Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project is a case of misplaced priorities | Opinion
At a time when Pune has a fistful of pressing priorities--almost similar to those of any emerging Indian megapolis--the state government is toying with an untried, untested futuristic transport technology. ‘Toying’ is the right word to describe the Maharashtra government’s plan to proceed with the Hyperloop project which envisages a Pune-Mumbai trip at the lightning speed of 23 minutes flat.
This fantasy-like technology, which goes far beyond the Bullet Train in its promise, was proposed by American company Virgin Hyperloop; the company signed a framework agreement with Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) in February 2018. Last week, the state cabinet accorded it the status of a “basic infrastructure project.”
The first stage is a 11.8-km demonstration track between Gahunje and Urse village alongside the Pune-Mumbai expressway on Pune’s outskirts. The land acquisition for this will be PMRDA’s responsibility and the cost of the demonstration infrastructure--pegged at Rs. 5,000 crore ($724 million) -- will be borne by Virgin Hyperloop.
The very first hurdle this project needs to cross is land acquisition: Wary farmers have already protested while former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan--a qualified engineer from the University of California, Berkeley--has raised questions of technical feasibility.
The Hyperloop, projected to cost Rs. 70,000 crore, is not a project that the people of Pune and Mumbai have been hankering for. Their demands are quite different.
Suffering from acute waterlogging, deaths due to the collapse of dilapidated buildings every monsoon and poor maintenance of railway overbridges, the people of Mumbai want better planning of their city. They would wholeheartedly welcome the allocation of resources and involvement of the best minds to address this recurring crisis.
Things are equally worse in Pune, which, in spite of being a booming, prosperous city, much larger than many state capitals, suffers from political and bureaucratic neglect because it is not a state capital.
For nearly a decade now, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been indiscriminately issuing construction permits in emerging suburbs like Wakad and Wagholi without taking responsibility for basic infrastructure such as water supply and roads. Some of these neighbourhoods suffer from regular power outages of 18 hours and more due to outdated transformers.
Pune’s crying need for a robust city bus service continues to be neglected by politicians and bureaucrats. Rather than attending to these pressing needs, here is a government toying with the Hyperloop.