Mumbai Ahmedabad Bullet Train – Get Ready to Enjoy the Thrill

Its only a matter of a handful number of years after which the Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail would be functional and running. It would be first of its kind in India. Cruising at over 300 kms an hour has only been a dream for India and now its time to see it in reality. Thanks to the efforts and vision of the Hon Prime Minister of India – Mr Narendra Modi.

How did it all started?

 
In December 2009, the Indian Railways(then Railway Minister Hon Mamta Banerjee) presented the Vision 2020 for the Indian railways which covered various points on revamping the Indian Railways. This included
1. Increasing the speed of the existing rail routes to around 160 km/hr.
2. Development of High Speed Rail Corridors to run at 250 to 350 km/hr one in each region of the Country. Six corridors were identified for the technical studies.
The document stated that India is unique and alone among the major countries of the world in not having a single high-speed rail corridor capable of running trains at speeds of over 250 kmph. Identifying the role played by revitalization of Railways in Japan and Europe, it envisaged development of atleast 4 high speed corridors of 2000 kms by year 2020.
 
Following the line of the Vision 2020, In Feb 2012, An Expert Group for Modernization of the Indian Railways made recommendations to connect certain cities with High Speed Rail and to conduct feasibility studies for rest. The recommendation was to connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad with the High Speed Rail network and carry out feasibility study for other routes like:
1.Delhi –  Chandigarh –  Amritsar
2.Hyderabad – Dornakal – Vijaywada – Chennai
3.Howrah – Haldia
4.Chennai – Bangalore – Coimbatore – Ernakulam
5.Delhi – Agra – Lucknow – varanasi – Patna
6. Ernakulam – Trivandrum
 
The Ministry of Railways with the approval of the then President of India directed RVNL(Rail Vikas Nigam Limited ) in June 2012 to set up a special purpose vehicle for development of High Speed Rail Projects in India. Following that, High Speed Rail Corporation of India Limited(HSRC) has been incorporated as a subsidiary of RVNL in 2012 itself. HSRC was officialy launced on 23rd October 2013 in New Delhi by then Hon Minister of Railways – Shri Mallikarjun Kharge. This is where the high speed rail wing was established.
Just Prior to the 2014 General Elections, BJP and Congress pledged to introduce high speed rail in India. Congress said that it would connect all cities with million plus population in India by high speed rail. Whereas BJP said that they would construct the Daimond Quadrilateral Project with focus on Mumbai, Delhi, kolkata and Chennai.
 
Finally in the Budget Speech of 2015-2016, Minister of Railways had announced that they are really moving passionately to pursue the development of High Speed Rail Line on the Mumbai Ahmedabad route. He said, that the feasibility study for the Mumbai Ahmedabad line is in very advanced stage and should be ready by mid 2015. Studies were commisioned for study on other routes in the Diamond Quadrilateral project at that time. During this budget, for the investment plan for 2015-2019, a sum of 65000 crore INR was proposed for building high speed rail and elevated corridors.
The final feasibility study report of the Mumbai – Ahmedabad high speed rail was submitted by JICA to the Indian Railways in July 2015.
In Dec 2015, During the Japan’s Prime Minster Abe’s Visit to India, an agreement for the building of the High Speed Rail between Mumbai and Ahmedabad was Signed between the two parties. Japan Agreed to provide the finance at a very low interest of 0.1 %.

What are the Proposed Stations for the Mumbai – Amhmedabad High Speed Rail Route ?

 
The proposed halts for this route has been identified as :
Bandra
Thane
Virar
Dahanu
Vapi
Valsad
Surat
Bharuch
Vadodara
Anand or Nadiad
Ahmedabad
 
There are a total of 11 stations identified on the route. Out of 11, 4 would fall in the state of Maharashtra and the remaining would come in Gujrat. Bandra to Dahanu would be in Maharashtra whereas Vapi to Ahmedabad comes under Gujrat.
A halt at Thane would allow passengers from both the Central and Navi Mumbai. Bandra would be good option for those in South Mumbai and Western Suburbs. Virar halt would allow easy access to the corridor to those in North Mumbai.
Govt is still deciding on the exact location of the Mumbai terminus in Bandra.

