Maharashtra clear decks for allotment of 0.9 hectare land at BKC for Bullet Train project

85 per cent land survey for Bullet Train project completed. The survey for land in areas of Vasai and Palghar is currently going on.

MUMBAI: Two days before the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, lays the foundation stone for India’s Rs 1.08 lakh-crore bullet train project, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday cleared the decks for the construction of the train’s most crucial station — Mumbai.

The Devendra Fadnavis government — which had initially opposed the Union Railway Ministry’s plan to construct the Mumbai station at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) — on Tuesday approved the allotment of 0.9 hectare of land in the G-text block at the BKC for the station. The railways has plans to utilise 4.5 hectare space underneath the same land parcel for the bullet train station. It had approached the government for allotment of the 0.9 hectare on the surface to make arrangements for the commuters to move in and out of the station.

The state government had earlier expressed strong reservation over the proposal of building a station in the heart of its most decorated central business district. During official meetings with the Railways, it had also expressed apprehensions that allowing the underground station to come up in BKC will hamper construction of its International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) proposed on the same surface, citing construction restrictions that may be imposed around the railway corridor.

Of the 508 kilometre rail corridor connecting Ahmedabad to Mumbai, only 120 kilometre falls in Maharashtra. Four of the 12 proposed stations are to come up in the state, while the rest would be built in Gujarat.

BJP’s ally Shiv Sena, a partner in the Maharashtra government, had also raised strong opposition to the project. Incidentally, it was the Shiv Sena-controlled Maharashtra Transport department, which issued a notification on Tuesday, for the allotment of the land.

Senior Maharashtra government sources said that the state government had secured a written assurance from the Railways that there won’t be any restrictions on the construction activity for the IFSC on account of the bullet train station. Further, in compensation for the allotment of the land, the Centre has agreed to the state’s condition that land’s market value will be considered towards the state’s capital contribution for the project. While the Railways will bear 50 per cent cost of the rail project, both the Maharashtra and the Gujarat state government are to each bear 25 per cent cost.

Clearing the decks for the project, a Maharashtra cabinet sub-committee, headed by Fadnavis, and comprising Shiv Sena’s Transport Minister Diwakar Roate, and BJP’s Girish Mahajan and Vinod Tawde had approved the allotment of the land. Besides the land allotment, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday also approved the proposal for contributing Rs 5000 crore towards its capital investment in the special purpose vehicle to be floated for the bullet train work.

While the Railways have turned down the option of an alternate site for the station in Dharavi, senior sources said that the state government has also proposed an alternate land parcel for the project in BKC itself, which is being considered.

Meanwhile as part of the negotiations, sources said the Maharashtra government managed to get an assurance from the Centre for fast-tracking the Mumbai-Nagpur High Speed Train. The Central government has delegated the task of preparing a detailed project report in this regard to a Spanish corporation. The Central government has reportedly assured that it would bear a sizeable share of the capital cost for this project.

The bullet train is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project. Japan is providing 81 per cent of the funding for the project, through a 50-year loan at 0.1 per cent annual interest. Fadnavis is expected to remain present for the foundation stone laying ceremony in Gujarat on September 14.

Almost 80 per cent of the survey for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train has been completed and the remaining tenders are expected to be out by March next year, said railway sources. The survey for land in areas of Vasai and Palghar is currently being conducted. Railway minister Piyush Goyal had on Monday said that the deadline for the bullet train corridors has now been moved forward by a year to 2022.

Railway officials have said that the land acquisition in the area had been an issue but has since been resolved between the state government and the railway ministry. They have been working overtime to ensure that a sizeable chunk of the work is completed before the stone-laying ceremony takes place on September 14 at Gandhinagar.

“Until now, there were a lot of issues in land acquisition in Vasai, Virar and Palghar because of severe local opposition. But political parties both at the state and the centre ensured that these issues were resolved before the announcement was made on Monday,” said an official. The official added, “Only one tender has been removed for the related works but the entire package of tenders will be released by March of next year and not late next year, which was the previous deadline.”  After the survey of the land, a detailed Project Report (DPR) will be made by the railways, on the basis of which the tenders will be released said officials. The survey includes the identification of the exact land needed, its physical measurement and a decision on the alignment of the tracks, whether they will be laid underground or not.