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Expressway or High speed Rail corridors

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Commuter RailPublic Transport

I came across this  draft report about the proposed plan for creating expressway in india.

Although  it is strictly not a karantaka/bangalore issue, i think since there are 3 expressways ( Bangalore - Mangalore, bangalore - honavar, Mangalore-Panaji) being proposed in our state in this report, it  has relevance in this forum.

As the report indicates, the idea is to create a 12,000 kms of expressways across the country in 3 phases by 2022. Looking at the past record it looks very ambitious.

The planned network is going to be completely new alignments ,and in addition to the current national  highways .Although this is is the case in countries like us where interstate highway system was built in parallel to the existing  us highways, i am not sure if it is a good idea in India.Land acquistion  will be a very big issue in out country.

Also,these expressways were built in US because of a powerful automobile lobby because they were the direct beneficiaries.Cars have become the first choice mode of transport between cities.(in a range of 500-100 miles atleast). So,now US is the highest consumer of 'gas'  and highest emitter of 'greenhouse' gases.

I belive we  should not follow the same path. Although, i understand a good transportation system in the country will improve trade( GDP indirectly), we have to see which path we should take.

Furthermore in US, High speed  rail corridor is now being planned  because of higher fuel prices, congested airports and highways.One can access more information about this development in this wiki link


So, i think high speed rail corridor between cities will be a better transport option between cities. Meanwhile,we can keep our highway to some minimum standards but should we pour so much money into building a expressway  is the question.

What do you guys think?





idontspam's picture

I agree with you

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Current 4 & 6 lane highways are good enough, most of them need proper interchanges at junctions. It is possible to upgrade a lot of the current ones into expressways very easily. I have always been a proponent of high speed trains as they carry more people and cargo.

We have got into the habit of thinking wider is better instead of making the ride smoother. The NH7 to BIAL is an example. All cross roads can be converted into interchanges to increase throughput. It is wide enough to take current and future vehicle traffic. It can be supplemented by high speed trains instead.

sanjayv's picture

High speed anything

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 I would prefer high speed rail to expressways.  However, there is a major advantage of expressways (I think, please correct me if I am wrong).  Moving goods on truck fleets to towns all over the country.  All you need is an interchange to distribute good all along the way.

There is another troubling aspect to all thes ehigh speed thingies.  In our heavily populated country, they become dividers between villages.  Since we are a more pedestrian, bicycle, tractor, slow mode of trasport oriented culture in the rural areas, how does one overcome that problem?

idontspam's picture

Slow moving anything

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  Since we are a more pedestrian, bicycle, tractor, slow mode of trasport oriented culture in the rural areas, how does one overcome that problem?

By making them use the high speed railway. They will save on transportation costs by getting their produce faster to the city instead of on their tractors.  
We need to understand the usage pattern of such slow modes and what they are used to connect to. People dont use the slow mode to cross hundreds of Kms. If they are then it points to lack of a viable transport option. If they are using the highway as their only means of getting around then we should build them a surface street option. Thats what the service lanes were supposed to do. Highways shouldnt cut off well defined villages. Obviously every house and hutment along the roadway will want to cross over at their favourite place on the main highway. But defined villages on the map will need to have places to cross over and join a surface road which takes them to the closest train station or the closest town which has a surface connectivity to the next town. 
sanjayv's picture

What I mean is

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The way the fabric of life is in many places, some people have their fields across what becomes this massive expressway and homes on the other side. Or their water source is on the other side or something else.Often, this expressway or high speed rail means that these guys have to travel several extra kilometers to cross the road.  This IS a known problem even for many of our upgraded national highways. 

Any highway or high speed train program will have to be built considering this.  It could mean building several kilometers of auxilliary road to minimize disruption.  I don't know the solutuon, but it is a serious issue.

idontspam's picture

Berries vs development debate

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 The way the fabric of life is in many places

Slowmoving vehicles using the highway to fabric of life is a big leap. But true, the fabric of life with bullock carts even before cars came into the picture were so different. Why did anybody ever want to travel between such far off places? Why is any disruption in any facet of life have to be painful? How do you mitigate the inconvenience caused? Is the inconvinience actually a convinience they cant use because they need to change? In my view viable alternatives with compromises and workarounds is the key. This could be a picking-berries-living-in-caves vs development-as-accepted-currently-by-humans debate if we start nitpicking.  

