India is going to join the league of countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and France when it gets it first ever bullet train in 2018. The first trip of this bullet train is going to be from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Incidentally, the first ever railway line in India was also started at Mumbai and ended at Thane, Maharashtra. This happened on 16 April, 1853, during the British Era when this city was known as Bombay. It is expected that this trip would be completed in a matter of two hours. The new train is supposed to cover a maximum distance of 350 km in an hour. At present the two cities, on the western part of India, are connected by the Duronto Express and it takes around 7 hours to cover the distance. So one can easily understand how fast this train is going to be!
The distance between the capital of Maharashtra and the capital of Gujarat is 508 km and 21 km of this distance is supposed to be completed in an underwater tunnel, which will be built presumably in the Arabian Sea. So, that will be a novel experience for Indians who use it for the first time.
Funding from Japan
Japan, which is famous for its bullet trains, has agreed to provide 81% of the finances needed to carry out this project. It is expected that the loan agreement shall be finalized by the end of this year. Construction is expected to start from the end of 2017 in all probability.
Question of financial viability
The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad has said that in order to be financially feasible the new bullet train will need to complete around 100 trips each day. This can be interpreted straightaway as a major question on the financial viability of the new project. When we consider the fact that the bullet train will need around couple of hours for each trip, the most trips it can do in a day are 12, which is far off from the figure quoted by IIM Ahmedabad. Apart from that you need to consider other factors like wear and tear of the train, the tracks, and related infrastructure. Going by this theory then the bullet train would be a massive financial failure.
Now, this means that the Indian Government will have to think of some revenue model for these trains that could make them long-lasting prospects and not burdens on state exchequer. Then, there is also the question of paying back the loan to Japan. Considering the perilous state of taxation being imposed on common people one wonders what this additional expense will mean for the already-overburdened common Indian. May be, authorities need to look at Japan and understand how to make these trains work. After all, Japan has been doing it for ages now and has become something of a pioneer in this regard. So, it would make sense to watch and learn from them.
Some other things to consider
The central government also needs to consider a few other factors like first building the infrastructure needed to operate these trains without accidents. That needs to be done properly and for a change favouritism, profiteering, and nepotism need be kept aside for the greater good. These three factors have stopped India from becoming a great country – they should not be allowed to do so again, at least in this case. May be this is a rather simplistic and inconveniently-Socialist assumption but given a country where under-construction bridges break down with ridiculous regularity such questions may not be that out of place.
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