Article by ;
Alok Kumar Verma
In the coming days, resolve of the Government of India and Railway Board to upgrade India’s railway system to high speed (160-250 kmph) will be tested. Powerful foreign lobbies, which represent the interests of the manufacturers of airplanes and automobiles and the oil companies have been trying to cripple the railways in India by preventing it from raising speed and line capacity. Their first success came in 2004-06, when the Govt decided to build the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors instead of a 200-250 kmph line which would have benifited both the passenger and freight transport (both DFCs and 200-250 kmph lines cost the same).
Their next success came in 2017, when the Government decided to build the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train line instead of the much cheaper and better option of 200-250 kmph which has proven its superiority world over since 1970s.
Now these lobbies are eyeing their next prize: To get the Government to decide to build new 200-250 kmph lines (The Silverline Project in Kerala, the Ahmedabad – Rajkot line in Gujrat and Pune-Nasik line in Maharashtra) as Standalone Corridors on Standard Gauge. This will ensure that the existing trains on the IR don’t benefit from these new lines, and the IR network remains stuck with its slow trains while travel by car and airplanes continues to witness growth at a astronomical pace.
A number of studies are available which examine how the powerful automobile, airplane and oil lobbies crippled the railways in Europe and USA in the 1950s and 60s. In the video clip in the link below a number of experts explain how this happened.
In Europe revival of railways began in 1970s. In Japan and China, the governments did not allow decline of railways. In USA, passenger rail transport did not recover and railways carry only freight. USA and countries in Europe could survive decline of Railways because these are wealthy countries which became richer after World War IInd with booming economic growth. Can India afford such a scenario of declining passenger travel by trains and booming travel by car and airplaned? India will suffer, because India is not a rich country. Just 2% in Indians can afford to travel by car or air. But, sadly Indian railways seems to be headed for a future within 5 to 10 years from now when it will be carrying mostly freight and slow passenger trains with general and sleeper class for the poor and middle class who can not afford to travel by car or planes. With booming travel by car and airplanes, India’s carbon footprint will enlarge, precious land will be diverted for making 6-lane highways and airports and congestion and air pollution in the cities will skyrocket. It is not hard to imagine this future with the fall of Railways. I looked at this decline and revival of railways in my 2006 dissertation shown below. I had said that India must immediately upgrade its network for 160-250 kmph.
The Conventional High Speed lines carry four types of trains: trains at 200 kmph, tilting trains at 250 kmph, slower passenger trains at 120 – 160 kmph and fast freight trains at 120-160 kmph. But, the Bullet Train lines are dedicated lines for carrying 300-350 kmph trains.
What is the outcome of the above mentioned wrong priorities of Railway Board?
In 2000-2002, IR imported then latest coaches from LHB and locomotives from ABB which had speed potential of 200 kmph, but not a single line has been upgraded to 160-200 kmph. And, not a single new 200-250 kmph line has been constructed, and till now none is even planned.
Why did IR not build 200 kmph line say on the Delhi – Jhansi, Delhi – Kanpur or Mumbai – Manmad bottlenecks to ease congestion?
If instead of the Eastern and Western DFCs, we had built 200-250 kmph lines from Delhi to Mumbai and Kolkata we would have had overnight trains for of 8 to 10 hours journey, and requirements of freight movement would also have been met.
Building DFCs is like flying a Jumbo Jet (500 seats) when you know you won’t carry more than 50 passengers.
Hope the youth of India also take note of the Climate Change crisis, particularly the contribution of the lopsided transportation sector with skyrocketing travel by air and cars.
Courtesy : Shri Alok Kumar Verma IRSE (Retd.) @trains_are_best