Powered By Blogger

Popular Posts

Search This Blog

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Do we need bullet trains?

The answer is yes with a but, the but being that running more trains as well as longer trains so that all those desirous of traveling can get a confirmed seat should have a higher priority over mere speed. The constraint in increasing the number of trains to suit the demand stems from the reality that major trunk routes are now saturated due to the yearly addition of new trains with scant regards to the infrastructural bottlenecks and much warranted systemic improvements.

Nevertheless, even considering that saving a few hours is to be pegged at a higher pedestal than meeting the basic expectations of the traveling public, the fact remains that the existing tracks even on the golden quadrilateral would not suffice as running a couple of bullet trains would drastically reduce the train carrying capacity of the lines, thereby increasing shortages even further. Moreover With airfares almost matching upper class fares on the track, those wanting to save time or forgoing the hassles of long distance invariably travel by air. This category would continue to do so even if the travel time is reduced to half unless of course the experience itself makes up for the extra time spent.

This brings us to the fundamental reality that quadrupling of important tracks is indeed an essential prerequisite before a path breaking exercise like bullet trains or even large scale increase in the existing trains can be considered. Considering the mess that the railways find itself in, it is apparent that time has come when the private sector and private funding should be involved in the building and operation of new tracks, new overhead equipment, new rolling stock and new terminals through the PPP route, for besides the money, it would also be many times faster than the existing methodology. 

Sometime back it was reported that a high level delegation went beyond the shores of the country to scout for suitable technology for bullet trains. Unfortunately it is not only about technology, it is about running an organization well, it is about vision, it is about being responsive to the changing environment, it is about connectedness of the organization to the clients and the men who run the show. It saddens me that an organization, a commercial one at that continues to perform miserably even in the best possible business scenario – monopoly, sellers-market and a burgeoning middle class.

Yet dream we must for only those who dream, dare and railways has indeed been waiting for big ticket improvements and reforms. If our clients want bullet trains give it to them, but at the same time also give them the other things in their well justified wish list, like the ability to travel when they like, clean trains and stations and above all a better managed railway that can compete with railway networks in the developed world.  

There is a lot to learn from history. Is it not amazing that in the nineteenth century it took a mere two decades and a half for the four major cities to be linked regardless of the absence of technology and planning tools that we have today? The pace at which the hill railways were built, all five of them is also equally amazing for after over a hundred years of technological advancements and breakthroughs we feel exasperated that mere paper work takes more time than what our ancestors took to build. 

For the nation to indeed live the big ticket dreams in the railway sector, a totally out of the box thinking and execution methodology would have to be resorted to. Unfortunately the monolith being mired in its own archaic thinking and processes would resist change, yet would have to come around if it has to emerge as the engine of economic growth in a now resurgent India.  

No comments:

Post a Comment