An ambitious high-speed train project in south India has been delayed after Chinese railways, that completed a feasibility study a year ago, did not respond, railway officials have said, suggesting that the “lack of response” may be due to the Dokalam standoff.
An internal brief of the Mobility Directorate on the status of nine high-speed projects of the railways, accessed by PTI, shows that the Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore corridor, a 492 km stretch, lies in limbo because the Chinese railways have failed to respond to the ministry’s communique. “The Chinese company submitted the final report in November 2016 and after that, the Chinese team has suggested for a face to face interaction. No date has been fixed from their side,” said the note prepared by the Mobility Directorate.
On the reason for the delay, the brief states — “lack of response” from Chinese railways. The brief also states that the feasibility study by the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co Ltd (CREEC) was submitted to the Railway Board in November 2016 and after that the Chinese company had sought meetings with officials of the Board.
However, officials say that the Board has been unable to get in touch with officials of CREEC despite repeated communications sent to them via mails in the last six months. “We have even tried to get in touch with them through their Embassy here, but we are yet to hear from them,” said an official.
The ministry officials said that it was the standoff between the two countries in Bhutan’s Dokalam area between June 16 and August 28 this year that seems to have derailed the project. “The study began in 2014 and they submitted the report in 2016. The entire cost was borne by them. In fact, they have shown so much interest in collaborating with us for other projects as well, so we think that it was the standoff that must have raised doubts,” said a senior rail official.
An email to the Chinese Embassy by the PTI on the issue did not elicit any response. Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Dokalam since June 16 after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Dokalam. The brief, prepared by the department in charge of all the high-speed corridors, also states that except the Chinese roadblock, work on the eight other projects was on track.
China had in fact not only pitched for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed network, which was finally bagged by Japan, but also for the bullet project in the Mumbai-Delhi sector, which is yet to be finalised. China is also training railway engineers in heavy hauling and it is with Chinese collaboration that India is setting up its first railway university. The Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore corridor is one of nine such high-speed corridors being developed by the ministry. The aim was to increase the speed from the present 80 kmph to 160 kmph.
While the Delhi-Agra route was made operational in 2016 with the country’s fastest train Gatimaan Express running between the two cities, the work on rest seven of eight of 8 is going at a fast pace, the brief indicated