President Pranab Mukherjee outlined the agenda for developing the country’s rail sector with a diamond quadrilateral of high-speed trains as its hallmark. He also said that the government will chalk out an ambitious infrastructure development programme to be implemented in the next 10 years. A network of freight corridors with specialised agri-rail networks for perishable agricultural products is also on the cards.
Railways has been testing the waters for high-speed train corridors for six years now. Initial studies have been done for Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar corridors. However, Railways is yet to figure out a financing model for any of the corridors. Political dispensations under former ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal and Mallikarjun Kharge left the projects as good as in the cold storage due to the funding requirement preferably in a public-private-partnership model. Due to the costs involved, several countries, notably the US, have abandoned the bullet-train project.
The proposed corridors, which have been passed in earlier Rail Budgets will be part of the proposed Quadrilateral, sources said.
“The new government is supposed to work out innovative financing models for the projects. We are looking forward to that,” a senior Railway ministry official said.
Besides trains running at 300-350 kmph, Railways is trying out low-cost solutions in semi-high speed, running trains between 160-200 kmph. The first such train is going to be between Delhi and Agra, which will complete the one-way journey in around 90 minutes, down from the present 126 minutes.