The Japanese have theirs, we will soon have ours

It’s about commuting to work and back!

Urbanization around the world has spawned transportation systems ranging from bicycles to horse-drawn carriages, buses, cars, trains. The ultimate in trains being the “Bullet” trains which first appeared in Japan in 1964. As a general rule, a journey should not last more than 2 or 3 hours beyond which maintain it daily, 5 days per week, for months in a row, would be somewhat inconvenient. Urban sprawl has been somewhat limited by this need to travel where generally the world’s rail commuter systems, such as the Delhi Metro, London Underground or New York’s transit system operating at an average speed of 100 km/h, would cover 200 km in 2 hours. However, the Japanese found a way to overcome this limit by introducing trains with an average speed of 250 km/h, the bullet-shaped nose of the lead bogie earning it the name “Bullet” train. It connected Osaka 500 km to Tokyo, allowing a daily trip in just 2 hours. Born from the ashes of World War II, the Shinkansen was a bold reaffirmation of Japanese national pride and involved concerted efforts by government, business and the scientific community to prioritize train travel. These state-of-the-art trains run on dedicated tracks usually laid on concrete to minimize maintenance, and have few level crossings, allowing them to maintain an accident-free record for nearly 60 years. Tokaido Shinkansen, covering 515 km between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, was the first service, serving a number of major cities Shin-Yokohama, Shizuoka, Nagoya and Kyoto along the way.

Laid out with tracks having a curve radius of no less than 4 km, the speed could now be increased to 260 km. Serving the major cities of Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura, and Hakata, the line was a precursor to a national Shinkansen network. Now most trains reach a maximum speed of 300 km/h. A new station complex at Shinagawa, just south of Tokyo Station, was opened in October 2003, allowing some trains to start and end there, increasing the number of trains on the Tokaido line from 11 to 15 per hour, or one every four minutes. A total of nine lines, ranging from the smaller Hakata-Minami with only 8.5 km operated by JR West, and the longest Tokyo-Hachinohe of 593 km, totaling 2,556 km are now in operation. Since Japan is a relatively small country, short high-speed trips have managed to make the country a quasi-suburb of Tokyo. And to keep commuters happy, the trains run, like Mumbai’s commuter trains, on some sections at three-and-a-half-minute intervals during peak hours. Back home, we must still dream that our own “Bullet” trains will soon be part of the Indian landscape between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, completing the 492 km journey in just two hours compared to the seven now taken by the super-fast Shatabdi Express. . In the process, it would also put fast-growing Tier 2 cities such as Surat, Valsad, Bharuch and Vadodara, on a rapid transit map linking India’s financial capital, Mumbai. With trains traveling at an average speed of 250 km/h, making a city center to city center journey in just under two hours would also save the traveler the hassle of a long journey to and from the airport, security checks and the uncertainty created by foggy weather. days. Trains can be delayed, but you don’t have to sit still in the passenger lounge waiting for the boarding announcement. Last but not least, they will always get to your intended destination, and in one piece.

(The author is a former member of the Board of Railways. Opinions expressed are personal.)

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