The exciting high speed talk!

We have been hearing on and off about high speed trains since 2004 (Lalu’s bullet trains). But looks like the talk has some serious momentum now. First that talk of Delhi-Amritsar corridor few weeks ago. Then this week, Railways organized a seminar on “High Speed Corridors” (see PIB release) and Railway board chairman J P Batra sounded positive about possibilities! The newspapers (Ex: Hindu, FinEx) are claiming a list of routes is ready for early feasibility studies:

The routes being considered for include Mumbai- Surat- Vadodara- Ahmedabad; Jaipur- Delhi- Sonepat- Chandigarh- Ludhiana- Jalandhar- Amritsar; Bangalore– Chennai; and Kolkata- Jamshedpur- Patna.

The argument against these trains is that of economic viability and affordability, that these cost a lot to build and maintain and may not be worth it. But if you consider indirect gains, these trains may make sense.

We are not talking going from 100 to 120, the point is about a significant jump in speeds, to 350-400 kilometers per hour territory!!

  • At those speeds, you make urban sprawl around existing tier 1/2 cities a lot more manageable. You may consider living in Mysore if you could commute to Bangalore in 30 minutes. Wont that take care of artificially high real estate prices in Bangalore? I call the prices artificially high because people want to crowd around in central and not-very peripheral areas, and they do that for lack of connectivity.
  • Imagine Bangalore-Chennai in 1.5 hours. You’d never think of driving or bus-ing to Chennai then. And given that stations are more likely to be located closer to the business areas of cities, all things combined, high speed trains could be quicker option than flights.
  • Now think how much fossil fuel would be saved when 1 such train replaces about “4.5 flights, 180 cars and 24 buses” (source). Add some amount for 2-3 hours each passenger saves. The total should be significant.

Talking about the efficiencies, here is what a railway official said recently:

The energy consumption per kilometer of these trains is 3.5 times less than the private car or five times less than airlines. HSTs require 70% less land than expressways with more carrying capacity,

I am still reading this stuff up. But positive talk on infrastructure front deserved this post :)


3 Responses

  1. Pranav,

    For starters they ought to target 3-3.5 hrs for a Bangalore Madras run. With the new international airport, it just does not make sense to take a flight to Madras unless you live in Yelahanka. Time to capitalize on this from a Railways POV.

    At rs.15-20 crores/km, we are talking 7000 crores for the SBC-MAS stretch. Money could be spent better doubling lines, safety, better stations,etc. And the railways claims it has no money to build a line from SBC to the international airport.

    JR (Japan Railways) has been running staggering losses for god knows how many years now. Not sure if the Shinkansen model is economically viable.

  2. Srivathsa, Given our population density, and the fact that we are not as big a country as US and have a few ‘not-so-long clusters’ – Bang-Chen is just 350 km, Kolkata- Patna is about 500 km and so forth, it may not be as un-viable as it may seem from other examples. I would also quantify the “social benefits” of facts like environmentally friendly public transport, safer mode of transport (than cars and buses), time saved for many. Adding the “social capital” to the equation, it may sound like a good idea for us.

    Need to read more. Actually, we will anyway hear more about it soon in regular press. I bet the likes of Gowda and all will jump in against these ‘expensive’ projects thus forcing very good debates.

  3. Pranav,

    Was just reading that the cost of doubling the Bangalore-Mysore line is Rs.250 crores and that work has only just started.

    Public investment on such a magnitude ought to benefit the largest number of people. Freight corridors are a splendid idea.

    Look at our stations whether SBC, Bombay Central, Chennai Central or Howrah Central.

    Even now the Bangalore-Guntakal-Solapur section is single. What a bottleneck it is. Not electrified too. In such circumstances, how does one justify Rs.10000 crores on HSTs? Where are our priorities?

    I can bet my last dollar it will not pay out :).

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