India’s first bullet train which will also run under Arabian Sea will be a reality by 2023
With technology and modernization reaching their zenith, new innovations are surfacing each day, transfiguring the conventional means of development. The proposal of an Underwater Bullet Train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad has been one such advance which turned many heads towards India internationally. The projected model is expected to cover a 508 kilometer long corridor with a 21 kilometer stretch underwater from Thane. The remaining corridor will be set up on an elevated track. The project is anticipated to commence in 2018 following necessary inspections and is expected to culminate in 2023, giving India its first ever Underwater Rail.
The Idea Behind
The project was approved in 2015 as a part of a Memorandum Of Understanding between India and Japan. The major need for an underwater pathway emerged out of a concern and subsequent demand to protect the thick vegetation cover in the way of the proposed corridor. This 21 Kilometer distance, supposedly, is the home to an extensive lush green cover and even a microscopic reduction in its composition can disrupt the ecosystem. Thus, a plan has been designed to incorporate this natural boon into the project. To ensure absolute preservation of the vegetation cover, prior inspections in the form of geo-technical and geo- physical surveys were initiated in January 2017 to narrow down the precise location and corresponding alignment. Subsequently, drilling of soil and rocks is also being carried out for 70 meter under the sea to ensure their stability and endurance to hold the proposed structure.
Railway officials have adopted aerial mapping for surveying and inspection of the proposed corridor. Helicopters mounted with high resolution cameras are being progressively employed to yield estimates of land outlines, existing buildings and other natural elements with phenomenal precision. The adoption of aerial technology has sped up the pace, reducing the expected time for surveying from 6–7 months to barely a few weeks.
The proposal of an Underwater Bullet Train has been one of the most significant initiatives to promote our PM’s idea of ‘Make In India’ facilitated by technology transfer. The projected cost is estimated to be around Rs. 97.6 Billion ($14.5 Billion) with some escalation on the charts on the account of changing licensing policies or import duties. 81% cost of the project will be funded by Japan as a loan for a period of 50 years and in addition, instrumental implement and technology transfers from Japan are expected to foster the construction. This generosity by Japan has been a move to increase its support base in the Asian region countering China as the rising investing hegemon of the continent.
The train is envisaged to run at an average operating speed of 320 kmph, with the potential to go as high as 350 kmph. This exponential increase as compared to the conventional rail velocity of 54 kmph is likely to reduce the travel time from 7 hours to 2 hours on the 508 km route. The train will ply from Mumbai to Ahmedabad with a dip in the sea after Thane Creek to Virar, with 10 to 16 coaches and a passenger carrying capacity of 1300- 1600. Two models have been proposed in terms of halts and stations. The Rapid Train will have only 2 halts, Surat and Vadodra while the slower one is expected to stop at all stations. The Railway Ministry has estimated a daily ridership of 36000.
To accelerate the pace of the project, a Special Puropse Vehicle, under the aegis of National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRC) has been stationed with a pre allotment of Rs. 200 Crore out of the total proposal of Rs. 500 Crore. Maharashtra and Gujarat will have an equity of 25% each while the 50% remainder will reside with the Railway Ministry.
Changing Image of India in the World Forum
With top priority being accorded to this project and substantial amounts of money being invested, the Underwater Bullet Train has brought India to the limelight in the World Forum. As increased funding is coming from Japan, status of India in the eyes of the other superpowers is rising. India is now being looked at as a stable trade partner to form alliances by the Western Nations and is being accorded primacy over other States of the Global South. In addition, this project has also facilitated technology transfers from all over the world which is expected to promote the Make In India campaign.
Increasingly, India has become the topic of debate and discussion in various International Conferences and is being looked up to by other developing nations for inspiration and support. On the other side, developed countries are also appreciating India, for exploring its latent potential by integrating technology with construction. Many International scholars are contending, that it is only a matter of a few years before India joins the league of the technologically advanced societies and the construction of this Underwater Bullet Train is expected to be the first step.
Future Feasibility and Sustenance
The feasibility seems to be a recurring question circling any discussion around this project. The cost is anticipated to be 1.5 times that of a First Class AC ticket on the Mumbai Ahmedabad Duronto Express. Though it will be cheaper than the prevailing cost the air tickets, however, the likelihood of the masses to switch to the underwater bullet train cannot be ascertained. Though the ridership is expected to increase to 186,000 daily, but the initial phase is anticipated to incur high losses. Since 20%-40% of the total revenue will go for maintenance and operating costs, and the remaining surplus will go to the payment of loans, the initial few years are will barely manage the costs.
Nevertheless, in a few years, people will switch to this quicker alternative saving almost 5 hours on the same route. As and when people get used to this revolutionary project and accept it for their regular travels, the initial costs will be met and might bring about a dip in the ticket prices, subject to inflation.
In spite of uncertainty about its sustenance and future viability, the Underwater Bullet Train has been a progressive turn towards development. Being the first of its kind in the Indian Subcontinent, this project has raised the International Status of India vis a vis the World Community, thereby fostering new transnational and global ties. Only when the construction commences, will the real picture come out, but the project logistics and imaging have generated expectations for an escalation in India’s quest for technology modernization. In a nutshell, a plethora of expectations have been unleashed by this initiative and its success will change the fate of our nation.