Exclusive interview with Achal Khare, MD, NHSRCL: Bullet train to start in 2022

"Bullet train service will be available for public access in the year 2022. The issues related to land acquisition have been swiftly resolved one by one and its expected that around 80% of the land will be acquired by May 2019" Said, Achal Khare, MD, NHSRCL.

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Achal Khare, Managing Director, National High Speed Rail Corporation
Achal Khare, Managing Director, National High Speed Rail Corporation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project corridor is going to be built for the first time in India, aimed at connecting the two cities in two hours and it is making headlines from the beginning. Earlier it was a matter of debate, but now it is in the headlines due to land acquisition. It is being said that the land is not getting acquired due to the opposition by farmers. In such a situation this project may lie down and its cost may increase. Mr. Achal Khare, Managing Director of National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) has shared his views on all such important aspects related to this project. Here are excerpts-

How much land is to be acquired for bullet train project?

The total land is over 1,400 hectares, with 353 hectares in Maharashtra and the rest in Gujarat. This is divided into 7,000 plots, in 195 villages in Gujarat and in 104 villages in Maharashtra. The project covers three districts in Maharashtra and eight in Guajarat, besides a small area in Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

Can a change of alignment be required due to the problem of land acquisition or can it be late in the project?

There should be no problem with the alignment. We have set the target for December 2018 to complete the land acquisition. If we get 80 % of the land till next May, then the project will run at its own pace. I do not think there will be any delay in the project.

What are you saying behind the scenes? But when will the public see the project speed?

There are many things going on. For instance, the work of training center in Vadodara is in progress. There is a depot to be constructed on 76 hectares of land in Sabarmati. The structures are being removed to clear the land. The tender is open for the Bullet Train terminal station in Sabarmati and it will be seen in January. Tenders for construction of two bridges are opened and new tender for construction of the tunnel in Mumbai will be floated in January 2019. I think the work of this project will be seen catching up at the speed of July next year.

Are you sure the bullet train will run on a fixed schedule?

MAlthough the Consultant of Japan has laid the target for this project on December 2023, it is our target that the bullet train should be run on 15th August 2022. In this case, we are promising that by 15th August 2022, the bullet train will start running, that means people will start traveling in it.

What about the first installment of the loan from Japanese agency JICA?

Japan has signed an agreement for the first installment of INR 5500 crores, but there is a special process of payment. Under this process, when the work is done for the first bullet train, the company will pay by the money of the Railways and then after Japan will transfer it to the NHSRCL.

Mumbai to Ahmedabad, 508 Km
Mumbai to Ahmedabad, 508 Km

Trains will be imported for the bullet train. Will tender for these trains be floated/will these trains be made in India?

rNo company in India yet makes bullet train, so we tend to tender for Japanese companies only. But according to the agreement, there is a term of transfer of technology. Indian companies will come forward in this direction, then they will have a firearm with Japan. After that these trains will start production in India. But there are many such devices, such as track fittings, electric poles, transformers, which are essential for bullet trains. Such devices will be produced here only. The steel structure will also be built here. Around 90 thousand tonnes of steel structure will be used. It will also be done under Make in India.

What is the nature of the tie-up with the East Railway Company in Japan? What is the percentage of resources, manpower, cost India would use of theirs and for how long?

We have a co-operation between the government of Japan which has asked the East Railway Company to give us the hand-holding. The company is working as the representative of the government of Japan. Coming to the component part, the Japanese share is 18.6 per cent of the total work. To clear it further, all civil construction will be with the Indian companies which will cost around Rs 45,000-50,000 crore.

We need the expertise of Japan on matters involving signalling and rolling stock (train equipment). They are going to train 350 of our people in due course and they will receive on-job training. They will prove ambassadors for us who on return will train the people at the upcoming Vadodara railway institute.

The institute will be an exclusive high-speed training institute. Five hectares of land has been carved out on the campus for National Academy of Indian Railway and we have already awarded some tenders. It will be completed by 2020 and people will be trained on the working of the train. We will have all those training facilities which are available at the high speed institute of Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) in Japan. The Japanese are helping us out with its profile and we are taking their advise on the same.

What is the total break-up of the cost of the project?

From the total project cost of Rs 1.08 lakh crores, the capital cost of the project is Rs 85-88,000 crores. Out of that, Rs 20,000 crores are coming from India and rest is from Japan. What India is funding involves land, utility relocation, PAP resettlement and taxes, the rest will be funded by Japan. As much as 81 per cent of the total cost will be borne by Japan.

What are the estimates for fare, footfall and speed of the train?

The final fares of the train will be decided only when the service starts. As of now, we are guided that the fare between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will be 1.5 times the fare of the first class AC of a premium train. The footfall of the train is expected to be around 40,000 people in the starting year, a lot of which will come from air and road travel. Till 2053, there will be 1 lakh, 66,000 passengers, using the bullet train.

This project is being financed at a very low cost. I am confident that we should be able to manage the project and recover our operating and maintenance costs.

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