NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, along with the secretary of Department of Economic Affairs, and chairman of the Railway Board, is expected to visit Japan to hold a meeting with the country’s officials to take forward the Rs 98,000-crore Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, a government source said on condition of anonymity.
“The vice-chairman (of NITI Aayog) is likely to have a meeting in Japan on May 15, where the technical and financial feasibility of the bullet train project is likely to be discussed,” the source said, adding that the project is in a stage where its final contours are being drawn.
In February, Rail Board chairman AK Mittal had said that the country’s first bullet train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai will be partially financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which agreed to provide a loan of about Rs 79,380 crore, which amounts to 81 per cent of the total project cost.
The soft loan would have a tenure of 50 years and a moratorium of another 15 years and would come at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent. An official at NITI Aayog said that JICA has prepared a detailed project report on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai, which was submitted to India in July 2015. The project study, as per the MoU between India and Japan, was jointly funded by both the countries.
Before JICA submitted its report, RITES Ltd, a subsidiary of Indian Railways, had conducted a pre-feasibility study on the project.
A high-powered committee had been formed by the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure timely completion of project. The committee, headed by Panagariya, comprised secretaries of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Department of Economic Affairs, and Ministry of External Affairs, and Railway Board chairman.
On several occasions in the past, this joint committee has not only appraised the project as a whole but has also done a detailed study of the proposals made by JICA.
To assign its highest priority to the project, Indian Railways has formed National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), a special purpose vehicle (SPV), with a paid-up capital of Rs 500 crore.
A search committee comprising senior government officials including Cabinet Secretary, Chairman Railway Board and Secretary DoPT among others is on the job currently to select the Managing Director and five directors for the NHSRCL.
Railways has already allotted Rs 200 crore for the SPV. Maharashtra and Gujarat will have equity of 25 per cent each, while the Railways will have 50 per cent in the SPV.
According to a recent IIM Ahmedabad report, to maintain its financial viability and be able to repay the loan on time, the Indian Railways would have to make at least 100 trips per day or transit 88,000 to 1,10,000 passengers everyday on the bullet train.
Reportedly, the 508-km-long high speed rail corridor will have a 21 km long tunnel under the sea and while most part of the corridor is proposed to be on an elevated track, the bullet train will travel under the sea on stretch after Thane creek towards Virar.