Government

As Delays Mount, Modi’s 2022 Target for Fully Operational Bullet Train Looks Unlikely

While the national transporter is working hard, only a 48-km track is slated to be operational on August 15, 2022 to mark 75 years of Independence.

New Delhi: The Indian Railways is unlikely to launch its ambitious bullet train project along the entire 508-km-long line by 2022, according to sources involved with the project.

Railway officials are still working towards that target – a promise that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made in 2017 – and are are making an all-out effort to ensure that at least a section of the bullet train’s route will be operational by August 2022.

When the bullet train was announced, its initial launch date was 2023, which seemed manageable to both India and Japan. Modi, however, advanced that target by a year to have it coincide with 75 years of Indian independence on August 15, 2022.

At the time, railway minister Piyush Goyal told reporters that the prime minister felt that “Indian engineers have the capability” to complete it a year earlier. The new goal now seems unlikely.

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Sources tell The Wire that the national transporter has now acknowledged implementation delays on the ground and is working instead towards making sure that the section between Surat and Bilmora will be operational by 2022.

Among other issues, the railways is facing a serious problem on the land acquisition front, with stiff opposition from farmers in various states. These land acquisition problems are threatening to cause delays for the project.

According to the schedule finalised by the railways, the first bullet train is expected to arrive in April 2022 from Japan for a trial run in order to meet the target of commercial operations on August 15, 2022.

Work is going on around the clock to meet the original target, but in case the entire network is not ready then the Surat-Bilmora section will definitely be operational, sources added.

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The Indian Railways is all set to float a limited international tender worth Rs 8,000 crore next month for the procurement of 24 bullet trains for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor.

In addition, the railways will also acquire a general inspection train for maintenance purposes, for which the tender will include a provision. Since only Japanese companies are entitled to participate in the bidding as per the agreement with Japan, the tender will be a limited one.

Among others, two leading Japanese rolling stock manufacturers – Kawasaki and Hitachi – are expected to join the race for India’s first bullet train project.While 18 bullet trains will be imported, six will be manufactured here, as per the Make in India programme.

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The successful bidder is expected to have a tie-up with Indian manufacturers like BEML, BHEL or Modern Coach Factory at Rae Bareli for manufacturing the high-speed train in the country.

Once finished, the bullet train will cover the 508-km commute between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in two hours and seven minutes, as against the time of over six hours that express trains currently take.

Most of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor will be elevated, except for a 21 km underground tunnel between Thane and Virar, of which 7 km will be under the sea.

According to the design of the coaches, passengers will get a dedicated room for nursing infants and babies. There will also be facilities for sick persons and separate washrooms for men and women in the bullet train, a first in the Indian Railways.

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Each train will have 55 business class seats and 695 seats for standard class. There will be toilets with extra space for wheelchair-bound passengers in the 10-coach high-speed train. The coaches will have LCD screens to display the current station, the next stopping station, the destination, the schedule and the expected time to reach the next stop and the final station.

The bullet train is aerodynamically designed with a long nose. When a high speed train exits a tunnel, a blasting sound is generated due to micro pressure waves. To reduce this micro pressure, the front car is designed with a nose section.

Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com