From Mumbai to Pune in 20 minutes

From Pune to Mumbai in 20 minutes by train? The railway ministry thinks you can — with bullet trains.In tune with its plan to introduce trains that would zip by at 300-350 kmph, the ministry has invited request for proposals through international bidding for conducting a pre-feasibility study for a high-speed rail corridor on the Pune-MumbaiAhmedabad sector.At present, the travel time from Pune to Mumbai (93 km) is just over three hours.The proposal also envisages a Mumbai-Ahmedabad (444 km) train that would reach its destination in 80 minutes instead of the seven hours now.“We are keen to move ahead with this project. That’s why the last date of proposal due date has been extended from Sept 16 to Oct 7. The contract for the study to the consultant will be issued within 40 days,” a ministry official said. The proposed Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is to serve Pune, Lonavala, Kandla, Kalyan, Mumbai, Valsad, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Nadiad, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.

For high-speed passenger corridors, the ministry has shortlisted: Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar; Haldia-Howrah; Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai and Chennai-Bengaluru-Coimbatore-Ernakulam.

But the only dampener could be the cost. At current prices, the cost of laying a normal rail line between Pune and Mumbai will be over Rs 370 crore; for the bullet train track, it will shoot up to Rs 74,400 crore. Similarly, for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad section, the construction of a normal rail line is estimated at Rs 1,776 crore while the cost of the bullet train line will be a whopping Rs 3,55,200 crore.In short, a high-speed rail line between Pune and Mumbai will cost between Rs 500 crore to Rs 800 crore per km. There will also be problems of land acquisition and environmental clearances (noise and vibration), besides safety-related matters.The ministry plans to construct the entire stretch on an elevated track on the PPP model. The official said the consultant would compare various technologies available, including Shinkansen (Japan) and TGV trains (France). India is apparently fired by China’s plan to develop a Beijing-Shanghai bullet train which is likely to be completed by 2012.

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