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India High Speed Rail project order trainsets

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I'll be amazed if it's actually finished by 2023, that seems optimistic to me. But good for India for going for it!

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I thought 1435mm was standard gauge, i.e. 4' 8 1/2", which is what the high speed lines in Japan use, or so I thought. Are you saying that they should have stayed with 5' 6" gauge, the same as their other routes in India? What are the pros and cons of the wider vs. the medium gauge? This is stuff that may be basic for a lot of you, but I have no idea how different gauges compare.

Changing from one to the other must be a huge PITA, though.

 

I wonder why they're going for 1435 mm gauge.

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I thought 1435mm was standard gauge, i.e. 4' 8 1/2", which is what the high speed lines in Japan use, or so I thought. Are you saying that they should have stayed with 5' 6" gauge, the same as their other routes in India? What are the pros and cons of the wider vs. the medium gauge? This is stuff that may be basic for a lot of you, but I have no idea how different gauges compare.

Changing from one to the other must be a huge PITA, though.

 

I wonder why they're going for 1435 mm gauge.

 

 

Spain made a similar decison back in the 1990s when they built a high spped line as standrad gauge.

 

Since then several further high speed lines have been added and some sections of conventional line have gone over to standard gauge or mixed gauge. With the opening of the Perpignan to Barcelona route, the Spanish standard gauge is now connected to that of the rest of Europe.

 

I guess in the longer term most if not all of the remaining lines will become standard gauge.

 

I think in the case of Spain this does make some sense. It is a relatively small country and gauge changing has always been a bit of a PITA. Trains exist that can change gage at the border. For passengers this is first and foremost the talgo. Several night trains and one day train operated until about 2012 that permitted seamless journeys. But the equipment was expensive to operate, and for less prestigious connections you still had to change to a different train. For freight, trucks or axles could be changed at the border. But this was expensive and cost time and led to rail having an overall very small share of the market versus trucks.

 

I guess in the case of Spain, moving beyond having a different gauge made sense.

 

But in the case of India? Internal connections are vastly more important than international ones to standard gauge countries, and this will not change in the foreseeable future.

 

Ordering Sinnkansen trains to a different gauge may save some money as the manufacturer can pull off the shelf parts rather having to re-engineer them. But this is offset by having an incompatible line, not being able to run thru trains or deiversions etc etc.

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cirdan, I have seen them change the bogies on the West bound Trans-Siberian Railroad twice, and it is an impressive job! They roll the cars in to the shed one at a time, put side lifts on each car, lift the car up, roll the Chinese bogies back away from the car, then bring the Russian/Mongolian bogies from in front of the car, then they kicked us out so I didn't see them lower the car onto the bogies. It is funny how the train car looks even bigger than usual when they are lifting it up in the air. I can't remember how they get the Chinese bogies out of the way before they bring the next car in, though. They must lift them off because I don't remember a switch or any other cut out.

But long story short, it does look like a PITA.

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The gauge changing Talgos are apparently much less of a PITA. Takes ten minutes to run the train slowly through the gauge changing apparatus.

 

I don't think the general Indian Railways will change its gauge anytime soon. They will just use dual gauge tracks in the few places where it may become necessary. The high speed network will be minuscule compared to the regular network in kilometerage.

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The advantage of broad gauge is pretty obvious- superior stability. The advantage of staying with it in India is also obvious- it allows full interoperability of equipment.

 

The disadvantage is also fairly obvious: you can't buy off the shelf equipment, greatly increasing cost.

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Also, India is already pretty proficient in managing a multi-gauge system. Its neighbor Bangladesh is even more so, with (getting close to) 40% of its network now laid in dual gauge! Due to historical reasons, the subcontinent is stuck with being multi-gauge involving two or three gauges. Today's available technology makes it less of a chore than in the past.

 

Kolkata Metro will have both Broad Gauge trackage (The N-S Line 1) capable of running through trains from main line suburban system, though not practiced at present, and Standard Gauge standalone Tube lines (The E-W Line 2). I don't think anyone will ever change the gauge of the main line system around Kolkata from Broad gauge to anything else. This is not unique to India. Japan runs a multi-gauge system around Tokyo too, for similar reasons.

 

India does have the advantage of being rather large, large enough to pretty much negate the extra cost of having a different gauge, since almost everything used in India in large quantities is manufactured/mass produced in India.

Edited by jis

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India does have the advantage of being rather large, large enough to pretty much negate the extra cost of having a different gauge, since almost everything used in India in large quantities is manufactured/mass produced in India.

