Vibha Sharma, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 19. India’s dream of travelling on high-speed trains may finally get fulfilled in this rail budget.
While the promise of a Bullet train has remained just a promise so far, sources say Railway Minister Pawan Bansal’s rail budget speech on February 26 may hold the announcement for introduction of modern electrical multiple units (EMU), which provide safer, faster, cleaner and comfortable passenger-friendly alternative.
Even though the initial announcement for introducing Bullet trains in India was made during the tenure of RJD leader Lalu Prasad, paucity of funds and high costs involved saw proposals not progressing much further. Officials say Bansal may make announcement for increasing speed of existing Rajdhani and Shadabdi trains with the help of EMUs on existing tracks like Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Amritsar, Delhi-Kolkota, Delhi-Mumbai and Mumbai-Ahmadabad.
EMU trains are not the same as Bullet trains that run on dedicated high-speed corridors at speeds 350kmph and above. EMUs are designed for operations at the maximum speed of 130kmph/150kmph, exceeding up to 200kmph but without any additional expenditure on existing tract or signalling infrastructure. Officials explain that they have no link with separate high-speed corridors being planned for Bullet train operations for which another announcement is possible in the rail budget.
Highly energy efficient and aerodynamically designed light weight, the EMUs ply on existing tracks on Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes which are fit for running trains up to a speed of 150 kmph. Even though the premium trains are expected to run at a maximum speed of 100 kmph to 120 kmph, their average speed is usually less than 90 kmph due to a large number of speed restrictions and poor acceleration and deceleration characteristics of existing trains.
The officials explain that the EMU train sets will be free from these bottlenecks and provide faster and safer movement while substantially reducing run time. Since EMU Train sets have very high acceleration and deceleration, it takes them much lesser time in negotiating speed restrictions and achieving maximum permissible speed. For example, it is possible to reduce the run time between Howrah and New Delhi by 2.5 to 3.0 hours by operating train sets at existing speed of 130 kmph without any additional expenditure on track and other infrastructure.
A train set can do extra trip/day for inter-city travel, are eco-friendly, noiseless, consume 30% less energy, and do not pollute the environment as in case of conventional loco-hauled trains with diesel power cars. Since there are cabs at both ends, turn-around time required at a station is less than 15 minutes, thus leading to improved utilisation.