The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe recently launched the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project on September 14, 2017, is estimated to cost Rs 1,10,000 crore. The fare structure of the bullet train is expected to range between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000. The current Mumbai-Ahmedabad route fare is anywhere between Rs 1,800 to Rs 3,000.
The project, however, may have been hit by its first dose of reality. An RTI query to the Indian Railways revealed that 40% of the total seats on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad train route in the trimester of July 1 to September 30 were vacant. This amounts to a loss of almost Rs 10 crore per month which sums up to Rs 29.91 crore for the same period. The RTI was filed by Mumbai-based activist Anil Galgali.
32 Mail and Express trains between Mumbai to Ahmedabad have been incurring a loss of Rs 14 crore. Furthermore, 31 trains from Mumbai to Ahmedabad have made losses of Rs 15 crore. Even the Shatabdi, the most preferred train on the route also managed to sell only half of its seats over the last three months. The Indian Railways doesn’t have any plans to introduce new trains on the red sector. The data also highlights that a majority of passengers are travelling sleeper class seats and several upper-class seats are going empty.
To further draw comparisons to the budget of bullet trains, China received the first overseas order to export its bullet train technology which will cost 179 billion baht ($5.15 billion). On September 21, China and Thailand agreed on the 250 km long first phase of a planned high-speed railway (HSR) project which aims to link Bangkok with the north-eastern Thai province of Nakhon Ratchasima. The huge cost disparity between China’s and India’s bullet train have already raised questions as India will be spending $17 billion for the proposed 500 km long bullet train project. However, this has been described by none other than our ‘prime servant’ as being ‘almost free’.
The first of its kind project in India with the help of Japan seeks to connect two of the biggest cities in India, Maharashtra and Gujarat. But the project comes at a huge cost. Reports suggest, farmers and tribes in different regions of Gujarat are going to suffer through adverse effects because of this project, which comes at a time when the Indian Railways is surrounded with criticism of recent derailment incidents.
Whether the bullet train in India will work or no is a question only time will answer. Meanwhile, the Modi government projects the move as a symbol of new India. Well given the statistics, it may remain just that, a symbol.