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Can the bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad create a big difference

The much-anticipated bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is a key to recognising India as the next High Speed Rail hub. It has been for the past 49 years when India first ran Rajdhani Express, the only train that time which ran at a speed of 115 kmph, a speed which was unheard of. In the post liberalisation era, reducing distances and pacing up train speeds has become the need of the hour, which the railways has been constantly striving since 2008, when the idea of a bullet train was first mooted by Lalu Yadav as the railway minister. During the tenure of Lalu Yadav, the Maximum Operating Speeds of passenger trains was increased from 80 kmph to 110 kmph.

6 years later, the very ambition of the NDA government to further upgrade Maximum Operating Speeds was first clearly reflected in the 2016 rail budget which also happened to be the rail budget was as follows:

1. The speed of Express trains was last revised in 2008 from 80 kmph (50 mph) to 110 kmph (68 mph). The current ministry has further proposed to further pace up the speed of express trains to 130 kmph (81 mph), which is an increase by approximately 18% from the previous revision of 2008

2. The speed of Rajdhani Express has been increased from 130 kmph (81 mph) to 140 kmph (87 mph), which is an increase by approximate 8% from the previous revision of train speed in 1971

3. The speed of Shatabdi Express has been increased from 140 kmph (87 mph) to 160 kmph (99 mph), which is increased by approximate 14.28% from the previous speed sanctioned in 1988

4. The speed for freight trains has been proposed to be increased from 75 kmph (47 mph) to 100 kmph (62 mph), which is an increase of approximately 33%

The coming of the bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad on the operation front, the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train is a game changer for the Indian Railways as it would help the railways not just generate employment for over 40,000 people, but will also help the railways regain its lost market share, given that the bullet train will have comparatively less stoppages to the existing Shatabdi and Double Decker Trains and will also help in achieving the aims of other projects such as station remodelling and also attract foreign participation providing impetus to research and development through requisite fund and human resource investments.

The bonus point of the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train projects rests in the fact that the enthusiastic participation of Japan, which has had expertise in the areas of rolling stock, signalling and communication, which have long needed fresh investments and restructuring. Indian Railways in the meanwhile has also through the project tapped an opportunity to establish semi high speed routes in collaboration with Russia, at a cost of approximately Rs.77,000 crores, while the railways have also started in all its rigour the task of upgrading the signalling equipment, by installing ETCS Level 2 signalling equipments on important high speed routes.

The Mumbai Ahmedabad route has also provided an impetus to the establishment of dedicated corridors for freight trains and high speed trains. The high speed train network has been proposed by the Railway Ministry which will span over a length of 10,000 kilometres, which will also be known by the name of Diamond Quadrilateral, which is currently known as the Golden Quadrilateral.

On the economic front when talking about the two cities, which will be connected through this bullet train project, the project will not just catalyse the trade prospects, but will also enable better infrastructure through the project, which will include not just the domain of railways, but will also poise the smart development of cities and will help in providing smarter transport solutions for people commuting between the two cities, which will further decongest the highways and also facilitate a greener and more sustainable development as the high speed trains are more reliant on electric power, thus economizing the fuel costs and speeding up renewals and rehabilitations, which will help the railways un both high speed and semi high speed trains

However, it is also important for the government to consider the views of the stakeholders before executing the project, to promote a cooperative development and also ensure uninterrupted progress. The bullet train will therefore a game changer in the Indian Railway infrastructure development, of both the conventional and high -speed train, while also reducing carbon footprints of cars and trains hailed through diesel power.

- Chitresh Shrivastva

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