Bullet Trains or Better Trains? – By Kajal Jadhav

Edited By – Akash Goel

Are Bullet trains in India the need of the hour? Or do we need to take a back seat and maybe look at the dire state of the current Indian railways and work for its betterment? Can the progress on both the fronts go hand-in-hand? Let’s read on to find out more . .


Bullet Trains

Better Trains

In India, railways are considered as the most affordable mode of public transport including intra-city transport. Now we must strive to have a faster mode of transport which if not better, should be at least on par as that in developed countries. No doubt, the risks involved with the project are very high, but not taking a risk itself is a huge risk putting all the potential development at stake. India needs better trains, the recent derailed accident near Kanpur, in which 200 people lost their lives put us to rethink twice whether we really need bullet train or should we build our existing rail lines safe and secure so that people travel comfortably.
India, where people hardly afford the sleeper class fair, can they afford bullet train fares?
Bullet trains are not an either-or scenario; it’s a very important step towards infrastructure development aimed at improving the existing transport infrastructure. It is a proven technology that connects smart cities and covers a certain distance which now takes 20-24 hours in a matter of 3-4 hours! Before adopting the foreign technology of bullet trains we should look at all the things that are prioritized before bullet trains. In foreign country human life, infrastructure, law and order is first prioritized and then the bullet trains come into picture. While in India, there are around 4000 deaths per year in Mumbai local trains, which is ironically more than Bhopal gas tragedy.
Airplane rides are also not cheap. The government aims to keep the price slabs similar to the airfares and it would be globally competent. Fare of the bullet train is estimated to be around 3-4k per trip. It is considered to be rich man’s transportation.
It’s not just about rich man’s train. Its purpose is to move the economy and give it a push. It is going to connect many cities in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Bullet trains can help in regenerating the economy and building new townships and smart cities. The point can further be justified in the sense that we will be a technology-savvy nation and we can boast about this. How many people will actually benefit from this train? When you have a bus for 500 rs, airfares ranging around 2000 rs , how many will pay 3000 rs  for bullet train?
Mumbai will be well-connected to Ahmedabad and vice-versa. This doesn’t justify. Already Mumbai is well connected to Ahmedabad by bus, train, and airplane. Even if airplane is to be expanded it will require fewer budgets.
Japan is giving soft loan of 17 B US $ with 0.1% Rate of Interest. Only about 20-30k crores will be invested by GOI and outgo of GOI will be 5-6 crores. Rest of it needs to be paid over 50 years that is a fraction of Rail Budget. It is loan which we have to repay. Every taxpayer has to repay. Even 0.1% would benefit them as Rate of Interest in Japan is negative. They need India for their economies to grow and survive. We won’t get any ROI.
Loan for 50 years with 0.1% rate of Interest is not bad economics. In 1984 the rate was 7.4-7.6%  and in July 2016 was -0.3% but today it is in positive territory. Multi-lateral institutions like World Bank or IMF will also charge 4-6% Rate of Interest. Will this venture be profitable or not?

Will we ever be able to break-even or not?

There is already a huge debt on our country and our citizens.

Indian government is capable of handling these two tasks efficiently and simultaneously if proper care is given to each of them. Bullet trains are the future of travelling for our country. Existing railways are the present and it is agreed that they need proper upgrading and safety proofing from time to time. There are many issues to be addressed such as safety for existing railways, unemployment, and poverty. Government is prioritizing bullet trains over the prevailing issues.
Mumbai has 7% contribution to India’s GDP. And the contribution of Ahmedabad is 150 Billion dollars. There are still doubts that why this sector of Mumbai – Ahmedabad was chosen?
An individual travelling from Mumbai to Ahmedabad or vice-versa on work can commute in just about 30 minutes! Out of 100, only 5 will opt for travelling by bullet trains. But the loan will be repaid from the pocket of all the 100 taxpayers.
Indian railways carry more than 13 million passengers every day but trains to accommodate them are very few. Indian railways cannot cater to the rising demands. Indian railway is facing huge loss owing to the same fact that there are more people than it can afford to accommodate. So bullet trains could come as a rescue.
When Maruti tied up with Suzuki, there were doubts and questions like there is no need to tie up with car manufacturer when most of the population is using scooters, moped etc.

But now India is the global manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. There are similar expectations with the bullet train.

The return on investment is much faster in the automobile sector as compared to bullet trains.

While the Bullet Train is a big leap for India, what the country demands are small, significant steps to secure rail safety.

The other aspect, however, is given the traffic density in this corridor, this project could lead to a significant reduction in India’s carbon footprint. Investment in infrastructure development has always acted as a catalyst in the economic growth of India. This project could provide an important boost to public investment. One showcase team will fire the aspirations of a billion people, just like one Delhi Metro made every city in India try to build one. If we don’t dream big, we will never achieve big.

“It’s a leap into the unknown!”