Sucheta Dalal :Voices: Corny plans for high-speed trains
Sucheta Dalal

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Voices: Corny plans for high-speed trains  

November 15, 2004

Bikini Beaches Of Florida To Bare Bottoms Of Mumbai Tracks

By Ravinder Singh



This refers to “UPA answer to NDA: Roads cleared for hi-speed trains” in The Economic Times of 15th Nov. 2004 which is not available on the Net. In the heading I have tried to instantly convey the message that India is very poor country but foolishly trying to imitate projects and planning of the richest nations.


As I have stated in in the past that our government including Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh have absolutely no understanding of our economic conditions, the functioning of our public and private sector institutions and they, above all, fail to learn from past mistakes.


The newsreport quotes Dr.Manmohan Singh. It says “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems convinced that there is a potential for trains that would run at the speed of 250-300 km per hour.”


“Money should not be a problem, the Prime Minister is said to have assured Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav. Modernisation of railways is very high on the current government’s priority list and this would involve upgrading the rail network to run freight trains at 100 kmph and passenger trains on select routes such as the golden quadrangle. Delhi- Agra may be the first section that would see the passenger trains run at 150 kmph.”


“The first of the high speed trains could be run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. A dedicated fenced rail corridor spanning 500 km is to be built to connect the two cities to ensure safe passage of the train. The corridor once operational, could bring down the travel time between the two cities to less than three hours”, says the report


This story is another evidence of the nation being run by absolute idiots. An Indian proverb says, a half qualified person is more dangerous than an unqualified or duly qualified. The distance of 200 kms between London and Birmingham is covered in 2 hours, that between London and  Paris (300 km)  in 2.5 –3 hours,  so why should we, a very poor nation with one fiftieth the per capita income of U.K. wants to travel even faster and cover the 500 km distance between Mumbai- Ahmedabad in 3 hours.

Since time required to reach the starting terminal could well be over an hour and the waiting time about 30 minutes at Mumbai itself, the total time required to reach the destination to destination may still be more than 6 hours. This is little better than Shatabdi journey time of 7 hours averaging 70 kmph. Average express train speed in this section is only 50 kmph.


Another fact. Nowhere in the world are freight trains run at 100 kmph. France introduced 40 T gross weight wagons to reduce damage to tracks. We continue to have passenger coaches of 55-60 T gross weight and 90 T wagons.


While modernizing is not bad but what is actually achieved is demonstrated by the recent stampede at New Delhi Railway Station. Delhi has three stations and New Delhi station was the show-piece of our capital city. It served the most important Shatabdis, Rajdhanis and super fast trains. But gradually even prestigious trains like TN Rajdhani express, Andhra Express and Taj express, Shane Punjab express were shunted to Nizamuddin station, yet, the most of the Janta class trains bound for Bihar were still scheduled to run from New Delhi.


Whereas a Shatabdi or a Rajdhani train carry 400/ 800 passengers and other superfast trains carry about 1000 passengers, a Janta class unreserved train may pack upto 6,000 people, which is 2 to 3 times the normal capacity. Imagine a situation when two or three people come to see off every passenger, there could be 20,000 people for one train. It is not just a question of over crowding trains, there are inadequate facilities to serve basic human needs.


Has the Railway administration become wiser after the recent killer stampede? It has said that it brings the Bihar bound train an hour ahead of schedule which means by the time train may depart, toilets shall be full and water drained out and everything in toilets falling on to the tracks on the station itself.


I traveled to Mumbai in Rajdhani in 2000 around this time of the year. The train was an hour late. The last 50 km distance was covered in 2 hours and Rajdhani stopped at scores of places between stations because it had to follow local trains. There was the view of bare bottoms all the way. Though we were to go to Juhu, we couldn’t alight at any of the unscheduled stoppages along the way because of unending filth along the track. We paid nearly Rs 150 fors taxi fare and spent another two in order to reach the hotel.


So, even without “High Speed Trains” we could cut down journey time by an hour or two for people traveling by the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and superfast trains by simply converting unscheduled stoppages to scheduled stoppages at Santa Cruz and Andheri stations in Mumbai.


Florida is famous for its Bikini Beaches, Mumbai for its Bare Bottoms along Rail-tracks. It’s a very serious issue but our leaders prefer to waste our scarce resources on wasteful projects. I don’t think there will be any land available for the hi-speed Mumbai-Ahmedabad track. The track will cost Rs. 10,000 crores but may not carry more than 4000- 6000 passengers in a day. People who can afford to travel by air, will do so, those who can’t will continue to use cheaper alternatives- the Shatabadis and Rajdhanis.

Even at a ticket rate of Rs 1400 per seat, which is equal to the executive class Shatabdi fare, the daily revenue collection could be just Rs seven million or Rs 250 crores annually. I have no idea how this will serve operational costs and interest payments.

Punjab doesn’t have direct rail service or link to Chandigarh. It requires only a 30 km link to connect Chandigarh and Mohali to Punjab as well rest of the country. Himachal bound passengers could arrive at Mohali bypassing the jouney through Chandigarh city. Manmohan Singh was a student and lecturer at Chandigarh, his parents are based in Amritsar, he could not think of this Rs. 50 crore project which is commercially most viable.


This is an occassional posting of interesting views. If you have a detailed articles you'd like posted on this website, email me at [email protected]. The views here are radical, incisive and open to debate. They are not necessarily my views or supported by this website. Your comments are welcome

-- Sucheta Dalal