International conference “Railtec – 2017”, Advanced Rail Technology for India
Address by Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler
New Delhi, 21 July 2017
Hon’ble Union Minister for Railways, Shri Suresh P Prabhu
Shri Rajen Gohain, Hon’ble Minister of State for Railways
Shri Sandeep Jajodia, President of ASSOCHAM
Shri D S Rawat, Secretary General of ASSOCHAM
Dr. A K Agarwal, Chairman of the National Rail Transport Council of ASSOCHAM
Dear distinguished guests
First of all, I would like to thank the ASSOCHAM for this invitation. It is a great pleasure for me, as the representative of France, the country partner for this event, to join in this conference which tackles such strategic issues. I am very happy to notice the presence of French companies’ representatives today such as Bureau Veritas and Dassault Systèmes. This event testifies to the strength of our Indo French cooperation in the rail sector.
It is an honor for me to address this august gathering in the presence of the Union Minister for Railways, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, who leads one of the largest rail networks in the world with 66 000 kms of total track linking more than 8 000 stations.
Trains are more than a means of transportation in India, they are also an economic and a cultural asset, which links remote parts of the country to some of the world’s largest cities.
Trains are a futuristic means of transport, able to carry huge numbers of passengers with minimum impact on the environment, and which connect the very center of one city to the other. Having an efficient rail network, with good coaches and practical stations linked to other modes of transports is nowadays a critical factor to foster sustainable growth and territorial development. To achieve this goal, a steady and enduring investment effort is required and ambitious technical choices must be made. Just like in India, we have been constantly facing these challenges in France, when 40 years ago we decided to develop one of the first high speed railway networks in the world, while continuing to electrify and modernize the existing network and retrofitting existing stations to better integrate them to urban transportation systems. France has acquired a very strong expertise in rail transport which is internationally renowned. The very recent inauguration of two new high speed lines (on 1st of July), linking Paris to the northern city of Rennes in only 1 hour and 26 minutes and to southern Bordeaux in two hours and 8 minutes is an example of the continuous improvement of the French network and of the excellence of the French know-how in high speed rail.
Our two countries have a long lasting experience to share.
Indeed, France and India have an ancient and active cooperation in the railway industry. The French national rail operator SNCF and the Indian Railways have been working together for more than 30 years. On the occasion of the last meeting, on 3rd June the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi and Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic reaffirmed the need to further strengthen Indo-French cooperation in railway sector.
Many French companies are involved today in the development of the railways in India, sharing their know-how and their extensive expertise in the railways sector, from engineering to technological and industrial innovation. French companies are involved in several big railway projects for the modernization of the Indian Railway network. For example, the French company Alstom will produce 800 electric engines, the best in terms of energy efficiency. Consistent with the Make in India policy, a manufacturing unit is to be set up in Bihar in order to attain this production target.
Today, I would like to put the emphasis on the main common priorities for both France and India in the railways sector. I am convinced that we could successfully enhance our cooperation in speed trains, station renovation, multimodality and security.
1. Increasing the average speed on the network is nowadays a necessity, to ensure train’s competitiveness, and to deliver a better service to the Indian population.
As far as high speed is concerned, the Indian Railways have already identified priority corridors for implementation. France is also working along with India to enter this new area of speed through pioneering projects. SNCF conducted a study on the Mumbai Ahmedabad corridor, which should be the first high speed line to be built, and the French company Tractebel, the engineering subsidiary of Engie, is currently carrying out the feasibility study of the Mumbai-Delhi corridor.
Semi high speed is highly relevant in the modernization and the further development of the Indian railways network, and I would like to underline the fact that India is currently drawing up the framework for a development model which will change the transport dynamics of this large country. France is deeply involved in this, working alongside India, as SNCF is currently conducting the semi high speed study of the Delhi-Chandigarh corridor. Its conclusions are to be released this autumn, which will be another very significant milestone in our bilateral cooperation.
2. Another key element of modernization in the railways sector is station renovation and multimodality. A station is the place where railways connect with other means of transport, especially with urban transport systems. It has a central role in regional dynamics. In France some stations have been developed as real multimodal hubs, building a relationship between the station and its urban neighbourhood. Saint-Lazare station in Paris for instance, the second station of Europe is a model of multimodality with 5 metros, 1 MRTS and 28 bus lines.
The Indian Railways have launched an ambitious renovation program of its 400 most important stations. As part of this portfolio, SNCF has carried out the study at Ambala and Ludhiana stations. This subject is far from being simple, but I am confident that our joint work will create a model of station redevelopment, which would be able to address the urban challenges of the next 50 years.
3. The third element is security. Passenger safety and train security are of the utmost importance. Here I would like to praise the recent initiatives taken by the Government of India to improve train security, through the creation of a dedicated fund. The French company Thales, world leader in the supply of ETCS solutions, has provided some of the latest safety technology to the Indian Railways, starting with a project on a rail line near Chennai.
Apart from this tremendous work on the national railways, let me recall, that urban rail transportation has become a major sector for Indo-French cooperation. The French Development Agency (AFD) has committed a total amount of more than 1,5 Billion USD for India till now, in which metros and multimodal transport projects have a major share. Besides, France is providing technical assistance within the framework of the Smart Cities Programme. And metros, tramways and other modes of public passenger transportation are obviously a main point of interest, in which French companies and expertise are particularly involved.
Our joint work on the development of key infrastructure across India is a significant part of the Indo-French partnership. The Indian Railways face challenges that are crucial for the modernization of the transportation system. I hope that today’s contributions will lay the groundwork for a further exponential growth of the railway industry. I wish you very fruitful panel discussions.