India’s answer to the US and European highways would be the Indian Railways. We don’t need to replicate what everyone is doing, we just need to have a way of our own to do it. Every Indian would use the Railways as efficiently as people use the roads or air travel elsewhere in the world. Instead of bailing out Air India, bloody shut it down and use all that money to make a new track between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Calcutta. Just kill the Maharaja.
We have an excellent mesh of Railway network that just needs to be upgraded. There are hundreds of stations in just about an area of thousand kilometre square, which makes it the best point-to-point network that has ever been. More so, the Railways are an automatic way to reach from point A to point B, with minimum risk and fatigue. The advantages are way beyond what anyone could imagine. My point is, India needs a major infrastucture investment in the Railways and not the highways.
Consider this article from SCIAM. The article points to the fact that selfish drivers would do better in an environment of less convenience rather than in an environment that was better suited to their needs. The very fact that they tore down a highway between two points in Seoul and increased the traffic efficiency, is indicator enough of how things can churn out.
Consider the fact that India invests another hundred thousand crores on the highways. It would only add more pressure on the cities and that now the infrastructure is available, fuel prices would go up for want of use of the highways. Instead, let’s build more railway tracks. Here’s what we could do:
- Build more railway tracks – upgrade two lane tracks to four lanes between major junctions
- Upgrade all single tracks to a minimum of two lane tracks
- Re-enforce all bridges along major railway tracks or build alternate bridge routes with hard deadlines
- Increase the number of central stations that exist in a city – upgrade normal stations to central (or junction) status to de-pressurize the number of passenger boardings on central or city or junction stations
- Increase the number of general class coaches to a minimum of 10 coaches in short distance trains and a minimum of 5 coaches in long distance trains. Right now, there are at most 3 general coaches in both long and short distance trains.
- Reduce the number of classes – abolish coupe class, abolish AC first class, abolish First Class (2 tier sleeper)
- Do away with Pantry cars and catering services – focus on what we have to do – travel.
- Make mandatory electrified routes between all major stations: Delhi – Lucknow, Bangalore – Chennai, Mumbai – Pune (which doesn’t even have a train route yet), Bangalore – Hyderabad, Bhopal – Raipur, etc.
- Ensure that if there are more than 36 (half of the number of berths in a Sleeper Coach) waitlisted passengers, then all of them should be guaranteed a seat with extra coaches being added to the train.
- Run emergency trains to cater to any extra capacity required and increase the number of coaches/engines.
- Introduce Ultra-super-fast trains for long distances that would run on dedicated tracks and stop only at junctions
- Target run-time of such trains should be less than 24 hours. It is doable:
- From Jammu to Kanya-Kumari, the distance is approximately 3500 Kms
- If a train runs at an average speed of 180 Kmph (which is a doable speed on a new dedicated track), it can do the distance in 19.5 hours.
- Add to that any extra time taken for boarding/stopping/cleaning etc. and you have another 4.5 hours.
- If the train stops at 12 points for an average of 15 minutes at every point (which is extremely sufficient), it would have used only 3 hours out of those 4.5 hours.
There are a million other things to do. If even half of my above wishes see light, we would see a much better India in future.