December 7, 2017
Young employees of India's Ministry of Railways have been undergoing training in Japan, visiting rail sites and learning about Japan's rail technology and service as India prepares to introduce high-speed rail.
It's big news that India's high-speed rail plan will use Japan's Shinkansen system. The plan is to build a high-speed railroad between Mumbai and Ahmedabad (approximately 500 kilometers) in western India, using Shinkansen technology and expertise. Japan is also providing cooperation on construction of a dedicated freight railway between the National Capital Region (Delhi) and Mumbai (approximately 1,500 kilometers). India and Japan signed an agreement of cooperation to procure electric locomotives in September.
Since freight transportation is an issue for India's railroad system, the training includes it. Training began one day at 9 a.m. in a meeting room at the JICA Tokyo International Center (in Shibuya, Tokyo), where the participants stay. Japan Freight Railway Company's Overseas Business Office Group Leader Yoshihisa Matsuda gave a lecture entitled "Overview of Freight Railroads" to the participants.
He explained Japanese freight transportation: In Japan, containers were introduced during a transition in energy policy when policymakers thought about how to efficiently carry freight other than coal. Japan then cut costs by reducing the number of people needed to unload freight and otherwise increasing efficiency, completing the foundation of Japanese freight railroads. He also mentioned that in urban areas, timetables give precedence to commuter trains over freight.
Participants asked many questions from the perspective of the people who do the actual work: "How do you set the timetable?" "Do you have different prices for busy times?" "When do you do the maintenance work on rail cars and tracks?"
Mr. Matsuda pointed out the importance of operating from the perspective of the customer: "India doesn't have any timetable for freight transportation. A train runs when it reaches maximum loading capacity. This is easy for the operators, but for customers it's hard-to-use because they don't know what time their freight will arrive. I know it's difficult to set a timetable, convert to using containers and incorporate other new structures, but if you don't do it now, users will abandon rail and it will be too late."
For a field trip one afternoon, the participants took a bus from the JICA Tokyo International Center to Japan Freight Railway Company's Sumidagawa Station. They visited the container platform and listened to an explanation from Stationmaster Atsushi Takahashi. They saw many freight trains stopped on the arrival and departure lines and a container platform lined with containers from various companies, and they thought about the potential of freight railroads.
The participants used trains to return to the JICA Tokyo International Center. They took the Tsukuba Express and changed to the Yamanote and Keio lines, experiencing Japanese rail service as regular customers. Then their training day came to an end.
JICA plans to invite some 300 Indian rail workers to Japan by January 2018 to learn about a variety of things ranging from hard infrastructure (the railcar manufacturing and the track construction) to railroad operation and management and operating with the user in mind.
*Link to JICA full-featured website