The Railways is already in talks with foreign firms for other terminals, too, which include Delhi-Kanpur, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Chennai-Hyderabad routes. “This is part of the overall roadmap lined up by rail minister Suresh Prabhu to increase the speed of all non-suburban passenger trains by 25 kmph in the next five years. For most of these projects, we are scouting for partners,” the official added. Gatimaan Express, running on the Delhi-Agra route, is the first semi-high speed and the fastest running train in India with a speed of 160 kmph.
Prabhu had announced ‘Mission Raftaar’ in the Railway Budget 2016-17 and a mobility directorate was set up in the Railways. “On a priority basis, we have taken up the Ghaziabad–Allahabad-Mughalsarai route, where the average speed has been increased. This was achieved by replacement of loco-hauled commuter trains with main line electric multiple units (MEMU) and diesel electric multiple units (DEMU) trains. MEMU/DEMU trains have a potential for average speed increment up to 20 kmph in comparison to loco-driven passenger trains,” the official added.
The other routes that are on Railways' priority list include Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Howrah, Howrah-Chennai, Chennai-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai, and Howrah-Mumbai (diamond quadrilateral routes along with diagonals). These are the principal routes of the Railways as they carry 58 per cent of freight traffic and 52 of coaching traffic with a share of only 15 of the network. The other steps taken under Mission Raftaar include introduction of twin-pipe air-brake system on freight trains, reviewing the time table of trains in these routes and removal of constraints in the fixed infrastructure.
This comes at a time when Spanish-made Talgo trains created waves in India during its trial runs between May and September by completing Delhi-Mumbai distance in less than 12 hours, compared with Rajdhani which covers the same distance in 16 hours. Moreover, in one of the trial runs between Mathura and Palwal, Talgo clocked 180 kmph, the fastest ever by any train on Indian tracks. According to reports, the Railways is planning to come up with a Talgo-like aluminium coaching factory and bring a few Talgo coaches to India on lease.