Status of India’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project and NHRCL

Mired in various land acquisition related hurdles both in Gujarat and Maharashtra,  a deadline of December 2018 has been set for Bullet train project for completing the land acquisition that will cover 12 stations, 4 of which fall in Maharashtra.

NEW DELHI: Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project: NHSRCL is implementing the project of high speed train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.The total length of proposed High Speed Railway Corridor works out to be 508.17 km. The route of Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail will be passing through two states, Maharashtra and Gujarat and one Union Territory, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, of the Union of India. The proposed corridor lies in Western Railway zone. It shall start from Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and will end near Sabarmati Railway Station in Ahmedabad.

All efforts are being made to make sure that India’s first bullet train project meets the August 2022 deadline for completion. The groundwork for the bullet train project which will ply over Mumbai-Ahmedabad route started in December 2017, however, since then the project has faced many challenges over land acquisition from farmers backed by local political groups in Gujarat as well as in Maharashtra. According to National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the bullet train project, worth Rs 1.08-lakh-crore, so far has not missed milestones set in its timeline. The project is being built with an 80 per cent loan from Japan. The project is being developed on over 1,400 hectares of land, covering three districts in Maharashtra and eight districts in Gujarat, other than a small area in Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

According to an IE report, for the bullet train project, the LIDAR, which is a laser-based aerial survey, was completed early last year. This was followed by a physical survey in order to verify and update LIDAR results, under which 184 villages in Gujarat and 50 villages in Maharashtra were covered. For this, notices were issued to land-owners. Following this, the joint measurement survey has been conducted and so far it is complete in 50 villages in Maharashtra and 30 villages in Gujarat, covering 102 km of the 508 km line. After the survey, a small pillar has also been installed for physical identification for acquisition. According to NHSRCL officials, handing out of compensation will take nearly three months following all due processes. NHSRCL’s deadline to complete the land acquisition process is December this year. However only 0.9 hectares of land has been handed over so far, and this in the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Interestingly, Gujarat and Maharashtra have different compensation laws. For Maharashtra, NHSRCL is paying four times the circle rate of the land, a 25 per cent bonus, and also an amount of Rs 5 lakh. If anyone loses a house, he or she can choose either money to buy a new house elsewhere at twice the construction cost or a new one built nearby (500 sq feet). The company is offering Rs 3,600 per month for livelihood loss. Rs 5 lakh is being paid to landless agriculture as a provision for one-time and also Rs 25,000 is being provided to employees of shops on land, which is to be acquired. Also, for forest land, the company is paying 50 per cent of land cost to the displaced and the remaining 50 per cent to the state government. Meanwhile, in Gujarat, the state government plans to offer farmers either 4.75 times the existing jantri prices (the state yardstick) or the average rate within a 1.5-km radius, whichever is higher. Also, the company is paying a 25 per cent bonus, and the same livelihood-loss-related sops as offered in Maharashtra.

According to the report, protestors are expressing their anger as they are unable to get clear answers from officials on the impact of the project on resources, restrictions on activities, vibrations from the train etc. Also, some farmers are demanding alternative land as they are of the view that the division of land will leave their farmland useless.

For the implementation of the project, the high-speed alignment needs to be as free of curves as possible. Any speed above 300 km per hour requires a straight alignment. The report stated that, while farmers are demanding right of way, NHSRCL officials were stated saying that as per Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013, the linear project is allowed to acquire land even without consent of certain parties and if need arises compensation shall be paid.

However, according to the officials, NHSRCL is not looking to invoke such provisions.

Below are some of the salient features of the bullet train:

  • 750-seater E5 Shinkansen train will have coaches with automatic seat rotation system
  • Like Shatabdi chair cars, the bullet train will also have economy-class and executive class coaches
  • Separate washrooms for men and women, urinals for men; facilities for sick persons, baby-feeding rooms
  • Between Thane and Virar, the bullet train will travel in an underground tunnel, of which 7-km will be under the sea!
  • Special facilities for Divyang passengers including extra-spacious toilets for wheelchair-bound passengers
  • LCD screens to display passenger information; tea-coffee maker, freezer and hot cases
  • The bullet train will operate at a speed of 320 kmph covering 12 stations – Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati

The foundation stone for the bullet train project was laid jointly by PM Narendra Modi and Japan PM Shinzo Abe in September 2017. The bullet train will cover the 508-km distance in just 2 hours and 7 minutes.