Instead of announcing any new bullet train, the government has decided to increase the speed of trains on nine railway corridors from the existing 110 and 130 kmph to 160 and 200 kmph, respectively, so that inter-metro journeys such as Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai can be completed overnight.
Moreover, with the implementation of two dedicated freight corridor projects on the eastern and western routes gathering pace, the government has decided to award 750 km of civil contracts and 1,300 km of system contracts in 2015-16. Proposing an increase of track length by 20 per cent from 114,000 km to 138,000 km, the government plans to grow annual freight carrying capacity from one billion tonnes to 1.5 billion tonnes..
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The average speed of freight trains, both in empty and loaded conditions, will also be enhanced.
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"A policy of attaining speeds of 100 kmph for empty freight trains and 75 kmph for loaded trains is being put in place," said Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in his Budget speech.
"In pursuit of the objective, to maximise loading in every train, the loading density on all major freight bearing routes of Indian Railways will be upgraded to 22.82 tonne axle loads," Prabhu added. The government has allotted Rs 65,000 crore for high-speed rail and elevated corridor.
Saying that the feasibility study on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train would be over by mid-year, the minister added feasibility studies for the other high-speed routes on the diamond quadrilateral would also be commissioned this year.
With a view to providing superior riding experience and about 20 per cent savings in journey time, the government has also proposed to introduce a modern train system called 'train sets'.
"These are similar to bullet trains in design and can run on existing tracks without an engine to haul them," said the minister. Aiming for higher capacity, greater energy savings and increased throughput, the government expects the first set of these trains to start running within the next two years. Prabhu added these train sets would be manufactured in India.
The Railways will launch projects worth Rs 2,500 crore through the build-operate-transfer / annuity route, including Wardha-Nagpur 3rd line, Kazipet-Vijayawada 3rd line, Bhadrak-Nargundi 3rd line and Bhuj-Nalia gauge conversion.
With last-mile connectivity projects accorded the highest priority, the government intends to fast-track the sanctioned works on 7,000 km of double/third/fourth lines and commission 1,200 km in 2015-16 at an investment of Rs 8,686 crore.
Additionally, the government sanctioned 77 projects covering 9,400 km of doubling/tripling/quadrupling works, along with their electrification, at a total cost of Rs 96,182 crore. This is 2,700 per cent higher than the amount sanctioned in 2013-14. Collectively, for network decongestion projects, the government has allotted the highest amount of Rs 1,99, 320 crore.
Projects worth Rs 39,000 crore, which would improve the connectivity of north-eastern states and Jammu & Kashmir, were also announced in the Railway Budget.