WHY INDIA NEEDS BULLET TRAINS?
A railway system that has been designed for speeds above 250kmph is generally called high-speed section. Only 16 nations have high-speed railways -China boasts the world's longest network with 27,000km of such tracks. Japan, Spain, France, and Germany are the others where tracks dedicated for high-speed trains stretch over 1,000 km. India being a developing country, needs a fast-paced growth in the infrastructure development projects.
A senior official has said in the Economic Times that the work on the country's first high-speed bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is on in full swing with the designing of bridges and tunnels progressing well. The train is likely to cover the distance of over 500 km between the two cities in less than 3 hours, from the present seven hours. And so, comes out the question that rattles almost every sane mind out there in the country, Is it a necessity? Does India need bullet trains or HSR, precisely owing to the hefty investment of 1 lakh crore even though Japan has promised to extend a soft loan covering over 80 percent of the cost to India, whose repayment has to be made within five decades with a meager interest of 0.1 percent? Though many discards it as a vanity project which has little or no justification on the grounds of economic viability or public service as only a handful of high-income countries with specific demographics have high-speed rail (HSR), while many have failed in their efforts, others have abandoned it after studying it. The main problem is viability, given the huge costs involved. And so, the question arises about the viability of this project that is this a wasteful project which only serves to deliver a false feel-good perception among the wealthy or not. Not really it should be realized that the masses appreciate the emphasis on the necessity of the project for India. Millions of businesses thrive, and billions of people live, directly or indirectly on Indian Railways.
This project is about trying an alternative approach which is easier regarding effort and project management but may have the similar financial burden. The investment, however, would build an alternative high-speed network that uses latest of the technological advancements and is safer. Looking around and analyzing the major technological innovations where governments and private enterprises as well, are putting hundreds of billions of dollars, we could imply that a good number of such technological developments are related to the transportation sector. There is no doubt that such efforts are going to change the way businesses would be conducted in the future drastically. In such a scenario, the Indian Railways, with an average speed of just above 50KM/hour looks medieval and would affect adversely, the economy at a time when we are aiming to become the world’s third- largest economy after the USA and China. Also, one of the key concerns in recent times is the high rate of unemployment in the country. Introduction of bullet trains will generate employment for the thousands. HSR is a highly energy efficient mode of travel. At a time when India is getting serious about its green energy goals, HSR comes as a big boon. It shall cut down on power needs and ATF fuel as well. The most significant benefit of this project would be travel speed and convenience. Be it a businessman or an entrepreneur or someone from the working class, he/ she would see an economic opportunity in saving time as well as improving convenience. Thus, keeping in mind about the India of the future, building a pan-India network of bullet trains would definitely be a rational investment decision for the government.