India’s Rs 98,000-crore bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai has run into an unexpected roadblock. The Maharashtra government is not allowing the Railways to build the most crucial station — Mumbai.
As per the Railways plans, the Mumbai station is to be constructed underground at the Bandra-Kurla complex (BKC) — the central business district in the western suburb. The plans were prepared by Japanese consultants, who surveyed all options and zeroed in on this area after speaking with state authorities.
But Maharashtra has told Railways that the proposed station would hamper its plans to build a financial centre at the same place. That the station would be underground has failed to cut ice with the state government.
In May, Railway Ministry officials held two rounds of meetings with Maharashtra officials, the chief secretary and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, but failed to arrive at a breakthrough.
Maharashtra is learnt to have told Railways that the proposed station would lead to a revenue loss of Rs 10,000 crore for the state.
While the Railways has told the state that it would get back with an answer, some in the ministry are inclined to knock on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s door for a solution or a compromise, given that Maharashtra is a BJP-ruled state.
Of the 28-hectare land at the BKC, Railways needs only 0.9 hectares to build access to the underground station. But Maharashtra has said that because of the existing building bylaws and rules governing commercial establishments, a significant portion would become inaccessible for the proposed financial centre — a showpiece project for the state.
Railways also tried to explain to state officials that proximity to a high-speed railway station would only enhance the profile of the proposed centre, but the state remains unconvinced.
“Once an underground station is built there, we will not be able to build anything on the ground, so the loss of land to us is more than just 0.9 hectares,” U P S Madan, commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), told The Indian Express.
Madan said that according to calculations, the Floor Space Index of the BKC is four. “So even if we take that one hectare of land is gone, the FSI would be for four hectares, which is a huge loss. Railways never wrote to us or informed us when the study was going on, else we would have told them then,” Madan said.
The state government is also learnt to have told Railways that since only a small portion of the bullet train corridor — one of Modi’s pet infrastructure projects — falls in Maharashtra, such a large revenue loss cannot be justified. Railways has been informally asked to either extend the project beyond Mumbai or use its own vacant land for a station.
Railways has vacant land in both Bandra and Kurla, but not in the prime BKC. Japanese consultants had opted for BKC because it would provide better traffic and a superior accessibility to the project.