35 trains a day: India to get its first bullet train by 2022
The Centre is confident of starting the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train on August 15, 2022, to commemorate the 75th year of India's Independence, a year ahead of its schedule.Initially, the route is expected to have 35 trains per day. This might increase to 105 by 2050. Read all the details here
However, land acquisition could be a major hurdle for the project
Acquiring 825 hectares of land may become a major hurdle for the completing the Mumbai-Ahmedabad
bullet train project by 2022.Experts said advancing the project’s deadline by a year to August 2022 may not be feasible considering the complex land acquisition process involved. Of the Rs 1.10 lakh crore investment required for the project, Japan
is providing Rs 88,000 crore as a soft loan at 0.1 per cent interest. However, release of the Japanese funding is linked to land acquisition.
Initial feasibility reports have identified 163 villages in eight districts of Gujarat, 44 villages in three districts of Maharashtra and some areas in Dadra and Nagar Haveli for land acquisition. About 2,761 families will be affected. More details on that here
And is the travel on a bullet train really affordable?
Is the project economically and financially viable?
Though the fare structure for Rs 1.10 lakh crore is yet to be finalised, the initial estimates suggest that the high-speed rail fares are likely to be 1.5 times the existing first class AC train tickets. The current fare of AC first class on Ahmedabad-Mumbai route is in the range of Rs 1,700-2,300, while flight tickets start from Rs 2,000 onwards. This means a traveller will have to pay much more than existing flight ticket prices to travel on bullet trains. Read more here
In an otherwise investment starved economy, this is an example of routing low-cost surplus capital available globally to build infrastructure in the country. Similar to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation becoming a consultant to metro rail projects across the country, if successful, this project could play a similar role for HSR. Gaining experience of under-sea tunnels and advanced signalling technology could be added benefits, writes Neelkanth Mishra. Read his analysis her
e where he also debates if there will be 15 million passengers a year willing to travel in a train at the targeted Rs 2,500-3,000 ticket price?
The launch of the bullet train could lead to Modi’s pet project, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) City, losing its competitive edge as an upcoming financial centre, say experts as the rise in connectivity could result in commercial activities getting centralised to the larger centre. Secondly, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad
bullet train project would have to ferry 50,000 passengers to and fro to earn enough to repay the loans with interest on time. Read more about its financial viability and what it means for GIFT City here.
But how about getting rail safety right first?
The inauguration of the signature bullet train project comes just weeks after a major accident of the Utkal Express at Khatauli, Uttar Pradesh, with 23 fatalities. The derailment of the Utkal Express, an entirely avoidable tragedy, followed a series of accidents, big and small, this year and finally resulted in Suresh Prabhu being moved out of the railway ministry and the resignation of the Railway Board chairman, A K Mittal. As new Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani get ready to oversee India’s entry into a club of countries that offer high-end mass transport services, ordinary rail travel has become an increasingly hazardous exercise for the average Indian. What has gone wrong? Read our in-depth analysis here
China also keen in high-speed railway projects in India
Even China has evinced interest in reviving its proposal to build high-speed railway projects in India, which has chosen Japan
as a partner for the country's first such venture.China has been aggressively marketing its high-speed rail technology abroad and in the past lobbied hard to get the first contract in India. It had taken up a feasibility study for the New Delhi-Chennai corridor but no headway has been made in this regard so far.The Chinese side showed interest in the projects in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe
prepared to lay the foundation for India's first bullet train project. More details here