27 February, 2024


India’s First High Speed Rail

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

In the annals of India, 14th September 2017 has become a historic day. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundation for India’s first High Speed Rail (HSR). There is another remarkable first. On the date of commencement of construction was announced the date of completion – August 15, 2022. A clean 5 year span also marking the 75 th year of India’s independence.

What is clearly evident are; India’s growing level of confidence to conceive large with timely accomplishment, ever developing technical and administrative capability to match Japan’s and rising fund of goodwill between the two super powers. Still more significant are, political stability being in place and prospects of same party continuity, remaining assured. Pronouncement of a neat 5 years is also encouraged by a well laid out cashflow of $ 18.6 billion, of which 81% is funded by Japan. This is a soft loan repayable in 50 years, along with an 18 year moratorium and carrying an interest of 0.1%

Mumbai – Ahmedabad (M-A) HSR 

Mumbai is the state capital of Maharashtra while Ahmedabad is the largest city of Gujarat, 23 km away from Gandhinagar the state capital. The HSR or Shinkansen – New Trunk Line – in Japanese is popularly called ‘Bullet Train’. It was Japan’s first, operational from October 1964. MA HSR, India’s first will be delivered in 2022.

This HSR having a speed of 320 – 350 kmh will traverse a distance of 508 km. High speed will reduce travel time of current 8 hours to 2 hrs. It is proposed that 471 km of the line will be constructed over the existing railway route, at an elevation of 18 metres. Tunnels to a length of 21 km will also be constructed. This strategy eliminates the need for consuming new land together with the attendant issues of acquisition and construction of underpasses.

India and Japan Compared

In 2015, Japan was world’s first in carrying 9 billion passengers. India came second in carrying 8.2 billion. In respect of passenger kilo metres (pkm) travelled, India was world’s second with 1,147 billion pkm in 2015. In the same year, Japan recorded 260 billion pkm and ranked third. The above performance was recorded when India had the 3rd longest rail network at 115,000 km while Japan had 27,268 km.

Image of Japan’s High Speed Rail

The contrasting statistics between the two nations reflect the variance between passenger demand and response of technology. India has opted for Japan as the provider of choice and many more years if not decades of collaboration are foreseeable.

India and China

Recent years were occupied by India’s meaningful engagements with Japan and China in mapping out a network of HSR lines to honeycomb the country and to connect major cities. As of now Japan has a few more in hand where feasibility studies are proceeding. China too is carrying out studies in certain major projects, of which the most prominent is the Chennai – Delhi HSR. When done it will be the world’s second longest at 2200 km, after China’s longest with 2298 km, Beijing – Guangzhou BG HSR.

China as the world knows it has an enviable achievement in railway development. She has the second longest rail network at 124,000 km and recorded 1,196 billion pkm in 2015. China’s HSR in 2016 was in excess of 22,000 km and seeks to reach 38,000 km in 2025. As of now top speed reached by BG HSR is 430 kph. At this speed it remains the fastest commercial train in the world.

In 2008/2009 recession struck the world, threatening even a depression. China’s response was not scaling down HSR but expansion in order to stimulate growth. Hence the heavy investment and staggering development. The network is now spread across 29 of the 33 provinces.

India is now poised to draw on the technology, human resources and finances of two of the greatest powers in Asia; Japan and China. India has the technical maturity for collaboration and even to go in for reverse engineering in order to get the best from both these behemoths. At this propitious moment is Modi’s ‘Make in India’ dictum. India has now the potential to develop her own HSR technology in a decade or less. With an array of IITs even Maglev – Magnetic Levitation – at HSR speeds of 320 kph and more is within her grasp. It is likely that as India’s international relations too have got into place, two giants will propel the third into the orbit of exponential HSR growth.

Modi’s Role

Mumbai – Ahmedabad HSR with a host of other HS rails flow from Modi’s exalted thinking. On 14th September 2017, after inaugurating work on this project he said that his mind had no appetite for small endeavours. At all times only large ones engaged his attention. As Prime Minister he has displayed another characteristic. Convert thought into action and present the end product. So it has been with HSR.

Late Hon. Madhavarao Scindia, a former Railways Minister, reputed for farsightedness envisaged HSR for India and started work on a study. Congress government followed on it with only studies and discussions, but stopped short of bringing anything concrete. Modi had the verve for relentless pursuit. “Stop not till the goal is reached” said his mentor Swami Vivekananda.

Many may think, only one does. What many recall is the world’s first autobahn envisaged by Germany, but made into reality by Hitler’s forceful personality, even in economically inauspicious times. Modi’s powerful character succeeds even in the anarchic disarray of democratic governance.

