Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Thursday laid the foundation stone for the ambitious Rs 1.1 lakh crore High-Speed Rail project commonly known as the bullet train.
The bullet train will traverse the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route, covering 508 km in approximately 2 hours and 58 minutes. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2022, and has been mostly financed by Japan.
"My good friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a far-sighted leader. He took a decision two years ago to bring high-speed train in India and to create a new India.I hope to enjoy the beautiful scenery of India through the windows of the bullet train when I come back here in a few years," the Japanese prime minister said after laying the foundation stone.
Here are eight key takeaways of bullet train in India:
35 trains a day
The Central government is confident that the first bullet train will start running on August 15, 2022, to commemorate the 75th year of India's Independence. The route is expected to have 35 trains per day.
Route design a challenge
Where will the stations be? Will they be in city centre, connecting existing railway stations or on the periphery of an urban node? Striking a balance in providing better connectivity and costs due to land and structures is a big worry.
Will it be affordable?
Although fare rates are yet to be finalised, preliminary estimates suggest they will be 1.5-2 times those of the existing first-class AC train tickets.
Currently, an AC first class ticket for on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route costs anywhere between Rs 1,700 and Rs 2,000, while flight tickets for the same route start from Rs 2,000.
Land acquisition hurdles
Acquiring 825 hectares of land is not a easy task. This could be the most the critical issue. Business Standard reported that initial feasibility reports had said the project would go over 163 villages in eight districts of Gujarat and 44 villages in three districts of Maharashtra, which could affect 2,761 families.
With train tickets costlier than flight tickets, will there be enough passengers travelling in a bullet train? Experts believe the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project would have to ferry 1.5 crore passengers a year to earn enough to repay the loans with interest on time.
Indian Railway has a long history of train derailments and accidents. A series of rail derailments has been plaguing the Railways of recent, like the Utkal Express accident in Uttar Pradesh that led to the death of 23 people.
The safety issues for bullet trains will be more and complex; as it would run at 320 kmph with a maximum speed of around 350 kmph.
The train is planned to halt in 12 stations, with very little stoppage time. Hence, it is important to have fast and multiple means of evacuation.
Also, the stations should be seamless connected with metro or local transports to reduce door-to-door travel time.
Human resource deployment
A large chunk of human resources must be trained to keep the operations up and running. High operation standards and stringent safety standards need to be maintained for the successful implementation of the bullet train.