In the railways’ scheme of things, speed has little part to play in gaining access to a “semi-high speed” club. They have devised a way to reduce the Delhi-Agra trip from just over two hours to 90 minutes, with a raised speed — from 150 kph to 160 kph for the 195-km route — accounting for only three of those 30-odd minutes.
As per documents accessed by The Indian Express pertaining to the railway ministry’s preparation for the showpiece project, the key contributions to reducing the time come from two aspects unrelated to speed — shifting the departure from New Delhi to Hazrat Nizamuddin, and doing away with the stop at Mathura. Together, these two moves save 14 minutes.
Apart from the three-minute gain on account of speed, the assessment makes a separate entry for a move aimed at raising speed — reducing the train size to 10 passenger cars from the current 14, effectively reducing its capacity. This would save 2 min, while an improved track would save 1 min.
Sources said the Bhopal Shatabdi, with a current top speed of 150 kph and an average speed higher than other trains in this category, has been selected for the test. In high-level meetings, the fact that raising the top speed to 160 kph will save three minutes has been highlighted by the divisional railway manager of Delhi and the general managers of the two zonal railways concerned.
The project is expected to find a mention in the new government’s rail budget in July. If all goes as per plan, the train may be launched by November. The railways have applied for Commissioner of Railway Safety clearance for the higher speed. On some stretches, the peak possibility is 140 kph. The project involves track renewal/maintenance for 14 km with heavier rails, and fencing for around 10 km.
Sources said one aspect on which the railways hopeto save four minutes — reducing engineering and operating allowances due to higher reliability of infrastructure — could be debatable, but improved infrastructure would definitely add to the average speed. “The idea is to create the infrastructure on that route so that travel time between the two cities is reduced for all trains,” said a senior railway ministry official.