For a couple of years now, ever since the NDA government took over, the nation and its people have been looking forward to high speed trains as promised in the very first rail budget. Looks like this dream will not take long to be realized as the Spanish high-speed train Talgo began its trial run in India this week.
On Sunday, 29 May Talgo completed its first trail run between Bareilly and Moradabad (about 90 kilometres) in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Running at a speed of between 80 and 115 km per hour and driven by a 45,000 HP diesel engine, the train doing the trial run had nine specially made coaches. The train left Bareilly at about 9.05 AM and arrived at Moradabad station at 10.15 AM.
Better Than Rajdhani
The Talgo is both lighter and faster than Rajdhani, currently the fastest train in India. The Delhi Mumbai Rajdhani Express currently averages a speed of about 85 kilometres per hour and the Talgo is expected to run at an average of between 110 and 115 kilometres per hour. Besides being faster, the Talgo is also lighter. Thus, it cuts down on energy consumption by about 30 per cent. The plush interiors and the luxurious settings will also make for a rail experience like never before. The Talgo is the Indian government’s attempt to take the national railways to the next level in terms of its offerings and services at a time when cheap and budget airlines rule the roost.
The Trial Run
In its trial run, the Talgo train carried 9 coaches – two Executive Class coaches, four Chair Cars, a power generation coach, a cafeteria, and a coach for staff. While Railway officials traveled on the train, the rest of the coaches were filled with sandbags to simulate the presence of passengers. The train is expected to make three more runs on this stretch, some with empty coaches to determine the success of the trials. The Indian Railways officials will study its performance on existing tracks and slightly modified stretches to see how it reacts both to high-speed scenarios and at curves. The studies are being monitored by computers hooked to readers. Further tests will be conducted in the next 40 days between Mathura and Palwal (along the Rajdhani route). The train will be tested in speeds up to 180 kilometres per hour.
Imported from Spain
TALGO (Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea Oriol) is a Madrid-based manufacturer of high-speed passenger trains. Talgo manufactures and exports semi-high speed (160-250 kilometres per hour) and high-speed (350 kilometres per hour) passenger trains to many different countries.
The lightweight aluminium coaches of the Talgo Series 9 version were shipped from Barcelona and reached the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Navi Mumbai on 21 April. They were then reassembled at the Izzatnagar rail workshop in Bareilly (UP, India) before the trial began.
The Talgo train coaches are designed to be light and they work well on domestic conditions, the manufacturer said. The have been crafted to withstand high speeds and will run through curved tracks without any reduction in the speed. Talgo trains are environment friendly as well since they are highly energy-efficient.
Need For Speed
According to Talgo, the new trains will complete the the journey between the national capital Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai in about 12 hours. Currently, the Rajdhani takes about 17 hours to complete this journey. This ties in with the Indian Railways’ key objective – to increase the speed and efficiency of trains in the country. The Mobility Directorate, set up by the railways, has been working on various ways to accomplish this objective.
Connecting some 65,000 kilometres and carrying about eight billion passengers a year, Indian Railways is also one of the country’s largest employers. The Indian Railways flagged off the country’s fastest service yet last month. The Gatimaan Express, running between Delhi and Agra, is capable of achieving speed of about 160 kilometres per hour and is classified as a semi-high speed train – the first of its kind in the country.
Towards Bullet Trains
With the introduction of Gatimaan Express and trial run on the yet-to-be christened Talgo train, India is inching slowly but surely closer to its ‘bullet train’ dream. The Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor is one of the first approved projects to get a high-speed rail line in the country.
India and Japan signed an MoU in 2013 to co-finance and conduct a joint feasibility study along this route. The project was pushed up on the priority list by the Modi-led government.
By 2015, the Indo-Japanese team undertaking the survey recommended that dedicated tracks be built and a Shinkansen-style rail system be constructed here to make bullet trains in India a reality. The 505-km corridor is likely to cost the Indian government about INR 980 billion.
Understanding “High-Speed” Railways
High-speed railways come with a high cost. Apart from the environmental damage along the tracks, the noise pollution, the difficulty of displacing a great number of people (along the tracks), it is the high cost that makes us wonder whether there will be enough takers for bullet trains in the country. While we sort that puzzle out, semi-high speed trains seem perfect to the nation’s conditions and suit our aspirations quite well. That these trains are super-luxurious adds to the excitement and anticipation of Indian train travelers.