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PM Modi’s pet bullet train’s nodal firm still ‘direction-less’

NEW DELHI,BINOO NAIR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (HSR) plan – commonly called bullet train project- seems to have ground to a halt.

Six months after the National High Speed Corporation was incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956, with three temporary directors, all railway officials, the corporation still remains without full-time directors.

The company, formed on February 12 this year, was to be the nodal agency to execute the project and also coordinate with the state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra, each of which have been offered 25% stake in the company.

At the time of incorporating the company, the railways had appointed Girish Pillai, additional member (catering and infra), Railway Board; PV Vaidialingam, adviser (commercial and accounting reforms), Railway Board; and Mukul Saran Mathur, executive director, PPP, Railway Board, as the first three temporary directors.

The other big issue, the construction of a terminal at Bandra, remains on the drawing board with the state, railways and consultants from the Japanese Industrial Cooperation Agency (JICA) studying the feasibility of another plot at Bandra for the terminus. This land, according to sources, is a longish one, close to the entry of Bandra-Worli Sealink near Bandra Reclamation.

In reply to a query from dna on whether the rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad was being shelved, the railway ministry replied in the negative. Anil Saxena, spokesperson of the ministry, stated: “There is no plan of shelving it. HSR is a high priority project for the railways and is on track. Terminal issue in Mumbai is being discussed. The state government has offered alternative location in Bandra and the ministry of railways has asked the Japanese consultant to examine the alternative. We are sure of resolving the issue at the earliest.”

A query to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on the lull that has fallen on the project, however, elicited a cryptic reply. ‘Working on it’ is all Fadnavis said. The Rs 97,636-crore project, as per the agreement between railways and JICA, is to be completed within 7 years of commencement of work. Officials, however, expressed doubt whether the line would be ready by 2023.

Salient features of Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail plan:

Total length- 508 km

Time taken- 2.07 hours for fast trains and 2.58 hours for ‘all halt’ trains

Stations- Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad, Sabarmati

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