Amid the delay and cost over run in India's first bullet train project, a high level Japanese delegation headed by Mori Masafumi, Special Advisor to Japan's Prime Minister, is slated to visit India on 25 December to meet Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to sort out certain key issues.
The Japanese delegation along with the Railway Minister are expected to visit the project site to witness the work in progress.
The Japanese visit assumes significance as India is pushing for part operation of the 508 km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor by 2026 and seeking a firm commitment from Japan to meet the target.
According to the latest ground report, the physical progress of the project is 24.1 per cent up to 23 November 2022 with almost 30 per cent of the work completed in Gujarat and about 13 per cent progress in Maharashtra.
While the land acquisition is almost complete, civil contracts including construction of viaduct, bridges, stations and track for certain sections have been awarded.
However, the project is slated to enter in an important phase as the tenders for rolling stock including trainset and signalling system are being finalised and will be floated shortly.
With the rising input cost, estimated pricing of the rolling stock is also expected to go up now for which both Japanese and Indian sides need to agree before floating the tender.
According to sources, these issues are likely to be resolved during the forthcoming visit of Japanese delegation as both sides would try to settle it through a series of talks.
The ambitious project was sanctioned in December 2015 at an estimated cost of Rs 108,000 crore with 80 per cent Japanese funding as an easy loan.
However, being delayed for various reasons, the project cost overrun has touched nearly Rs 2 lakh crore as of now because of the higher land acquisition price, increased input cost, the fluctuating Yen and GST.
According to the Railways, the cost of cement, steel and land acquisition have gone up many times since 2015 when the project got sanctioned.
Since the JICA loan is in Japanese currency Yen, the fluctuation in global price has also affected the cost. Besides, the implementing agency has to incur the cost of about Rs 20,000 crore due to the GST.
Though the bullet train project was initially planned for completion by 2023, the project has witnessed multiple extensions since then and now a target has been set to make it operational in Gujarat section by 2026.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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