The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail corridor is going to be built for the first time in the country and it is making headlines from the beginning. In a recent interview with Dipak Dash, Mr. Achal Khare, Managing Director of National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) has shared his views on all such important aspects related to the project. Here are excerpts:-
Mr. Achal Khare: The first task was to set standards and specifications for the high-speed rail project. The Japanese government sent 80 engineers in 2016. In two years, we completed the task. This will be like the Bible for all future projects. We have a blueprint for protocols and standards for high-speed rail. The designs and standards were a challenge considering the effect of wind and vibration on trains at 320 km/h. The Japanese side helped us in every aspect from civil engineering to electrical engineering, communication, signalling, and rolling stock.
Mr. Khare: Overall, we have nearly 50% of the required land, we took possession of about 620-630 hectares out of 1,380 hectares. In the Gujarat portion, we have very good progress in Vadodara and Ahmedabad. You must be aware of how difficult it is to acquire private land. In Maharashtra, there were some issues, particularly in Palghar.
Mr. Khare: We expect work can start by next July and construction of viaducts (elevated portions) may be completed in three years while the station development work may go for another six months.
Mr. Khare: A team will go to Japan in January for three months. Then they will start writing the O&M manual. It will take about two years. We will also be recruiting people including drivers, station staff and others for non-executive duty. We will require about 3,500 people during the O&M phase. Some drivers will work on Shinkansen trains (Japan's Bullet trains).
Mr. Khare: We must keep it in mind they have done this in three parts. Area-1 is the station and we will take up this task. Area-2 is generally within 500 meters radius and Area-3 covers areas around one km radius. The main principle is everything should be available within 10-15 minutes. All this requires a lot of policy interventions and we also need to convince the private parties; else it won't work.
Mr. Khare: To begin with, there will be 35 trips each way, which is 70 trains a day. We will have service from 6 am to 12 at night. During peak hours, trains will be available every 20 minutes and 30 minutes during non-peak hours. There will be two types - one with only four stops between Ahmedabad and Mumbai and this trip will be completed in 2.07 hours.
Mr. Khare: Let's go back to a few years. Could we think of escalators at railway stations? We never exposed these opportunities to our rural people. We are very much aware that the affordability of service is the key.
Mr. Khare: It must be less than the airfare and we have it in our mind. We will have three generals (unreserved) coaches for people to walk in to board the train. The fares will be the same. This will be an advantage over airlines.