India: A railway with intense activity on significantly improved tracks

India un ferrocarril
India un ferrocarril

The “IR Vision 2020-Indian Railway” document compiles the objectives for the next years. among them, the reduction of travel times, the construction of more kilometers of tracks and the arrival of high speed lines.

India’s railway network is one of the largest in the world and is very busy. With more than 110,000 kilometers and 7,421 stations, its lines transport 23 million passengers and three million tons of freight per day. Although it is the fourth largest, only after the United States, Russia and China, 80% of the existing links date back from the British colonial era, before 1947, therefore its infrastructure is very old and requires major improvement works. India is the second most populous state, after China, with more than 1.236 million inhabitants and it is the seventh largest with more than 3.28 million square kilometers. An extension that highlights the importance of internal and external links.

The country has a multiple traction system and numerous routes, almost 40% of the networks being electrified. Although there are three types of tracks, the most widely used is the track gauge of 1676 mm that is slightly larger than the standard track of 1435 mm, being installed along 89.771 kilometers of route. The narrowest gauge is residual, with a total of 3,350 km, and it is mainly present in mountainous areas (Himalaya and Darjeeling railway) and also in certain private networks. Under the unification project, Indian Railways is converting all routes into wide-gauge routes, except for historic heritage lines.

At present, there are more than 7,146 stations and 19,139 trains are daily running due to the frantic activity. But it is not distributed in the same way. For example, several states, especially those from North-East, such as Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and the Himalayan region lack railway links. In the last 60 years, the expansion of this medium has been further encouraged in the states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In general terms, these are outdated lines and services, which need improvement, modernization, new stations, systems and services expansion projects. Therefore, the Government has already begun to address this challenge for several years. To this end, the items are channeled into five-year programs. A railway investment of 95.445 million dollars has been approved within the twelfth five-year plan (2012-2017), with an increase of 158% over the previous one. This ambitious modernization plan also includes a high-speed network. This is an initiative that includes 10,000 kilometers of new lines whose objective is to link the main cities of the country. Given its importance in the economy, the Government has focused its efforts on increasing investment in railway infrastructures. Likewise, it has adopted policies that are favorable to investors. The Government acted swiftly so as to allow the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railways to improve infrastructure for freight transport and high-speed trains. Although so far, there has been little involvement of the private sector in this area, efforts are made for the purpose of increasing this collaboration through the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model in order to successfully carry out the necessary improvement works.

Structure

The railway sector accounts for 1.2% of the country’s gross domestic product, although this figure is expected to increase to 3% by 2020, following large government and foreign investments in recent years. The main railway company in the country, Indian Railways, under the authority of the Ministry of Railways, is one of the largest in the world. It has about 1.3 million employees. The company’s links cover twenty-eight states and three territories of the union and provide also small services to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. At present, it is still formed, in its great majority, by public or semi public entities. RITES LTD. (design, operation and maintenance), IRCON International LTD. (Infrastructure construction), Centre for Railway Information Systems CRIS (Consultancy and Information Systems). Other companies, such as Indian Railway Finance Corporation Ltd. (IRFC), Container Corporation of India (CONCOR), Konkan Railway Corporation (KRCL), Railtel Corporation of India (RCIL), Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), are also worth mentioning. The “High Speed Corporation” has been created for high speed projects and the “Research Designs & Standard Organization (RDSO)” for the manufacture of rolling stock.

Objectives of the investments

The country has designed a road map to achieve modern and efficient infrastructures on long term. This is reflected in the “IR Vision 2020-Indian Railway” document which mentions the key objectives for the coming years. Among them, increasing the average speed of trains (55 km / h), installing some 2,500 kilometers of new tracks every year and electrifying another 2,000, removing by 2020 all unattended level crossings and expanding passenger trains up to 17,500 and the freight trains up to 62,000. In turn, this year ends the Five-Year Plan 2012-2017, which has been focused on creating a greater capacity in the network, both in passenger and freight traffic.