What would be the Potential Impact of the infrastructure?

 
a. Lessen Travel Time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad
The current train travel time from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is around 7-12 hrs, by road it is around 7-9 hrs and around 1.25 hrs by air. Considering the costs and capacity of air travel , there needs to be a high speed rail of this kind, which will increase the capacity and also reduce the travel time to around 2 hrs.
b. Benefit to more than 2 cities from the project
Compared to air transport which benefits only the source and destination, this project has 11 planned stations on the route including the source and destination. Hence, even the remaining 9 other regions will benefit from the connectivity.
c. Ecologic Benefit by reducing CO2 emmisions
The project has potential to reduce the CO2 emmision by 0.2 Million Tonnes by 2050. Thus, its is good from the climate point of view.
d. Economic Development of the Entire Belt
There are other small cities like Surat, Vadodara, Virar along the route. The route would allow for economic growth of these cities also. Thus the entire belt would be experiencing a growth.
e. Accomodation of increasing travel demands
In 2011, the travel demand from Ahmedabad to Mumbai was 4.3 million, whereas from Mumbai to Ahmedabad it was 4.1 million. This figure has been growing steadily over the years and have congested the already available modes like rails, road and airways. To allow for expansion and decongest the modes, the HSR project would accomodat e the increasing travel needs of the people.
f. Employment opportunities and Push to Make in India Initiative
Given the size of the project, there would be large scale employment generated right from development to maintenance for centuries. The areas of employment would be Engineering and Construction, Security, Information Technology, Administrations etc
g. Development of a World class Infrastructure
Given the fact that all other big nations like China, Japan, France, US etc are already way ahead in Infrastrcuture and Rail Projects, India is still using an outdated and slow system. This is a perfect world class infrastructure gift to India and brings India to league of the Infrastructure Biggies like the Japan, France, China and US for atleast a bit.

Where is the money coming from?

 
In all the development of the Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Line project will cost about 98000 crore INR(US $15Billion). But where is some much money coming from ?. If its a loan, how is the Govt planning to repay the loan? Given that there is still so much to be developed in the field of Education, Health and other sectors, is India not spending too much for the project? These are the common questions which all of us have.
To start with, the amount of 98000 crore INR will be spent in a period of 7 yrs and not 1 yr. So, yearly expenditure boils down to 14000 INR for the project, which is considerably fine given that India also needs to grow and develop its infrastucture and provide world class facilitites.
Out of the total cost incurred, Japan has agreed to fund 81% of project cost or 79,165 crore INR at a very cheap rate of 0.1 %. The rest of the money would be provided by the Railways and the State of Maharashtra and Gujrat. Indian railways is planning to put around 10,000 crore INR in the project.
Also, the loan needs to be repaid in 50 yrs and the loan period starts 15 yrs after availing the loan(15-year moratorium). That means, for initial 15 yrs India does not need to pay anything and only start paying after 15 yrs. Also, when we bring inflation into the equation, the finance provided by Japan is as good as free.

Why is Japan providing such cheap loan to India?

 
a. Better International Relations with India.
b. Benefits to the Japanese organizations providing equipments for the project.( One of the condition of the agreement is that India buys 30% of the equipment including coaches and locomotives from Japanese firms).
c. Japan want to push back China’s involvement in the Infrastructure projects in South Asia. (Japan recently lost a big  rail deal in Indonesia to China ).
d. Paving platform to win more billion dollar projects from India.
e. Use of Shinkansen technology which is more of a Shinkansen Technology and thus potential for Japanese firms to earn through the maintenance services of the infrastruture.

What is the Current Status and Estimated Time for Completion

Now that the project has been approved and appropriate arrangement for other resources(Technology, Finance etc) has been made, the project is expected to kick off by end of 2017 or begining of 2018. The total time taken will be around 7 years from project initiation. Simple math gives the target year as begining 2025. However, our experience tells that the planned schedule never gets successfully executed. Also, given the magnanimity of the project, its but obvious to face problems and issues during its execution and if we add a small buffer of 2-3 yrs. So, unofficially we would say that if things go really well, you should be able to enjoy the bullet ride from year 2027-2028. Lets keep our fingers crossed.
References
http://hsrc.in/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail_in_India
http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/mmrda-red-flags-centres-move-for-bullet-train-station-in-bkc/articleshow/51252227.cms
Intro Image Credit: Pixabay.com