Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Fast Track to Development

Earlier this week newspapers reported a proposed high-speed link between Mumbai, and Nagpur. At present the two cities are linked by air, rail, and road. Travel-time, by air, is around 45 minutes. By road, and by Rail it varies from 15 hours upwards. Surface transport being the less expensive, despite the recent slew in populist fares by various airlines, most people spend from 15 hours upwards on a one-way trip.. or 2 work days. As such most travel is on the weekends. There are, at present, around 15 odd trains linking the two cities. Even going by a conservative estimate of 100 travellers per train, there are no less than 1500 travellers daily. This translates to a staggering 1500 (times 2 work-days); that is 3000 work-days lost in transit. As a layman, the cost of 3000 work-days on the economy is beyond me; i shall not dwell upon it.

The proposed high-speed train aims to reduce travel time to 3.5 hours. This means each traveller on the new train will save nearly 1.5 work days. The cost involved is to the tune of INR 8000 Crore i.e 80 Billion Rupees. Going by the assumptions that a
  • two-way track will be installed,

  • there are 200 persons on board each train for the entire trip from source to destination, and

  • there are 2 trains plying at any given time

we spend 200 * 2 * 3.5; that is 1400 hours; this works out to 175 work-days. At the same time, regular trains plying along this route will continue to cost the 3000 work-days daily.

Regular trains plying on the surface will continue to be bound to the ...vagaries, of nature, and of man. A tree may fall across the tracks, a tiger may challenge the train, politically motivated flash strikes may hold-up all trains along the route for hours on hend, and so on. Assuming the above do not happen, trains rarely ever travel at better than 120km/hour on the subcontinent, apparently due to poor tracks, and facilities[i wonder what the term means in this context]. The average speed is more like 70km/hour. Could the infusion of 80 Billion INR translate to better facilities that would allow the majority of trains to ply at better than 170km/hour?