India’s first bullet train corridor, between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, could turn out to be the cheapest high-speed train service in the world.
The Japanese team working on its feasibility study has worked out its “fare box revenue” model, according to which the bullet train fare will be just one-and-a-half times more than the AC-I fares of other trains on the same route.
According to this model, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train fare works out to about Rs 2,800, calculated on the basis of the current AC-I train fare of Rs 1,895. Currently, trains on this route take about eight hours for the 534-km journey. The bullet train is expected to take less than two hours.
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Japan’s Tohoku Shinkansen (Hayabusa trains) charges about Rs 8,000 for a 713-km ride on the Tokyo-Shin-Aomori sector. A second class ticket on China’s Jinghu High Speed Railway for the Beijing-Shanghai route costs over Rs 5,000.
In India, initial estimates a few years ago had pegged the fare for this corridor to be in the same range. Officials, however, said the latest study of the possible fare model gives a more realistic picture.
The report is likely to be submitted to the Railways Ministry in July. The Japanese team carried out a survey of people travelling on the proposed corridor, asking them how much they would like to pay for a bullet train service with a speed of about 320 kmph. Apart from the complex mathematics of the fare box revenue model, the feedback obtained from the people was also factored in while calculating the likely fare, said sources.
As per the team’s estimates, about 40,000 people are going to use the corridor every day by 2023 — when the bullet train service is expected to begin. The AC-1 fares for this sector in 2023 would serve as the reference for the bullet train fares.
The study found that pricing the tickets any higher would make the flights a more attractive option, and any lower would not support the maximum revenue generation. By keeping the fares low, the bullet train will be able to steer clear of a fare war with airlines, while also retaining the existing business of higher-class railway travel.
The corridor is expected to have around 10 stations, and is supposed to cost Rs 98,000 crore, after factoring in inflation and taxes. Work on the corridor is expected to be completed about eight years after it is commissioned.