Maglev train in China.
High growth rates of an economy depend on the quality of infrastructure available. Railways have long been synonymous with development and modernization. High speed passenger trains reduces travel time of passengers, this improves the productivity of the economy.
India is also contemplating the development of a high speed train network on the lines of Japan and China. Basically, there are two types of high speed trains: Bullet trains and Maglev trains.
Bullet trains are built using special aerodynamic techniques that reduces air drag on it and are run on special rail tracks and on routes with less halts and no crossings. These factors help the bullet trains attain speeds above 350 kmph. The fastest Indian trains, the Shatabdi, Rajadhani and Duronto trains run with a maximum speed between 160 to 200kmph.
Maglev trains, short for Magnetic levitation trains, use electromagnetic suspension technology. Using the principle of like poles of a magnet repelling each other, these trains are made to levitate i.e raise above the ‘guide way’(these trains do not have wheels). This reduces friction and sound which is seen in other train systems. Because of this, the train can attain very speeds of above 400 to 500 kmph, whereas a Boeing-777 aeroplane can attain a top speed of 900 kmph.
Bullet train in Japan.
Bullet trains are in use in Japan from many decades, the first commercial Maglev train operations started in 2003 in Shanghai. The Shanghai Maglev train travelling at 430 kmph is the fastest passenger-carrying train in the world. China plans to replace all its railway lines with a 12000 miles of High speed train network with a combination of bullet and Maglev trains by 2017.
However, India needs to build its infrastructure keeping in mind its limited resources and cannot simply ape other countries. These train networks needs dedicated lines on which the tradition trains cannot run, so new special high speed corridors needs to be built which needs vast tracts of land and huge economic resources. For a country where there are more urgent issues like providing food, proper education and sanitation, spending huge sums of money on these swanky infrastructure may not be the best choice at this point in time. These issues could be resolved by encouraging private players and allowing FDI to enter the railway sector; and constructing elevated corridors which need less land acquisitions.
Besides, India needs to do more study about the project’s technological feasibility in Indian conditions, the project’s economic viability and regarding safety issues in light of several accidents involving bullet trains in China. After government is satisfied with all considerations about the project, it must start implementing the high speed train network project swiftly and ensure timely completion of the project.