India, Thailand, Australia on track to upgrade rail systems

India, Thailand and Australia are aiming to modernise their railway systems with new lines to cater to growing demand

The Gatimaan Express, India's first semi-high speed train, at the Nizamuddin Railway Station in Delhi, India, on April 5, 2016.
The Gatimaan Express, India's first semi-high speed train, at the Nizamuddin Railway Station in Delhi, India, on April 5, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

First 'semi high-speed' train launched

NEW DELHI • India has flagged off its fastest-ever train as part of a major modernisation of the crumbling railway system - but its top speed is only half of those in China and other countries.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu yesterday hailed the Gatimaan Express, running from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal and boasting hostesses and bone China crockery, as "a new era of high-speed rail travel".

But the express has a top speed of 160kmh, compared with trains in China, Japan, France and other countries which can reach 320kmh or more. Described by the government as India's first "semi high-speed train", it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US$135 billion (S$183.3 billion) plan to overhaul Asia's oldest rail network over five years.


Thai-China rail project 'will continue'

People seen at a railway track in Bangkok, Thailand. ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH

Thailand will continue a partnership with China in a railway project linking Bangkok and Kunming despite the kingdom's decision to end protracted negotiations by paying for the joint venture itself.

Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said in an interview with The Straits Times that China, which conducted the feasibility study and design of the project, will still get to pick the type of trains and technology for the planned entire 873km line within Thailand.

The project is a key government- to-government deal to connect the region, as well as to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and China, he said.


Focus now on underground networks

The Sydney Rapid Transit. PHOTO: NSW GOVERNMENT

Australian cities have rolled out a series of light rail systems in recent years but the country is now shifting underground, with plans to embark on massive metro train networks.  The country's two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are both planning large- scale networks as they seek to address population pressures and growing traffic congestion.

Sydney is planning a A$4.5 billion (S$4.6 billion) rail tunnel under the harbour, and is due to start construction next year. The line will form part of a new standalone, above- and below-ground network that is set to be able to carry an extra 100,000 train customers an hour during peak periods.

The first phase is a A$8.3 billion series of stops across the city's north-west starting from Chatswood, a northern suburb sometimes referred to as a "mini-Chinatown". The north-west line, due to open in early 2019, includes twin 15km rail tunnels, the longest-ever built in Australia.