Bullet train: Centre sweats as Sena slams on brakes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe launched the project in 2017.

The decision of the new Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to review the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail-Link project has given jitters to the Union Government, as it has come just ahead of the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

Modi is set to host Abe for the annual India-Japan summit a couple of weeks later – possibly in a city in the north-eastern region.

A review of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Link project is expected to be on the agenda of the summit between the two Prime Ministers, who had formally launched the project in September 2017.

India's first high-speed rail project was to be built with Shinkansen Bullet Train technology of Japan, with 81% of the estimated expenditure to be funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a soft loan.

The JICA inked an agreement with the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India on September 18 last year, pledging a soft loan of Rs 5591 crore for the project.

Thackeray on Monday confirmed that the new coalition government run by Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Congress in Maharashtra would review the project to build the High-Speed Rail Link between the state capital Mumbai and Ahmedabad in neighbouring Gujarat.

Thackeray's Shiv Sena had reservation about the High-Speed Rail Link. The party opposed it even when it was a partner in the erstwhile Government led by Devendra Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Fadnavis government, however, gave its nod to the project.

Tokyo already conveyed to New Delhi its concerns about the delay in acquisition of land for the High-Speed Rail-Line, which was initially expected to be completed by 2023, said a senior Union Government official aware of India-Japan cooperation for the project. “The decision (of Maharashtra Government) to review the project might send out a wrong message to Japan and may also scare away other foreign partners about investing in infrastructure projects in India,” the senior official told the DH.

When the two Prime Ministers met in Bangkok on the sideline of the East Asia Summit on November 4, the two sides discussed the High-Speed Rail-Link project and Abe requested Modi for his personal intervention to speed up its implementation, a source in New Delhi said.  

The proposed 508.17-kilometre long high-speed train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will pass through Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as the union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Nearly 155.642 km of the proposed rail-line will be laid in Maharastra while 350.530 km will be in Gujarat and 2 km in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It shall start from Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and will end near Sabarmati Railway Station in Ahmedabad. Altogether 12 stations would be built along the proposed high-speed corridor.

The high-speed rail-link will cut down the travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad to three hours.

The construction of the high-speed rail link between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will require the acquisition of about 1400 hectares of land in Maharashtra and Gujarat and over 1120 hectares of the land to be acquired are owned privately, with many of the owners being farmers.

The process of land acquisition for the project is still underway.

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