 

It was this point that gave me pause in the article. They want to take a "10-car variant of the E5 Shinkansen". Well, the E5 is already a 10 car set. Anyway, with India's population and population density, why limit? Seems many here can't unwrap their head around the failed Western model of integrating everything rather than create an exclusive right of way as suggested by the article. I would imagine that there would be demand enough for a full 16-car trainset, with 20 minute intervals along a dedicated right of way, charging market rates, that would actually make money in a place like India.

 

Currently, the Duronto Express makes the 530 km trip in 6 hours and 15 minutes. Looks like driving is around 8 hours and 45 minutes per Google. That's an average of 85 km (53 mi) per hour. That's pretty slow.

 

If they can AVERAGE 160 km/hr (100 mph), that'd knock the time down to 3:20. Their report to make the 507 mile trip in 2 hours and 7 minutes would require an average speed of 240 km/h (150 mph). Totally doable.

 

It sure looks like it has potential - particularly if they don't try to integrate it with other tracks and services.

 

Honestly, though, I think they're shooting too small. They should prepare for 16-car trainsets and carry up to 1400 people per train. Don't sell yourself short!

Edited by VentureForth

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cirdan, I have seen them change the bogies on the West bound Trans-Siberian Railroad twice, and it is an impressive job! They roll the cars in to the shed one at a time, put side lifts on each car, lift the car up, roll the Chinese bogies back away from the car, then bring the Russian/Mongolian bogies from in front of the car, then they kicked us out so I didn't see them lower the car onto the bogies. It is funny how the train car looks even bigger than usual when they are lifting it up in the air. I can't remember how they get the Chinese bogies out of the way before they bring the next car in, though. They must lift them off because I don't remember a switch or any other cut out.

But long story short, it does look like a PITA.

 

I've never been to the former Soviet Union myself, but I remember the French Spanish border at Hendaye, riding on the Puerta del Sol. The cars were jacked up similarly to what you descrtbe and bogies rolled out. This was accompanied by a lot of switching as cars from or to other destinations were cut into and out of the train. We then got the Spanish diner in which breakfast would be served next morning. A beautiful ex-CIWL pre war art-deco car with lots of intricate inlayes in the woodwork.A real beauty. This was in about 1986.

 

I understand there had at one point been a through car from Lisbon to Vladivostock. Possibly the longest railroad journey possible anywhere in the world- But this was also already discontinued at that point.

 

Some years later the Puerta del Sol wa discontinued and only Talgos used on international services. Today they are history too as all international services either involve changing trains, or are by TGV / AVE. But a lot of freight still goes through both Hendaye / Irun, as well as Port Bou / Cerbere on the other coast. At one time there was a regular flow of Spanish fruit and veg from the souith oif Spain to the UK. This was long before the Channel Tunnel so the cars went across the water on a ferry. I have seen photographs of such trains starting from Gandia, which at that time was meter gauge. So these cars were taken on narrow gauge transporter flats, meaning thei trip involved three gauges and a ferry.

 

No wonder it was cheaper and faster to send stuff by truck..

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These days a lot of the freight travels by international standard containers that are easy to transship among various modes.

In India a mode of freight carriage that is gaining some popularity is using Roll-On-Roll-Off trucks on flatcars. The cost advantage apparently is significant given the astronomical fuel prices in India, mainly because almost all of it has to be imported.

As for HSR lines in India, they will build as much as they can get funded from sources outside India. HSR is generally viewed as an elitist project and is unlikely to get funded massively from local funding sources for the foreseeable future. The Ahmadabad project is funded mostly by Japan Development Bank. They will just build and operate as much as they can reasonably get funded without placing any additional financial burden on the national exchequer. Air capacity remain grossly underutilized and is the area that is getting more attention for local funding for quicker transit times, tthat too only for infrastructure, and not for aircraft orders, Often air fares are lower than current premium rail fares and will certainly continue to be competitive, putting downward pressure on HSR fares. But neither HSR nor air fares will ever be able to come within a stone's throw of lower class rail fares and bus fares, which is what is used by 95% of the users of the transportation network in India.

