With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe set to lay the foundation stone Thursday for the bullet train project, whose deadline has been advanced by a year to 2022, the High Speed Rail Corporation of India (HSRC) is waiting for the final nod to its detailed project report on the route, which will include a 7-km stretch under the Thane creek.
Formally called the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project, it will run at an elevation of 18 metres for most of its route — 471 km out of 508 km — primarily to ensure it travels over the existing railway route. The remaining 37 km include the 7 km undersea stretch between Thane and Vasai, besides another 15 km underground in Mumbai.
HSRC officials still call it a “proposed route map” pending approval from the Ministry of Railways, but believe that is only a formality.
They said the detailed map was prepared following an aerial survey using LiDAR technology. “The aerial survey and geophysical study of the route began earlier this year. It was then decided that a portion should be underwater between Vasai and Thane to minimise the impact of the project on the surroundings,” said an official. “We have also conducted soil testing for the pillars, which will eliminate the need for realignment of any infrastructure in cities.”
The project will require acquisition of over 700 hectares land in Gujarat, and officials are conducting a social impact survey before they begin the process. “The route has been so designed that most of the structures along the way are railway properties, for the corridor runs close to the existing railway line on the railway premises,” an official said.
In Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat, the respective civic bodies will join the railways in the acquisition process from private owners. Among the properties that may be impacted in Vadodara are parts of residential colonies. In some areas, residential properties close to railway premises too may be acquired. In Surat, too, the HSRC is looking at acquiring part of private properties along the railway station, primarily to create the terminal for the bullet train.
Technical officers said the route will throw up engineering challenges at various locations. Among the most complicated parts is the Vadodara railway yard, where the bullet train will turn 45° and cut across the entire yard. “In the entire route, this is the only place where it takes a 45° turn, cutting across a railway yard that is one of the busiest in the country, to pass through the entire city of Vadodara,” an official said. “We will put up temporary pillars to build the 300-m girder crossing the entire Vadodara yard. For almost two years, it will require regulating the heavy traffic of trains that pass through Vadodara junction.”
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Railway authorities are considering dismantling platform 6, Vadodara station’s longest, which is also the exit at one end. The authorities will extend one of the other existing platforms to accommodate trains with more than 14 coaches while work is undertaken on the bullet train project. “We will have to demolish the entire architectural facade of the Alkapuri end, which was built only a couple of years ago,” an official said. “Within the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat, however, there will be minimal impact on private properties, as the railway premises within city limits can accommodate the pillars. However, we have identified more than 700 hectares open land in intermediate places between Anand, Nadiad and Ankleshwar in Gujarat, which we will acquire through the Ministry of Railways.”
Officials say construction will be completed simultaneously on the entire stretch, with contracts being awarded for specific portions of the corridor. “The tenders will be floated soon after the inauguration ceremony by Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Thursday. Work on the terminal at Sabarmati will start almost immediately. We are hopeful that construction on the corridor will begin within the next six to eight months to meet the 2022 deadline,” an official said.
Modi and Abe will also inaugurate a dedicated High Speed Rail Training Institute for about 4,000 technical staff of the bullet train project. This will be located on the existing campus for the Vadodara-based National Academy of Indian Railways, formerly called the Railway Staff College.