Saturday , 20 April 2019

Red Signal For Bullet Train

The proposal for a bullet train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad must be put on hold for an indefinite period. The cost of building it is estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore which is too huge an amount for Indian Railways to afford, even along the PPP route. If the work on bullet train corridor starts in 2017, the first train (with 300 km per hour speed) will run only in 2024. Indian Railways must try new concepts, but not at the cost of the existing ones which have served the nation for decades. Indian Railways suffer from a paucity of tracks. There are too many trains in comparison to the number of tracks and the conditions of tracks too are matters of huge concern, which to a major extent reduce the speed of trains.  For every available km of railway track, a train runs only 50 km on an average daily. And normal trains cannot run without interruptions for a longer period of time at their top speed as they have to give space to other trains which are caught up in schedule mismanagement web.

Even as the job of doubling of tracks has been progressing at a snail’s pace, the number of trains has increased manifold, thereby putting the situation back to square one. Apart from the trains that are necessary, every government at the Centre has started new trains with an eye on vote. As a result, at times better performing trains have been sacrificed to woo voters.  Despite having a potential to run well above 100 kmph, the Konkan Railway has had to remain content with a speed limit pegged around 90 kmph. Even Rajdhani Express often runs late on the Konkan Railway track. Now there is a Duranto proposed between Delhi and Goa. Duranto is the fastest train to come up in recent years, but in the absence of good track facilities and management, it cannot be started for several cities. As for other trains, the less said the better.

The Indian Railways are lacking in modern management. The reports of the National Transport Policy Committee, the Rail Tariff Enquiry Committee and the Railway Reforms Committee have brought this out in great detail. Much of the Indian Railways’ rolling stock technology has been outdated. The system is dogged by excessive manpower. Human resource development has not kept pace with the up-gradation of technology wherever it has taken place. This has made Indian Railways incapable of coping with the increasing transport demand. Railway cargo traffic has been yielding ground to road transport owing to several issues the management has not been able to resolve. The passenger services also need close attention. The catering services, toilets and cleanliness are unsatisfactory. There are several long distance trains without pantries.  AC might not function well on trains or in coaches.

Before the Railways think of ‘world class’ concepts such as bullet trains they have to improve their financial health.  The Railways have to maximize their revenue collection. For this leakages within the ministry must be stopped, and so should be pilferage and drain such as ticketless travel. The Railways have huge land assets that can be turned into great commercial assets. The Railways are already trying various experiments of outsourcing services of some kind to private parties. In short, the task before the Railways can think of investing Rs 1 lakh crore for a Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor is clear:  improve your income from passengers, cargo and commercial use of land around railway tracks; and improve and speed up the existing train services.

How to Prevent Dengue

There have been about a hundred dengue cases reported in Goa in the past seven months. In some areas the incidence has risen phenomenally, and in some areas it has come down, compared to past few years. Obviously, the civic bodies and panchayats and the health authorities have a greater job on their hand than they think they could manage. There is only one way to prevent the spread of dengue fever: prevent the breeding of its mosquito vector. This mosquito breeds in clean, stagnant water. Every family must be vigilant about not allowing collection of any stagnant water in their homes or around. However, the health department, civic bodies and panchayats have a major responsibility of checking the open grounds, construction sites and roads for any pools or puddles of stagnant water. They need to be more proactive.


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