Travel time for premier trains between major stations is all set to come down with railways mulling the possibility of increasing the speeds of its Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto services to between 160km to 200km per hour over the next three years.
"We are aiming at increasing the speeds of premier trains to up to 160km to 200km per hour on Shatabdi routes like Delhi -Bhopal, Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Chandigarh on the existing track," Chairman, Railway Board (CRB), Arunendra Kumar said.
According to the CRB, the "semi-high speed" service, "will be on an experimental basis. We will begin with one or two trains... After that, the number of such trains like Shatabdi, Duronto or Rajdhani, will increase".
Currently, the maximum speeds of the Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto trains vary between 130 to 150km per hour.
With the increased speed, travel time to, say Mumbai or Chandigarh from Delhi, can be reduced by one to three hours, he said.
Asked about the timeline and the cost involved in the project, Kumar said though nothing had been fixed yet, the trains could be running at "semi high-speeds" before 2017.
The selected trains would run at higher speeds with their existing locomotives, coaches and tracks and only with certain minor modification in the system, he added.
As per international standards, trains running at speeds of 300kmph and beyond are called high-speed trains.
"High-speed projects involve huge expenditure as they require a dedicated track for trains to run at 300kmph speeds.
"But we are going for semi high speed at the moment, with maximum speeds of 200kmph," Kumar said.
"There will be some expenses involved in the project, but that has not been estimated yet.
"But we are using the same loco, same track, same coaches. There will be training and guidelines for drivers, station masters and guards regarding safety requirements," he added.
Asked whether raising the speeds of certain trains would impact the running of others, Kumar answered in the negative.
The system will ensure track clearances for 25km stretches on the route of the running train and that would ensure smooth operations for other trains, the CRB said.
"Certain stretches of the routes (for the premier trains) have been identified as being prone to the movement of cattle and other animals; those areas will be fenced off to prevent the animals from coming on to the tracks," he said.
Railways is next week organising a global conference on high-speed rail travel.