With HSR he has plumbed new ground to chart a fresh course for India’s transportation challenge.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    I say Mr. Shinkansen Sivathasan,

    All this Japanese high speed is well and good, although I must say that Japanese women are even faster.

    Nevertheless, the greatest feat in railway engineering ever was carried out by Chinese engineers when constructing the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. Indeed, the problem of permafrost in the ground troubled them for over 50 years.

    The idea of building this railway was first mooted in the 1950s after China occupied Tibet in 1950. The Chinese wanted this railway so that troops can be easily moved. After 3000 workers died, the Chinese decided to close down the project.

    The project was gain revived in 1999 and Chinese engineers stumble upon a 2000-year old solution to the permafrost problem. This final solution, as it is know today, is called the “cooled-roadbed” approach.

    I really don’t know if all this development that India has been going through since the time of Nehru makes sense. Professor Jan Breman, the respected long-term India-researcher from the Netherlands, argues in his latest book that what is being ‘Made in India’ right now at an impressive rate are paupers!

  • 2

    Who needs high speed trains? First make them safe and clean.

  • 2


    When I read your piece, I was reminded of that superb book by J.B.Priestly–On Travel by Train; O/L English Literature!
    Anyway that was in those Idyllic times when Trains took their own cool time;
    In the high speed Trains,it may not be possible to study the personalities in a compartment as described in fine Prose by JBP.

    • 6

      Not given to us are leisurely times for musings on the passing scene. Nor can we study personalities with a mind evenly poised. Those who want peace should not have been born in this century (20th) said Trotsky. 21st is for high speed. At this moment half a million are airborne. Those who miss the bus are in HSRs. High density living and high speed rails may be the chosen products of civilization.

  • 2

    India may get High Speed Train. But they cant beat Sri Lanka’s Matara International Airport and Hambantota Harbour can Inida

  • 6

    It is interesting that even minor regional cities in India such as Cochin have operational MRT systems in place. Compare this to our much-touted $4000 per capita , gridlock in the capital city,and total inability to run even a basic rail network efficiently.
    Indian highways may have garbage on the sides, even 3-wheelers using them, no pretty trees and landscaping, but they are cheap and serve the purpose. We as usual, are more interested in planting first-world infrastructure on a third-world foundation, using commercial loans which we cannot afford. Finally the projects end up in the hands of the lender, “poli Mudalali” style.
    And of course many of our commentators cannot see any progress in India except with reference to Toilets.

    • 4

      old codger
      You are absolutely right in your comments. The last one is perfect. It was crying to be made for so long.

  • 1

    The writer has to learn that Indian need at least US $ 15 trillions dollars by modernization of that ongoing Infrastructure development in Republic of India? While including new Railway Network
    By current researched if that infrastructure development which is estimated by World Bank and ADB says need US $ 26 Trillion dollars only for Asia.
    Where is this capital investment derived from?
    Is Japan has debater nation in World that it can provided such amount of Funding are possible?
    Not at all!
    The govt. of Japan debt comes 260% of her National GDP? One of the largest in World!@
    Its print under of QE 3 — Yen currency by that Nippon Ginko–Japan Central Bank to be recover her national economy survival.
    The USA is not better than Japan, her National debt rise up to US $ 127 trillion dollars…….five times than her USA– GDP?
    Republic of Indian need more tie up with China? They as members of BRICS- Indian has more advantage than any other countries in World!
    Look at AIIB- Bank and Development Bank that both Banks an initiated by China is the key capital contributor.
    While Chinese Technology and cost of High Speed train are below than Japan>
    Indeed newly innovated of High speed Railway an advance technology of China that is cost factor are concern is more competitive than Japan?
    Undoubtedly, People of India need batter Railway Transport system for 1300 millions of population for better life and just- in -time system of pace of sustainability of development her own path and model?

    • 4

      India’s leadership is learned enough to care for a stray Sri Lankan commentator. 7 HSR lines are under study by Japan and China.

      This writer studies adequately before putting pen to paper. He sneers at queer suggestion to ‘learn’ after writing.

    • 0

      Mr. Wimaladasa,
      “Undoubtedly, People of India need batter Railway Transport system for 1300 millions of population “
      Forgive me, but battering the railway system will damage it badly.
      I think the poor Indians deserve better, don’t you think?

  • 2

    Modi had the verve for relentless pursuit. “Stop not till the goal is reached” said his mentor Swami Vivekananda– says Sivathasan
    Among well known mentors of Modi are the proto Hindutva Fascists:
    Vinayak Damodar Savarkar of the Jan Sangh
    Mohanrao Bhagwat, current Sarsanghachalak of the RSS
    Lakshmanrao Inamdar (defence counsel for the RSS activists indicted for the killing of Mahatma Gandhi and a founding father of the RSS in Gujarat, credited with inducting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an RSS junior cadet and becoming Modi’s political mentor)
    At this rate MK Gandhi will to the list as Modi’s mentor.

