The cost of the country’s first high-speed rail, or bullet train, project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, is likely to cross Rs 1.6 lakh crore, excluding GST, due to delay in its implementation, primarily on account of Covid-19 pandemic and land acquisition issues. In the feasibility study in 2015, the estimated cost was pegged at Rs 1.08 lakh crore.
While sources said the rise in the cost is a foregone conclusion considering increased expenditure on land acquisition, rise in prices of cement, steel and other raw materials, the project implementation agency — National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited — maintained that the revised cost can be arrived at only “after the award of all the contracts and completion of land acquisition”.
The 508km project, launched in September 2017, had the initial deadline of 2022 end for its full operation. Official data shows that till now 100% land has been acquired only in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. While in Gujarat the land acquisition is around 98.9%, it’s barely 73% in Maharashtra. The government has now set the 2026 deadline for operation of the first phase, which is only a 51km stretch between Surat and Bilimora in Gujarat.
The government has not yet set any timeline for the entire stretch to become operational, though now it’s hopeful of speeding up the execution after the change of guard in Maharashtra.
In a written response to a question from BJP lawmaker Sushil Kumar Modi in Parliament on Friday, the railway ministry said: “Phasewise opening plan to be decided after completion of land acquisition, finalisation of contract packages and associated timelines. Delay in execution of project caused due to delay in land acquisition and contract finalisation in Maharashtra as well as Covid-19. ”