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Centre invites global bids for Rs 2,500cr 'train sets' project

Times of India:  June, 2015

New Delhi: Delhi to Mumbai or Kolkata may just be an overnight journey with railways taking the first concrete step to bring about change in the way trains are run-from being driven by locomotives now, to train sets in the near future. The introduction of train sets will allow for quicker acceleration and deceleration cutting travel time significantly. 

The state-run transporter has invited global players for the roughly Rs 2,500 crore project for procurement, manufacture and maintenance of 15 Electric Multiple Units (EMU) train sets (or 315 rail cars) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 'Make in India' programme. 

After the project is implemented on the ground, it would make rail travel more comfortable and faster. Say, a Rajdhani will leave Delhi around 7.30-8.00 PM and reach Mumbai early in the morning. A source said Delhi-Mumbai and Kolkata are the possible routes to be taken up initially.

Train sets work on the same principle as the Delhi Metro or Mumbai suburban trains and use differentiated power, instead of the locomotive powering the entire 24 coaches. This helps in managing speed better. The transporter is looking at these trains as other alternatives such as bullet trains or running semi-high speed trains at 200kmph by upgrading tracks require much higher investment. 

Introduction of the much-delayed train sets was announced by railway minister Suresh Prabhu in his 2015-16 rail budget. 

He has said that train sets will be manufactured in India based on the experience. As per tender conditions, the successful bidder will be importing two train sets while the rest would have to be manufactured in the country, said an official. While 275 coaches will be manufactured in India, 40 would be imported. The transporter aims at sealing the final deal by awarding the contract by December 2015. 

Officials said that the lower travel time from Mumbai to Delhi will also help railways improve their earnings from the same train as it will be extended up to Jammu given that train sets require lower maintenance time. 

According to an internal study railways will be able to cut travel time by three hours and thirty five minutes on the 1,440km Delhi-Howrah route. Trains currently used for the elite Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express can go up to 150kmph, but the average speed continues to be 90kmph as there are several speed restrictions. For instance, there are over 225 speed restrictions on the Delhi-Kolkata route, which means every 7 km, a train has to reduce its speed whenever it passes a station or an area where tracks are weak. Given that applying the brakes and slowing down or even accelerating takes longer using locomotives, the train sets will cut down time. 

In other words, these trains, which are already being used in the metro services, would help to save travel time by around 20% as they have higher acceleration and deceleration which would increase average train speed. The reduction in journey time was calculated at maximum permissible speed of 130kmph and it could be further reduced if the permissible limit is raised to 160kmph. "With a view to providing superior riding experience and about 20% savings in journey time, it is proposed to introduce a very 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," a senior railway official said. 

He added, "For the Railways it would imply higher capacity, greater energy savings and increased throughput. We hope that the first set of these trains would be running on our system within the next two years."