Mumbai: The railways is making a fresh bid for a plot in the central business district of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) to build the terminus for the high-speed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.
A senior official at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which owns the BKC plot, said on the condition of anonymity, that the railways now plans to build an underground terminus as against the initial plan of an on-ground terminus.
In December 2015, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is the president of MMRDA, had written to the railway board refusing to hand over the plot saying the land requested by the railways was key to the state government’s plan to build an International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in BKC.
“The railways has come up with a revised proposal for an underground terminus which it says will not interfere with the IFSC plan," the MMRDA official said. The railway board officials will formally present this revised proposal to the MMRDA on 23 May, the official said.
MMRDA commissioner U.P.S. Madan, however, insisted that the authority was not ready to part with the plot. “Why should we give our plot? We need it for the IFSC which has to come up in BKC only because all the financial services are located right here," Madan said. He, however, added that they would wait for the railways to make its proposal. “Let the railways give its exact requirement to the government and we will decide," Madan said. Madan is a member of a joint task force formed by the Union and state governments to pilot the IFSC proposal.
The 4,000 sq.ft BKC plot has been a contested property between the state government and the railway board ever since the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train proposal was mooted. The plot has been claimed as critical by both the railways and the IFSC taskforce.
“After Mumbai lost out on the chance to build an international finance city, the next credible alternative is to build an IFSC and there is no location other than the BKC for this since it already has a good mix of quality urban infrastructure and financial apparatus," another member of the task force said on the condition of anonymity.
This member, however, felt that having the bullet train terminus in BKC could help the IFSC plans by allowing it to collaborate with the Gujarat International Finance tech City (GIFT).
“It is not a bad idea especially since we are talking of collaboration between the GIFT and IFSC. It would aid our plans to build a large landscape of international financial services between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. But this particular plot in BKC is a prime location and it is part of the IFSC landscape we want to designate. We have thought about a metro line connecting IFSC to the airport but there has not been any discussion yet on bullet train connectivity," the task force member said.
The ₹ 98,000 crore high-speed train project aims to cover 508-km distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in two hours. The Union government is in talks with Japan to source 81% of the project cost as a soft loan.