New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Marred by delays due to land acquisition hurdles in Maharashtra and the ongoing Covid crisis, the Indian Railways is still hopeful of running country's first high-speed bullet trains on the Gujarat side before 2024, according to a report in Times of India.

The 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad High corridor was originally intended to be fully operational in December 2023.  Railway board CEO and chairman, V K Yadav said on Saturday that as much as 82 per cent of the required land has already been acquired in Gujarat and that the Railways is hopeful of the “acquisition touching 95-100 per cent” in the next three months.

“We are hopeful of land acquisition in Gujarat touching 95-100 per cent in the next three months. It is desirable to operate the entire corridor in one go. As land acquisition status gets clear, we will take a decision and will share it with you,” Yadav said.

Yadav said that the land acquisition for the project has been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis, and a clear timeline can be provided in next three to six months. “As the COVID19 situation improves, the Railways will start the bidding process and within the next three to six months, we will be able to get the status of land acquired. It will then be the appropriate time to reassess the project. Once the land status is ascertained, we can provide a real timeframe for the completion of the project.”

Earlier, quoting sources, the Indian Express had said that the project is expected to be delayed by nearly five years from the original timeline of December 2023, partly owing to the lack of interest among Japanese companies to participate in the key stretch of the 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad High corridor. 

The report said that the tender for a  21-km underground stretch — which includes a seven-km section under the sea near Mumbai — could not be finalised in the first attempt earlier this year after it did not find Japanese participation. As per latest estimates, the construction alone of this stretch would take over 60 months to complete and require large, advanced boring machines. Additionally,  in many of the 11 tenders originally meant to be executed by Japanese companies, the prices quoted were up as much as 90 per cent higher than estimates given by the project consultants. 

Yadav denied the reports that the Japanese firms were not keen on the project. “It is not correct. The Japanese are very much interested in the project, there is no doubt about it. This is an extraordinary situation. It is difficult for them to come here during a pandemic and we have to keep that in mind. I want to tell you all that there is a lot of interest from everyone whether it is the Japanese companies or Indian”. 

The corridor is being built at a cost of ₹1.08 trillion, of which 81 percent cost is planned to be funded through a 20-year loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at 0.1 per cent interest and a 15-year moratorium.

Posted By: Lakshay Raja