High-speed Corridor between Cities to Change Urban Landscape

Indian railways say they are planning to build a dedicated high-speed passenger rail line between cities, aiming to cut down travel time and decongest major cities. That’s according to its latestBudget announcement.

The move by the railways to run trains at speed of 300 km/hr, or double the current speeds, will shift business and people out of congested cities, which have experienced spiraling realty prices and increased pollution.

It will also help boost real estate prices in smaller cities where it stops.

A Mint survey of six experts in the field of real estate, architecture and urban planning agreed that it has the potential to succeed.

Some say, it is not just the real estate prices but the promise of a better quality of life in less cluttered and cleaner cities that will determine the movement of people away from congested ones.

“That day is not far away when, like in New York, you stay in the suburbs, park your car at the station and take the train to work in the central business district,” said Arvind Parekh, CEO of Delhi-based Omaxe Ltd. “It will improve productivity, and at the same time reduce consumption of petrol, traffic and pollution.”

With the zapping of distances, prices in the top cities are expected to stabilize while the smaller cities are expected to pick up, said D. Murali of Shriram Properties, which is implementing projects in six cities including Chennai, Bangalore and Calcutta.

Business also is expected to get a boost in the smaller cities as the shorter commute will make them satellite destinations for backend operations. For example, if a freight corridor is implemented between Bangalore and Salem in Tamil Nadu, a distance of 400 km, could be covered in less than 90 minutes whereas it takes four hours to travel by road. The shorter commute would make it more attractive to develop a satellite operations in the smaller city.

One of the reasons for this project cited by railway minister Lalu Prasad is environmental.

He touted these high-speed trains as energy efficient and environment friendly.

Apart from environmental reasons, Anshuman Magazine, managing director of CB Richard Ellis South Asia, said high-speed trains would make smaller cities attractive for investment and this would create competition to big metros.

However, concerns were raised about the implementation of projects where cost and time over runs would make it unviable.

Pradeep Sachdeva, a Delhibased architect and urban designer says the trains are likely to be used by tourists and business travelers not necessarily by regular commuters. “It won’t be cheap,” said Sachdeva said.

“And if you have the money, you’re possibly able to live in Delhi itself.”

Railway minister Lalu Prasad said the ministry is willing to explore all options of financing including private public partnership (PPP) to make this passenger corridor a success.

“What it will do is give you a very comfortable train journey from Delhi to Jaipur or Ahmedabad without having to check in an hour in advance and worry about flight delays, ” said Sachdeva.