    • 2


      “At this rate MK Gandhi will to the list as Modi’s mentor.”

      At this rate Modi may outstrip Mahathma Mao. Since Modi was not born in China it will be difficult for Maoist to acknowledge his achievements. Hope Modi doesn’t turn the region into Pol Potss Cambodia.

    • 0

      Indian railways has seen many derailment accidents in the recent past. Today thirty people have died and many injured at Elphinstone station on an overhead narrow walk bridge built by the British more than seventy years ago in a stampede.
      The RSS Siva Sena Bajrang Dal Hindu fundamentalist supporters of his who exercise absolute control in the city would never get into a rush hour train. What will be the fate of Modi’s fast Bullet when it happens to pass that city?

      • 0

        In 2015, Japan was world’s first in carrying 9 billion passengers. India came second in carrying 8.2 billion.
        “Today thirty people have died and many injured at Elphinstone station on an overhead narrow walk bridge built by the British more than seventy years ago in a stampede.”
        Really, the Brits must have been very clever, being able to build bridges in a stampede.
        However, 30 people killed out of 8.2 billion is not such a big deal, is it?
        I believe more people than that die in bus accidents even in SL.

      • 3

        Any comment is best written with statistical basis.
        In India train accidents per million kilo metres run were:
        2009 – 10 – 0.17
        2014 – 15 – 0.11
        Casualties per million passengers carried were:
        2009 – 10 – 0.04
        2014 – 15 – 0.05

        Japan is transferring her high tech with 53 year experience in making and delivering HSR systems. Besides, 4,000 professionals will be trained by Japan in the delivery and operation of India’s first HSR.

  • 2


    I have often seen in these pages where you have been referred to as Slime Jar.
    Would you say that has been the correct definition of your outbursts on CT?

    • 4


      How could anyone call him slime jar when he is still in love with weeping widow who didn’t do any wrong.

      Federal Party and Tamil politicians are the the root cause of all the problems in this world, natural disasters such as hurricane, tsunami, drought, flood, poverty, starvation, man made disasters environmental degradation, crime, Trump’s victory, Che’s murder, Modi’s Hinduttwa, …………….

      Do you know, it was Chelva who forced Banda to introduce Sinhala only language policy. It was Amir who forced the benevolent Dutta Gamani and Cyril to burn down Jaffna library, ………………………….. ?

      • 0

        Dear Native V

        Nice work. Not merely humour but much satire too.

        Our Sinhala cousins aimed to reduce the Tamils to insignificant, 2nd class status from the mid-1950s – under the able leadership of the Sangha. What they have succeeded so far is to ruin themselves – probably beyond redemption. Today the indispensable Coconut that every household needs sells at Rs.100. For the first time C’nuts are sold in halves. In some places in Colombo, even in smaller measures in the form of packeted Powdered C’nuts. Won’t be long before we may see the hungry turning into violent mobs – breaking into food outlets. Remember Argentina – not long ago?

        Personally, I have no objection to the Maha Nayakas taking over – similar to their counterparts in theocratic Iran. Their role has negated our system of governance. I suspect the Iranian example must have been in their minds for sometime.

        Democracy has been killed in Sri Lanka. Let’s thank the Rajapakse family for the family for the final death blow. Sri Lanka cannot avoid disintegration – through her own mismanagement. The Tamil areas might just save themselves – aided by our neighbours. That is, unless the economic tsunami destroys us before the political disaster. Very soon we will have to print Rs.10,000 and Rs.50,000 notes in the lines of what Germany suffered post-WW2 and more
        recently Zimbabwe. I am not wishing the country ill – but that, sadly, is the stark reality.

        R. Varathan

  • 0

    There is an in-depth analysis of high speed train systems with particular reference to the India project in the most recent issue of Frontline.
    The author of the essay may benefit from reading it.

    • 2

      Morbid muck you call is in-depth analysis? The crow’s eye is on carrion and the eating is superb.
      20 years back there was lengthy negative drivel in Frontline on Hyundai and Ford automobile projects in Tamil Nadu. Two of the most successful projects they have turned out to be.

      In Colombo Telegraph are two of my articles:
      March 24,2014 – Metro, Mono and HSR
      June 29, 2014 – Modi’s Passion for HSR

  • 0

    India gets loans from Japan at 0.01 whilst our patriots negotiate with commissions at whistling rates, love to see the day retribution hits the fans of these highway robbers.

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