Delhi-Mumbai Expressway which is slated to be completed in the next 3 years should ring alarm bells for Indian Railways. Why? Because if in three years time people will be able to complete a journey between the two important cities of Delhi and Mumbai in just 12 hours by road, Indian Railways may lose out on passengers like never before! The Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express train presently takes around 16 hours to complete the over 1300 km train ride. A reduction of 4 hours by road means that Indian Railways will face very stiff competition from roadways on this route!
Agrees Agrees Abhaya Agarwal, Partner Infrastructure & PPP Leader at EY India, stating that this is a wake-up call for Indian Railways. “The traffic on roadways and on Indian Railways trains is somewhat different, but there is definitely an overlap. A 12-hour journey by road is very different from that by train. But the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is a wake-up call for Indian Railways to expedite implementation of some of its key semi-high speed and high-speed projects if it wants to avoid losing out to expressways in the future,” Agarwal tells FE Online.
What is the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project?
The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, will cut the travel distance between the two cities by 125 km, covering backard and underdeveloped areas on the way. The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project is expected to cost around Rs 1 lakh crore and will be ready in 3 years time and will allow commuters to make the journey in 12 hours as against 24 hours at present. The expressway will start from Gurugram’s Rajiv Chowk. Some tenders have already been awarded and work will begin in a month’s time on various stretches, Roadways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said.
Wake-up Indian Railways!
A recent report in FE pointed to the fact that Shatabdi Express trains on many routes are losing out to roadways and the occupancy is very low especially for a journey between non-originating and non-terminating stations. Also, for long-distance journeys, low-cost airlines are increasingly becoming the preferred mode of travel as compared to Indian Railways trains. With the flexi-fare system, the fares of Rajdhani and Duronto trains AC-2 tier and 1st-class are sometimes even more than low-cost air carriers. This has prompted Indian Railways to consider a move that would replace AC-2 tier coaches in some Rajdhani and Duronto trains with AC-3 tier coaches.
The most important point, however is, that Indian Railways needs to speed up its decision making and look towards implementation of ambitious railway projects on key routes. Reports suggest that a 500-km fencing is being considered for the Delhi-Mumbai train route so that the average speed of trains can be increased. Also, Railway Board has asked zonal railways to come up with plans to increase maximum speed of trains on crucial routes to 130 kmph, learns Financial Express Online.
According to Shri Prakash, former Railway Board member, the cost of improving the speed of trains on the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani route would be much less compared to that of building an expressway. “The Delhi-Mumbai train route, in my view, can be upgraded to make trains run at 160 kmph, in just 10% cost of making an expressway on the route. But, Indian Railways has to speed up its decision making process which is very complicated,” he tells FE Online. “Given the current track and signalling systems, trains on the Indian Railways network can attain a maximum speed of 160 kmph, not beyond that. But even if you upgrade the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani route by spending on tracks and other elementary things, you can do a journey in 12 hours,” he says explaining with an example, “If Indian Railways were to give importance to this route upgradation project and a Rajdhani Express were to leave Delhi at 7PM and reach Mumbai by 7AM, an overnight journey would suit a lot of passengers. And, all this can be done at a much lesser cost than that of building an expressway, what is important is to take decisions in a timely manner.”