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Railways to reassess timeline on Bullet Train project, timeframe to emerge after few months

The timeline of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor will need to be reassessed due to Covid 19, but the real timeframe for its completion can be provided only within the next three to six months, railway board chairman and CEO VK Yadav said on Saturday.

Hindustan Times on Friday had reported that the work on land acquisition and tendering for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor may face delays due to Covid-19 and the Bullet Train may fail to meet its 2023 deadline.

Yadav said that the bullet train project was “progressing well” but the project can only be assessed over the next few months when the status of land acquisition will be clearer.

ALSO READ | Bullet Train project may face delays due to Covid-19

“In any linear project like the bullet train project, work can only begin when a certain amount of land is available. Within three months we are expecting to acquire 95-100% land in Gujarat. In Maharashtra also we are expecting that in next three to six months the land acquisition will improve a lot and that is why I am mentioning that once the land acquisition is clear the tenders for the civil work and we will start the physical work. So that will be the appropriate time to reassess project implementation time,” Yadav said at a press conference on Saturday.

“As of now I can just mention to you that we are fully geared up, as far as design is concerned, tender documents are concerned everything is fully ready and we will definitely start the work. But yes, as far as timeline is concerned, we have to make reassessment of all these components and work, and that can be done only when there is some sort of the clear picture about the land acquisition. We will come back within a period of three months and then we will share the timeline,” he added.

So far 63% land has been acquired for the project, according to the project implementing agency National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL).

The project connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad has a deadline of December 2023. The Railways had said last month that the high-speed rail corridor is expected to be completed on time despite the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yadav said that 82% of the land has been acquired in Gujarat while in Maharashtra land acquisition stood at only 23%.

The project has had to contend with issues ranging from protests by landowners to rising costs because of a widening gap between the Indian rupee and the Japanese yen; 80 percent of the Rs 1 trillion needed to fund the project will come from a 20-year Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) loan. The estimated total cost of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad project is Rs 1.08 trillion, of which 81 percent cost is planned for funding through the loan from the JICA, officials said.

ALSO READ | Land for Bullet train project: Tendering to start within three months, says Railway board chief

The Centre has signed a loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for providing Rs 15,000 crore, of the total loan amount of Rs 88,000 crore.

“At this stage its impact is not known in certainty as the pandemic is still continuing,” NHRCL spokesperson said.

One section of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor is likely to be tendered out within three months after nearly 90 percent of the land acquisition for the project is completed, according to railway board chairman VK Yadav, Hindustan Times had reported on August 4. Yadav had said there has been a “slowdown” in land acquisition due to Covid-19.

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