But going back to the original question, why redundant expressways complicating this situation? Even in the development-as-accepted-currently-by-humans there can be moderation and common sense. Thats what we should head for.

We tend to add road bandwidth even inside cities without increasing the network length or optimizing the throughput of what we have. Thats one reason every "development" causes more harm than good. If you think long term and see that transport need to reinvent itself you will see that road space will need to be more optimally utilized. At the same time we cant stop connecting towns and cities so you will need more length as a network first than breadth. Because the population needs to redistribute for cities and towns to sustain themselves especially in India.

Naveen's picture

Rail First & development for all

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Pravn1984 :

I fully agree with you. Even the NH program (ie. golden quadrilateral & NS /EW highways) could have been planned after substantial investments had first been made toward development of high speed rails, but unfortunately, we have foolishly moved ahead with roads first & paid little attention to modernize our rail systems. Now, the talk is on increasing the road network further whilst rail systems continue to be paid lip service.


Sanjay :

I agree with what you are pointing towards. Check this link for a discussion on a design change for pedestrian underpasses - this sort of design is quite common in China where there is a large rural peasantry population similar to India. I noticed now that these types of underpasses are located frequently - about 500m along the expressways, at least on the outskirts of Guangzhou in China. A parallel rural road network is also built adjacent the expressway on both sides, & the underpasses can also allow passage of cars, tractors & farm trucks, etc. Some of the expressway lengths are wholly elevated whilst still permitting farms, shops & barns beneath !

India certainly needs to learn from these examples on how not to ignore farmers whilst pursuing development in harmony.


abidpqa's picture

Hope the railways get same importance

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Now the development paradigm has become either rail or road. I hope we could have something golden quadrilateral of railway, connecting 4 corners of the country with 4 parallel track of rails.

Rithesh's picture

We are a mixing intercity and intracity issue

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For any city intercity transportation and especially road transport is very vital for local economies. We cannot possibly expect railways to run in every nook and corner of the country - geographical reasons. Express roads not only connect cities, but also the regions surrounding the roads with economic hubs. The idea of doing away with expressway and replacing them with railways is a bit naive.

A better proposition would be to also acquire land for railways to run along these expressways where ever it is feasible - possibly reduce 6 lanes to 4 lanes and use to additional 2 lanes for rail infrastructure. With levels of population that our country has, in most sectors this dual service would be sustainable.
s_yajaman's picture

Typical - if you have no bread eat cake

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Look at our track record.  The Shiradi Ghat stretch remains unmotorable even after a drizzle and yet we dream of expressways.  The only one coming up remains mired in controversy.

Apart from Bangalore to Bangarpet and Bangalore to Maddur we don't have double tracks on other stretches.

The GQ was supposed to be done by 2003.  Even at the end of 2009 there are unfinished stretches.  The NSEW is years behind the original completion date.

My own bias is to build high speed rail corridors for passengers (200+ kmph) and dedicated freight corridors (100 kmph) - all on electric traction.   Building infrastructure that assumes cheap and easily available fossil fuels is not a good idea.

"That’s the take from Deutsche Bank’s new report, “The Peak Oil Market.” In a nutshell: The oil industry chronically under invests in finding new supplies, exemplified both by Big Oil’s recent love of share buybacks and under-investment by big oil-producing nations. That spells a looming supply crunch.

That will send oil to $175 a barrel by 2016—and will simultaneously put the final nail in oil’s coffin and send prices plummeting back to $70 by 2030. That’s because there’s an even more important “peak” moment on the horizon: A global peak in oil demand"

The rest of the report says that electric cars and hybrids will take over the world, etc.  I will believe that when I see it :). 



Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

idontspam's picture

Fossil fuels or not

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We have to assume mankind will come up with alternative for fossil fuels. There is no way we will go back to bullock carts. I will stop fossil fuel rant here so i will have less paper to eat 25 years down the line.

