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Business

India leaning toward Japan's bullet train tech

NEW DELHI -- Japan's shinkansen bullet train technology is the leading candidate for a planned 500km railway linking the western city of Mumbai and the state of Gujarat to the north, the first step in India's extensive high-speed rail project.

     The Indian and Japanese governments initiated a joint feasibility study in late 2013, and a final report is to be released in July 2015.

     The Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is participating in the study, told participants at a Feb. 28 high-speed rail seminar in New Delhi that the report will likely recommend that Japan's bullet train technology is the most appropriate option.

     A top official in India's Ministry of Railways told The Nikkei that Japan's technology is the world's best and that India hopes to work on this project with Japan.

     The Japanese contingent at the seminar included Issei Kitagawa, state vice-minister of transport; Yuji Fukasawa, executive vice president at East Japan Railway, which hopes to win orders for the project as part of a consortium of Japanese companies; Tadaharu Ohashi, a counselor at Kawasaki Heavy Industries; and top Hitachi officials.

     With construction likely to start as early as 2017, India and Japan will quickly work out the necessary details, such as fundraising, as soon as the study is complete. Plans include combining official development assistance from JICA with an infrastructure fund set up by Japan's transport ministry.

What Modi wants

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been working to revive manufacturing with the "Make in India" initiative, will probably require that rolling stock be built locally. How much Japanese companies will cede to India's demands will be a point of interest.

     The railway linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad will cost 700-800 billion rupees ($11.3 billion to $12.9 billion), including 12 stations to be built along the route, the Indian government said. The train will have a top speed of 320kph, slashing travel time to around two and a half hours from about eight hours now.

     India plans to build nine railways linking the major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, which has been dubbed the Diamond Quadrilateral project.

     Since the Mumbai-Ahmedabad railway requires tunneling beneath a river, India favors Japanese drilling technology, which was used in such projects as the Seikan Tunnel linking Japan's main island with the northern island of Hokkaido. India also focused on Japan's safety record, with no passenger deaths in 50 years of operation, and know-how allowing trains to run at intervals of several minutes.

     France, Spain and China also have shown interest in India's high-speed rail plans, and competition over the other routes will likely remain fierce.

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