Mumbai: Ashwini Vaishnaw reviews high speed rail project; Bullet project trundles

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train project has been dragging over the past year, both due to Centre-state disagreements and the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, in 2020-21, only 1 per cent more of the planned land acquisition in Maharashtra witnessed fruition.

On July 11, the newly appointed Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw reviewed the ambitious high speed rail project along with Satish Agnihotri, the managing director of the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL).

Of the total 1,396 hectares of land, only 1,035 hectares have been acquired till date; this accounts for 74 per cent. Of the total land, 432 hectares needs to be acquired in Maharashtra, of which 108 hectares has already been acquired and includes the 1 per cent that was taken over last year. In Maharashtra, another major problem compounding the delay of Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) is that 80 per cent of land has to be made available before awarding the contract for civil works.

In Gujarat and Dadra Nagar Haveli, civil work contracts for the construction of 325 km out of 351 km have already been awarded.

According to sources, the authorities have managed to acquire 25 per cent of the total land in Thane and Palghar for the project. The NHSRCL had recently stated that the project would not meet the deadline of 2023. An example of delay is the Bandra Kurla Complex station for the project. However, a Covid centre was built on the spot where the underground station was proposed. A petrol pump on the location has also caused inadvertent delays.

Sources said the Bullet train will terminate at Vapi in the first phase, before the second phase is undertaken. In this year’s Union Budget, funds to the tune of Rs 7,897 crore were allotted for the project. The delay in land acquisition in Maharashtra and a year lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic pushed the timeline further.

More than 5,300 drawings related to various structures have been submitted by contractors, and geo-technical investigation has been completed at 785 locations. Construction work is currently underway at 10 different sites. Work for the Sabarmati rolling stock depot and track construction work for 237 km is expected to be awarded in the coming months.

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