Do India require High speed rail


High speed rail is one of the most ambitious project of the Modi Government. It is also related to Infrastructure topic in the GS paper 3


The government of India recently decided to build a high-speed rail (HSR) corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad at a cost of Rs 97,636 crore with Japanese financial and technical assistance.

What do we understand by High Speed Rail?

High-speed rail is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks.

India has one of the Largest rail Networks in the world, but as of now it does not consist of any line classed as  (HSR), which allows an operational speed of 200 km/h or more. The current Fastest Train in India is the Gatimaan Express that runs with a top speed of 160 km/h, with average speed of above 100 km/hr between Delhi and Agra.

The first Proposed High speed Train in India would run some 500 kilometers (310 miles) between India’s financial capital Mumbai and the western city of Ahmadabad, at a top speed of 320 km/h. Under the Japanese proposal, construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed in 2023. It would cost about 980 billion (US$15 billion) and be financed by Low interest loan from Japan.

Recently Government has introduced Tejas Express which is India’s first semi-high speed full AC train fleet introduced by Indian Railways, featuring newer modern on-board facilities.

Image result for high speed rail in India


Points in Favour of High speed rail Corridor

  1. Cheap: The negotiated terms — the rate of interest of 0.1 per cent per annum and tenure of 50 years with 15 years grace — is the best till now for any project financed through a bilateral/ multilateral agency in India.
  2. Speed: High speed is one of the biggest reasons for the proposal of this idea when it was first initiated in India. Major cities connecting with towns of economic growth face the problem of fast transportation. This would save time and boost businesses amongst the connected cities. Reduction in commuting time is greatly required in Mumbai and other metro cities where a lot of time is consumed in the process.
  3. Promote Make in India: Second, the assistance programme involves transfer of technology and a Make in India component, which will have long-term benefits for Indian manufacturing.
  4. Stronger and eco-friendly: Not only these High speed trains are stronger enough to carry heavier weight but are also eco-friendly as they do not require deforestations to set tracks. It is a modern and technologically advanced means of transportation which can be a step towards growth and development in India.
  5. Gestation period is long: Fifthly The bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will cost Rs 97,636 crore and will be built over seven years. Hence, the entire Rs 98,000 crore (approximately) will not be spent in one year.
  6. Will have multiplier effect: Sixthly A growing economy like India needs investment in infrastructure and railways, which has a multiplier effect. The Indian Railways is not constrained by demand but by capacity, and any substantial investment in railways will enable economic growth.
  7. Will enhance transport capacity: Seventhly The HSR will enhance transport capacity by four to five times of the normal capacity and facilitate the movement of a large number of people. Train passenger volume between Wuhan and Guangzhou in China rose by 40 per cent after the construction of the HSR. Similarly, passenger volume between Beijing-Tianjin increased by 86 per cent within one year of the operation of the HSR. The high cost of the project is offset by much higher utilisation rates of the network and rolling stock per km than conventional rail.
  8. Highly Safe: Eighthly Since the HSR system is highly safe, they reduce external costs (accidents, air/ noise pollution, impact on climate, etc). There has been no casualty due to accidents on Japanese high-speed trains since they started in 1964 .

Challenges /Criticisms

The project looks ambitious but challenges are many

  1. Land acquisition: Bullet trains require seamless straight tracks on a flat terrain. Though France managed it in the existing tracks itself, but if new lands needs to be acquired, it can come only at an expensive compensation in Mumbai-Ahmedabad industrial cluster. It will also demand huge political will.
  2. Operation& maintenance: Considering the existing scenario of the quality of O&M in Indian railways, the maintenance of this new elephant will pose many challenges even if it is privatized. Fencing all along the track and over bridges at all the line crossings will cost too dearer. The power demand will be more too. It will require the infrastructure of existing railway stations from where bullet train will pass to be upgraded as per the specifications which again will cost enormously.
  3. Utility: Indian Railways is the lifeline of a common man. Who is going to utilize this service which is meant to connect mega cities? People who have means prefer swift air services to reach megacities. Common man will find it expensive. In the era of multimodal integrated transportation, isn’t it wise to better utilize the existing infrastructure more wisely? Invest to improve all existing tracks to make them sustain 160+ speeds. An airport even 20-25 kms away from Common Business District but well connected to it by a dedicated link is still quite time efficient. Best example being Shanghai airport at a distance of 30km or 30 minutes from city centre. Instead we must focus on low cost air services at even class III level cities for decentralized development. Major part of the city population are middle and lower income household, who demand more capacity rather than ultra high speed.
  4. Cost-Benefit: The bullet trains in china run in losses. China being an infrastructure driven economy could sustain it. We need to analyze can we bear such a loss. We need huge investment in infrastructure in coming 2 decades. With limited resources we must ensure that cost benefit ratio is most efficient. A person earning 1000 rs a day cannot afford saving a day by spending 2000 on regular basis. And for emergencies Airways offer a good choice


Bullet train has sets of pros and cons under India’s present situations and they need to be properly handled so that it brings prosperity and development in the country and not debacles. Every factor must be considered wisely and safeguarding of people’s living should not be compromised. There are risks in this project but without risks nothing big can be acquired

(Q) What do we understand by High speed rail? Does India need high speed rail? Give Pros and cons.

(Q) The government of India recently decided to build a high-speed rail (HSR) corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad at a cost of Rs 97,636 crore with Japanese financial and technical assistance.  Does India need projects such as this at such a high cost? Comment.


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