Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No bullet train for Bangalore

No bullet train for Bangalore

Minister of state for railways admitted that the proposal was too expensive

Bosky Khanna. Bangalore



It was an exciting idea. It appears, now though, that it was just a proposal drawn out of thin air. Union minister of state for railways, KH Muniyappa, admitted on Tuesday that the bullet train proposal was too expensive, and would most likely not see the light of day.
Muniyappa was speaking to DNA on the sidelines of the silver jubilee celebrations of the Rail Wheel Factory at Yelahanka. In the interim budget presented in February 2009 by former Union railway minister Lalu Prasad, there was a proposal to set up high-speed rail connectivity in select corridors — five bullet trains were to be introduced in the country, three of these in the south. It was expected that once the bullet train began operations, the 350km ride between Bangalore and Chennai would take a mere 90 minutes. The fastest train travelling this route currently — the Shatabdi — takes nearly five hours.
Eminent lawyer and chairman of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Sajan Poovayya, said that the proposal had been approved in the last budget. He wondered how a project that has been approved could be shelved, without so much as a feasibility study. There was no move to assess or modify the project, Poovayya said, adding, "Such train services have proved viable elsewhere in the world, and there is no reason why they can't be implemented here."
South western railway officials said that no financial estimates have yet been prepared for the Chennai-Bangalore bullet train. A survey for the bullet train that was conducted by a French rail transport company for the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad stretch estimated the cost of an elevated high-speed rail corridor at Rs50 crore per km. Costs vary marginally depending on the terrain.
ABIDe member and traffic expert MN Sreehari, explained that the bullet train proposal would be enormously expensive, as it would require laying of special tracks, with a curve of less that one degree — the train travels at high speed and in straight-line routes. The whole track length for the bullet train would also need to be sealed off, to prevent stray animals or people from walking across.
Chief minister BS Yeddyurappa had said that the bullet train was not in the state's interests, and that it only made sense — if it did at all — if the link extended beyond Chennai-Bangalore to Mumbai via Hubli, with an additional link to Mysore. Earlier, even the prime minister had cautioned Lalu Prasad that before the railways embark on such ambitious schemes, basic things like track capacity and maintenance and improved freight capacity ought to be looked at.

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