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How Soon Will India See Its First High-Speed Rail Line?

India may very well see its first high-speed train route constructed and operational by 2024, thanks to a highly anticipated agreement with Japan that is expected to be finalized by the end of the week.

The Economic Times reports that Hiroto Izumi, special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will visit Delhi and hash out the terms for this project with the Prime Minister’s Office along with the railway ministry. Both countries are said to be fully on board with the agreement and the financing terms are considered quite favorable for India.

Beyond actual route planning, construction, and the supplying of equipment, Japan will also provide industry experts for consultation for the duration of the project.

Once completed, the train will connect Mumbai with Ahmedabad, reducing what is currently a seven-hour journey down to two.

Train station in India

While many reports state that this deal has been warmly accepted and all but sealed, some are questioning the necessity of a high-speed rail in the first place, as The Sraits Times reports:

“Do we need to spend that amount of money to just cut journey hours from seven to two? There are lots of other things we need to do with the same kind of money and it will end up being more expensive than air travel,” said transportation expert Ashok R. Datar.

These “other things” referenced include further assessing safety records for rail around the country along with improving existing routes. While overall train accidents have been on the decline, a high rate of incidents (especially derailments) caused by human error needs to be addressed.

India has one of the most extensive and heavily used rail networks in the world, with some 30 million passengers riding the rails on any given day.