The Austria-made train can hit 140 kmph, but the only suburban stretch in which it can reach such speeds is between Virar and Dahanu
It's no bullet train, but the metropolitan's fastest train on the suburban rail network, successfully test run recently, is still four times quicker than your slow local, with a velocity of 140 kmph, as opposed to a slow train's 35 kmph.
However, a cluster of riders ensures that only a few get to ride on this fast machine. First, it would never be pushed to its speed limit, thanks to the restricting circumstances the rail network is subject to from haphazard pedestrians crossing tracks to multiple stops, the high frequency of services and so on (see box).
Second, suburban train services are yet to begin on the stretch where it is viable to operate it at the high speed. Third, the train may have outstripped extant speed limits, but it is yet to surpass bureaucratic hurdles.
The research, design and standard organisation (RDSO) wing of the Indian Railways, along with the Western Railway and Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) conducted the trial runs of the nine-coach high-speed train a couple of months ago. On the Dadar-Virar stretch, the local clocked 120 kmph.
At present, the trains on the fast corridor run at an average of
75-80 kmph due to the restrictions
On the Virar-Surat stretch, it crossed 140 kmph. Presently, the trains on the fast corridor are technically capable of touching 100 kmph. However, they run at an average of 75-80 kmph due to the restrictions.
Only beyond Virar
Railway officials claim that the train can become successful on the 60-km stretch of Virar-Dahanu, once they begin running locals on this route. Currently, the suburban network does not include Dahanu and it would take at least a year for the Western Railway to offer services to the far-off suburb, the work for which is under way.
Costs and delays
Officials estimate the cost of the high-velocity train at roughly Rs 25 crore. About Rs 10 crore was invested from the funds earmarked under the MUTP-I for study purposes.
Officials have set the wheels in motion to procure five more of these trains, but cannot confirm when they would arrive. The internal machinery of the six trains together is worth Rs 60 crore.
Though, these high-speed trains were supposed to be plying on the city's tracks by June 2011, railway officials claim that five of them are lying dismantled in Austria, with some bits and pieces at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai.
While the machinery parts of the one that underwent the test run are resting discretely at the Mumbai Central yard.
Other than assembling them together, bureaucratic delays have to be beaten. "The RDSO is reviewing the trials conducted on the high-speed trains," said N David, PRO, Western Railway. There is no clarity over when the review report will be out, sources said.
"We have now transferred this project to MUTP-II as it couldn't be brought under the first phase," said another senior railway official. The deadline for completing the second phase is 2013.
Incidentally, several intercity high-speed corridors like Mumbai-Nagpur and Mumbai-Ahmedabad are yet to take off due lack of funds. The six trains will be prototypes, as officials don't expect them to be part of the 72 trains being procured under MUTP-II.
Officials also argued that, given the status quo, it is not feasible to run the train at its optimum speed. "There are several problems like signaling systems that are within short distances of each other, constant trespassing by people, the level crossings, and lastly the pressure to run train services every three minutes.
All these factors make it unsuitable for us to run high speed trains," said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity.
The train draws 25,000 volts of electricity to run compared to the 1,500 for normal trains. But the power conversion wouldn't be of much use, as the existing tracks aren't suitable to accommodate high-speed trains, which would need a separate corridor, officials said.
To be world's #1
Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi has said that India needs to upgrade its railway investment five-fold a total of Rs 5,604 billion in order for Indian Railways (IR) to become a world-class carrier.
Although the exterior and upper portion of the coach in the high-speed train remains the same, the electrics of the bogie, where wheels are fitted, have been changed. The breaking system has been improved with pneumatic brakes installed in each wheel to ensure lesser movement, which would give a jerk-free ride to commuters.
On the fast track
China: The first bullet train started running in 2007. The country has a high-speed corridor on Beijing-Tianjin and Beijing-Shangai routes where trains travel over 250 kmph. It has been constructing high-speed corridors that would enable trains to run at this speed.
France: TGV bullet trains cover many cities in France. These trains run at speeds over 320 kmph. Work on additional corridors will begin in 2012.
Italy: Recently, high-speed train services were started called Italo AGV between Milan and Rome. Trains are expected to touch 325 kmph.
India: In July, officials from Japan had come to discuss Mumbai-Delhi high-speed corridor. They discussed about speeds touching 200 kmph that would traverse Mathura, Kota, Ratlam, Vadodara
Rs 25 cr
Cost of the high-velocity train
The maximum speed local fast trains can currently reach in the suburban network