Mumbai, Feb 20: Work for the much awaited Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train commenced as soil testing for the ambitious project has finally made its stride on Sunday. To ascertain soil condition, the drilling of the seven-km undersea route of the rail corridor is underway. The construction of the corridor will begin in 2018 and is expected to be completed by 2023.  The 508 km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor will cover 12 stations and will have a 21 km tunnel under the sea.

As per the detailed project report by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which is the funding agency for the bullet train project, the passengers will get the thrill of riding under the sea at a speed of 350 kmph. The bullet train is expected to cover 508 km in about two hours and will run at a maximum speed of 350 kmph and operating speed of 320 kmph.

A senior Railway Ministry official in his statement said that the soil and rocks below the 70-metre-deep sea are being tested as part of the geotechnical and geophysical investigation undertaken for the entire project. “The test will also cover the 21-km-long underground tunnel between Thane and Virar”, PTI quoted the official. The high-speed train project connecting two major metropolia, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, is proposed at an estimated cost about Rs 97,636 crore. 81 per cent of the funding for the project will come by way of a 50-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent and a moratorium on repayments up to 15 years.

Why is soil testing done?

The soil testing is being done to identify the nature of the soil and the rock strata and to ascertain if the site can support the structure.  The geo-investigation is a vital process as it ascertains the bearing capacity of the soil below 70 feet at the sea. The study will also help to mark the final location for the alignment and exact spots for the pillars on which trains will run between the two metropolia.

India’s pact with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

The railway ministry and National High-Speed Rail Corporation (HNSRC) in December 2016 signed a tripartite pact with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the development of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor. The project will be completed at a cost of approximately Rs 1 lakh crore in which Japan has agreed to fund 81 per cent of the project through a soft loan of Rs 79,000 crore.

Gujarat signs MoU with Indian Railways

During the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January this year, the Gujarat government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth Rs 77,000 crore with High-Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC), which falls under the railway ministry for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The MoU was signed in the presence of chief minister Vijay Rupani and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel. Out of the total cost of Rs 1.10 lakh crore for the project, Gujarat government would get 70 per cent share, the state government said in a release.

NITI Aayog reviews bullet train progress

Last week the Niti Aayog reviewed the progress of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail project. The meeting was chaired by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya and was also attended by 20-member Japanese delegation. This was 4th meeting on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Project. The ground-breaking ceremony is expected to take place during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this year.

Work for India’s first bullet train route begins
Work for India’s first bullet train route begins

Features of the bullet train:

  • Proposed halts will be Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC)- Thane-Virar-Boisar-Vapi-Surat-Bharuch-Vadodara-Anand- Ahmedabad.
  • Top speed of the bullet train- 350 kmph
  • Travel Time reduced to 2 hours from existing 6-7 hours by train
  • Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail corridor work to begin in 2018
  • Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train expected in 2023
  • Fare – Likely to be 1.5 times the AC train fare
  • Estimated cost of the project is about Rs 97,636 crore
  • 81 per cent of funding will come by way of a loan from Japan

The Indian Railways has already allotted Rs 200 crore for the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which Maharashtra and Gujarat will have equity of 25 per cent each and the Indian Railways will have 50 per cent, PTI reported.  A total of 12 stations will be covered during the 2-hour long journey; four of which are in Maharashtra and eight in Gujarat. The 12 stations include Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The Railway Ministry stated that it expects around 36,000 daily users per day both ways by 2023, going up to 186,000 by 2053. “The total journey time of the fast train will be 2.07 hours and of trains stopping at each station will be 2.58 hrs,” Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said. (ALSO READ: From Bullock Cart to Bullet Train: Transportation in India has indeed come a long way!)

After its construction, the underwater passage will considerably reduce the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad to two hours than the normal 6-7 hours covered by trains.  There will be a stretch after Thane creek towards Virar which will go under the sea as per the detailed project report by JICA. Most part of the 508-km- long corridor, barring the 21-km-long tunnel is proposed to be on the elevated track. The elevated corridor has been opted by the Railways to avoid land acquisitions and the need to build underpasses.