Home / News / World /  Delay in bullet train prompts visit by Japanese delegation

The high-level Japanese delegation that came calling to India last week was driven by concerns over delays in building the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project, according to people aware of the matter.

The delegation led by the Japanese prime minister’s special adviser Masafumi Mori consisted of representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan’s ministries of economy and international trade, transport and foreign affairs, as well as officials of the East Japan Railway Company, or JR East.

The main focus of the visit was to fast-track the railway project. Launched in 2017 by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe of Japan, it was billed to be India’s first “bullet train" project. JICA provided 80% of the funding through a soft loan with an interest rate of just 0.1%. However, land acquisition delays have significantly slowed implementation. While the project was slated for completion in 2023, the railways ministry has submitted information indicating that vast swathes of the required 508 km corridor remain unbuilt. Land acquisition delays over the last three years also led to worries of cost overruns. The project was initially estimated to cost 1.08 trillion.

Some delays over land acquisition were resolved after the change of government in Maharashtra in June 2022. However, concerns over cost and differences in technical specifications still remain, according to the people cited above. While Japan prefers high technical standards and specifications, the high price attached to Japan’s proposals has given pause to the Indian side.

Queries to the ministries of external affairs and railways, the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Ltd, and the Embassy of Japan remained unanswered till press time.

“Our discussion focused on the impact of Japanese technology on India’s growth and progress. The high-speed rail project can make an even bigger difference than the Metro and Suzuki collaboration," said external affairs minister S. Jaishankar after meeting Mori. Mori visited Surat and also met railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari.

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