The ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project has accumulated a cumulative expenditure of Rs 14,153 crore to date, but it cannot meet its original deadline of completion, which is scheduled for December 2023.
According to high-ranking sources, delays in the land purchase and the ill effects of the Coronavirus pandemic have led to the delay of the project, which started in September 2017 when both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone.
Despite the delay, the project has been allocated Rs 14,000 crore for the current fiscal year in the Union budget and the expenditure incurred in the period 2021-22 to date has amounted to Rs 2,090 crore, according to data from the Ministry of Railways.
Aside from the pandemic, the main reason behind the delay in the NDA government’s pet project was the slow pace of land acquisition, especially in Maharashtra. According to the National High Speed Rail Corporation of India, the executing body of the project, of the total 432 hectares to be acquired in Maharashtra, only 101 hectares of land have been acquired until February 2021.
Even the prime minister, at a project review meeting in November 2020, had instructed the chief secretary of Maharashtra to ensure that the state government “urgently hands over the land needed in the suburbs of Mumbai, namely in Thane and Vikhroli, and hand over the land by 30 April, 2021”.
But to date, these specific tracts of land and the remaining land have yet to be acquired.
“The state government of Maharashtra is regularly monitored at all levels to accelerate land acquisition in balance. The revised timeline for the completion of the project can be established after the acquisition of full land in Maharashtra,” Railway Ashwini Vaishnaw had said in Lok Sabha in response to a question about the project on August 4, 2021.
Unlike Maharashtra, 94 percent of the land in Gujarat has been purchased for the bullet train project.
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is funded with a 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 travel at a speed of 320 km/h and cover the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in about three hours.