The High Speed Rail will be a game changer for this country and we will witness transport revolution 2.0 when this project will be implemented.
The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has been set up as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with the partnership of Government of India through Ministry of Railways, Government of Gujarat and the Government of Maharashtra. The prime objective of setting up this SPV is to immediately take up the Mumbai- Ahmedabad high speed rail project. The hallmark of this particular project is that we are setting up standards at the same time as high speed rail has never existed in India before. We have to develop all kinds of high speed rail standards in collaboration with our Japanese partners.
With the construction of this high-speed rail corridor, India will join elite club of 15 nations having this sophisticated technology within our reach. This project will bring a world-class cutting-edge technology to the service of the nation along with the transfer of technology.
Shinkansen literally means ‘New Trunk Line’. Japan introduced first Shinkansen train (commonly known as bullet trains) between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in 1964. Operating speed of these trains at that time was 210 kmph. Japan made continuous improvements in this technology and current shinkansen trains run at a speed upto 320 kmph. Shinkansen technology is the most reliable and with proven safety record of zero passenger related fatality records in last fifty-four years.
India will have similar Shinkansen trains (E5 series) between Mumbai & Ahmedabad in near future. These trains will have an operating speed of 320 kmph and cover a distance of 508 kms in 2 hrs 7 minutes on a limited stop service
For a project of this magnitude with tight deadlines, survey and design play a critical role as the construction cannot start till the survey and design are completed. This is a Greenfield project spread over 508 km and passing over 200 streams. The terrain is a mix of densely populated urban areas and green-field areas along with challenging ghat and creek sections. It is not an easy task to survey such a long greenfield route using traditional methods of total station and DGPS survey.
For the first time in India’s railway project we have done aerial LIDAR (Light Detection and ranging) survey, a technology using Laser mounted on Helicopter was chosen due to its multiple benefits and not just a ground survey. Use of LiDAR technology has allowed survey of the 508-km corridor to be completed with draft reports ready in 15 weeks against the normal 10-12 months for traditional survey.
Static refraction technique (SRT) survey was carried out for India’s first undersea tunnel to be constructed in Thane Creek area. This was part of geo-technical investigations in order to assess ground situations in areas where Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail will pass.
Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail (MAHSR) will consist of 12 stations between Mumbai (BKC) and Sabarmati. All stations of MAHSR will be elevated (except Mumbai) with more than 90% of its track on the viaduct. MAHSR will also include India’s first undersea tunnel in Thane creek. There will be three depots at Sabarmati, Surat and Thane for maintenance purpose.
- Mumbai to Sabarmati via Ahmedabad – about 508 Kms
Maharashtra -155.76 Kms (7.04 Kms in Mumbai sub-urban,39.66kms in Thane district & 109.06 kms in Palgarh district)
- Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli – 4.3 Kms
- Gujarat – 348.04 Kms
- Operating Speed- 320Km/hr.
- Travel time from Mumbai to Ahmedabad - 1hr 58min. (Limited stops at Surat and Vadodara) -2hr 57 min. (All stops)
- No. of stations-12
Stations in Maharashtra-Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar (4 Nos.)
Stations in Gujarat-Vapi, Bilmora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad, Sabarmati (8 Nos.)
- From Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) longest tunnel about 21Kms long, about 40m below the ground level.
- The section in Thane creek area (Under Sea) will also be underground in tunnel about 40 m below.
- 460 Kms (Both in Maharashtra and Gujarat) will be elevated [approx. 10-15m above the ground on Viaduct)
- Vadodara, Ahmedabad &Sabarmati stations will be over existing Indian Railway Platform.
- Longest Bridge 1950 m over river Vaitarna.
NHSRCL will be a true enabler of high-speed growth while taking along affected communities together. NHSRCL is ensuring minimum acquisition of land and strives to ensure that landowners are adequately compensated and are resettled if required and with minimum possible disturbance. NHSRCL is working with communities along Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor fulfilling their basic needs like hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure.
All 12 stations and Sabarmati Hub are being designed on a local theme. For example, Vadodara station will have ‘Vad’ (Banyan tree) theme, while Surat station will be based on diamonds. The stations will be based on environment friendly techniques so as to maximise use of natural resources like solar energy and natural ventilation. This will not only minimise cost but promote environment friendly techniques in operation stage.
Image: Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Vapi Station
Image: Graphic representation of Sabarmati terminal planned to be built at Sabarmati, Gujarat.
Apart from designing, planning and managing all construction activities at a number of sites, NHSRCL is also building a workforce for the future. NHSRCL aims to bring not only Shinkansen technology to India but also the Japanese culture of safety, punctuality and passenger comfort to Mumbai – Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project.
Regular batches of NHSRCL employee visits to Japan are planned for the right amount of exposure required for skill development and bringing in the right mindset of safety and punctuality at all levels in the organisation.
The work of the training institute in Vadodara has already kicked off and would be completed by December 2020.
High Speed Rail is among the best means of transport (in terms of negative externalities) compared with Air and car travel. HSR is more efficient, eco-friendly, creates less noise and air pollution and use less land for building similar passenger capacity infrastructure.
