In what would be another setback to Pune’s connectivity and railway woes, the Railway Board has decided to do away with the Pune-Mumbai section in its high speed Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor plan. The bullet train will now run only between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
The board apparently took the decision due to financial constraints as the budget for the project was considerably shooting up because of the ghat section between Pune and Mumbai.
“It’s basically a Western Railway project and very little portion of Maharashtra was being covered under it. Hence, the Maharashtra government was showing little interest in the project and was also reluctant to bear a financial burden. That is the reason why the Railway Board has decided against including the Pune-Mumbai portion in the high speed corridor,” said V A Malegaonkar, Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO), Western Railway.
This would be another big blow to Pune after it got a thumbs down in the latest Union Railway Budget. The high speed corridor had a lot of significance for the city. There are a large number of businessmen who shuttle between Pune and Mumbai or Ahmedabad. The bullet train project would have brought the travel time between Pune and Mumbai down to one hour and between Pune and Ahmedabad to approximately three hours.
The project was announced in the 2009 Railway Budget but was progressing at a snail’s pace for want of funds and due to technical hurdles. Recently, the project got a shot in the arm when the Indian Railways and the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF), the French National Railways, signed an MoU for technical cooperation, under which a decision to carry out an ‘operations and development’ feasibility study on the high speed rail corridor was taken. SNCF also showed interest in funding the Rs 63,000-crore project with support from the country’s finance ministry.
Harsha Shah of Railway Pravasi Group said the state government still had time to act and make sure Pune was included in the project again.
“It would be a great misfortune for the city if it misses this opportunity. The state government should immediately approach the Railway Board with an attractive proposal such as easy land acquisition or funds. The project is vital for growth and development of the city and if Pune is kept out of it, it would be a huge loss to the city and its citizens,” said Shah.