Saturday, 30 July 2016

Bulllet Train - Mumbai Ahmedabad

Salient features:
Mumbai - Ahmedabad bullet train
  1. The proposed Mumbai - Ahmedabad bullet train will run at 350 kmph whereas the present fastest Shatabdi Express runs at 160 kmph. It will be 8th high speed train in the world. 
  2. The 508 km distance will be traveled in just 2 hours. At present Ahmedabad-Mumbai flight takes 2.5 hours including check in time. 
  3. It is expected that around 36,000 daily users per day both ways by 2023, going up to 186,000 by 2053. 
  4. The non-stop journey from Ahmedabad to Mumbai will take 2.07 hours. There is another train stopping at all the 12 stations enroute will take 2.58 hours. The 12 stations are Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.  At present, Duronto Express takes about seven hours to cover this distance.
  5. The bullet train work will start in 2017 and competed in 2022-23.
  6. Out of Rs. 97,636 crores total cost, 80% loan will be be provided by Japan at 0.1% interest repayable in 50 years, with 15 years moratorium. Total duration of Bullet Train Project would be 12-13 years.
  7. Construction cost would be Rs.140 crores per km where as Delhi Metro costed Rs.175 crores per km and Vijayawda Metro cost estimated at Rs.288 crores per km. While the cost of construction of a normal railway route is Rs 5 crore per km, the estimated expenditure on the high speed railway line for bullet train will be Rs 140 crore per km.
  8. In 2010 UPA govt sanctioned the feasibility report for 6 bullet train routes (including Ahmedabad-Mumbai route). In 2012 Narendra Modi, the then CM of Gujarat, visited Japan, traveled in Bullet Train and then requested centre to include Ahmedabad-Mumbai route. It was included since it was cheapest and best suited route for Bullet Train Project. Entire process took 6-7 years study and 5-6 years of building the project totaling 13 years
  9. Modi travelling in Bullet Train in Japan in 2012
  10. The Ministry of Railways has proposed a tariff for the upcoming bullet train service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad that will be 1.5 times the first class AC fare prevailing now. In Duronto Express, the current AC 1st Class fare between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, is Rs.2,200. This means, for the 508-km run between the two cities — via a dedicated, high-speed corridor — the fare will be around Rs.3,300. In Japan, a similar, 550-km run between Tokyo and Osaka  costs around Rs.8,500.
  11. According to a study 55 per cent of air passengers, 55 per cent of high-end train passengers, 38 per cent of luxury bus users and 22 per cent of car users will shift to the bullet train in the first year of operations.
The six routes considered for bullet train study and implementation during UPA regime are (1)  Delhi-Patna (2) Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad (3) Howrah-Haldia (4) Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar (5) Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijaywada-Chennai and (6) Chennai-Bengaluru-Coimbatore-Ernakulum  and curiously Ahmedabad-Mumbai route is being taken up first by Narendra Modi government. 

After all technology determines what can be done, economics determines what should be done and politics determines what will be done.

My View:
The bullet train fare near about Airfare clearly eliminates its usage by middle & lower classes. No prudent middle class or salary earner will travel by this bullet train, except during emergency situations.

Even though soft loan* with moratorium etc seems justification for this investment, it is unlikely that similar loans could be arranged for subsequent bullet train projects that will follow. Eventually, for all bullet train projects loans consolidated, we end up paying market rates for the loans. That is how advanced countries sell their products in developing countries.

At a time (after about 70 years of independence) when we need to invest heavily for providing basic amenities like drinking water, sanitation, primary education, primary health care to the deprived classes amounting to almost 50% of population, investment of this kind of money, whether soft loan or own funds, on classy luxuries for the benefit of rich people is not appreciated. Ours is a democracy and if we take referendum on this large proposed investment, I am sure at least 60-70% will vote against it.

*Soft loan is only for 80% and remaining 20% our own funds. Add to that over heads will be another 10% making our own investment of whopping Rs.30,000 crores for this bullet train project in one corridor is highly debatable especially when some Railway Projects in Andhra Pradesh are still on drawing board even after 25 years waiting for funds allocation.

Only yesterday, our FM Arun Jailtley was weeping (crocodile tears, of course) in RS saying that with budget deficit of 6.9% he is unable to allocate funds for Polavaram project, the life line for Andhra Pradesh, and extend financial support to AP as committed in AP Reorganization Act 2014. From where this money would come for bullet train project for the benefit of Modi's Gujarati rich business friends? I wonder!

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