The railways is readying a plan to build elevated tracks for running semi-high speed passenger trains on popular sectors such as Delhi-Jaipur, Mumbai-Pune, Bangalore-Chennai and Delhi-Amritsar via Chandigarh. This will require investment of Rs 150-160 crore per kilometre through direct budget support.
Different zones of Indian Railways have been tasked with carrying out studies for laying such tracks which can be used for inter-city fast train services, sources told TOI. Most of the routes identified are in the range of 200 km to 300 km and there is high demand for premium train service in these sectors.
Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had flagged construction of elevated tracks as an option for running faster passenger trains in his first interview with TOI in February 2022. "It's a big policy question, how fast can we run our trains on the surface. In many countries you have elevated networks, including in Japan, Korea, several countries in Europe, Taiwan, and China came in a big way. In China, the passenger network was elevated and the ground network was used for cargo, which can do very well at 60 kmph," he had said. A section in the railways believes that is the fastest way to add to capacity and also provide for trains to run at a faster speed given that land acquisition is not an easy task. While multilateral agencies such as the World Bank had been roped in to share the global experience, the feedback so far has not enthused officials in Rail Bhawan.
The officials said the building of elevated tracks along the existing ones would cost less as the railways would barely need to acquire more land; so these projects can be implemented quickly. They added that the per-km construction cost would be much less compared to the construction of elevated Metro Rail network and Rapid Rail Transit system. While the average cost of per km Metro Rail network is Rs 222 crore, in the case of RRTS, it's around Rs 370 crore.
It will, however, be almost 10 times the cost of laying a single track on the surface, which is the practice in railways.
Sources said the ramp up of production of Vande Bharat trains and also the government's aim to increase maximum speed to 220 kmph in future would meet the requirement of rolling stock to operate trains on such elevated tracks.