June 10, 2014

New Indian government gives high-speed a push

Written by  Raghav Thakur
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INDIA's new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has outlined ambitious plans to build a series of high-speed rail corridors connecting major metropolitan centres during the next 10 years - the so-called "Diamond Quadrilateral" programme.

Although proposals for high-speed rail schemes have been mooted for more than three decades and have gained more credence since 2009, the new government's clear-cut statement of intent carries weight because of the large majority by which the BJP party was voted into power.

"The political will is now there," says an official engaged in the budget preparation exercise. "We intend to take the first concrete measures by providing for administrative and financial sanctions to the 543km Mumbai - Ahmedabad corridor in next month's budget speech by the new railways minister Mr D V Sadananda Gowda. The new railways minister has already asked Indian Railways to prepare a detailed actionable programme for the Mumbai - Ahmedabad corridor, incorporating details of land acquisition and funding options.

"Lack of robust infrastructure is one of India's major impediments," president Pranab Mukherjee said in his address to the joint session of parliament on June 9. "The government will put in place a fast-track, investment-friendly and predictable Public Private Partnership (PPP) mechanism to modernise and revamp the railways and implement big-ticket projects such as high speed rail."

The president's address at the start of the 16th Lok Sabha (India's lower house of parliament) – which outlines the direction, policies and programmes of the new government – says that investment in the railways will be increased using innovative financing methods.

Five other high-speed rail projects are under consideration:

  • Howrah (Kolkata) - Haldia (135km)
  • Hyderabad – Dornakal – Vijaywada - Chennai (664km)
  • Chennai – Bangalore - Thiuruvananthapuram (850km)
  • Delhi – Jaipur – Ajmer - Jodhpur (591km) and
  • Delhi - Chandigarh - Amritsar (450km).

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