By the time the Farakka Express from Delhi to Bengal’s Malda chugged out of the Lucknow station this afternoon, it was eight hours late.
The 16-hour journey didn’t look appealing to homemaker Sapna Roy and her family, including her 19-year-old son Rahul. Travelling by the sleeper coach, the Roys had waited since 7 am this morning, 20 minutes before their train was to leave.
To an exasperated Rahul, a college student, the bullet train project sounded like science fiction.
“The bullet train is a good concept but how about investing some money into maintaining punctuality on these trains? I waited for this train to leave since 7 am… It’s 3 pm now. It is a terrible waste of my time. When will that change,” Rahul questioned.
The bullet train will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe tomorrow. It is to be built at a cost of Rs. 1.10 lakh crore and is expected to run on an average speed of 250 km per hour, with a top speed of around 320 km per hour – more than double the maximum speed of the fastest train in India. It is likely to reduce the travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai from eight hours to a little over three hours.
The first bullet train is expected to start operating in less than five years.
Sapna Roy was excited at the thought of travelling so fast. “I saw this bullet train news on the phone a few days ago. I think Modiji is doing the right thing. It will benefit everyone. Maybe if there is some emergency sometime I can also board a bullet train and go somewhere,” she said.
In a different coach, 45-year-old government school kabaddi coach Shambhu Nath was accompanying his team back to Varanasi from a tournament in western UP. “The bullet train is a good idea and the one lakh crore spending is ok …as long as trains like this one have better facilities, better cleanliness and most importantly, a better safety record,” Mr Nath said.
In the last 25 days, there have been five train derailments. In the biggest incident last month, over 20 people died in UP’s Muzaffarnagar. “The track condition is not good. The trains are not clean. The bullet train concept is good but what about maintaining punctuality and safety on trains that general people take. If safety can’t be assured, them what’s the use,” Mr Nath said.