The Bullet Train Project Can Potentially Transform Our Railways Ecosystem

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launching India's bullet train close on heels of India's border row with China

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lay the foundation stone for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project in Gujarat, tribals in Maharashtra and Gujarat will meet tehsildars of tribal areas that will be impacted by the project and submit letters of protest. "We question the very need for an industrial corridor and transport projects such as the bullet train along this route passing through scheduled areas", Patel said. That the operating ratio, average train speed and finances of the Indian Railways need massive improvement is no secret - but the argument that it is an "either or" situation is flawed. Modi and Abe are expected to enjoy the experience of bullet train in the simulator.

According to sources, meeting between officials of railway and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has been inconclusive so far and a midway is still being worked out. India's Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train is a Rs 1 lakh crore project which involves construction of a 505-km line using Japan's Shinkansen technology. In Japan, Shinkansen trains run barely three minutes apart, and since drivers can not spot signals due to the high speeds, the whole traffic management is automated.

India is all set to get its first bullet train by the end of May 2023.

Though the fare structure of the bullet train is yet to be finalised, it will be 1.5 times the first class AC fare of trains running on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route, Hindustan Timesreport said quoting unnamed officials the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC). An interest rate of 0.1% over a 50-year term and repayment moratorium for the first 15 years, the funding from Japan for the High-Speed Rail, called Shinkansen in Japan, is nearly like a grant based on standard financial valuation calculations. They also point out that back-of-envelope calculations show an annual principal+interest repayment of about Rs 2,500 crore - which should ideally be covered through profits made by these bullet trains. Not only that, Piyush Goyal is confident that once India absorbs the technology of making bullet trains, it will be able to export to the world as well!

The unprecedented scale of the infrastructure projects assumes special significance given the fact that it comes under 'Make in India'. The loan interest ranges between Rs 7-8 crore a month and the government claims it will not put any strain on existing financial resources. The interest on this loan would be as low as 0.1%. The loan has a 15-year moratorium with total repayment period of 50 years. However, newly appointed Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal on Monday announced that the government had advanced the date of completion by more than a year. "Clearly Peter is not paying for Paul", the government claims. If the bullet train will stop at all 12 stations, then it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes. The total estimated cost is Rs. 1.08 lakh crore for the first rail link.

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