My point was purely not to lay redundant expressways where there are national highways which can be optimized and converted into expressways. An example is Bangalore-Chennai, Bangalore-Hyderabad, there is already NH4 and NH7, NH7/46. Or even Bangalore-Mysore, Bangalore-Hubli & Bangalore-Mangalore. Let me know what other destination needs a seperate project called expressway and I will show you how the current highway can be extended/converted into one. 

Regarding intra city I still feel we need north-south & east-west expressways/signal free throughfares (including for PT) in Bangalore to unclog the surface streets. Unfortunately we put unnecessary flyovers on all other surface streets except the identified arteries. This is where the Big10 signal free with priority PT lanes was a good idea by ABIDe. Currently I am unable to comprehend how I will make a journey in 1 hour from Sanjaynagar to either Whitefield/Electronic City or Jigni on car or PT. 


idontspam's picture

High speed railway

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 A feasibility study undertaken by an international consultant on introduction of high speed trains in the country with the speed of above 250 km per hour would be completed in six months

Read here

Naveen's picture

Roads hog more attention than rail

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For any city intercity transportation and especially road transport is very vital for local economies. We cannot possibly expect railways to run in every nook and corner of the country - geographical reasons. Express roads not only connect cities, but also the regions surrounding the roads with economic hubs. The idea of doing away with expressway and replacing them with railways is a bit naive.

I don't think anybody is rejecting roads here. It is a fact that roads tend to attract much higher attention than rail systems in India. Now, a situation has arisen where we have a reasonably good highway system, but rail systems continue to be neglected with age-old technologies & without enough investments toward modernization, though benefits of high speed rail is well known.

India is now the only large developing country remaining without high-speed, fast electric trains for inter-city travel.

Further, roads occupy much higher land, vehicles are far more polluting & there certainly is no need to commence building another road network when all that is needed is improving the existing highways. Also, such lop-sided priorities encourage more road trucks, buses, private cars & other modes of road transport which is clearly undesirable when we know that fuel is going to be scarce & will become expensive in the near future.

As Srivathsa has pointed out, our track record with road development has also been poor.

pravn1984's picture

Some interesting points:

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I agree high speed link is not a panacea to our current existing ineffecient long distance transportation network.My contention was that government must get the priorities - have a high speed railway system along with a network of good roads.

High speed railway cannot have a stop at every village and cannot cater to everybody but it can allow  travel/freight transport  between cities/towns.The road network can be built as a feeder network to this.

I believe that, as already pointed by idontspam and many other, we can convert most national highways into expressways at a fraction of the cost needed to build entirely new expressways.

However, as rightly pointed by sanjayv, we should ensure there are cattle/pedestrain underpass at 1/2 - 1 km frequency  wherever necessary. Also, the existing villages roads connection to expressways must  be through interchanges.

Furthermore, since many of the existing highways have houses/shops we may need to have service roads for many highways.

Regarding the news report about building high speed rail,I really doubt Railways, with their track record, can execute the high speed rail network.Although, they are claiming some kind of PPP model that will be first for indian railways to my knowledge.

Also, i think we probably need to have one agency looking at the intra city transport so that there will be a integrated transport solution

Vasanth's picture

Better utilization of existing tracks needed first

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 More number of non-stop trains connecting cities on the existing tracks can serve a lot rather than thinking of high speed rail corridors. For instance, Bangalore-Mysore a normal train can travel in 2 hours without any stop, but we have only one Shatabdi which does so. Even Tippu can cover the distance from downtown Mysore to downtown Bangalore in flat 2 hours as it was during its earlier days of operation. But, these trains are made to stop in intermediate stations and for crossings. Car travel at 100kph will take 2 hours from Mysore to Bangalore entrance plus one more hour to enter downtown Bangalore.

If we take Mysore - Hassan, people here are of low income group and cannot afford for cars.  Buses takes 3+ hours. On the other hand a non-stop train like Mysore-New Delhi Swarna Jayanthi can cover distance in 1 hr 45 minutes. But this train is full of reservation compartments and runs only once a week. If we have a similar train running daily just between two cities, it would help travel faster, safer at cheaper rate.

What I mean to say is we are not fully utilizing the existing tracks to its full potential and thinking of high speed rail. It is as simple as running non-stop trains between important cities.

I am very much doubtful about Expressway concept becoming a 'safer' option in India seeing the driving habits, law enforcement. comment guidelines

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