High speed in India

India is carrying out an ambitious railway modernization project, which also includes a high-speed network, under the responsibility of the “High Speed Rail Corporation of India LTD” company. A program to develop a high-speed network has been specifically designed. On the one hand, the denominated “Diamond Quadrilateral of High Speed Rail Network”, whose objective is to link the main cities of the country, would have the following branches: Delhi-Mumbai; Mumbai-Chennai and Delhi-Calcutta. The following lines are also being added: Delhi-Chandigarh-Aamritsar; Delhi-Chennai; Chennai-Bangaluru-Mysore and Mumbai-Ahmedabad. The idea is to develop these projects in two phases. The objective is to have at least four corridors of 2,000 km by 2020 and another eight in different progress stages.

India’s first high-speed line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is already under way. To this end, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe recently established the foundations for this new 508 kilometer route with 12 stations, which includes Bandra Kurla, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapl, Billmora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati. 92% of the line will be above ground, with 460 kilometers of viaducts and 13 of embankments. According to the project, a seven-kilometer submarine tunnel will be built at Thane Creek and another 21-km long tunnel, which will be the longest in India. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funds 81% of the 18,900 million dollars project. The rolling stock will be manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), an Indian state-owned company. The trains will run at speeds up to 320 km / h. The project is expected to be completed by 2022 and it will reduce travel time between the two cities from seven hours to two hours.

Duplication and electrification: Mau-Shahganj and Phephana-Indara

The 2012-2017 Five-Year Plan includes electrification works of 6,500 kilometers and works aimed at doubling the route in another 7,653 kilometers. Among the planned works, three railway projects have been approved by the Indian Economy Committee (CCEA) in May 2017. On the one hand, the doubling and electrification of 150km of the Mau-Shahganj and Phephana-Indara lines in Uttar Pradesh. It would be completed in five years and would cost INR 11.910 mn (169.63 million EUR). The second project aims to implement 160 kilometers of third line in the Manmad-Jagaon link, as well as to electrify it. The last project aims to double and electrify the Guntur-Guntakal section of 401.47km in Andhra Pradesh. The 42,000 million EUR project would improve traffic to Amravati. The objectives proposed in this plan also include the construction of new lines, the maximum unification of the track gauge or the lines’ duplication.

Rolling stock

The rolling stock renewal is another of the priorities highlighted in the last investment plan. Locomotives, cars, wagons for freight traffic, as well as new equipment for the growing number of metro networks in commercial operation makes this segment be of major importance in the modernization programs and investments.

Green Initiatives

Indian Railways also aims to be a company committed to the environment. Its objective is to obtain 25% of electricity from renewable power sources by 2025. The greatest possible use of renewable sources is sought under the coordination of “Indian Railways Green Energy Initiatives”. At present, India is the first country where machines that work with compressed natural gas and hybrid diesel locomotives, which obtain a part of the electricity they consume from the solar power, have already been implemented. In addition, it has wagons with in-built solar panels on the roof, as result of its research with the Indian Institute of Technology, which operate lighting and air conditioning in passenger cars, thus reducing diesel consumption. Another advancement in favor of the environment are the cars that incorporate ecological dry toilets, that do not use water, with water recycling mechanisms for the lavabos, measures for the waste management and systems for the utilization of energy. According to the plans, by 2020, the Indian Railways’ electricity production capacity will be of 1 GW via solar panels (5 GW by 2025) and of 130 MW via wind turbines.

Station redevelopment

India’s Minister of Railways has launched the first phase of the station redevelopment program, which comprises 23 of 400 of A1 and A category in the entire country. To this end, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Ministry of Urban Development, according to which the railway stations from every city included in the SMART Cities and AMRUT plans will be rebuilt so as to create a public integrated transport hub around these facilities and thus to promote the development oriented to passenger transport. Among the works planned, the renovation of Arunachal Pradesh has just been approved and it requires an initial investment of around Rs 50,000 – 70,000 crore (US $ 7.4 – 10.4 billion).

Infrastructures and bridges

Among the many improvements that are made in terms of infrastructure, there is the noteworthy construction of a railway bridge, which will be the highest bridge in the world. It will be built over the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir. The 1,315-meter bridge will link Baramulla to Jammu in the Himalayan state with a travel time of six hours and a half, almost half the travel time currently registered. It has a budget of 1,100 million rupees (170.79 million dollars) and it is under the responsibility of the Konkan Railway Corporation. It will be 359 meters above the riverbed, 35 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower.