New Delhi: Indian Railways has become an attractive investment destination, especially with the Narendra Modi government pitching for modernisation and upgradation of one of the largest railway networks in the world with high-speed trains and modern stations with world-class amenities.
The Prime Minister's recent interaction with the leaders of Japan and China has led to both inking agreements to invest in India's mammoth railways network by way of high-speed trains and modernising stations. Teams from both Japan and China will be visiting India soon to study specific sectors before finalising agreements, said an official.
Japan has offered to provide financial, technical and operational support to India for introducing its bullet trains, called Shinkansen, on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency is conducting a feasibility study on the 530-km-long Mumbai-Ahmedabad route for running a bullet train at a speed of over 250 km an hour. The study will be completed by July 2015, Indian Railways spokesperson Anil K. Saxena said.
The corridor with around seven stations is expected to cost Rs 60,000 crore (about USD 1,000) over six years, at Rs.10,000 crore a year.
"The safety angle of the bullet train project on the corridor will be studied," Saxena added.
Once completed, a bullet train would take around 3-4 hours to reach Ahmedabad, compared to the eight hours it takes now by express train.
Japan has also evinced interest in financing semi-high speed trains in India, which travel at speeds up to 200 kmph, while bullet trains run at speeds of over 250 kmph.
A Japanese team would conduct a study for semi-high speed and bullet train on the Mumbai-Delhi corridor, the official added.
With China, the agreements inked are for increasing the speed of trains on the existing rail network, modernising stations and enhancing mutual cooperation in the sector.
Though Beijing was pushing for its bullet trains, New Delhi has decided to go for semi-high speed trains on the Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore stretch. The speed on this stretch is proposed to be raised to 160 kmph. A study would be conducted by the Chinese side before the project is inked.
With regard to China's eagerness to introduce its bullet trains, the spokesperson said it has been asked to identify the corridors and also conduct a study on the safety aspect.
Around 10 stations have been identified for modernisation. These would be made into world-class stations. Delhi and Mumbai stations are to be initially upgraded and Chinese help would be sought for this.
Modi, during his US visit, pitched for investment in Indian Railways. Two major American firms - Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) and General Electric - have been shortlisted for the manufacture of heavy locomotive engines in PPP (public-private partnership) mode in Bihar.
Indian Railways, the largest network in Asia, runs 11,000 trains every day, of which 7,000 are passenger trains. It ferries over 13 million passengers every day on its 63,028-km tracks.