Breaking the Vicious Cycle on India’s Rails
Everyone has seen the iconic images of India’s trains — stuffed beyond capacity, with the unluckiest passengers actually outside the cars themselves, hanging on for dear life. That problem springs from a vicious cycle: a lack of new capacity limits income for investment, and the lack of investment, in turn, limits capacity. But the current Indian government says it’s time to break the cycle. Its budget for fiscal 2016 estimates that the railroads will only need 88.4 percent of fare income for operations, and the plan is to use the left over cash to fund a 52 percent increase in spending on track expansion compared to 2015. Over the next five years, the state hopes to increase track length by 20 percent, and both passenger and freight capacity by almost 50 percent. (March 2015)
Where Will They Put the Cornell of Japan?
Tokyo is getting crowded. Currently, some 90,000 people move to the metropolitan area each year. More than half of them are between the ages of 15 and 24—most of them in school or pursing employment. The government says this migration is hurting the economy of rural Japan, and it has embarked on a multi-pronged plan to slow the trend. For one, it has proposed incentives for companies to locate their head offices outside of major urban locations. It will also begin limiting enrollment at private universities in Tokyo, Kansai and Chubu by making them ineligible to receive grants if their student body hits 120 percent of designated capacity (usually around 8,000 students), thereby “encouraging” students to study in smaller towns. Will this create the next Ann Arbor or Ithaca? Not overnight, but over the next 10 to 15 years the regulations are expected to limit growth in Tokyo’s real estate market, according to Credit Suisse. (March 2015)
Real Horse Power
Despite all the talk of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world is obviously never going to return to the days of horse-drawn transport. Still, those who want an unusual—and costly—way of reducing their footprint might want to attend a Bonhams auction in Oxford on March 7. A Dutch private collector has decided to sell 24 carriages and coaches. The items up for auction include two wagons—a Barouche and a Waggonette Break—that were commissioned by rival champagne houses Veuve Clicquot and Moet & Chandon in the 19th century, and they’re predicted to fetch as much as $38,500 each. The most expensive set of wheels on the list is a Landau made for King William IV by London-based carriage makers Adams & Hooper in 1835. Other items include walking sticks, wicker picnic baskets, traveling drink sets and top hat boxes. There’s even a wooden easel in case a passenger spots a compelling vista to paint along the road. All of the vehicles have been fully restored and are roadworthy, but finding a place to park them could be challenging. (March 2015)
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.