Standard Gauge versus Broad Gauge

A Standard Gauge railway is a railway with a track gauge of 1,435 mm. It is the most widely used railway track gauge across the world, with approximately 55% of the lines in the world using it. The distance between the inside edges of the rails is defined to be 1435 mm except in the United States and on some heritage British lines.

In Standard Gauge, trains could operate upto speeds of 350 kmph and beyond. Whereas in Broad Gauge, trains would be able to operate only upto speeds of 160 kmph in India, though with a slightly better speed in some other railways. It is a fact that Standard Gauge provides a safer, speedier and more comfortable system for which well-developed and proven technologies are available. It also requires less land width. Moreover, SG trains can obtain higher speeds compared to BG trains in sharp, curved and steep graded lines due to reasons like their inherent better stability, lighter coaches and simpler structural systems. Upto 250 kmph is considered Semi High Speed and High Speeds are generally above 250 kmph.

SG coaches which are available presently, from many international sources, are very good, comfortable and safe for semi-high speed and high speed operations. With 3.2m-3.4m wide body coaches available in SG, the carrying capacity of these coaches are same as that in IR’s BG coaches. Dedicated high speed SG coaches are much lighter than BG coaches and hence their supporting structures are also lighter and cheaper.

BG is available only in India and Pakistan where speeds are historically low. For BG in IR, high speed operations have not been found to be feasible as existing technologies are not adequate for such speeds and available track and coach designs do not support such speeds. Inspite of continuous and serious efforts, Indian railways are not able to raise the speed beyond 160 kmph in any sector due to technological issues in rails as well as in coaches. Development of high speed rail systems on BG technology is not in the near technological horizon anywhere.

SG has been approved by the Govt of India for the prestigious Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR line and Delhi-Meerut RRTS lines. IR’s Broad Gauge cannot even take up speeds of 200 kmph in the near future. These factors have weighed in favour of Standard Gauge for the Kerala’s Silver Line as minimum speed of 200 kmph or above is considered absolutely necessary for the Kerala’s new Railway Corridor between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod to meet the requirement of maximum 4 hrs running time in between the end stations and faster travel between all cities in the route.

India’s venture into SG high speed coach technologies can take the country into high end technologies through the Make in India program and the country can become a leader in this area as many countries are switching over to high speed rail systems world over.

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