Railways has been one of the greatest inventions of humans. After the Industrial Revolution it is one of the biggest contributor to the human growth. Just like everything around us Railways has also experienced growth not only in its reach and utility but also in technology. High Speed Railway is one of the prime example of the technological advancement that the railway has experienced. High Speed Railway is classified as a railway line with speeds over 250 km/hr. The Japanese Shinkansen commonly known as the Bullet Train was the first true High Speed Railway service that started way back in 1964. In the last 5 decades the Japanese have upgraded their systems and have put their foot forward for a Maglev based system. In addition to this China, most of the developed European Countries, Taiwan, South Korea have also started their own high speed railway lines.
India has one of the largest railway network in the world but don’t even have a semi high speed railway. After 1970s the Indian Railway was converted into a political tool for the political parties which not only stopped its development but also started its decline. Each year the quality of the Railway Budget was measured by how much populist schemes are being launched. Without any proper studies, projects were given to the favored regions. The lack of development in the Indian Railway can be seen by the simple fact that in the last 4 decades the top speed of the trains have only increased by only 10-15 km/hr. But the increasing losses and the shift of the passengers from railways to faster mode of transport like the airplanes or buses caused the UPA government to propose the HSR for the first time in 2009 and with the formation of National High Speed Railway Authority in 2012/13 started the work on a HSR line in India. Japan was selected as a partner in the development of the HSR. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route has been selected as the first line to be constructed. The Japanese are not only providing the technology but also the funding for the HSR. The construction of the system is slated to start this year and completion date is kept in the year 2023. Considering that the Japanese are executing the project we can rest assure that the project would be completed in due time.
In the last 2 decades India has grown by leaps and bounds and is expected to grow more in the future. In this scenario many cities of India have also experienced rapid growth. At the turn of the 21st century India had 4 metro cities but over the span of just 10 years 2 more cities have been listed as metros. The development is swelling the cities with people and this is increasing the need of a good transport system. The increased economic activity and population is making the people to continuously move between these mega cities. All of this has resulted an increase in the burden of the Indian Railway which due to the neglect to its infrastructure in last decades is not able to support. Today everyone wants to travel faster between the cities with no delay and the current railway system is simply not up to the mark. Airplanes are costly option while the roads are not good for long distance travel. This makes the HSR as an extremely necessary middle tier system that India should have developed in the previous decade itself.
The current government is now pursuing a two pronged approach to increase the speed of the trains in India. One prong is to construct exclusive lines for high speed trains and the second is to develop the current network of Indian Railway to the semi high speed standards with train speeds crossing 200km/h mark. For the semi high speed development the tracks and signalling system in selected lines are being upgraded. In addition to this new bogies are being developed or procured which are able to work at high speeds. The HSR will bring with itself required technologies in the field of railway tracks and signalling system which can be used by the IR to upgrade their own system.
But just like any other technological project in India the critics of this project also advise on using the funds being for the poor or to upgrade the current railway line rather than using it to construct the HSR line. But for the needs of 60% of population the needs of 40% of the population can’t be overlooked. The HSR should not be seen as a wastage of money but as an investment and as a launch pad for increased economic activities. It will not only increase the technological prowess of the country but will also help in creating more jobs. The HSR line will be very vital for the development of the region where it is implemented. It will attract more business in its region of operation as it provides faster link to the economic centers. While the government maintains that it is not funding the project but in my view even if the government is sponsoring the project we should completely support it. As a whole the HSR promises to be one of the most important part of the Indian transportation system and will be one of the shining examples of India’s progress.