India’s fastest train may derail existing ones

Gatimaan Express will require slower trains to step aside and let it pass.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Published:December 11, 2014 1:54 am

The highly anticipated “semi-high speed” train will run at 160 km per hour, but in the process, it will significantly reduce the capacity of the entire line to accommodate other trains. This means that while the new train will zoom past, all other existing trains will have to virtually wait on the side keeping the line clear for it.

The Railway Board’s Traffic directorate made this assessment about erosion of “section capacity” in an internal consultation about operating the train while adhering to safety parameters, according to information accessed by The Indian Express. The pilot for the nine identified corridors for “semi-bullet” trains will be launched at the end of this month with the Gatimaan Express, which will run between Delhi and Agra.

From safety point of view, the Research Design and Standards Organisation, the Railways research arm, said that to make way for this one train, at least one block section around seven kilometers ahead will have to be kept free of trains. As a consequence, other trains be crippled, effectively reducing the line’s capacity.

During peak traffic hour, the Gatimaan will affect at least 10 super fast trains and an equal number of slower freight trains on its route.

The Taj Express, two Swarn Jayanthi Express trains, the Punjab Mail, the Chennai Gharib Rath and the Chennai Rajdhani are among the trains with thousands of passengers that will be affected. Internally, ministry officials are equating this with “running a bullock cart and a sports car on the same track at the same time”.

The Railways on Wednesday decided to make the Train Protection and Warning System mandatory for semi-high speed corridors. In the Delhi-Agra section, the system is already under trial but it does not address the issue of line capacity, senior traffic officials of the Railway Board said.

Sources said the Railways plans to launch the country’s first semi-bullet train on December 30. To run at 160 kmph, the Gatimaan Express will carry fewer passengers than a Shatabdi. Tickets will cost about 25 per cent more than a Shatabdi, and the train will reach Agra 15 minutes quicker.

The Gatimaan has taken an unusually long time to attain the mandatory Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) clearance. Chairman of the Railway Board Arunendra Kumar said, “The queries of the CRS have already been answered. We will get the clearance soon.”

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