Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project ready for takeoff; Modi, Shinzo Abe to lay foundation on Sept 14

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will lay the foundation stone for the India’s first bullet train project connecting Ahmedabad to Mumbai on Thursday. The high speed train will cut travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad by at least five hours.

MUMBAI: India’s ambitious High Speed Rail (HSR) project is now at the take-off stage, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the 508-km long Mumbai-Ahmadabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) on September 14 in Ahmedabad.

Once complete (scheduled in December 2023, but commencement date sought to be advanced to August 2022), the train which will have a top speed of 350 km per hour will reduce travel time between the two cities to around 2 hours from the existing 7-8 hours.

“The project will integrate the Indian Railways to the global transportation technology and will help rewrite India’s transport infrastructure narrative,” railways minister Piyush Goyal said at a press conference.

“Unfortunately, Indian railways have not graduated from the colonial-era technologies and practices in past four or five decades. Exposure to the high speed technology (popularly called the bullet trains) will enable rail engineers in India to innovate and modernize systems and practices,” Goyal said.

He emphasized that the project funding had come from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at a low rate of interest of 0.1% per annum. “The project will also enable creation of around 15 lakh jobs,” the minister said, adding that passenger fares on the premium train were likely to be lower than the air fares between the two cities.

“This bullet train is an endeavour to bring economic growth and prosperity in the country with the growth of Indian railways adopting most modern technologies. New Shinkansen Technology by the Japanese shall ensure more growth opportunities. The cost will go down further as the technology will grow massively and it will be developed under Make in India programme. This is an occasion to celebrate the advent of the most modern technology in India. It shall also benefit the farmers for transportation of agricultural produce in a fast mode,” the minister said.

Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said, “The Modi government’s astuteness in securing favorable deals through deft diplomacy, innovative financing, and efficient implementation indeed stands out in this case. The bullet train will come to India almost for free.”

Speaking about plans to set up a High Speed Rail Training Institute at Vadodara, Lohani said the centre would provide equipment, ancillary facilities, and trained personnel, emulating the training institute at Japan.

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“The setting up of the institute signifies the government’s intent and commitment towards creating a suitable indigenous workforce for this as well as future bullet trains. The Japanese government while taking consideration of India’s long-term plan for human resource development has also offered training of Indian railways officials in Japan besides reserving fully funded seats for the Master’s course in the universities of Japan for serving Indian railways officials,” Lohani added.

While assuring the transportation revolution, which the new Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train will bring, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, on Monday, drew parallel to the criticism Suzuki faced when Maruti was brought in 30 years ago. When we partnered, lots of people criticized, he said.

“I’d like to draw a parallel to Maruti Suzuki. When we partnered with Suzuki to bring in Maruti, a lot of people criticised the move. Can we imagine now that those two models, which isn’t even made anymore, changed the way we travel,” he said.

Goyal further said that Maruti Suzuki paved the way for a change in the transportation sector, with a hope that the Bullet Train will bring about a similar change in the country.

He said, “It was a matter of 30 years. The old technology became redundant and the whole country is travelling in new cars. I am sure that the bullet train will transform the transportation sector of India in future.”

He quelled the fear of the “naysayers”, saying that the people with optimistic thinking will help India move ahead.

Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe will also be visiting India to attend the `Bhoomi Pooja` and foundation stone laying ceremony of the Rs. 97,636-crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail link, using Japanese bullet-train technology.

During the visit, Prime Minister Abe will also hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Modi and is expected to serve as the “top salesman” for the adoption of the Shinkansen technology by other Indian railway systems, with China also aiming to win orders for the projects, the Japan Times had reported, earlier in August.

The 500-km railway will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad in Western India, with services planned to commence in 2023. This train is based on Japanese high-speed technology called Shinkansen, known for its safety and comfort.

India has pledged to build high-speed railways, focused on the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

When Prime Minister Modi went to Japan last November, he travelled by Shinkansen with his Japanese counterpart from Tokyo to Kobe to visit a bullet-train plant of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., a maker of Shinkansen cars.

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