The sort of thing that is getting locally funded is Higher Speed on regular main line railways, for speeds upto 200-250kph. All new rolling stock being deployed is 200kph capable. Tracks and signaling systems are being upgraded as funds become available. India has adopted a version of ETCS-2 as the national train control standard for Higher Speed segments. You get way many pore political points by introducing an all lower class train like the Garib Rath or Humsafar Express trains that travel at speeds competitive with the premium trains but cater primarily to lower fare paying passengers, than by introducing a 300kph train that costs as much as an air ticket to travel in, come election time. India has a political system that is way more populist than anything that we have seen in the US in quite a while, and the railways remain a highly political creature.

Edited by jis

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You get way many pore political points by introducing an all lower class train like the Garib Rath or Humsafar Express trains that travel at speeds competitive with the premium trains but cater primarily to lower fare paying passengers, than by introducing a 300kph train that costs as much as an air ticket to travel in, come election time. India has a political system that is way more populist than anything that we have seen in the US in quite a while, and the railways remain a highly political creature.

 

That's a very good point - especially after the huge political malady that came with the fare hike of 2014, in what amounted to mere (precious) pennies for the lowest class of services.

 

Therein lies the interesting aspect of foreign investment. They come, they build, they profit. If they profit, then perhaps they will build more. But it's taken out of the hands of the electorate yet made available, market ultimately determining it's value.

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India tends to keep all foreign investments on very short leash due to its historical experience with losing its independence through business deals with outsiders. That is also the reason that it is relatively unaffected by global economic churn, since the foreign finance related sector is relatively small, and they try quite diligently to not let it grow too big much to the chagrin of Western Capitalists.

 

As for foreign investment in transportation projects, in India those are all mechanisms that do not yield much control to outsiders due to historical reasons mentioned above. They are either straight, very long term low interest development loans or DBOM contracts that involve a significant dividend to the government. The latter are similar to what the Indian Railways also pays to the government in the way of dividends - something that has come down from the pre-nationalization days. That is why in their accounting, the social and national defense projects are accounted for separately, and get funded separately from the general railway budget. The general railway budget always has been more or less in the positive before the dividend to government is paid. Some years they fail to meet the dividends due and then there is much political maneuvering to work around it somehow. The mechanisms have included a short term low interest loan to cover the period until they can make it up to the government or in very rare occasions some strange book keeping removing some obviously social project post facto from the railway books to the social program books etc. And yes, in general freight subsidizes passenger service on Indian Railways, though some of the most heavily used premium services are cash positive, and thus also subsidize the run of the mill passenger service.

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In other words jis, India's politicians use "Smoke and Mirror" Budget tricks just like ours do!😄

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In other words jis, India's politicians use "Smoke and Mirror" Budget tricks just like ours do!

They learn from the best of them. But they are very protective of their sovereignty, much more so than many other countries. The memories of colonialism run very deep.

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As it turns out, just as I suspected, nothing happened beyond some shiny press releases. No MOU or Agreement was entered into with Japan and nothing was ordered.

 

Someone in India use the Indian equivalent of the FOIA process to extract the actual status of the alleged project from the government. If you have access to Facebook you may be able to see the relevant document that clarifies the status:

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1863286727314673&set=a.1863286717314674.1073741847.100009000917984&type=3&theater

 

It was just a convenient political stunt apparently to divert attention from other problems, or something like that. This is not all that unusual in India BTW.

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Also, India is already pretty proficient in managing a multi-gauge system. Its neighbor Bangladesh is even more so, with (getting close to) 40% of its network now laid in dual gauge! Due to historical reasons, the subcontinent is stuck with being multi-gauge involving two or three gauges. Today's available technology makes it less of a chore than in the past.

 

Kolkata Metro will have both Broad Gauge trackage (The N-S Line 1) capable of running through trains from main line suburban system, though not practiced at present, and Standard Gauge standalone Tube lines (The E-W Line 2). I don't think anyone will ever change the gauge of the main line system around Kolkata from Broad gauge to anything else. This is not unique to India. Japan runs a multi-gauge system around Tokyo too, for similar reasons.

 

India does have the advantage of being rather large, large enough to pretty much negate the extra cost of having a different gauge, since almost everything used in India in large quantities is manufactured/mass produced in India.

Eh, there is a possibility that Indian broad gauge will be changed to standard gauge some decade. It's relatively straightforward by dual-gauging the track. There's a very slow process of doing so going on in South Australia. What's much much harder is to change *narrow* gauge to standard gauge (or to broad gauge), since it typically requires making the loading gauge wider. (And Russian gauge is inconveniently too close to standard gauge to use a three-rail dual gauge system.)

