Budget carrier IndiGo is introducing 47 new flights on its existing network during October 2016. With this and the induction of five new Airbus A320 aircraft during the month, the airline’s frequency will increase to 883 daily. Additionally, to further extend connectivity, IndiGo will operate more flights connecting the metros to the key cities including Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Guwahati and Patna.
With maiden flights connecting Port Blair to Delhi and Kolkata and Hyderabad and Chennai, the airline is set to introduce its first daily return flights connecting Bengaluru to Patna, Varanasi and Imphal.
Aditya Ghosh, president and whole time director, IndiGo, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to announce our plans to further strengthen connectivity in India by offering more flights and increased frequencies to our growing customer base. With the continuously increasing presence and phenomenal customer uptake, we are hopeful that these flights will prove to be popular and convenient for our passengers, across our network.”
In December 2015, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet cleared a $14.7bn bullet train system linking the western Indian cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
As a matter of fact, the Indian Railways symbolises the decaying nature of Indian Railways’ infrastructure. The basic issue is that the IR hardly earns enough to pay for itself, is cash strapped mainly due to the recurring losses in the passenger segment of its operations. IR get every year huge aids in the form of government funding and stays afloat.
Its top managers have frequently warned of the crisis. As per IR top officials: “In the final analysis, the performance of the organisation would be just at the bottom-line and unless we are in a position to control the expenditure and increase the earnings on a sustained basis, survival for the organisation becomes a very difficult proposition”.
The challenge has been clear for many years. In 2012, a high-level government committee had identified that the condition of the tracks and bridges as a cause of major concern. Weak tracks slow down the trains’ and freight movement. The committee made several recommendations like modernising of the 19,000 km of existing tracks that comprise nearly 40% of the total network and carrying about 80% of the traffic.
The committee had also strongly advocated the strengthening of the 11,250 bridges to sustain higher loads at higher speeds, as nearly 25% of 131,000 bridges are more than 100 years old.
Rs. 80,00,000 million had even been finalized as an outlay for this.
But the railways did not spend even a small part of this.
Against this backdrop, top Railways analysts of India are of the opinion that the same Bullet Train investment should be used on upgrading the entire railway infrastructure. It would have been much more economically helpful than the Bullet Train project.
Shouldn’t the dedication be on modernising and upgrading the entire system as a top priority?
Population growth in India is such that more than a million young people is added to its work force every month. But, due to one reason or the other, important decisions on the filling of 1000s of vacancies, including those of safety related, track maintenance and signalling works, keep getting delayed. While millions of the country’s citizens continuously seek jobs; 1000s of crucial posts in the Railways have remained vacant for several years. It defies logic !
There is little doubt that giving a face-lift to the entire network and work culture would lead to creation of many more new jobs than such a single capital intensive project.
How does this augur with Prime Minister Modi’s statement on the Bullet train system –
“This enterprise will launch a revolution in Indian railways and speed up India’s journey into the future. It will become an engine of economic transformation in India.”
Comparative Study of Bullet Train and Aircraft Services between Mumbai and Ahmedabad :-
If one indeed had $14.7bn fund in hand, the Bullet Train project does not score high when it is compared with Air connectivity. It would be prudent to deploy aeroplanes in place of trains.
Sometimes, not to invest becomes more advantageous. Before investing in new mega projects, it is necessary to review the present situation and other available options.
A Bullet train ride will cost Rs 3300; while the airline will happily serve the traveler for as low a fare as Rs 2900 !!
In May 2016, during the course of the review of the railways sector, it was noted that the capital investment in 2015-16 was over Rs. 9,30,000 million. This represents a massive increase of 65 per cent over the previous year, and is the highest-ever, as per a PMO statement. The PMO added that 1780 km of rail lines have been commissioned and 1730 kms electrified during 2015-16, which represent the best performance on these metrics in railway history.
Even after this, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to emphasise the need for the railways to upgrade and diversify the uses of its infrastructure, as is apparent from the statement. PM Modi has asked the railways to speed up redevelopment of stations and substantially raise its “level of ambition” in this regard.
“Centre is working on upgrading rail infra. In rural areas this will boost skill development & increase non-fare revenue for railways,” PM Modi has said in a tweet.
“Progress in commissioning of lines & electrification of lines has been commendable. Discussed speeding up process of redeveloping stations,” he said in another tweet.