After facing severe land acquisition hurdles in the state of Maharashtra since November 2019, the country’s first high-speed or bullet train project is fast getting back on track. The sharp slowdown in the pace of work seen after the swearing-in of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government has often led to speculation that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor, which is already running behind schedule by five years, could be further delayed.
Thackeray had gone on record criticizing one of the biggest railway projects in post-independence India and questioned its benefits.
However, with the swearing-in of the BJP-backed Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde in June, not only has land acquisition picked up pace, but awarding of contracts has increased significantly in the western state. By the end of November, 98.22 per cent land in Maharashtra was acquired, as against just 71.5 per cent as on June 30, data shared with Business Today by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, It was found from the analysis of the data.
In November, Gujarat and Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli had 98.87 and 100 per cent respectively. Of the 508 km corridor, 156 km of track is located in Maharashtra, 4 km in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and 348 km in Gujarat.
Similarly, in Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, 100 per cent contracts for civil works, bridges and tracks have already been awarded for construction of bridges, viaducts, stations and tracks for the entire alignment.
Launched in September 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart the late Shinzo Abe, the project was initially expected to be completed by 2023. However, due to the delay in land acquisition in Maharashtra and the nationwide lockdown announced in March 2021 following the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the deadline has now been extended to 2028.
Speaking at a cabinet briefing in July, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister and BJP leader, Devendra Fadnavis, assured that the state had cleared all pending approvals.
Tendering activity has resumed in Maharashtra
With the pace of land acquisition picking up, tendering activity for the Maharashtra phase of the project has also picked up pace. In July, NHSRCL had invited tenders for the Bandra-Kurla Complex station. In November, evaluation of technical bids was underway.
Technical bids will be opened for evaluation of tenders filed for double line between Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) station and Shilphata (21 km) in January 2023.
For civil and building works involving viaduct, bridge, tunnel, maintenance depot and some connecting works to Thane depot between Shilphata and Jaroli village on Gujarat-Maharashtra border (135 km) with three stations at Thane, Virar and Boisar Tenders were also invited. on November 15, which will be opened for evaluation on March 15, 2023.
The trial run of the first bullet train is planned in 2026 on a distance of 50 km between Surat and Bilimora.
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