The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor is probably one of the most ambitious transportation projects of the country. Under this project, India will get its first bullet train and is being funded by Japan via a generous loan deal.
In recent days media reports signalled that they were again up in arms against the project in general. The reports were titled:
- Route For Planned Bullet Train Loss-Making, 40% Seats Empty, Reveals RTI 
- Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train in the works but 40% seats on route go vacant: RTI 
- Is PM Modi’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project viable? Railways’ RTI reply offers a hint 
All these reports quoted a certain RTI query made by RTI activist Anil Galgali, as per which 40% of the seats on all the trains of this sector went vacant which causes huge losses to the Western Railway.
Naturally, if trains in any sector have a 40% vacancy, it would raise questions not only about the viability of the mega bullet train project, but would also bring in question as to why are so many trains currently running between these two stations.
But as has been the case with many news reports in the past, this conclusion too was drawn based on a malicious spin of the actual RTI query.
Soon after the 40% vacancy reports started gaining traction, Piyush Goyal put out a tweet which debunked the whole charge:
Contrary to media reports, Mumbai-Ahmedabad train section running at above 100% occupancy and will benefit immensely from Bullet train. pic.twitter.com/JXH8y34QVg
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) November 1, 2017
As per the clarification issued by the Western Railway, Ravinder Bhakar, their chief PRO clarified that the RTI reply by the railways was based on a specific query made about the number of passengers boarding at Mumbai Central and then alighting at Ahmedabad.
That is, it didn’t include the figures about other scenarios like:
- Passengers boarding at Mumbai Central and getting down an an intermediary station before Ahmedabad
- Passengers boarding at any other en-route station and getting down at Ahmedabad
- Passengers boarding at an en-route station and alighting at an intermediary station
As per the railway press release, factoring in these scenarios, the total occupancy even in the off season of July to September was more than 100%. There are a total of 9 trains in between Mumbai and Ahmedabad which have a total berth potential of 8,03,150. With regards to that, the total booking from 1st July to 30th September was 8,30,978. The same was the case for the trains’ return journey.
Also when it comes to the 25 trains which ply from Mumbai and have Ahmedabad as an intermediary station, the total booking was 12,30,585 as opposed to the capacity of 10,70,719, which translates to a 115% occupancy. For the return journey the occupancy was 121%.
So clearly, not only do trains on this route not have a 40% vacancy, they actually have an excess demand.
This raises the question as to why did media not 1st check in with the Western Railway authorities before running the report, which could have avoided this whole situation.