Railways looking at alternatives to Godrej land for the Bullet Train line in Mumbai

Awaits clearance for acquiring plot closer to project venue

MUMBAI: The Railways is considering an alternative plot in lieu of the land proposed to be acquired from Godrej Group for the bullet train project.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) has clarified it is awaiting a report of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to ascertain the feasibility of acquiring a plot at just a “240-metre distance” away from the originally proposed 3.5 hectare needed on the Eastern Express Highway at Vikhroli.

The JICA report is expected before the next hearing of the petition filed by Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company in the High Court on May 21. The matter will now be heard before a division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni on July 31, officials said.

“During the last hearing we (NHSRCL) had agreed to ascertain the viability of the alternative land on the west side of the highway. We are confident this issue will be resolved amicably without the need for a major change in the alignment of the bullet train project,” said Dhananjay Kumar, spokesperson for NHSRCL. In March, the Mumbai Suburban Collector identified the 3.5-acre plot and served a notice to the firm, suggesting acquisition for the purpose of “ventilation ducts and storing equipment needed for the tunnelling works” of the project.

A total of 6,371 ha of private land is needed to be acquired in Maharashtra and Gujarat for the project with a length of 508.17 km between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km of that underground. The Collector office had first attempted to carry out private negotiations under the ‘Mutual Consent’ provisions but failed to convince the company.

“We had hoped to resolved the matter mutually and offered a high cost under the mutual consent provisions. But the company eventually refused our offer,” then suburban collector Deependra Singh Kushwaha said.

Company representatives refused to respond despite several attempts calling the matter sub judice. The petition will be heard on July 31. “Godrej has given a proposal for the alternative land and we are considering whether it is feasible or technically viable. We will reply by July 31,” said advocate T.J. Pandian, who is appearing for the Union of India.

Court officials said the alternative location is just west of the Eastern Express Highway as opposed to the original location on the east. Senior officials in the chief minister’s office said the government is willing to consider forceful acquisition if the matter is not resolved amicably in future. “We have already applied the stringent provisions in the case of various Metro works. We will not hesitate to do so for the projects of similar significance and importance,” said a senior secretary of the government.