The Narendra Modi government’s ambitious Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is expected to be delayed by 5 years, according to a report in The Indian Express. The project, which was expected to be completed by December 2023, is now expected to be completed by October 2028.
Among the many issues plaguing the project, not many of which seem to be environmental concerns, the lack of interest among many Japanese companies to participate in a key stretch of the corridor seems to be the main concern, said an unnamed official. The project is being implemented by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), a new company, which has the Railways Ministry and the governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra as stakeholders.
The report said another reason cited for the delay has been the escalating cost of the project. With bidders quoting figures almost 90 percent higher than the estimate given by the project consultants, officials expect the project delays to peg it further to 2028.
While the government was keen on getting parts of the project running by 2022 to coincide with the 75th Independence Day, officials said that the deadline is still in place. The 508-km rail corridor is being built on a loan from Japan at 0.1 percent interest, with a moratorium of 15 years.
The total cost of the project is pegged at Rs 1.08 lakh crore and as per the shareholding pattern, the Government of India is to pay Rs 10,000 crore to NHSRCL. The Gujarat and Maharashtra governments are to pay Rs 5,000 crore each. The rest is to be paid by Japan through a loan at 0.1% interest.
The report said the delay is due to the discussions on the building of a 21-km underground stretch which would require high-tech boring machines so as not to disturb a sanctuary of flamingos in Maharashtra. Japanese companies with expertise are said to have not shown great interest in it. Besides, only 2 manufacturers have been interested in bidding for the rolling stock and they are keen on submitting a joint bid which would render a one-bid contract, which requires approval from higher up in the government.
The report added that a clearer picture would emerge only after the next Joint Committee Meeting between the two countries. But the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has put paid to the meeting of the Indian-Japanese joint committee, the Express reported.