Mumbai – Nashik or Pune in 2 hours? Not anytime soon

Railway Board Member (Rolling Stock) Rajesh Agrawal managed to get some headlines to show for his trip to Mumbai on 5th June. Mumbai to Nasik or Pune in 2 hrs, 160 kph upgrade for Mumbai Pune caught the attention of many.

Graphic from Times of India

An implicit claim was made that IR could soon be running Train-18-like trains from Mumbai to Nashik, Pune and Vadodara. Pune and Nashik in 2 hours, Vadodara in 4, with the usual caveats.

But if you are planning to hop onto a train from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus at 7 am and reach Nashik or Pune at 9 am in a swanky T18-like trainset anytime soon, prepare for some disappointment.

Here’s what the Member – Rolling Stock had to say:

There is a lot of fine print left unread.

Two aspects are key to speed. The track and the rolling stock. There are other known constraints like signalling and congestion that we do not need to go into for now.

A few important facts:

  1. The distance from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Nashik (NK) route is 187 kilometres. CSMT to Pune is 192 km.
  2. The fastest scheduled train between CSMT and Nashik today is the 22221 CSMT – Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express via Bhusawal, with one scheduled stop covering the distance in 2 hours 33 minutes. Average speed: 73.3 kph. This train is the first Rajdhani to employ the Push-Pull configuration.
  3. Out of the 187 km section, approximately 53 kilometres of track between CSMT and Kalyan (KYN) is currently rated for speeds of 105 kph or less.
  4. Between, Kalyan and Kasara, the maximum permissible speed (MPS) is 105 kph. From Kasara (KSRA) to Igatpuri (IGP), the ghat section, MPS is an average of 60 kph. Igatpuri to NK is rated at 110 kph.
  5. The fastest scheduled train on the CSMT – Pune section currently is the 12127/28 Mumbai – Pune Intercity Express covering the distance in 2 hours 35 minutes. Average speed: 74.3 kph. Live trials over the past few days have not been able to adhere to this schedule despite using the Push-Pull configuration.
  6. Similarly, the 47 km KYN – Karjat (KJT) section is also fit for only 105 kph. The ghat section between KJT and Lonavala (LNL) is fit for 60 kph. The LNL – Pune section was recently upgraded to 110 kph from 105 kph.
  7. If IR plans to cover 187 km between CSMT and NK in 2 hours, it needs to achieve an average speed of 93.5 kph. For CSMT – Pune, average speed required is 96 kph.
  8. There are several complicated yards that have to be negotiated. These are CSMT, KYN and IGP. All have restricted speeds at 15 and 30 kph and take up 15 minutes or more of the total journey time between CSMT and Nashik. Things are somewhat simpler on the CSMT – Pune route.
  9. The routes from CSMT to KSRA or KJT are shared with dense suburban train traffic.
  10. Better utilisation of the 5th and 6th lines between Kalyan and Vidyavihar and segregation of suburban and long-distance traffic has been hampered by the long-delayed new 3rd and 4th line work between Diva and Thane.
  11. Work on the third line is underway between KYN and KSRA. The fourth line has also been sanctioned. Neither are anywhere near completion. Both are unlikely to be commissioned in the next three years if one goes by the current pace of work and Central Railway’s historical performance on project execution. No visible work is underway between KYN and KJT.

Now that you know all this, let’s look at IR’s plans:

IR hopes to someday run a MEMU (designed on the Train 18 platform) between CSMT and NK or Pune, eventually at 160 kph, to reach an average speed of 93.5 kph or better. Journey time: Two hours.

So here’s the fine print:

Track Limitations

If you have read through facts Number 1 to 11, you will have realised that an MPS of 160 kph between CSMT and KSRA is, for now, a bridge too far.

There’s more:

CR has struggled to upgrade its Mumbai region tracks from 100 to 105 kph. There is no clear roadmap to upgrading the 5th and 6th lines to 120 kph between LTT and KYN.

Besides, little progress has been made on the long-rumoured 120 kph upgrade on KYN – KSRA or KYN – Karjat (KJT) sections. There is no visibility on when any of these upgrades will happen, if at all. IR’s Roadmap for the future envisages 160 kph on the Golden Quadrilateral but doesn’t set timelines for completion.

Remodelling work at KYN yard to streamline traffic and improve speeds is planned. Segregating the Kasara line traffic from the Karjat line traffic to eliminate low-speed crossovers will take a lot of work. At the current pace, the work could take a decade to complete.

Expecting speeds to improve significantly at CSMT is unrealistic. Igatpuri continues to be a bottleneck and there seems to be no plan to change that as far as we are aware.

Rolling Stock Capabilities

If one goes by the claims in various reports, Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) are to be used for trials. They are reportedly going to be based on the Train-18 platform.

It is likely that the Member – Rolling Stock (MRS) meant a narrow-body version of the AC EMUs that will soon be in service on WR and CR. The narrow-body (standard 10.5 ft width as opposed to the 12 ft width of a Mumbai EMU) MEMU is to avoid clearance issues apparently faced with regular EMU rakes in the ghat section.

The new trainset is unlikely to be fit for 160 kph, even if it shares the same bogies, as has been claimed in one report. There is no real chance of it running at 160 kph speeds, as we have seen above.

Given the confusion within IR about the kind of rolling stock and configuration it wants to standardize on, it is anyone’s guess as to what will land in Mumbai eventually.

The Real Deal

Unless, IR does a Gatimaan to shave 15 minutes off the schedule by starting these trains from Dadar (CR) instead of CSMT. And even if the trains start from Dadar instead of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, 120 minutes for 179-183 km still seems like a stiff target to chase.

For the uninitiated: IR, in order to reduce the total run time between Delhi and Agra to 100 minutes, chose to shift Gatimaan Express from the originally planned New Delhi station (NDLS) to Hazrat Nizamuddin (NZM).

To be fair, the MRS was quoted admitting that pre-requisites for track and other infrastructure needs upgrades to see results. That in itself suggests that a 2-hour goal is some years away, even with the best rolling stock.

“No final decision has been taken yet. As of now, we are going to explore only the possibility,” he said.

Traffic congestion and upgradation of infrastructure including the tracks are bigger challenges for the railways, he said.

Rajesh Agrawal, Member – Rolling Stock, Railway Board to the Indian Express

Realistic: A 4 hour Mumbai – Vadodara run.

The only realistic claim made seems to be a Mumbai Central – Vadodara run in four hours.

The fastest train on the section (12951) is scheduled to travel the 392 km distance in 4 hours and 18 minutes without any Push-Pull or T-18 wizardry. Average speed is 91 kph. The route is fit for 130 kph, and a smaller proportion of the total distance is saddled with suburban traffic. However, we do not know what speeds the MEMU rake will be fit for.

So, who do you think will get there first? Mumbai – Vadodara or Mumbai – Pune / Nashik. Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: Editor

2 Comments

  1. Why is it pre-supposed that a MEMU based on T-18 “Whizadry” as used by author can’t have 160 kmph MPS provided we keep non-AC and open window stuff aside?

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