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India considers magnetic levitation technology for high speed trains

India has taken the first step towards running a truly high speed train by opting for magnetic levitation (Maglev) technology under which the screech of the wheel hitting the track is obviated as the train floats at high speeds a few inches over the track.

Thus India will avoid emulating Chile and some other countries that have been running refurbished versions at higher than currently prevailing speeds on the same track.

Rather, the country is fashioning a new game altogether, said a Railway officer specialising in design. Running on dedicated tracks, the trains will come in complete sets: there will be engine cabs at both ends and non-detachable coaches in the middle. This will eliminate the swaying motion Indian travellers are accustomed to.

The trains will have under carriages placed in a way that one axle and two wheels come under one coach and the rest under the next one, thus guaranteeing rapid fire acceleration.

The snub-nosed engines, super shiny outer hull and windows merged with the coach body are some of the features that will cut air resistance, the Railway official said. With cars to be allowed right next to the platform, passengers can park in front of the allocated coach.

As the train surges to its top speed, WiFi and mobile phone connections will continue to work seamlessly, for the entire ecosystem is electronics-intensive and microprocessor controlled so much so that wayside signals rushing past the train will be reflected on the locomotive’s control panel.

Instead of the no-option, tepid railway meals, orders could be placed at well-known food chains willing to cater to these trains. One SMS and food will be available at the next intermediate station.

But before this, there is hard work ahead. The Economic Survey has warned that high tariff and large passenger volumes are required to justify investment in the project, which is highly capital intensive in nature.

During his Japan visit and interaction here with the Chinese, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be exploring complete financing options at close to zero interest rates. Simultaneously, the Railways will work on reducing overhead costs through property development and other means.

If all goes well, India will join the club of two dozen countries running ultra high speed trains. For a country which figures in the first few in having an aircraft carrier, a full fledged space and nuclear programme and an ongoing mission to Mars, this will be better late than never.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 6:40:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-considers-magnetic-levitation-technology-for-high-speed-trains/article6332755.ece

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