India presently does not have any high speed train, and the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad project will have only 508 km length. We have 3,867 km of semi-high speed rail, while 64,089 km is conventional rail.
By definition, high speed rail is one having a speed over 250 km per hour, semi-high speed rail has between 160-200 km per hour, and conventional rail has a speed of less than 160 km per hour.
India has planned a total of twelve high speed rail corridors or lines operating at over 200 km per hour, and Mumbai-Ahmedabad was one of them, which is under construction.
As of now, the fastest train in India is Vande Bharat Express with a top speed of 180 km per hour which it attained during a trial run. The fastest operating train is Gatimaan Express with a top operating speed of only 160 km per hour. The primary reason is that we don’t have high-speed rail tracks, and have only a few tracks on which higher speed rails could be run.
Now what should India do? Should it jump for patchwork like Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR, or should it strengthen its network of rail tracks first to make the capable of being sustaining higher speed of trains?
Conventional trains have been running late, some even up to 22 hours, in 2014, and have been running late even in the pre-pandemic year 2019. In reply to a question in the Parliament of India, the Minister of Railways emphasized safety reasons for trains being late, which indicated bad conditions of our railway tracks.
We actually needed our slowly running trains to speed up to catch up the scheduled time without being late in the first place. When our railway track network would be ready for this, we should have been attempted for higher-speed track network.
What we had been doing in pre-pandemic year was running higher speed trains only on selected routes, less than in four thousand kilometres of tracks, leaving over 64 thousand kilometres of track in very bad condition, because India doesn’t have enough money even to maintain these tracks. Then why should India go for creating new HSR by spending huge money in a time of such scarcity? And why should we not use this huge spending on upgrading our existing track?