High-speed rail: New Maharashtra government paves way for land acquisition

WITH the changing of the political guard in Maharashtra, the bridges are being cleared to break the deadlock on the railways over the land acquisition process for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed ​​Rail Corridor for the high-speed train project.

Senior officials have told The Indian Express that talks with Maharashtra government officials, coupled with reviews by the Prime Minister’s office, now indicate that the marquee project is likely to address the ‘land issue’ in the state by October-November, eliminating the most significant obstacle, the high speed train project faced since its inception.

Maharashtra’s new government, led by Eknath Shinde in partnership with the BJP, has also given crucial deforestation for land acquisition a mandatory step, which had been stalled at the state government level for two years. The Ministry of Forests, Environment and Climate Change subsequently gave approval for the use of forest land for the project.

The new government of Maharashtra has also recently signed the shareholders agreement with the implementing agency, the National High Speed ​​Rail Corporation Limited.

The acquisition of about 200 hectares in Maharashtra, part of the total 1396 hectares including in Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was blocked under the previous Shiv Sena government of Uddhav Thackeray in alliance with the NCP and the Congress. The Shiv Sena had also opposed the land acquisition politically.

Land acquisition of approximately 1,000 hectares in Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli has been completed. The government has stated that out of a total land requirement of approximately 1396 hectares, 1264 hectares have been acquired.

However, the land across the alignment is divided into 7,000 plots, in 195 villages in Gujarat and 104 villages in Maharashtra. Thus, for construction to begin in Maharashtra, it is crucial to secure physical possession of all the land required to progress.

Major civil works have started – Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted the photo of the project’s first viaduct kilometer built in Gujarat.

The project has also recently launched its civil tender in Maharashtra, which includes the design and construction of Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex high-speed railway station. The opening of the offers is scheduled for October 20, 2022.

Officials said state government land acquisition work had also accelerated on the ground, particularly in areas like Palghar and Dahanu on the Maharashtra coast, considered traditional Shiv Sena strongholds. .

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The delay in land acquisition in Maharashtra coupled with the pandemic pushed back the overall commissioning date of the entire project by at least five years and resulted in cost overruns. According to the initial estimate based on the 2015 appraisal, the total cost of the project was around Rs 1.10 lakh crore. The cost, according to sources, could have reached around 1.65 lakh crore.

Meanwhile, Railways has also started working on the feasibility of the Mumbai-Nagpur high-speed rail project. The cost of the 753 km alignment turns out to be around Rs 300 crore per km.

Efforts are underway to align the route along the upcoming Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg, a new six-lane highway between Mumbai and Nagpur. It is one of seven proposed high-speed train projects for the future.

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