Will the bullet trains become a reality in India?
Although Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has announced in this year’s interim rail budget that the six rail routes, including Patna-New Delhi section be surveyed for running bullet trains, a feasibility report prepared by experts from Japan and France in 2001 has ruled out the possibility.
The foreign experts have categorically stated that track conditions in the country are not conducive to the running of such trains. “The proposal was turned down during late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s regime as well. Bihar Chief Minister and former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar also believes “it’s not feasible.”
The feasibility survey was nevertheless carried out for Delhi-Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.
Experts in the railway ministry feel that such trains, running at 250-300 kmph an hour, require a ‘protected zone’. “With so many unmanned railway crossings, the task of introducing bullet trains, if not impossible, is a Herculean one.” The maximum speed limit of trains, at present, is 160 kmph between New Delhi and Gwalior.
For running bullet trains, dedicated tracks are required with complete ban on running of goods train on them. With stray animals on tracks a common sight in India, a huge stretch has to be completely fenced to prevent entry of such animals.
“It will be like bird-hit during flights. A train traveling at a speed of 300 kmph and hitting an animal will be a disaster,” said a senior railway official. “The railways have, however, already started segregating the goods trains on important routes by constructing a dedicated freight corridor,” he added.
Another aspect that has to be looked into would be the signaling. “The bullet trains use cab signaling that are very expensive. It is located inside the locomotives and are maintained through radio links,” said the official. “Moreover, in case of bullet trains, tracks from the originating to terminating stations have to be clear,” he said.
Sources said that raising infrastructure would be another area that would pose difficulties. “For one km of infrastructure, the development cost will be somewhere between Rs 5 to 6 crore and a distance of 1000 kms from Patna to New Delhi will cost nearly Rs 10,000 crore,” said the sources.
“Fares of such trains would be more than existing airfares. There are other aspects to be looked into as well. Consultants are being appointed and they will look into all aspects related to it,” he added.