such announcement. Maybe, it was feared that the decision to go for a big-ticket announcement on bullet trains would not be a good idea amid a populist Budget. Yet, sources in Rail Bhawan say the first bullet train will run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Earlier this month, Rail Bhawan mandarins gave enough indication in a seminar in New Delhi that IR would roll out a number of high speed corridors during the 12th Plan period.
Already, a company called High Speed Rail Corporation was formed, and the work on arranging resources has begun. After all, it could be a project worth Rs 50,000 crore to begin with. But question is: why India chose to arrive so late when trains with a speed of about 300 km per hour are already running in 15 nations, and seven more countries are at an advance stage of planning such speed machines?
The reality is, the Rail Bhawan itself was not convinced for a long time whether Indian Railways should go faster at all. Currently, Shatabdi and Rajdhani run at a maximum speed of 130 km per hour. Many in rail bureaucracy convinced the law-makers that India needed a poor man’s bullet trains, possibly be named as Garib Bullet Raths. But what is this poor man’s bullet train? At a 200 km per hour, it will neither be as fast as Japanese Shinkansen, the pioneer in this field, nor as slow as existing Shatabdi or Rajdhani trains. The logic behind the introduction of Garib Bullet Raths is cost cutting. After all, having trains at a speed beyond 300 km per hour is a costly proposition. In France, for example, the construction cost of one kilometre of high speed rail was USD 15 million, or over Rs 75 crore.
But should cost be a stumbling block for India to achieve this long-cherished dream? A couple of months ago, China started its 2,298-kilometer high-speed train line from Beijing to Guangzhou, the longest in the world. By 2015, China plans to complete 16,000 km of high speed rail network. How long then India should shy away from taking at least a baby step?
Earlier this month, Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal narrated some of the advantages that high-speed trains have, when he addressed a gathering of government officers and private companies. Indian Rail’s top bureaucrat pointed out that bullet trains would lead to substantial savings of time and thereby enhancing productivity. It will attract new economic activities, better land use, reduction in accident rate and generating additional capacity for railway systems, he added.
Member Electrical of the Railway Board Kul Bhushan supports the idea of high speed rail because it requires negligible land. As high speed rail systems are mostly built on elevated pathways, those require negligible land, as compared to 6-lane highways.