The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL), on July 31, 2018, informed the Bombay High Court that it has, prima facie, found an alternate land proposed by the Godrej Group suitable for acquisition, for the bullet train project. Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd had, in June 2018, approached the high court, challenging the proposed acquisition of its prime property in suburban Vikhroli for the government’s ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.
The conglomerate had, on the last hearing, told a division bench of justices NH Patil and GS Kulkarni that it had suggested an alternate plot. However, it came to light that the said plot was embroiled in a title dispute, between the Maharashtra government and the Godrej Group. Following this, Godrej suggested a second alternate plot to the NHSRCL, in Vikhroli, for the project. The corporation, in an affidavit submitted to the court, said prima facie, the site is suitable. “We will examine the proposal in detail and have also sent a modified sketch for the petitioner’s (Godrej’s) consideration,” the affidavit said.
The high court asked the state government’s department concerned, to also verify the second proposal. “It should not happen that even this land is embroiled in some legal dispute,” justice Patil said. The court also noted that apart from such technical aspects pertaining to land availability, the NHSRCL will also have to consider several other aspects, before taking the project forward. “There are a lot of things to consider, apart from such technical aspects – environmental rules and regulations, presence of mangroves. You (NHSRCL) will have to look into all of this, before you start work for the project,” justice Patil said.
NHSRCL counsel Anil Singh assured the court that it would work this out amicably with Godrej and come up with a solution. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on September 3, 2018. The conglomerate, in its petition, had sought a direction to authorities concerned, to change the project’s alignment, so that it can get nearly 8.6 acres of land belonging to its infrastructure arm, Godrej Construction, out of the plan.
Of the total 508.17 kms of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 kms is planned to be underground, as per the current alignment of the bullet train project. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel, falls on the land in the eastern suburb of Vikhroli. The foundation stone for the project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, in September 2017, in Ahmedabad. The country’s first bullet train will run at a maximum speed of 350 kms per hour, covering the stretch in under three hours from the usual seven. The train will stop at 12 stations, out of which four will be in Maharashtra.