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Metro Man E Sreedharan says 'highly expensive' bullet train will cater only to elites

Metro Man E Sreedharan says 'highly expensive' bullet train will cater only to elites

"What India needs is a modern, clean, safe and fast rail system," Sreedharan said.

E Sreedharan E Sreedharan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bullet train project had earlier evoked sharp criticism from the opposition parties. Now, the 'Metro Man' himself has slammed PM Modi's pet project. E Sreedharan, who was given this sobriquet for being the brains behind the Delhi Metro, told Hindustan Times that bullet train is highly expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary people.

"What India needs is a modern, clean, safe and fast rail system," Sreedharan told the daily, adding that such trains will cater only to the elites. The comments by the Metro Man come at a time when the project is facing land acquisition hurdles from farmers in Gujarat and Mahrashtra.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project is currently being built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,10,000 crore which is almost equal to total capital outlay of Indian Railways in 2017. Besides, it will service only 500-odd kilometres in a country where around 12,600 trains run every day to ferry more than 2.3 crore passengers, equivalent to Australia's entire population.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi heaped praise on his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for extending a soft loan worth Rs 88,000 crore at 0.1 per cent for India's ambitious bullet train project.

According to a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train will need to make 100 trips daily and carry 88,000-118,000 passengers per day to be financially viable. This figure could well be way above the total number of passengers travelling between the two cities on any given day. Not to mention the ticket price for the bullet train is expected to be around Rs 3,000. For a much less price, one can travel between Ahmedabad and Mumbai on an airplane and reach in an hour.

It's not just bullet train, Sreedharan is also not happy with the progress of Indian Railways. "I do not agree that the Indian Railways has made rapid progress. Apart from bio-toilets, there is no technical upgradation. Speed has not increased. In fact, the average speed of most prestigious trains has come down. Punctuality is worst - officially 70%, actually less than 50%. Accident record has not improved. Many also die on tracks, at level-crossings, in suburban sections. Almost 20,000 lives are lost on tracks yearly. I feel Indian Railways is 20 years behind those of advanced nations," the veteran engineer told the newspaper.

Sreedharan, the key architect for various metro projects across the country, was recently given a new task to standardise the metro service in the country. Sreedharan also believes that India can manufacture coaches and other parts indigenously. "I feel we can convert metro into a Make in India project," he said.