New Delhi: An American firm specialising in magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains has created a stir by joining the fray for the Ultra High-Speed Trains, with a proposal for a Maglev train with a top speed of 500 km per hour at a construction cost of Rs 137.5 crore per km.
The Railways had called for Expressions of Interest (EoI) for Maglev trains and they were opened on September 6. Six firms had submitted proposals.
A comparison with the bullet train project will make it clear why the US firm’s proposal is significant. The cost of construction of the 320 kmph Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail, commonly called bullet train, is Rs 140 crore per km, considering the 508-km line has a construction cost of Rs 70, 915 crore, including land acquisition.
The current construction cost of the 33.5 Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro is Rs 540 crore per km. This is justifiable since it is a completely underground system being built deep inside Mumbai’s hard basalt rock core.
Tony Morris, Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia-based American Maglev Technology (AMT), confirmed the development. “American Maglev is expressing interest to transfer new intellectual property in order to partner with the Indian Railways to create a uniquely new mobility solution for the Indian subcontinent as well as a new green high-tech export with thousands of jobs for Indians. At less than $22 million (Rs 137.5 crore) per km, this technology will have wide application on a global basis. The 137.5 crore-per km proposal is all-inclusive, except for land acquisition,” Morris said.
“For Maglev, we propose an elevated fixed guideway with no grade crossings (level crossings in Indian Railway lingo) of any kind. These elevated structures will be built above the existing publicly owned land like roadways, rail, and other utility corridors,” he said.
While Railway officials confirmed that the US firm’s proposal could give the proposed bullet train projects a run for their money, it might not be the case for Metro corridors in urban landscapes like Mumbai. With the Right of Way for Metro projects always an issue in land-starved Mumbai, having a ramrod straight corridor, as is required by Maglev trains, might be a distant dream in Mumbai.
“The key issue for Maglev is that it requires a detailed study on the exact route alignment and the ability to keep the route very, very straight, without having to buy lots of private land. At 500 km per hour, the route must be almost perfectly straight, or else passengers will experience unacceptable, uncomfortable and unsafe forces. In a curve, the speed is limited by passenger comfort, and there is no compromise on passenger safety and comfort,” Morris explained.