Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bullet Train and Indian Railway’s investments

It’s an incredible news. I should feel happy about it. But I am not. Unlike many who cheers the possible arrival of bullet trains in ‘Mumbai – Ahmadabad’ route, I am a bit worried. Well, I have my own reasons. I am a big fan of science and technology and feel proud about every advancement of human society. So I should be happy right?

What worries me about the project is its price tag – 98,000 crores. Considering cost and schedule overrun (which is a norm in GoI projects), by the time it completes the cost may over 1.1 Lakh crore. I don’t believe Indian Railway(IR) is investing this much amount of money for laying new tracks or doubling the existing ones in a year. And let me inform you that, we are going to get only 500km track for this mind blowing number. Of course it’s a bullet track.

80% of this project is funded through JICA (Japan International Co-op Agency) for just 1% interest. In addition to that, Japanese are ready to share the technology know-how. This loan is with coming with a 50-year long tenure (there is a moratorium of 15 years as well). Well, this project might be announced during the coming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Abe to India.

Getting a bullet train is indeed a great thing. But, does Indian Railway have enough funds to expand its normal track network to cater the ever increasing needs for passenger and freight? Does Railways have money to invest in the upgradation of its signal and safety systems? I hope that government will aggressively fund Indian Railway’s not so glamorous projects as well. Hope that this bullet train will not end up as a bullet in the heart of IR’s investment plans.


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