The ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project has till date incurred a cumulative expenditure of Rs 14,153 crore, yet it may not be able to meet its original deadline of completion which is scheduled for December 2023.
According to highly placed sources, delay in land acquisition and the adverse impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to the delay in the project, which had begun in September 2017 when both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had laid its foundation stone.
Despite the delay, the project has been allocated Rs 14,000 crore for the current financial year in the Union Budget and the expenditure incurred during 2021-22 till date has been Rs 2,090 crore, according to Railway Ministry data.
Apart from the pandemic, the main reason behind the delay in the NDA government’s pet project has been slow pace of land acquisition, especially in Maharashtra. According to the National High Speed Rail Corporation of India, the implementing agency of the project, out of the total 432 hectares to be acquired in Maharashtra, only 101 hectares of land has been acquired till February 2021.
Even the Prime Minister during a review meeting of the project held in November 2020, had directed Maharashtra chief secretary to ensure that the state government hands over the land required in suburban areas of Mumbai namely in Thane and Vikhroli “urgently and balance land by April 30, 2021”.
However till date these particular tracts of land and the balance land is yet to be acquired.
“The state government of Maharashtra is being regularly followed up at all levels to expedite the acquisition of balance land. The revised timeline for completion of the project can be fixed after the acquisition of complete land in Maharashtra,” Railway Ashwini Vaishnaw had said in Lok Sabha in response to a question on the project on August 4, 2021.
Unlike Maharashtra, in Gujarat, 94 per cent of the land has been acquired for the bullet train project.
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is being funded with loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The total project cost is Rs 1.1 lakh crore.
Once ready for passenger services, the country’s first bullet train will operate at a speed of 320 km per hour and cover the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in roughly three hours.