New Delhi: There is no fixed deadline to complete the much-debated 508km-long Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, which was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
The deputy general manager, National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the company set up to execute the project, stated in a reply to the right to information (RTI) application that no timeline has been fixed yet.
A social activist Anil Ganguli had filed the RTI application. DGM, NHRCL, Umesh Kumar Gupta said that the deadline to complete the project could be stipulated once land acquisition process is complete and all tenders are awarded. He, however, added that civil work on different sections of 352-km long stretch in Gujarat and Dadar and Nagar Haveli has started and land acquisition is going on in Maharashtra.
Proposed to be constructed at the cost of around ₹1.10 lakh crore.
The conception that failed
The Mumbai–Ahmedabad corridor, along with five other high-speed rail corridors, was introduced for a feasibility study in the 2009–2010 rail budget. A 650 km long high-speed rail corridor was proposed to run from Pune to Ahmedabad via Mumbai. The pre-feasibility study for the Ahmedabad–Mumbai–Pune corridor was completed by a consortium of RITES, Italferr and Systra. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in New Delhi on February 14, 2013 between the ministry of railways and the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the French national railways, for technical cooperation in the field of railways.
India-Japan sign MoU for joint feasibility study in 2013
Later, India and Japan also signed a MoU to undertake a joint feasibility study of the Mumbai–Ahmedabad route in New Delhi in September 2013. This was in pursuance of the joint statement between the then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japan counterpart Shinzō Abe (on May 29 2013), which provided that the two sides would co-finance a joint feasibility study of the route. However, all previous planning was dumped by the Central government after Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister. The railway ministry started fresh planning from the scratch.
Foundation stone for project finally laid in 2017
The railway ministry took fresh exercise to plan and execute the project after PM Modi approved it in 2014, after which the feasibility study was carried again by the same agencies. Modi and Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the project in Ahmedabad on 14 September 2017. All geo-technical surveys and tests under the sea bed for the underground section were completed by December 2017 and the project was scheduled to be completed in 2023.
The deadline was advanced to have the bullet train go on its first run on August 15th, 2022 on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence day. However, surveys and land acquisition for the project faced delays and disruptions due to protests by farmers, land owners, and members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which opposed the bullet train project.
1,434 hectare land required for project
A total of 1,434.4 hectares of land will be required for the project including private, government, forest and railway land. While a major chunk of land has been acquired in Gujarat, the NHSRC is struggling to acquire the identified land in Maharashtra.