Edited by neroden

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Dream on. There is exactly zero possibility that it will be changed in your or my lifetime. ;)

 

Standard Gauge has been, is and will continue to be used for Metro systems and perhaps even a few isolated from the rest of the system HSR lines akin to using Maglev or Hyperloop or whatever too for such.. But there is zero chance of the main line railroad being re-gauged in our lifetimes.

 

At present it is so easy to acquire gauge changing rolling stock for the relatively few needed for any cross border operations to Iran or South East and East Asia that there is very little incentive to make the huge investment in re-gauging which is otherwise completely non-productive. The only re-gauging taking place in India and Bangladesh is from Meter Gauge to Broad Gauge or dual gauge in case of Bangladesh.

Edited by jis

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As it turns out, just as I suspected, nothing happened beyond some shiny press releases. No MOU or Agreement was entered into with Japan and nothing was ordered.

 

Someone in India use the Indian equivalent of the FOIA process to extract the actual status of the alleged project from the government. If you have access to Facebook you may be able to see the relevant document that clarifies the status:

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1863286727314673&set=a.1863286717314674.1073741847.100009000917984&type=3&theater

 

It was just a convenient political stunt apparently to divert attention from other problems, or something like that. This is not all that unusual in India BTW.

So there is more to this than was initially apparent.

 

The alleged MoU was signed during a previous meeting. So it is no surprise that no MoU was signed during this set of meetings covering the entire project.The loan arrangements were negotiated and agreed upon at this meeting in pursuit of the previously signed moU. So indeed the path is cleared for further work to take place. The top line of an agreement to acquire train sets was indeed signed, details to be worked out later.

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Seeing it takes longer to build a new line than build a new train, and taking into account the situation in India with squatters being able to mount a legal battle that could lead to endless nimby lawsuits, and seeing that on account of their gauge the new trains cannot even be used on existing lines during a transitional period, is it not strange that the ordering of trains is apparently seeing a level of urgency that land acquisiting and construction isn't.

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Seeing it takes longer to build a new line than build a new train, and taking into account the situation in India with squatters being able to mount a legal battle that could lead to endless nimby lawsuits, and seeing that on account of their gauge the new trains cannot even be used on existing lines during a transitional period, is it not strange that the ordering of trains is apparently seeing a level of urgency that land acquisiting and construction isn't.

That is mainly because the way it is being designed, land acquisition is being kept to a minimum. In urban areas it is all going to be in bored tunnels, and some on elevated structures on land that is already owned by the railways. In rural areas it will mostly be on elevated structures. There will be very little on ground.

 

Having said that, yeah they might have some problems, but typically land acquisition in India is not as much a legal problems a political one. Mysteriously, if the local political leaders are on board there typically is very little land acquisition problem from squatters. Somehow the local political leaders figure out a way to dispatch the squatters elsewhere. The wheels of justice indeed turn in strange ways sometimes.

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Seeing it takes longer to build a new line than build a new train, and taking into account the situation in India with squatters being able to mount a legal battle that could lead to endless nimby lawsuits, and seeing that on account of their gauge the new trains cannot even be used on existing lines during a transitional period, is it not strange that the ordering of trains is apparently seeing a level of urgency that land acquisiting and construction isn't.

That is mainly because the way it is being designed, land acquisition is being kept to a minimum. In urban areas it is all going to be in bored tunnels, and some on elevated structures on land that is already owned by the railways. In rural areas it will mostly be on elevated structures. There will be very little on ground.

 

Having said that, yeah they might have some problems, but typically land acquisition in India is not as much a legal problems a political one. Mysteriously, if the local political leaders are on board there typically is very little land acquisition problem from squatters. Somehow the local political leaders figure out a way to dispatch the squatters elsewhere. The wheels of justice indeed turn in strange ways sometimes.

 

 

Does this mean that construction is actually in hand, at least on some segments?

 

Tunnels avoid conflicts with land usage, but they also take a long time to build. All the more reason to prioritize construction work over new trains.

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AFAICT, they are in the process of acquiring the necessary boring machines for the Mumbai segments, as we speak. it is mostly tunneling through muck, with just small bits of tunneling through rocks. India has considerable experience in both. They just finished tunneling under the Hooghly River in Kolkata for Metro Line 2 - the East-West Corridor. And once they got going, it took them just 6 months to complete the tunneling work.

 

Ah yes, they had a lot of land acquisition problems. but that is because of the completely crazy political situation around Kolkata, with a half crazy Chief Minister of West Bengal in Writers Building (the seat of West Bengal Government) too.

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