Bullet trains to zoom by…
Dayanand Edappally | 08 Apr 2008

The very news that the Union Government has thought of introducing bullet trains in this country is indeed invigorating. We have seen pictures of such trains zooming past through Paris and Tokyo and wondered at their style and speed. Now to know that such magical transport systems could become a reality in India is mind-boggling.


The bullet train is a thing of beauty. It is an artistic creation, a masterpiece of modern technology. Travel by it must be a mesmerizing experience. The sleek coaches are a sight to behold. The shape and speed of these trains can send us into dizziness. The trains now running on our rails take days to reach the far corners of the subcontinent. Even tourists who have the time to travel at leisure will find our train journeys such an unbearable drudgery.


When and if our bullet trains materialise in India, they will transform our life styles. Distances will disappear in a jiffy. East-west, north-south differences will vanish considerably. Using one-third of the present travel time, people will be able to reach their destinations, fresh as daisies and singing like larks. Bullet trains will add to the zest of living.


This dream train project, like Kublai Khan’s imaginary palace, is likely to remain a chimera. The cost of the project, as Railway Board Chairman K C Jena said, will be a whopping 500 crore for a single kilometre. These trains need dedicated corridors which are highly capital-intensive. These corridors run on tracks which will be elevated super-structures.


Five such corridors have been identified, connecting major destinations in all four directions. The present tracks on which our super fast trains cannot exceed a 100 km per hour are ‘prone to trespassing, and are peppered with level-crossings.’ When the bullet trains hit the scene, they will flit off, unhindered by trespassers and level-crossings. They will, thus, be terra-planes, a pleasurable substitute for jerky air travel.


Although where there’s a will, there’s a way, the question is: Do we have the will and can we have the way? A single corridor connecting, say, Bengaluru with Ernakulam covering a distance of over 500 km will, at the current rate of reckoning, cost more than 25,000 crore. And to compound matters, the Railways are planning five such corridors. Which means, at least 1,25,000 crore in investment. Can we afford it? Perhaps we can and we will.


When the NDA Government under Vajpayee planned the Golden Quadrilateral Express Highway connecting the metro cities, many sceptics pooh-poohed the idea as impractical. Yet the Government went ahead and achieved its target. Now, if the UPA dispensation wants to do one better, the bullet train project is the in thing. Funds can be raised with public cooperation as in the case of the Konkan rail line connecting Mumbai with Mangalore.


When bullet trains zip past the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, India will have joined the league of Japan and Germany. That will be the day we feel extra-proud of our Indianness. Three cheers to the visionaries manning our railways!