Reluctant to draw a timeline for the launch of bullet trains in the country, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Friday said they need to be made affordable for common man and not just for the premier travellers.
"It will be difficult to say when we will have bullet trains. But we have started some preliminary work on it. Our aim is to make tangible progress but not possible to give a timeline for it," he said on the proposed high-speed rail corridor project.
He said, "This is an aspirational project which involves high cost. High speed trains at 350 kmph speed is our aspirational project and we have selected Mumbai-Ahmedabad route as a pilot project," Bansal said at a seminar.
"But the cost involved in the 534-km long Mumbai-Ahemedabad project is gigantic high. It is estimated to cost about Rs 63,000 crore (Rs 630 billion)," he said.
He said high-speed trains should not remain confined to a particular class but should be "affordable for all".
"This must be made affordable for common man and it should not be only for premier class," Bansal said.
Railways have identified seven routes for conducting pre-feasibility study for high-speed corridors including Delhi-Agra-Patna, Howrah-Haldia, Chennai-Bangalore-Thiruvanathapuram and Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad.
"Since it has to be executed with the participation of private players, finalisation of revenue models for the proposed high speed corridors are very important. Whatever finance model will be, it should be win-win situation for all of us," he said.
The seminar on High Speed Train in India: Issues and Options, was organised by the Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers.
Stating that it would be difficult to get funds for the high-speed trains from the Rail Budget, the minister said, "State governments should be our partners in the project. We have to find ways to generate funds for it as it would be difficult to get funds from the budget."
Railway is forming High Speed Rail Authority to execute the project.
Bansal said he had travelled in bullet trains in Japan, Korea and France during his visit to these countries.
"There is no denying the fact that faster mode of transport accelerates development...the introduction of high speed trains would add to the country's growth story as railways contribute about 2 per cent in the GDP," he said.
On the possibility of getting Japanese expertise for the project, he said, "We would like to have talks with all countries that have high speed trains and we would like to get best out of it for our system."
About the scope of increasing speed of trains on existing tracks, Bansal said, "Our endeavour is to increase the speed on the Delhi-Mumbai route. Currently, Bhopal Shatabdi runs at a higher speed between Delhi and Agra only."