The ambitious 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project in Ahmedabad has gathered speed with teams of engineers and workers working 24×7 in shifts to make up for delay due to several reasons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inaugurated India’s first high-speed rail project in Ahmedabad in 2017. Even as five years have elapsed, the dream of India’s traveling in cutting-edge and ultra-fast trains remains unfulfilled. The bullet train project missed its launch deadline twice.
The Mumbai–Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor (MAHSR) or Mumbai–Ahmedabad HSR was expected to be completed by December 2023 but due to delays in acquiring land in Maharashtra, the completion date for the whole corridor is uncertain, though the 352km stretch through Gujarat may open in 2027. A stretch of 50 km from Surat to Bilimora is expected to be completed by 2026.
The entire MAHSR alignment is said to pass through three districts Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar in Maharashtra and eight districts Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand Keda, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
While the ambitious project is aimed at bolstering the centre’s development agenda, the bullet train has been a buzzword in politics. The opposition is not holding back its punches to slam Center over the project.
Why bullet train project was delayed?
Land acquisition has been a major challenge for the delay of the project. While the Centre remains steadfast to complete the project, multiple challenges lie ahead.
The project received a major push after the new Maharashtra government gave all approvals implying that most issues related to land acquisition in the state are expected to be resolved soon.
In Maharashtra, 431 hectares are needed for the project but only 72 percent has been acquired and only 39 percent is in the physical position of the National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL).
A majority of the MHRSR project alignment traverses through vast tracks of fertile agricultural land in 296 villages including dozens of Scheduled V villages. The project has been facing resistance in some of these tribal-dominated villages in Palghar and Thane.
Many gram sabhas have already passed resolutions against the bullet train. Even though the land acquisition process is almost complete in Gujarat, as per NHSRCL claims, a farmer’s group called Khedut Samaj Gujarat has led a case in the Supreme Court challenging the land acquisition process.
To ensure new India gets the bullet train on time, the officials are on their toes to convince villagers by offering them fair compensation. If everything falls in place, the full stretch of the project will be complete by 2026.