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COVID-19 pandemic may impact Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train deadline

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The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The bullet train project is scheduled to be completed by December 2023 but media reports quoted officials as saying that it may fail to keep the deadline due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has resulted in delays in opening tenders and land acquisition for the project. The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) has already acquired 63% of the land for the project.

 

Of the total land needed, 77% is in Gujarat, 80% in Dadar Nagar Haveli and 22% in Maharashtra. Maharashtra and Gujarat are grappling with protests over land acquisition particularly in areas like Palghar in Maharashtra and Navsari in Gujarat.

Media reports said the company floated nine civil work tenders in 2019 which could not go ahead due to COVID-19.

Media quoted NHSRCL MD Achal Khare as saying that it was difficult to gauge the impact of the pandemic on the project as it is not known how long it will last. He admitted that the opening of tenders was delayed due to the pandemic.

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NHSRCL has always maintained that the deadline for the project was 2023 and will be met.

The project

The 508.17-kilometre long network will pass through Mumbai, Thane, and Palghar in Maharashtra and Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Apart from land acquisition, another major cause for the delay could be cost escalation owing to a fall in the rupee against the Japanese yen.

The total cost of the project is pegged at Rs1.08 lakh crore and as per the shareholding pattern, the Centre will pay Rs10,000 crore to the NHSRCL, while Gujarat and Maharashtra will pay Rs 5,000 crore each.

The rest of the cost will be borne by Japan through a loan at 0.1% interest.

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