Bullet train or Better trains – What does India need?

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Indore Patna Express derailed in a district in Kanpur killing more than 120 people and injuring over 180. Early morning at three on November 20 marked a black day for Indian railways as 14 coaches met with this heart aching accident. This is being called the worst ever train accident since a very long time. The sudden emergency brakes are sought to be the reason and of course lack of safety measures on railway tracks that are old and worn out.

At a time when PM Modi envisions bullet trains to be soon launched in India, is it very difficult to see that the present condition of Indian railways, which is the backbone of the country, detrimental? India can wait for bullet trains and our PM should shift focus on bettering the condition of railways.


Better railways

1. Track renewal: Railway Ministry under Suresh Prabhu has been speaking of ‘zero accident mission’ and funds are being taken in the name of asset management. However, if tracks are still in such a bad condition as to cause an accident as big as this, railway definitely is lagging behind. A shift of focus and funds from bullet trains to better trains is the need of the hour.

2. Operation to cosmetics: Recently, more attention is being paid to the outer façade than to the inner strength and safety operations. Instead of changing rail tracks that are very old and hazardous, especially in seasons with heavy temperature drop that leads to sudden expansions, all the funds are directed in whichever direction they think could be useful to lure and appease the rich people.

3. Gory statistics: Going by data compiled by the NCRB, death count in railway accidents varied between 24,000 and 27,000 every year from 2010 to 2014. That is a very disturbing statistics to determine the condition of safety measures in Indian railways.

4. Serious lack of devices: Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches should have been rolled out as promised by railway ministry. They are specially designed to be anti-telescopic, which means they do not flip or turn over in case there is a collision. The brakes are more efficient in them and more automated to tolerate sudden brakes at high speed. Even though by 2016 all Indian railways were promised to have LHB coaches, they were ignored.

5. Less trains more people: Indian railways carry more than 13 million passengers every day but trains to accommodate them are still very few. Indian railways are known to carry 15 times more people than they are supposed to. Overloading leads to damage to tracks which are not changed or repaired as efficiently as they should be.

Bullet trains

1. Two different matters: Indian government is capable of handling these two tasks efficiently and simultaneously if proper care is given to each of them. Bullet trains are the future of travelling for our country. Existing railways are the present and it is agreed that they need proper upgrading and safety proofing from time to time but let’s not make this about bullet trains and impede its launch in India.

2. State of the art technology: Indian railway tracks are not efficient for running faster trains but still both slow and fast trains run on the same tracks. There is extreme shortage of faster travelling. There are airplanes but they cannot afford the same capacity as trains. We cannot lag behind. There are times when people are in a desperate need of faster travelling. Improving infrastructure for existing railway is no easy breezy task given the daily travelling on the routes hence opting out of bullet trains would be foolish.

3. Lessening the burden on trains: When bullet trains come into play, it will definitely share the load of the Indian railways. More people would prefer to travel faster and hence railways will be eased of the burden of carrying more people than it can afford to.

4. Development has to happen: Let’s accept that Indian railways cannot cater to the rising demands. There are not many faster trains as people would like to avail. They run on detrimental tracks. Indian railway is facing huge loss owing to the same fact that there are more people than it can afford to accommodate. Bullet train could come as a rescue to people who are willing to pay more to ease their travel facilities.

Immediate concern is needed to upgrade Indian railways. The coaches and tracks need to be of advanced technology instead of running the same old that British left us with. If funds are short, government has to accommodate but nothing should stop the launch of bullet trains, something that many are looking forward to.

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