Japan eyes High-speed Rail Contract in India, says Cost not High

New Delhi: With the feasibility study for the country’s first high-speed railway in its final stages, Japan expects India to make a “big, clear decision” on the Shinkansen. Japan is also pushing for a 360-degree project rather than a piecemeal one.

Masafumi Shukuri, Chairman of the International High-Speed Rail Association (IHRA) which owns the famed Shinkasen bullet trains, said, “Rather than saying India only requires economic or financial cooperation, or that finance and technology should be considered separate from developing human resources, they cannot be separated and should be an integrated decision. If India is getting financial assistance from one country, the technology of that country, wisdom, experience and human resources of that country should be utilized as well.”

India’s quest for bullet trains has brought Japan and China as competitors for the India market. While Japan, in its 51 years of operating the Shinkansen, has reported 100% safety and delays of “under one minute”, China’s high-speed rail system, which covers more kilometres, has had at least one well known accident killing many people. On the other hand, China’s system has a definite price advantage.

Shukuri hotly contested it. “There has been no instance when Japan’s cost is higher. There is no proven instance when the initial cost by Japan’s Shinkansen has been higher.”

The evolution of Shinkansen was made keeping passenger safety and minimum environmental impact in mind, Shukuri said. “We have been doing that for decades. From that perspective, our costs are extremely competitive. Japan has continued to make efforts to reduce the cost. It’s not just the initial cost that you should look at. You need to look at lifestyle cost, over three to five decades. We need to be able to use these systems properly, and therefore we need inspections, training etc. We put a great deal of effort into various aspects of the system. It’s because of this we have been able to achieve the record of no fatalities or injuries in Japan. If you don’t have those systems in place, you could end up with accidents, which add to the cost,” he added.