Moving forward to implement the ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, Indian Railways has initiated a global hunt to recruit the top management of the newly formed National Highway Speed Rail Corp. Ltd (NHSRCL).

NHSRCL is the special purpose vehicle responsible for implementation of the project.

The railways on Tuesday invited applications for the top four posts in NHSRCL. These include managing director, director (project), director (electrical and systems) and director (finance).

Selections will be made by a committee headed by the cabinet secretary.

However, for the post of managing director, the railways has introduced a special clause that the successful candidate will have to furnish an undertaking /bond for serving a minimum period of five years. Further, the search panel has been empowered to relax all criteria if it finds an outstanding candidate.

A railway ministry official, requesting anonymity, said, “Such unique provisions have been made because of two reasons. One to attract global talent for the project and secondly the government wants an officer who can give commitment to complete it on time—that is, by 2023-24."

Transport economist G. Raghuram of IIM Ahmedabad sees “this as a good signal". “With such plans, Indian Railways has made it clear that any officer who wants to come for this job has to dedicate five years and even political influence won’t affect the work role."

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor or bullet train is one of the most ambitious projects of the Narendra Modi government, estimated to cost Rs97,636 crore. The train will cover a distance of around 508km in approximately two hours, with a speed of over 329 km per hour, and will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian Railways and JICA, the Japanese government will finance 81% of the project cost of Rs97,636 crore with an interest rate of 0.1% per annum, to be repaid in 50 years with 15 years of moratorium.

While there are apprehensions in the market on the fares of the bullet train, railway minister Suresh Prabhu in July had assured Parliament that they would be lower than airfares.