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Modi, Abe bonhomie on display as they kick-off bullet train project

Vinay Umarji/Ahmedabad 15 Sep 17 | 12:46 AM

Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy: Gujarat government's information department

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe promised to travel to Ahmedabad from Mumbai in 2022 in the bullet train, for which they laid the foundation stone on Thursday.

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The event was hosted at the Sabarmati athletic grounds. Modi and Abe said the 508-km-long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR), to be built at a cost of Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion), would do for the Indian economy what the Shinkansen bullet train did for Japan after its launch in 1964.

“I loved the thrilling roadshow yesterday (Wednesday)," said Abe, who, along with wife Akie, had accompanied Modi, in an open car through the streets of Ahmedabad on an 8-km trip.

He added, “A new Japan was born in 1964 after the Shinkansen’s launch. Modi plans to do the same for a new India, and we are determined to realise his plan." Abe, who spoke in Japanese, said the strategic partnership between the two nations would help make India the “world’s factory".

ALSO READ: Full coverage: Modi, Abe kick off India's first bullet train but several hurdles remain

The two PMs also remotely launched a training institute for the high-speed rail staff in Vadodara, and reviewed a model of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai rail corridor.

Greeted with chants of “Modi, Modi!" the PM thanked Abe for the quick development of the project. He added, “People seeking loans for two-wheelers also have to bargain hard. India has a good friend in Japan, who is gifting this to her, almost for free."

Japan is offering a $12-billion loan, at an interest of 0.1 per cent, for 50 years. This will include a 10-year moratorium for the MAHSR. 

The bullet train will have 10 cars and accommodate 750 people. Of the 508-km stretch it will cover, 468 km will be elevated, 27 km through tunnels, and the remaining on the ground. It will pass through the longest tunnel (21 km) in the country, 7 km of which will be under the sea. The average speed of the train will be 320 km per hour, reaching a maximum of 350 km per hour. 

ALSO READ: Modi lauds Japan as India's 'friend' for bullet train loan at 0.1% interest

Besides Mumbai (which will be underground) and Ahmedabad, the train will stop at 10 stations — Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, and Sabarmati. Tickets will be priced between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000. Soon after commissioning, it is likely to have 16 cars, accommodating 1,200 people.

On a day when a Jammu-Delhi Rajdhani coach derailed near New Delhi, the latest in a series of accidents that have plagued the Railways, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, “People had criticised the Rajdhani when it was launched, but now everyone wants to ride it. In the future, the bullet train tickets will also be competitive."

Ground Breaking #Ceremony of #BulletTrain by PM @narendramodi & Japanese PM @AbeShinzo https://t.co/Ul4BiKuqQS

— PIB India (@PIB_India) September 14, 2017Vijay Rupani and Devendra Fadnavis, chief ministers of Gujarat and Maharashtra, respectively, were also present at the function. Fadnavis invited Modi and Abe to travel to Mumbai in the bullet train. Rupani recalled how Japan was the partner country for the first Vibrant Gujarat Summit in 2003.

The governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and the Railways are equity partners in the National High-Speed Rail Corporation, the special-purpose vehicle to implement the project.

ALSO READ: Land acquisition could be a major challenge for bullet train

Goyal had said the project was expected to provide 1.2-1.5 million jobs, of which around 20,000 will be in construction, 4,000 direct ones for running the system, and around 20,000 indirect jobs. 

A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Japan International Cooperation Agency in December 2015, for follow-up studies on technical standards, regulations, station-area development, review of final location, safety, and human resource development. The studies, which started in March 2016, are likely to be completed by mid-2019.

ALSO READ: Modi, Abe to kick-off bullet train project, Rs 5-lakh cr investments today

Japan-India's growing ties:

Modi, Abe lay foundation stone for Rs 1.08 lakh crore bullet train project from SabarmatiPromise to travel in bullet train at its launchJapan has offered a soft loan of Rs 88,000 crore at 0.1 per cent interest

 Loan to be repaid in 50 years; 15 years moratorium

 The 508-km long high-speed rail will be mostly elevated, with partly ground and underground

 Will operate at a speed of 320 kms per hour with 12 stops between Ahmedabad and Mumbai

 Likely to create 20,000 jobs in construction, 4,000 jobs in system and 20,000 indirect jobs

 A high speed rail training institute to come up at Vadodara

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