6 Months agoBefore India heads to Russia for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), we take a look at the recent collaboration between the two countries in the railways sector.
This year, as India and Russia mark 70 years of diplomatic ties, India is Guest Country at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) from June 1-3, 2017. In the run- up to SPIEF, we take a closer look at collaborations in the railways sector.
Indo-Russian Train Gain
Indian Railways commands attention as the world’s 3rd largest rail network spanning over 66,030 root km. As the 4th largest rail freight carrier, the network transports 90% of the total coal moved in the country, supplying 50% of India’s power. Building upon and upgrading India’s rail infrastructure is a key duty objective of the Make in India initiative. The results of efforts undertaken are immediately visible- 953 km of new lines were laid in 2016-17, as against the original target of 400 km. Furthermore, track electrification of over 2,000 km and gauge conversion of over 1,000 km was also achieved in 2016-17.1
One of the key areas of focus for the Indian Government has been the development of high-speed rail projects in India. Under the ambit of “Vision 2020”, various high-speed rail projects are underway. Through these, the India intends to:
- Raise the speed of segregated passenger corridors on trunk routes using conventional technology
- Identify a number of inter-city routes and build state-of- the-art high-speed corridors
As India continues to explore more and more possibilities of high-speed rail networks, global participation in railway projects are set to become a new area of cooperation with India, under the Make in India banner.2
Railway Construction on Fast-Track
Indo-Russian partnership in the railways sector is a recent collaboration. In 2015, Russian Railways began exploring a potential partnership with its Indian counterpart. President of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, expressed interest in collaborating with Indian Railways for planned high-speed rail links given Russia’s expertise in the area. Top-level discussions were held with Indian politicians and officials on improving signaling and India’s safety structure, so as to avoid further accidents on the Indian rail network.3 Russian Railways showed notable interest in collaborating with Indian Railways to offer state-of- the-art technologies in automation, safety system, collision repair and monitoring rail network via GPS.4
In December 2015, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia, the Indian Railway Ministry and Russian Railways signed an MoU for technical cooperation in the rail sector. The MoU identifies various key areas of cooperation such as modernisation of existing Indian Railways lines in order to raise train speeds to 160-200 kmph, modern control and safety-related systems based on satellite navigation and digital communication means and satellite and geo-information technologies.
The 2016 BRICS Summit in Goa spelled a new era of Indo-Russian cooperation in railways, with the signing of the protocol for preparation of a feasibility study for modernisation of the Nagpur-Secunderabad railway line.5 The 575-km long railway line will serve as the potential testing ground for the pilot project, which entails a complete overhaul of existing infrastructure and technology, including re-alignment of tracks, treating the earth bed prone to loose soil and implementing digital technological communication network for the entire section, instead of the existing radio communication.6 This project marks Russia’s first entry into India’s rail sector.7
Indo-Russian cooperation in the Nagpur-Secunderabad route is on fast-track. A joint preliminary report by teams from both countries was submitted to the Indian Government in January 2017 and a working group for project-implementation was created.8 Feasibility studies began in March, with costs to be shared by both countries. The project is a reckoning force in the Indian railway sector because it sets out to beat the 160 kmph speed of the Gatimaan Express, currently India’s fastest train.9 “RZD International, a special purpose engineering company established within the Russian Railways, will lead the carry out the study which aims to increase the top train speed on the route from 120 kmph to 200 kmph.”10
To know more about Indo-Russian collaboration in railways and beyond, follow the action on social media using #SPIEFIndia.