Monday, December 14, 2015

How the upcoming bullet train will impact the air-traffic on Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector?

by Soumen Mukherjee
During the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's 3-day India visit between 11-13 December 2015, India and Japan have signed an agreement on the installation high-speed train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad with technical and financial assistance from Japan. According to the agreement 'High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd' a special purpose vehicle of Indian Railway will implement the project by 2023. Before the final agreement several feasibility studies were undertaken including a detailed project report prepared with Japanese assistance. Shinkansen or popularly known as Bullet train will run on the 508 km dedicated corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. With operational speed of 320 km/h, the travel time is expected to be only 2 hours for limited stop service and 3 hours for all-stop service. Currently the fastest train on the route 'Mumbai Central-Ahmedabad Shatabadi Express' takes 6 hours 20 minutes to complete the journey.
Here we will discuss the impact of the upcoming bullet train (Shinkansen) project on the air-traffic on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector. In comparison to 120 minutes travel time of bullet train, the average flying time of airlines operating on the 445 km (241 nautical miles) BOM-AMD sector is 65 to 80 minutes. As per initial information coming out the high-speed corridor will have its terminus at Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla complex (BKC) which is far more easily accessible from the cities main business district in South Mumbai than the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport. On the opposite it is expected to end in a terminus to be built adjacent to Ahmedabad Jn. station located well within the Ahmedabad city than the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport. Therefore the train service will have a edge over flights as it will take less time to reach train terminus than the airport in the congested road-traffic both in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Also there will be no buffer time (check-in, security etc) associated with the train service which is a typical for a flight service.

Ahmedabad is the 5th busiest destination from Mumbai with around 1.5 Lakh monthly passengers between the two cities. At present there are 5 airlines operating 138 weekly flights (one-way) in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector. Jet Airways is the largest airline on the route with 48 weekly flights followed by IndiGo with 41 weekly flights. Air India operates 3 daily flights, all operated on wide-body aircraft (effective from Dec. 16) while SpiceJet and GoAir each fly 2 daily flights. Vistara which commenced operating on the sector on 10 January 2015 initially flew double daily frequency before reducing it to single daily. Eventually it dropped the sector in the winter 2015/2016 season (effective from 25 October 2015).

Jet Airways
48x weekly
41x weekly
Air India
21x weekly
14x weekly
14x weekly

As per traffic data between domestic city-pairs, released by the aviation regulator, DGCA, Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Mumbai is the 8th busiest domestic sector in India. The BOM-AMD-BOM route has managed to receive average 1.5 Lakh monthly passengers over the last few months. And it is expected that the sector will reach close to 2 million annual passengers in FY2016. At the time of bullet train launch, the annual traffic between Mumbai & Ahmedabad likely to reach 5.3 million with 15% CAGR by FY2022. While the high-speed train project has been conceived to carry 15 million annual traffic with fare lower than that of low-cost airlines on the route. Therefore a portion of the air-traffic may well shift to bullet train if the project is implemented well. 

August 2015
September 2015
October 2015

Now have a look at other instances of high-speed rail impacting rail-traffic in other countries. Taiwan, the tear-drop island off the Chinese coast , is roughly half the size of Sri Lanka. The island has 345 km operational high-speed track with the same Japanese Shinkansen technology. Opened in 2007 it has heavily impacted the domestic air traffic of the country. Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, in the north-east and Kaohsiung International Airport in Kaohsiung, in the south-west of the island are connected through Shinkansen network and have witnessed sharp fall in air-traffic between the two. In fact most airlines had to withdraw from the route following the introduction of Shinkansen. At present only China Airlines operates flight on the route as the domestic leg of one of its international flight from Taiwan-Taoyuan International Airport.

So it will interesting to see how the bullet-train project been implemented, an area India doesn't have good track record except for Delhi Metro. And to see how it will impact the air-traffic on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, we have to wait till 2023, the expected arrival time of high-speed rail in India.


  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the ambitious Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) bullet train project for which he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone here would bring pace to development in the country.

  2. Very informative Article.
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  3. Nice and interesting information and informative too.
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