India’s Metro man Sreedharan slams Modi’s pet bullet train project
A retired Indian Engineering Service (IES) officer, Sreedharan served as the managing director of Delhi Metro from 1995 to 2012.
“Bullet trains will cater only to the elite community. It is highly expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary people. What India needs is a modern, clean, safe and fast rail system,” Sreedharan said in an interview to Hindustan Times.
The Japan-backed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project costing $17 billion is expected to be constructed by August 2022. Modi has called the project crucial for his pet ‘Make in India’ campaign aimed at lifting the share of manufacturing in India’s $2 trillion economy. The government also hopes to generate hundreds of jobs through the train project.
Sreedharan has also punctured the claims that the railways has improved. Under Modi’s ambitious project to transform the railways, a lot of things — including engines, trains and stations to food and bookings — are getting a makeover. With the next Lok Sabha elections less than an year away, the Modi government is trying to ensure it lives up to his promise of changing the way Indians travel on trains.
However, Sreedharan is not impressed. “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,” he said.
The government has already faced severe criticism from opposition parties which have questioned the utility of the bullet train as well as the expenditure on it. Sreedharan is the first expert to differ with the government publically on a project that not only holds big iconic value but also claims to bring to India higher standards of efficiency.
On standardisation of the metro service across the country, Sreedharan said, “I have been pushing for standardisation and indigenisation of metro service for long. It is a welcome move. With standardisation, efficiency will go up and reduce cost considerably. We can manufacture coaches and other parts indigenously. I feel we can convert metro into a ‘Make in India’ project. Delhi Metro has set a standard and triggered a metro revolution in the country. Results are there to see. Today there are 13 metros under construction. Within 20 years, Delhi Metro has reached a size of 260 km and is the fastest growing metro in the world. I also feel really proud of the work culture of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).”