By Shigeki Tao / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentNEW DELHI — The Japanese government is set to start this year a full-fledged program to train specialists to run and maintain India’s first high-speed train service, which is to be operated from 2023 with Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train technology.
It is estimated that 4,000 Indian engineers and other workers will be needed at the beginning of the operation. The Japanese government plans to give instructions on how to run a railroad safely even at high speeds by sending experienced instructors from the Japan Railways Group to India, as well as building a training center in the country.
The Indian Shinkansen is to connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad, both located in the country’s western region. Construction of the 505-kilometer stretch is to begin next year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed in a meeting in 2015 that Japan would export a railway package including state-of-the-art Shinkansen cars and the operating system. The project’s total cost is estimated at about 980 billion rupees (about ¥1.7 trillion), of which a maximum of 80 percent is to be financed with low-interest yen loans.
In December, the Railways Ministry of India, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and a Japanese joint venture exchanged a memorandum laying out a detailed plan for the project, which covered the building of facilities and training of workers.
The training center is to open by 2020, and is to be staffed with veteran Shinkansen drivers, railway engineers and other staff from JR and elsewhere. They will teach techniques for such subjects as driving high-speed railcars, operational management and equipment maintenance.
Prior to the opening of the school, the ministry is also planning to send junior staff to Japan for training from this year. About 300 people are scheduled to come to Japan every year to learn skills, including safety management, at JR and other entities. The first group is set to arrive in Japan as early as around February.
India is a major railway country, with the world’s fourth-longest network. However, a deficient safety management system has led to constant derailments and collisions. In November 2016, a train derailed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, killing 147 people.
To operate a railway as safely and comfortably as the Japanese Shinkansen, workers need to be familiar with Japanese-style technology and know-how. If an exported Shinkansen line were to be involved in a major accident, it would hurt the system’s credibility, which could negatively impact the infrastructure exports being pushed by the Abe administration. The government is therefore sparing no effort in providing support for personnel training.
High-speed railway projects in India (see below) cover seven lines. In addition to Japan, China and France are also hoping to win contracts to build them. The Japanese government holds expectations for more commercial opportunities. “If more workers become familiar with the Shinkansen, it could help the system be adopted elsewhere,” a government source said.
■ India’s high-speed rail projects
The Shinkansen system has been adopted for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad portion of a line that runs from Pune to Ahmedabad. Trains on this line are to run at a maximum speed of about 320 kph, which would make a trip that currently takes from eight to 10 hours possible in about two hours. When it opens, the line is expected to service 35,800 passengers per day. In addition, three lines are planned around the capital New Delhi going north, west and east; two lines are planned extending north and south from Chennai; and one line is planned in the east.Speech