The Delhi - Varanasi - Patna route is expected to be identified for the high-speed study which will be completed by China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group and IR's Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) within 15 months from the start date.

According to the agreement, signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India, China Rail Eryuan Engineering Group, a subsidiary of CRC, will also assist IR with its plans to ramp up passenger train speeds from 130km/h to 160km/h. IR has chosen the Chennai - Bangalore - Mysore line as the first route for this project.

The MoU also envisages cooperation in other areas including plans to develop international-class stations and training in heavy-haul operations. Beijing Jiaotong University will begin the training programme next month, which entails training 100 IR personnel in five batches of about three weeks each. Chinese rail experts will also assist India to set up its first railway university.

The MoU provides a foothold for China in India's emerging rail market which has so far been dominated by Japanese and European organisations. Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and French National Railways (SNCF) are conducting detailed studies, including a business plan for India's first high-speed corridor linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad.