India planning high-speed trains
- 12 October 2012
- From the section India
India's state-owned railway is planning to introduce faster trains to cut travelling time, officials say.
Trains running at speeds up to 93mph, up from the present average top speeds of up to 53mph, may become a reality within two years, they say.
Authorities have also identified "seven corridors" that have the potential to run bullet trains.
India's railway operates 7,000 passenger trains and carries some 13 million passengers daily.
India's fastest train, connecting the capital, Delhi, and the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh state, hits top speeds of 86-93mph only occasionally, but runs at an average speed of 53mph.
The other so-called fast trains, like the Rajdhani Express, run at speeds lesser than 53mph, officials said.
'Time was not important'
Railway spokesman Anil Saxena told the BBC that seven train corridors had been identified to conduct "feasibility studies" for running bullet trains at speeds above 186mph.
Also, a faster suburban train, running at speeds between 80mph and 99mph, will be introduced soon to ensure that commuters on busy suburban networks like Mumbai city reach their destinations quicker.
"It will be a pilot project and if it works, we will acquire more such trains," Mr Saxena said.
Railway experts say India has lagged behind in high-speed rail because it is expensive to build suitable tracks and purchase the trains.
"We simply never had the money to do it. For us, time is not that important. We had more important aspects like safety to deal with," former Railway Board official IIMS Rana said.
There are also concerns about the state of India's 108,700km (67,543 miles) of tracks, and whether they are sturdy enough for high-speed trains.
"The tracks are in a bad shape. There are too many unmanned rail crossings. All this slow down our trains," Mr Rana said.
Railway officials say it "may be possible" to increase train speeds after modifying the existing tracks and trains, but bullet trains could take "another 10 to 15 years" to be introduced.