Bullet Train Finally On The Fast Track 

In September 2017, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for India’s inaugural bullet train in Gujarat Since then, after facing numerous hurdles on the way, there has been a palpable aura of exhilaration as recent reports indicate that the high-speed bullet train program is finally “on track.” 

100% of the land acquisition for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor was completed recently, making India all set to welcome its maiden bullet train with open arms. On January 8, 2024, railways minister Ashiwini Vaishnav tweeted on X (formerly Twitter) that the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has completed 100 per cent land acquisition (1,389.49 hectares of land) required to execute India’s first bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. 

As per the reports, 508-kilometre high-speed rail (HSR) corridors will traverse about 350 km in Gujarat through various villages and towns. In these areas, extensive urban and industrial development is intended to exploit their swift connectivity to India’s commercial capital, Mumbai. In addition to land acquisition, NHSRCL had awarded all civil contracts in Gujarat and Maharashtra, where a 156 km corridor is under development. It is a significant step towards reducing the rail travel time between the two terminal hubs from 5-7 hours to just over two hours. 

NHSRCL intends to offer two service options on the corridor: a rapid service with only two stops at Surat and Vadodara, completing the journey in 2.07 hours, while the slower service with 10 stops will take around 2.58 hours. The reduced travel time is projected to make Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad in Gujarat veritable extensions of Mumbai. This will facilitate comfortable day trips and even daily commutes. 

Each train will comprise 10 coaches with a total seating capacity of 690 passengers. The first batch of coaches is projected to reach India by 2025, after which a 50-km trial run will take place between Surat and Bilimora in August 2026. The final commercial actions are scheduled to commence in 2027, with the plan to run bullet trains every hour throughout the day. 

Based on Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train, first introduced in 1964, the Mumbai – Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) project is estimated to cost Rs. 1.08 Lakh Crore. To fulfil this project, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has helped India by extending a loan to fund 81% of the construction cost at a 0.1% interest rate. 

Land Acquisition Issues 

About 110 km of the 508 km train corridor will pass through Palghar, a town in Maharashtra. The project needs an estimated 300 hectares across 73 villages, affecting about 3,000 people. The land acquisition of a Japan-backed bullet train – that will reduce the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad to three hours rather than seven – is bitterly opposed by tribals and fruit growers in Palghar district. The villages in Maharashtra’s Palghar district want the government to fulfil their demands before nodding to the ambitious bullet train project. In the hope of meeting the villagers’ demands and overcoming their resistance, the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHRCL) has agreed to numerous demands of the villagers. To convince villagers of the project, the government tried to persuade people, but it was a complete failure for them. “Earlier, we would gather villagers at village chowks to convince them of the good that the project would do. That did not work, so we have decided that we will now target landowners only and ask village heads to give in writing what they want in addition to the compensation for their land,” said NHRCL spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar.

To complete the project without any hindrance, the government agreed to fulfil some of the specific demands of the villagers. Most of the demands do not pertain to their personal needs but to basic necessities like street lights and ambulances for the entire community. 

like Mankundsar village, which had a leaking pond in the district. Their demand? A boundary wall for a five-hector pond. Likewise, Vikramgar and Khurd villages asked for the deployment of regular doctors, Kelwa demanded regular delivery of medicines, and so on. “We will comply with their demands if they give it to us in writing. The project will bring employment and development to the region, and we are happy to help them,” said Kumar. 

The bullet train project epitomises cooperation between the two countries, creating strong relations while fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision. The project isn’t only designed using Japan’s Shinkansen technology but also ensures that the machines, tools, and equipment used are indigenous—manufactured and designed in India.

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