Indicating that the bullet train project is running behind schedule, sources in the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the implementing agency of the project, have said that in the event of a missed deadline of August 15, 2022, India’s 75th independence day, a small corridor from Surat to Billimora in Gujarat, will be made operational. A source said that ‘a more realistic deadline’ for the bullet train project, could be 2023, a year from the present deadline.
“The hurdles in execution of the bullet train project, are not only confined to land acquisition. There are processes involved and the detailed planning, which are still underway. As per our assessment, the project might miss the target by a year. The entire 508-km stretch, could be commissioned by end 2023,” the source from NHSRCL said.
The entire high-speed rail corridor will require 1,434 hectares of land, with 353 hectares in Maharashtra and the rest in Gujarat. This is divided into 7,000 plots, in 195 villages in Gujarat and in 104 villages in Maharashtra. The project covers three districts in Maharashtra and eight in Guajarat, besides a small area in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. However, so far, only about 0.9 hectares in Bandra-Kurla Complex has been physically handed over, leading to this present predicament, the source said.
“This is one section which will meet the deadline. Besides, it could act as a prototype, helping us test the technologies involved in high-speed operation,” said another source. The project involves construction of the Vadodara station, right on top of the existing station of the Indian Railway network. A 220-metre girder (which itself will be an engineering challenge), would be part of this station project. “This girder could only be completed around the end of 2022,” the source said, listing out the numerous challenges in the project. It is likely that NHSRCL will miss the December 2018 deadline for land acquisition for the Rs 1.08-lakh-crore project, being built with an 80 per cent loan from Japan, the sources said, citing resistance from farmers in Palghar (Maharashtra) and Navsari (Gujarat).