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Bullet train or Better trains - What does India need?

Indore Patna Express derailed in a district in Kanpur killing more than 120
people and injuring over 180. Early morning at three on November 20
marked a black day for Indian railways as 14 coaches met with this heart
aching accident. This is being called the worst ever train accident since a
very long time. The sudden emergency brakes are sought to be the reason
and of course lack of safety measures on railway tracks that are old and
worn out.

At a time when PM Modi envisions bullet trains to be soon launched in

India, is it very difficult to see that the present condition of Indian railways,
which is the backbone of the country, detrimental? India can wait for bullet
trains and our PM should shift focus on bettering the condition of railways.

Better railways

1. Track renewal: Railway Ministry under Suresh Prabhu has been

speaking of zero accident mission and funds are being taken in the name
of asset management. However, if tracks are still in such a bad condition as
to cause an accident as big as this, railway definitely is lagging behind. A
shift of focus and funds from bullet trains to better trains is the need of the

2. Operation to cosmetics: Recently, more attention is being paid to the

outer faade than to the inner strength and safety operations. Instead of
changing rail tracks that are very old and hazardous, especially in seasons
with heavy temperature drop that leads to sudden expansions, all the funds
are directed in whichever direction they think could be useful to lure and
appease the rich people.

3. Gory statistics: Going by data compiled by the NCRB, death count in

railway accidents varied between 24,000 and 27,000 every year from 2010
to 2014. That is a very disturbing statistics to determine the condition of
safety measures in Indian railways.

4. Serious lack of devices: Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches should

have been rolled out as promised by railway ministry. They are specially
designed to be anti-telescopic, which means they do not flip or turn over in
case there is a collision. The brakes are more efficient in them and more
automated to tolerate sudden brakes at high speed. Even though by 2016
all Indian railways were promised to have LHB coaches, they were ignored.

5. Less trains more people: Indian railways carry more than 13 million
passengers every day but trains to accommodate them are still very few.
Indian railways are known to carry 15 times more people than they are
supposed to. Overloading leads to damage to tracks which are not changed
or repaired as efficiently as they should be.

Bullet trains

1. Two different matters: Indian government is capable of handling these

two tasks efficiently and simultaneously if proper care is given to each of
them. Bullet trains are the future of travelling for our country. Existing
railways are the present and it is agreed that they need proper upgrading
and safety proofing from time to time but lets not make this about bullet
trains and impede its launch in India.

2. State of the art technology: Indian railway tracks are not efficient for
running faster trains but still both slow and fast trains run on the same
tracks. There is extreme shortage of faster travelling. There are airplanes
but they cannot afford the same capacity as trains. We cannot lag behind.
There are times when people are in a desperate need of faster travelling.
Improving infrastructure for existing railway is no easy breezy task given the
daily travelling on the routes hence opting out of bullet trains would be

3. Lessening the burden on trains: When bullet trains come into play, it
will definitely share the load of the Indian railways. More people would
prefer to travel faster and hence railways will be eased of the burden of
carrying more people than it can afford to.

4. Development has to happen: Lets accept that Indian railways cannot

cater to the rising demands. There are not many faster trains as people
would like to avail. They run on detrimental tracks. Indian railway is facing
huge loss owing to the same fact that there are more people than it can
afford to accommodate. Bullet train could come as a rescue to people who
are willing to pay more to ease their travel facilities.

Immediate concern is needed to upgrade Indian railways. The coaches and

tracks need to be of advanced technology instead of running the same old
that British left us with. If funds are short, government has to accommodate
but nothing should stop the launch of bullet trains, something that many are
looking forward to.