Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


DURING MY 33+ years in automotive journalism, I enjoyed a good number of informative and entertaining press trips. High points, good, bad, and mixed, included the fall of the Soviet Union, a regal dinner with two Mafia hitmen in attendance, and the temptation to burn bobsleds to keep warm.

However, none of these press junkets was as fraught with complexity as one experienced earlier this month by those riding India’s Bullet Train. Indeed, its tale warrants two parts at SimanaitisSays, today and tomorrow.

The Vande Bharat Express of India. Image of Train 18 from the Financial Express, February 20, 2019.

It’s unkind to call this Bullet a dud. However, the project was not without problems, even before its start.

A Vast Country. As noted in “How India’s Single Time Zone is Hurting its People,” by Soutik Biswas, BBC News, February 12, 2019, “India stretches 3000 km (1864 miles) from east to west, spanning roughly 30 degrees longitude…. The U.S. equivalent would be New York and Utah sharing one time zone. Except that in this case, it also affects more than a billion people….”

The country’s single time zone, left over from British colonialism, affects electricity use, education, work habits, and even sleep patterns.

However, a proposed change to two time zones raised other issues: BBC News writer Biswas notes, “In 2002, a government panel shot down a similar proposal, citing complexities. There was the risk, some experts felt, of railway accidents as there would be a need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone to another.”

Nurf-gun Train. And then there was the matter of India’s much hyped Vande Bharat Express being more of a Nurf gun: Japan’s Bullet Train maxes out at 320 km/h (200 mph); the Vande Bharat Express, at perhaps 180 km/h (112 mph).

To counter this, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways and Coal, recently posted a Tweet linked to a video of the express “zooming past at lightning speed.”

According to BBC News, there was only one problem: “Transpotter Abhishek Jaiswal then replied with the original footage, which he said he filmed in December for his railway-themed YouTube channel.” He claims that Goyal’s posting sped the image to twice its actual rate.

Train Stoned, Again! From The Economic Times, February 21, 2019: “A stone was hurled at the Vande Bharat Express on Wednesday breaking one of its window panes, the third such incident in two months involving India’s fastest train, the railways said…. This was the semi-high speed train’s third commercial run after it started operations on February 17.”

Geez. Could PR get any worse?

Well, yes. Tomorrow in Part 2, the Indian “semi-high speed” train gets dinged for being an energy hog, for exhibiting overly abundant retardation, and maybe hitting a cow. Or maybe not. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. Bob Storck
    February 28, 2019

    The complex Indian rail system is full of contrasts. Different gauges, different purposes, and VASTLY different accommodations for homo sapiens. Many years in the past, I took a long rail trip to the scenic and idyllic Kashmir mountain valleys.

    Initially, it was like so many trains you might see in rural England with private coaches and comfortable cars. When our travel got into the less developed areas, we gained cars with less and less service, and soon had more ‘passengers’ riding on top or clinging to the sides of cars. The crew kept the ‘fourth class’ from our coaches (rather forcefully), but as we went through mountain switchbacks, we could scan the variety of our fellow travelers.

    As you might expect, some were observed falling off, which was not a cause for concern, let alone, delay.

    Quite a contrast with Bullet Trains.


    • phil ford
      February 28, 2019


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