china-bullet-trainIn the design limelight these days is the cheetah-inspired logo of the bullet train created by a 2nd year National Institute of Design student Chakradhar Aalla. The logo works on multiple levels but what of the bullet train itself?

After the project was launched with much fanfare it has seen more than it’s fair share of criticism. In a nutshell, the campaigns have been along the lines of “Does India really need a bullet train.” For a polity that is somewhat obsessed with development, questioning whether development is going too far is somewhat unusual. Design may have an answer to offer though.

At heart the Indian Railways is a people’s movement. The Railways is all about the big numbers- carrying more than the population of the entire world in a year. This is a vast and complex enterprise at the backend but the visible parts are all about simplicity – a place to stand, a seat to occupy, or a simple berth to lie down in. The Railways has always been about getting the common people the places they go to over the course of their common lives. Trains that fly, that cost untold crores to action, and that will (probably) ferry the high and mighty is a story that is far removed from the simplicity at the heart of everything the Indian Railways represents – and this is why the story is easy to sell.

To tackle the blowback the Bullet Train has to be framed in terms that matter to the common man. How will the coming of the Bullet Train help them, make their ride better, safer, and smoother? Or how this may be something for them to be proud of? Everyone must get a ticket to ride – and that’s when the green signal will really click on.