I was in hurry to catch my train at 9:45 PM from Jammu Railway station along with my friend and didn’t Google spot your train before leaving my hotel. As we reached the station we found almost 90 percent of trains delayed due to reasons not mentioned in the announcements. Apparently it was due to foggy weather, but it happened almost every time when I travelled from southern to northern parts of our country, I found this a usual phenomenon. How could I forgot, my recent experience when I missed my interview due to delay of Bhopal express. But people argue and one of my student who is in UK even wrote, that trains and flights even get late in UK, but people don’t express their anger, then I found an article in The Guardian, which was full of outrage. Trains are machines they will face technical glitches and other factors and that may occur any time. The point is limitations. But certainly human race is such that it doesn’t have the limits of expectations. But it does not mean passengers will not get angry, because they are affected, and when we are equipped with better technology and technical skills, it should not be a day today phenomenon. During winter trains are late by days and hours and in summer trains are late by hours and minutes.
Although, passenger trains providing hassle-free, speedy, safe, reliable and comfortable travel as compared to other means of transport to the common average Indian. It is expected that Indians will travel thrice by 2020-21 than in 2000-01 but we are not prepared for it. With little improvement in the infrastructure and services we have miles to go to meet the demands of growing population. There is a need to segregate its passenger business from freight, for better focus and orientation with faster services, but that needs better and multiple railway tracks. In the process of development Indian railway is much concerned for the elite class than the common people. Based on total operating length United States has the world’s longest railway network, followed by China and India. High speed trains are running on different tracks in India, but sometimes Indian train journeys are extremely long and very slow. Recent plans to modernize India’s sprawling and underfunded railway network include the introduction of high speed trains and automatically closing doors. Phasing out pantry cars is part of a broader push to develop a “modern system”. India is preparing to take a giant leap to run first bullet train which the government aims to launch by the 75th anniversary of Indian independence on 15 August 2022, will run from Ahmedabad, the Gujarat capital, to the financial hub of Mumbai and the project will create about 36,000 jobs.
Train accidents are a serious issue in the country despite technological advancements. Excessive traffic” and underinvestment in rail infrastructure” are the main factors for derailments. Nearly 53 per cent of the 586 train accidents in the last five years were due to derailments and as many as 29 train accidents were reported in the first six months of 2017, killing 57 people and injuring 58. The worst accident was the November 20, 2016 derailment of the Indore-Patna Express+ near Kanpur which resulted in 150 deaths and over 150 injuries.
Should India spend over US$17 billion for a 508-km HSR used by well-heeled passengers when over 90% of rail passengers in India travel by sleeper class or lower class for thousands of kilometers? Unfortunately, one is only seeing expensive projects for the upper classes so far, such as the deceitfully named ‘smart cities and model villages’. It would have been better if we may have invested effectively towards clone project. Few argue that the bullet train is a wasteful project which only serves to deliver an illusory feel-good perception among the wealthy. Some argue that it is not just the one project. Just the technology, engineering and quality levels it brings will alone transform the future of our early industrial age railway system. One showcase team will fire the aspirations of a billion people, just like one Delhi Metro made every city in India try to build one. If we don’t dream big, we will never achieve big. But before going for such a mega project, it should have been better to prevent accidents and make investment in the infrastructure development to make the life of common people comfortable and hassle free. Because majority of the population travel in general bogies and sleeper classes in our country.
(The author is Assistant Professor in Department of Environmental Science, ITM University Gwalior)