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‘Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train financially viable’

Mamuni Das | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

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IIM-A scholar says it should be launched in two years, operationalised by 2025-26

The proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train can be financially viable in a decade, if launched in the next two years and operationalised by 2025-26, says a study by an IIM-Ahmedabad scholar, who is confident that internal returns itself will be good enough to recoup the investment within 10 years.

The study by research scholar TS Ramakrishnan, under the guidance of IIM-A Professor G Raghuram, is significant as globally only two or three high-speed train projects are financially viable, with most of these a drag on government finances.

Internal rate of return

“The high-speed rail project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will be able to recover costs within a decade, even for 12 per cent of internal rate of return,” Ramakrishnan told BusinessLine , adding that the train, with enough passengers and fare collections, will itself sustain the project.

According to him, 55 per cent of air passengers, 55 per cent of high-end train passengers, 38 per cent of luxury bus users and 22 per cent of car users will shift to the bullet train in the first year of operations.

Study methodology

He added that out of every four trips on this corridor, one trip would be by the bullet train in the first year of operation. By the 10th year, this will increase to two trips.

The scholar said he was confident of this after an in-depth study of the current traffic between the two cities using flights, trains of all classes, buses and cars, travel cost and travel time involved, night/day travel, penalty for travel discomfort and income of passengers.

The bullet train route proposes to cover four major cities -- Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. “These four cities and the smaller towns around them will be feeding passengers to the train,” says Ramakrishnan, who took into consideration only cities with population of over 10 lakh for stoppages.

While there may be more than one stoppage for a city, depending upon the requirements, he cautions against more stoppages as that will lead to overall “sub-optimal speeds”. He suggests that high-speed trains be more frequent during peak travel times of morning and evening to capture maximum traffic. The study also proposes tariffs at the level of ₹2,500 at 2010-11 prices for all passengers.

Broad gauge

In an interesting suggestion, the study recommends that bullet trains in India be run on broad gauge (wider tracks) to provide “seamless access”. This will ensure that the Indian Railways network, which is on broad gauge, can also connect “residents of smaller towns around the high-speed rail corridor, thereby increasing the coverage and ridership”, he adds.

Noting that most high-speed rail systems in the world operate on standard gauge, Ramakrishnan says India may have to acquire technology and rolling stock of broad gauge.

“It is not advisable to create high-speed rail on standard gauge that cannot inter-operate with the existing broad gauge network. Even if high-speed rail implementation is delayed by a few years for acquisition of technology and rolling stock of broad gauge, it is better to implement it on broad gauge,” says the study.

The researcher also said it is necessary to ensure that bullet trains are inter-operable, irrespective of adopting technologies from different vendors or countries.

“If the Ahmedabad–Mumbai corridor is developed on Shinkansen technology (Japan) and Mumbai–Pune is developed on TGV technology (France), a high-speed rail of either Shinkansen or TGV coaches must be able to traverse from Ahmedabad to Pune seamlessly. Also, there must be inter-operability with the conventional train systems,” he says.

Otherwise, we will be creating islands of high-speed rail infrastructure which cannot bring synergic effect to the rail transport, warns Ramakrishnan, who has already shared the findings of his study with many top officials of the Indian Railways.

Published on July 03, 2015
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