NHSRCL is making sure that maximum number of trees at the construction sites are transplanted to a nearby location. It is expected that 80% of these trees will survive this exercise.
Image: A spade truck relocating trees at Sabarmati depot construction site in Gujarat
Construction of a 7-km undersea tunnel, which would pass under the mangrove areas and a flamingo sanctuary in Mumbai region, is one of the biggest technical challenges. It would have disturbed the mangroves and ecological balance if we had chosen the elevated corridor.
Another challenge is the construction of high-speed rail stations at locations where Indian Railway stations – Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati – already exist. There is a plan to connect bullet train stations with these three Indian Railway stations. It is a big challenge to carry out construction work of the high-speed stations and platforms at the height of 14-15 metres at these crowded railway stations, having a huge number of trains and passenger footfall.
Usually, the high-speed alignments are at 11-12 metre height from the ground. The height of the high-speed station would be further increased, if there is a metro or road over bridge. In Sabarmati, there is a road over bridge close to the proposed station and the metro is also coming up. So, the height of the Sabarmati high-speed station will be 20-21 metres.
In Vadodara, both sides are densely inhabited due to which limited working space is available. The same is the case with Ahmedabad and Sabarmati where the Indian Railways has got expansion plans and we will have to plan high-speed alignment keeping in view that the said stations’ plan is not disturbed.
Mumbai would have one underground station at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) close to the Mithi river and we have to cross the river for doing excavation for the tunnel. Similarly, the undersea tunnel will have a large diameter of around 12.5 metres, having two tracks in a single tube while the metros have tunnels of a 6.5-metre diameter and one track in a single tube.
Since, Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed train is a mega project, it requires huge manpower and training them is certainly a challenge. The high-speed Shinkansen system is completely a new technology and we are yet to fully understand it. Acquiring technological knowledge and imparting training to staff are extremely crucial. We need to have well-trained human resource. A total of 300 officials are planned to be trained in Japan.
As per the estimation by the Japanese, the project requires around 4,000 personnel under several categories such as locomotive drivers, guards, station staff, operation control centre staff, maintenance personnel, signal maintainers and electrical staff. There will be a big depot at Sabarmati for periodic overhaul of the trains, while a small depot at Thane will be built for weekly and monthly maintenance. Around 20,000-25,000 persons would be required for construction of the project.
Image: MD NHSRCL Shri Achal Khare inspecting a High Speed Rail construction site at Vadodara, Gujarat
‘Technology Transfer’ and ‘Make in India’ are integral objectives of MAHSR project. Guidance from Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) is being obtained for taking actions to fulfill these objectives of the project. For instance, four sub-groups viz. Track; Civil; Electrical and S&T; and Rolling Stock have been constituted with representatives from Indian industry, Japanese industry, DIPP, NHSRCL and JETRO to discuss and identify potential items and sub-systems required for the project which can be covered under “Make in India” program.
After extensive discussions between representatives of both Indian and Japanese Industries in several sector specific meetings, video conferencing, workshops, etc. (held in Delhi as well as Tokyo), various items have been identified to be covered under ‘Make in India’, and steps are being taken to incorporate such items suitably in the bid documents. Out of the 508-km length of the project, a 450-km stretch is open to Indian contractors without any condition on them to form a joint venture with the Japanese firms for civil construction.
The estimated cost of civil construction of the project is around 50-60 percent of the total project cost. Whenever expertise is available within India, the work will be done by Indian companies only.
In Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati, where high-speed stations are built over the existing stations, we are trying to rope in a prime contractor from Japan to prepare design and planning of the sub packages and award them to Indian companies. Again, the technical skills come from Japan initially and then the Indian companies will gradually learn.
According to a study conducted by London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Hamburg researchers, towns connected to a new high-speed line saw their GDP rise by at least 2.7% compared to the neighbours not on the route. Their study also found that increased market access through high-speed rail has a direct correlation with a rise in GDP-for each 1% increase in market access, there is a 0.25% rise in GDP.
High Speed Rail is among the best means of transport (in terms of negative externalities) compared with air and car travel. HSR is more efficient, eco-friendly, creates less noise and air pollution and use less land for building similar passenger capacity infrastructure. It will also help in creating more jobs for a young nation like India. It is expected that High Speed rail will provide affordable housing solutions to those commuting or working in high population density areas like Mumbai. Commuters will also save considerable time every day.
Studies have shown that with the introduction of High Speed rail, Tourism, medical and education sectors in the region gets a boost because of minimal travel time while visiting tourist places and accessing quality education and medical services. HSR is considered to be a true growth enabler for the region.
A study titled ‘Dedicated High Speed Rail Network in India: issues in development’ by Prof. G. Raghuram and Mr. Prashanth D. Udaya Kumar published by IIM Ahmedabad highlights the need of a High-Speed Rail Corridor as follows:
There are many positive benefits and externalities of the HSR which would be useful in India’s overall aspirational development. These externalities include technology percolation into other domains, economic development, game-changing sense of connectivity, and national pride due to cutting-edge infrastructure. In such a context, it is a good idea to begin and learn.
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is a good choice for the first route, since it connects India’s first and seventh most populous cities, with significant economic development in the 500 km corridor between them”
Image source: International union of railways www.uic.org.