Russia has started a pilot project to help India increase the speed of its trains. This is the first time Russia has entered India’s vast and heavily used rail network. Both sides are hoping the initial partnership will blossom into meaningful collaboration.
India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not shy of seeking foreign help to modernize its ageing railway system where average speeds are notoriously slow.
Russia is entering India's railways sector with an ambitious joint venture that envisages boosting the current top train speed of 120 kmph to over 200 kmph. The 575-km rail route between Nagpur in Maharastra and Secundrabad in Telengana has been marked down for executing the pilot project. A government to government agreement in the matter is expected to be signed any time soon.
An Indo-Russian team of rail engineers has already collected data on the existing infrastructure on the route and has submitted its preliminary report. The data was collected in line with the Indo-Russian protocol signed last October. The data will be further studied by experts of RZD International, a subsidiary of Russian Railways, in order to recommend the kind of construction services and technologies that would be required to achieve the target speed of 200 kmph.
The Nagpur-Secunderabad route has 18 major bridges with a length of more than 100 meters, 1,770 smaller bridges and culverts and 61 kilometers of speed restrictions on account curves and weak foundation of soil.
According to sources, the project will entail a complete overhaul of the existing infrastructure and technology including re-alignment of tracks, treating the earth bed where the soil is loose, digital technological communication network for the entire section, instead of the existing radio communication.
A number of safety measure for averting collision with other vehicles and people and animals have also been suggested. They include overpasses, anti-collision and anti-ram barriers, automatic alarm systems and protective fencing along the length of the rail track.
The Gatiman express that runs between Delhi and Agra is currently India's fastest trains that runs at 160 kmph. The Indian Railways currently do not have coaches that can run beyond this range. Therefore, it has been envisaged that railway coaches that can move with a speed of 200 kmph or above, will either be imported manufactured indigenously through a Transfer of Technology (ToT) agreement with the chosen vendor.
Railway agencies from Japan, Germany, Great Britan and France are already involved in Indian Railways modernization drive. This would be the first time that a Russian company would be directly involved in a Railways project in India.
Indian Railways is Asia's largest and the world's second largest rail network carrying more than 22 million passengers and more than 3 million tons of freight every day. However, India has been struggling to cope up with the robust technological advancements other countries have achieved in this sector.
Moreover, a series of recent accidents draws attention to the decline of the Indian Railways. With the help of Russian knowhow, India Railways aims to reinvent itself at par with its Asian counterparts.