THE administration of India’s re-elected prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi, has confirmed an election campaign pledge to invest Rs 10-12 trillion ($US 120-144bn) in India’s railway network over the next five years.

The Modi 3.0 Mega Plan for Railways aims to transform India’s railway network by introducing world-class facilities. The general priorities are to increase network capacity for passenger and freight services, helping to address demand, introduce new rolling stock, and improve safety.

Specific measures identified include:

  • the rollout of three types of domestically-produced Vande Bharat EMUs on lines across the country, adding to the 50 lines on which they are already in service. The three types are:  trains for routes under 100km; chair cars for services of 100-550km; and Vande Sleeper trains for routes of more than 550km
  • completion of the Mumbai - Ahmedabad high-speed line, which is scheduled for April 2029, and the conclusion of a feasibility study for three further high-speed lines in the north, south and east of India
  • upgrades to 1300 stations with the support of private partners to provide modern amenities such as retail outlets and airport-style waiting lounges
  • further expansion of metro lines in cities across the country, with 20 cities already developing metro projects, and
  • the introduction of additional Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) networks like that in the National Capital Region where the 17km first phase of the 82km Delhi - Ghaziabad - Meerut line opened in October 2023 and was extended by another 17km in March.
100-day plan

The government’s ambitions are also reflected in a post-election 100-day plan. This is predominately focused on improving customer services, including the introduction of a 24-hour ticket refund programme, replacing the existing three-day long process, and a “super App” for railway-related services including ticket purchasing and refunds, live service updates, and catering orders. Indian Railways (IR) will also introduce more Vande Bharat sleeper trains, which are manufactured by BEML.

IR is also due to deploy 50 250km/h Amrit Bharat trains this year after the first train was deployed on the Anand Vihar - Darbhanga and Bengaluru - Malda Town lines on December 30. These trains operate at up to 130km/h on these lines.

In addition, IR has directed the Integral Coach Factory to manufacture two standard-gauge, eight-car 250km/h high-speed trains within the current fiscal year, which is aimed at bolstering the Make in India initiative. Local media reports suggest that this move was made following pricing disagreements with Japanese suppliers due to provide the new fleet for the Mumbai - Ahmedabad high-speed line. The delivery schedule is described as “challenging” by some observers.

The scale of proposed investment has led to calls for the railway budget to be separated from the country’s general budget, as it was for 92 years up until 2017. India’s minister of railways, Mr Ashwini Vaishnaw, was reappointed to his role following the election.

The July edition of IRJ will include an assessment of India’s planned railway investment as well as updates on the Dedicated Freight Corridors and Mumbai - Ahmedabad high-speed project.