High-speed trains in India could be a reality soon, with Indian Railways (IR) focusing on bringing new technology for modernisation of trains. The first high-speed rail (300-350 km/hour) will likely connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the two financial hubs in western India. It is expected to cut travel time between the two cities from the current eight hours to two hours. The railways is also focusing on achieving speeds of 160-200 km/hour on existing tracks.

A joint feasibility study for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor, which started in December 2013, is set to be completed in 18 months, minister Mallikarjun Kharge said in his speech on Wednesday. The study is being financed by Indian Railways and Japan International Cooperation Agency. An agreement for the partnership was finalised between the two sides in May 2013. Another business development study for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor, undertaken by the French railways, will be completed by April 2014.

After a report on the study is presented, IR will decide on the next course of action, as well as the modalities for implementation of the project, Kharge said. The railways is also exploring low-cost options to increase the speed of trains on select existing routes such as Delhi-Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh, to 160-200 km/hour. Earlier, the railways had said a High-Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC), a subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, was being set up to increase the speed of passenger trains up to 200 km/hour. The High-Speed Rail Authority will be set up soon.

While the authority will frame policies, it will be up to HSRC to implement these. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Delhi-Amritsar routes are two of the seven corridors HSRC plans to take up on a priority basis. For speeds of more than 200 km/hour, dedicated tracks and fencing are needed. Kharge said implementation of the eastern and western dedicated freight corridor projects was recording good progress, with about 1,100 km of civil construction contracts being awarded. In 2014-15, an additional 1,000 km of civil construction contracts are expected to be awarded, besides the those for systems contracts.

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