Monday, December 1, 2014

Imagine bullet train to Capital in 6 hours flat

R Mohan | December 01, 2014,

Chennai-New Delhi corridor will be the second longest in the world after China's Beijing-2,298 km line launched last year
Chennai-New Delhi corridor will be the second longest in the world after China's Beijing-2,298 km line launched last year
It is fascinating to think we can envisage a Bullet train ride that will take us to New Delhi in six hours flat. Even 10 years ago such a project would have seemed impossible to contemplate in Indian conditions, although the technology of fast trains far predates that time. Today, technological reach is guaranteed if you have the money, so truly international has the spread of technology become.
Of course, it is a mere matter of finding Rs 2,24,000 crores, which is not all that much considering how each of yesterday’s scams was computed to cost close to that much in lost revenues, that is, if you discount the zero sum theories of such luminaries as Kapil Sibal. The cost of a whole Bullet quadrilateral connecting the Metros would be mind boggling. The very thought the nation can now think it can afford this makes for a very positive outlook to life in India.
The most pessimistic forecast would be that we old timers may not be able to see the Bullet train run in India in our lifetime. The most optimistic would be that the Chinese, if given the project, would be able to put it all together in a decade or so, provided, of course, that the usual stumbling block of the feared red tape of the Indian bureaucracy does not scupper the super ambitious project.
Land acquisition might become a bigger bugbear, but we are not at that stage yet, The Chinese are first going to study the feasibility of the 1,754-kilometre corridor. And the Japanese are competing for the right to build the project for India and are promising to do it on more favourable terms. This is no mean project either. The corridor will be the second longest in the world after China’s 2,298-km Beijing-Guangzhou line.
The very thought of a train covering Chennai-New Delhi in six hours defies the imagination. In our youth, two nights on the train was the minimum to get to the capital. The journey would take nearly 48 hours in the early ’60s.  I have been on one of those to Delhi and beyond to Allahabad, on a special scout compartment on a steam train to a national jamboree while in school, which took about 60 hours in all. What seemed fun then would be unbearable drudgery in these modern times.
The fabled train journeys of yore will continue to occupy the important nostalgia section of the brain. Long journeys, the thrill of getting off at wayside stations and wandering on the platform, drinking water off the public taps without a care in the world before the steam whistle blew its shrill note to remind us we have to move on.  The food at wayside stations was not satisfactory, but then never in Indian history could railway catering have created a memorable culinary experience. 
To reel off the names of stations as they went by in daytime was a fun thing to do, Contrast that today with the travelling experience on a Rajdhani or a Shatabdi with Wifi connection or 3G running mobiles and tablets and you have progress in a  nutshell. The thrill of buying a load of magazines and a novel to read on board may have been lost as tablets and the Kindle take over. But then if you are really going to spend just six hours getting to New Delhi, why bother with too much on-board time-pass.
A coal dust-spattered face and the metallic taste of the environment on a train journey are all things of the past. You could travel in comfort and land in good shape for work provided you could book a ticket and get on to a train, which is getting more and more difficult despite all the online booking refinements. We can live on in the hope that the Bullet train will take us safely to the capital one day in the promised six hours. We could then say three cheers to national progress.


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