New Delhi, May 14: Will India gain in terms of high-speed trains during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China? The two countries are expected to sign a memorandum on expanding cooperation in building a high-speed rail corridor between Delhi and China.
The Chinese have shown to the world how its superfast railway network has contributed to its economic boom over the last few decades. [Modi in China: How Chinese media reacted]
In the early 1990s, a passenger train in China ran at an average speed of just 48 kilometres per hour. Roads were getting congested and people had to fly for short distances. [Modi in China: PM impressed with upkeep of Terracotta Warriors Museum]
Things began to change in 1999 when China started building its first high-speed rail corridor. In the next decade-and-half, the Chinese were the proud owners of the world's largest superfast rail network. The network was bigger than all the high-speed corridors of this planet put together! [Narendra Modi eyes $10-bn deals during China visit: Daily]
India's railway network, on the other hand, was nearly 54,000 kilometres at the time of Independence while China's network was only half of that. Since then, China has increased its network to over 1,00,000 kilometres while India could add just 11,000 kilometres during this time.
Modi has stressed high-speed trains after coming to power although questions have been raised on the economic viability of such projects. It had faced same questions in China as well. Its high-speed rail corridor cost an estimated $300 billion.
The high-speed trains were imported or made under technology-transfer agreements and Chinese engineers then re-designed the train compartments and built indigenous trains that can run at the speed of 380 kilometres per hour.
China is conducting a feasibility study for $36 billion Delhi-Chennai high-speed corridor. It wants to speed up work on a shorter high-speed corridor between Chennai and Bengaluru and Delhi and Agra.
A study conducted by the World Bank said that Chinese projects are cheaper than high-speed train projects of other countries. But will India allow the Chinese take control of one of its major pillars of infrastructure?