Railways, Maharashtra on collision course over BKC Plot for Bullet Train project

The 43,000 SqMt Railway Land in Bandra put up for lease by Railways
The 43,000 SqMt Railway Land in Bandra put up for lease by Railways

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government and the railway ministry, both controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, are on a collision course over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project – the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.

The state has written to the railway ministry that the Railways, in order to build a terminal station for the project at Bandra, should look for land other than the one at Bandra-Kurla Complex allotted for the construction of an International Finance Services Centre (IFSC).

The railway board, in turn, has replied that the project report of the Japanese Industrial Cooperation Agency (JICA) has zeroed in on the BKC-IFSC plot as the most suitable one for the terminal station of the Rs 97,636 crore project.

The JICA project has stated that an underground terminal beneath the IFSC complex is feasible and ideal.

The issue is expected to snowball into a major confrontation between the state and the Centre as both sides seem to have adopted fairly tough positions, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis stating as late as Friday (April 8) during a function at BKC that ‘alternative arrangements will have to be made for the bullet train terminal’. Several messages by to Fadnavis received no response.

Officials on condition of anonymity, said that it could become a problem, which might need the intervention of Modi himself.

“For the moment, both sides are corresponding on the issue, putting forth technical points to justify their respective stands,” one top official said.

Messages to a host of bureaucrats and railway officials, including Railway Board’s chief of infrastructure, Girish Pillai, High Speed Rail Corporation chairman Satish Agnihotri, state urban development principal secretary Nitin Kareer, among others, went unanswered.

The only un-encroached plot of land that the Railways has in the vicinity of Bandra-Kurla Complex, in case a terminal station has to be built at an alternative site, is a 43-hectare land parcel on the eastern fringes of Bandra.

This plot is currently under the joint custody of the Western Railway and the Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA).

The RLDA wants to lease the plot for 45 years to earn revenue, which will be shared equally on three railway projects – one in Mumbai, one in Maharashtra and the third, anywhere in India.

Giving up the 4.3-hectare plot to the bullet train project could disturb the Railway’s financial calculations as far as the three phases of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) are concerned.

The proceeds from this land sale will be divided in the books of accounts of the state and the Railways in a particular formula when the MUTP repayments, including World Bank loans, are crystallised. The land, at current market calculations, could fetch almost Rs 5,000 crore.