Maharashtra to review plan to build India’s first bullet train

The new chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra has said he will review the project underway to build a $17bn, Japanese-funded bullet train between Ahmedebad and Mumbai.

Uddhav Thackeray, who assumed office on Thursday, 28 November, told a press conference yesterday that his government would produce a white paper on the state’s finances.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is lending around $12.8bn to build the 508km high-speed railway. It would be India’s first, and was a flagship project for both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Thackeray’s predecessor, Devendra Fadnavis.

But the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat must contribute to the cost, including for land acquisitions. Around 155km of the line runs through Maharashtra.

"We have asked for an update on development works currently underway, cost estimates, hurdles and deadlines," Thackeray said, reports The Times of India. "We will then decide on what needs to be done on priority and also if some works that are being done on priority are really needed."

Thackeray, president of the Shiv Sena party, was picked as chief minister by a coalition of parties jockeying for power after the Maharashtra’s October election.

In its analysis of the situation, newspaper Business Today notes that the chief minister’s focus is likely to be relief for farmers distressed by unfavourable weather and other social issues.

It said some Shiv Sena leaders have expressed opposition to the high-speed railway, claiming it would benefit only the rich.

Narendra Modi and Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe agreed the financing deal, which sees the railway using Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains, in December 2015.

At the time, Modi said the railway would "launch a revolution in Indian railways". 

Image: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at window seats on an N700 series Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kobe in November 2016 (Prime Minister’s Office, Government Open Data License – India)


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