Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Project May Face Five Year Delay

The delay is due to low participation of Japanese companies and also disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

New Delhi: The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project may face a five-year delay due to issues such as low participation by Japanese companies to tenders cancelled because of steep rates quoted by bidders and disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Though the project is scheduled to be completed by December 2023, the Railways now expects it to be fully commissioned by October 2028, according to the Indian Express.

Another hiccup, the report says, is that the prices quoted in many of the 11 tenders meant to be executed by Japanese companies were up to 90% higher than the estimates.

News agency PTI said reported that the cost escalation is due to a fall in the rupee against the Japanese yen.

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 the NHSRCL, while the two states involved, Gujarat and Maharashtra, are to pay Rs 5,000 crore each. The rest is to be paid by Japan through a loan at 0.1% interest.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) has already acquired 63% of the land for the project – about 77% land in Gujarat, 80% in Dadar Nagar Haveli and 22% in Maharashtra. Officials said there are still issues in acquiring land in areas like Palghar in Maharashtra and Navsari in Gujarat.

Last year, the company had floated nine civil work tenders which could not be opened because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

NHSRCL MD Achal Khare told news agency PTI that because of COVID-19, the opening of a few tenders had to be postponed. “It is difficult to assess the impact of the pandemic on the project as it is still continuing. We cannot say how the pandemic will affect the project as I don’t know how long it will last,” he said.

Officially, the NHSRCL maintains that the deadline for the project has not changed.

One of the civil work contracts for construction of stations, bridges, viaducts, maintenance depots, and tunnels across the network is to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore.

Tenders for civil works for 345 km out of 508 km alignment, or 68% of civil works, have already been floated. This includes six MAHSR stations (including one underground station in Mumbai). The works related to utility diversion are progressing well and the construction of Sabarmati passenger hub (a multi-modal hub) in Sabarmati, Gujarat has also started.

The hostel building of High-Speed Training Institute (which is presently being used for COVID-19 patients) and training tracks in Vadodara are also completed.

The 508.17-kilometre long network will pass through three districts in Maharashtra (Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar) and eight districts in Gujarat (Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda, and Ahmedabad).

One section of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor is likely to be tendered out within three months after nearly 90% of the land acquisition for the project is completed, an official said.

The pandemic also resulted in the suspension of a meeting of an Indian-Japanese joint committee, the Indian Express reported. During the meeting, outstanding issues were expected to be resolved as they are “beyond the purview of the ministry or the implementing agency”, sources told the newspaper.

“A clearer picture on the possible delay will emerge only after the next Joint Committee Meeting between the two countries,” the report said, quoting an official.