New Delhi: Expect the country’s first bullet train project to roll down the tracks at a rapid pace. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe will together lay the foundation stone of the 508-km corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai during the Japanese premier’s visit to India in September.
Sources said the groundbreaking ceremony will be performed in Ahmedabad keeping in view the Gujarat assembly polls slated for November-December this year. They said the bullet train project will be showcased as the biggest achievement of Modi who will start the project from his home state.
Also, the BJP will be going to polls with the PM as the party’s face in the state. It takes about seven hours to travel on rail between the two cities and the bullet train aims to reduce it to about two hours.
To ensure the dream project does not get delayed, Indian Railways is all set to hire a consultant who will look into land acquisition and other financial issues. It will be the responsibility of the consultant to see that full compensation is paid to every land owner and also ensure jobs to their family members, said a senior railway board official dealing with the bullet train project.
The initial detailed project report (DPR) prepared by the Japanese authorities, which is providing technical assistance to Indian Railways, suggested constructing a major portion of the corridor on surface. But the DPR was modified to take the elevated route primarily to avoid delays.
As officials put it, the change would do away with legal and environmental hurdles regarding land acquisition. PM Modi too has been pushing his ministers to speed up the big ticket projects that have often encountered legal barriers in several states.
According to a railway ministry official, approximately 850 hectares of land would be required for the bullet train project. Since the project was earlier planned on surface, it would have required more land.
This, however, would escalate the project cost, sources said. “The consultant would prepare a comprehensive report on the quantity of land to be acquired and its socioeconomic impact. The consultant will maintain a record of the trade and industries that will be affected due to land acquisition. Accordingly, the compensation along with job to the affected families will be ensured,” a top railway official said.
For an elevated corridor, compensation amount to land owners will be little. Also, it will ensure speedy execution of the project. Already more than 440 rail projects are stuck over land acquisition. This, according to a CAG report of 2015, has resulted in cost overrun of 1.07 lakh crore.
Railways also faced major hurdles in acquiring land for its ambitious dedicated freight corridors that will significantly decongest the railway network and increase the speed of passenger trains. Officials said while the Indian Railways will acquire the financial assistance and bullet train technology from Japan, it will ensure maximum job opportunities to Indian companies in construction of the project.
Out of the 508 km length, 450 km of work will be awarded to Indian companies while only 52 km will be given to Japanese companies. Further, work on seven km of under-sea rail track will be open for foreign players as Indian does not have the technology for constructing under-sea rail tunnel so far.
India’s bullet train, at the speed of 320 km per hour, will match the speed of the leading high-speed train systems across the world. The project will cost approximately`1 lakh crore and the funding of the project is being done by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Railway officials said the actual work on project would begin by 2018 and the work will be completed by 2023.