC in the early stages struggled to find multiple Japanese firms taking part in the tender process.

“Since the loan negotiation and finalisation of loan agreement will take some time, the government is keen on timely implementation of project. So, the committee will seek a proper schedule of project implementation,” added the official.

The mega project is being financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is providing a loan of about Rs 79,380 crore, which amounts to 81 per cent of the total project cost.

Japan has given the soft loan at an interest of 0.1 per cent, with a tenure of 50 years and a moratorium of 15 years.

India will get the latest version of the Sinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, to cover the 508 km distance between Mumbai-Ahmedabad in 2.07 hours at more than 300 km per hour speed.

Currently, the fastest train between the two metropolis takes about 7 hours.

Railway to lay 20-km long test track for trial run of high-speed trains

Meanwhile, the Railways is laying a 20 km-long test track, equipped with a state-of-the-art laboratory, near Raipur for trial of high-speed and regular trains. The test track will also be used for trial of high axle load wagons. The 20 km test track, including a 5 km loop line, will cost cost about Rs 100 crore.

Besides new locomotives and coaches, the test track will also be used for trial of high axle load wagons.

The 20 km test track, including a 5 km loop line, will be developed at an estimated cost of about Rs 100 crore.

Currently, the trial of new trains are conducted on the existing rail network causing traffic delays, said a senior Railway Ministry official, adding the tracks are not equipped to help simulation of all test conditions.

Test tracks are used for trial run of new trains in countries, including the US, Japan and South Korea. In India, a section of the railway network is cordoned off and no train movement is allowed whenever a new train is put on trial run, causing traffic diversion and delay in operations.

The 20 km test track, including a 5 km loop line, will be developed at an estimated cost of about Rs 100 crore. The need for a test track for expeditious trial of prototypes under varying conditions has been felt for long, the official said, adding, it will go a long way in enhancing the research and development capabilities of railways.

The facility will be used for technical acceptance tests and approvals of locomotives, rolling stock under operating condition and personnel training. It will also be equipped for prototype testing of all new innovations and development of railway technology which require a number of safety permissions and protocols to be followed rigorously. Railways conduct a number of tests for ensuring safety of passengers such as coupler force trials, oscillation trials and emergency braking distance trials, among others.

The test track will also enable railways to undertake railway related research projects, and devise better and innovative solutions for infrastructural bottlenecks on the railway network, the Railway Ministry official said. It will be used for technical acceptance tests and approval of locomotives, rolling stock under operating condition, including signalling system and personnel training.

The test track will be equipped with a state-of-the-art laboratory and monitoring unit with latest facilities to examine the rail worthiness of new trains, he said. Railways plans to improve its research unit to handle the scenario that would emerge following the advent of bullet trains and high axle load double stacker freight service.

Research Design and Standard Organisation, Indian Railway’s research unit, will be completely revamped to cater to the new situation and the test track is part of the public sector behemoth’s R&D solution.





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