MUMBAI: In a move that may set his government on a collision course with the Centre, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday announced a review of the Rs 1.1 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
for the underground Metro 3 line, another flagship project of the previous NDA government. He also said that his regime will come out with a white paper on the state’s finances and promised a cabinet expansion “soon”.
Speaking at a press conference after a two-day special session of the assembly concluded, the CM said, “We have asked for an update on development works currently underway, cost estimates, hurdles, and deadlines. We will then decide on what needs to be done on priority and also if some works that are being done on priority are really needed.”
Thackeray asserted that his government would not work in a vindictive manner, adding, “We will review the bullet train project just like we have not stayed the Metro project.”
The bullet train is estimated to cost $17bn 81% of which is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency through a 50-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1%. The National High Speed Rail Corporation has been set up to execute the project, for which Maharashtra and Gujarat will each contribute Rs 5,000 crore as equity while the Centre’s share is Rs 10,000 crore.
The project currently faces land acquisition hurdles, especially in the region immediately to the north of Mumbai, in Palghar. As of now, 548 hectares of the total requirement of 1,380 hectares have been acquired. The project is targeted to be operational by 2023.
Indicating that his government’s priorities may be different from those of his predecessor, Thackeray underscored the value of development without damage to the environment. He took a dig at actor Amitabh Bachchan over his tweet that stressed on the benefits of the Metro saying, “We don’t want Metro rail for people to reach the hospital quickly. We want people to be healthy and happy. Aarey is not just about trees. It is about an ecosystem and only the work on the car shed of the Metro 3 project has been stayed.”