Bullet Train Foundation: Where is the Ahmadabad Metro Project after 14 years?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during the ground breaking ceremony for bullet rail project in Ahmedabad on Thursday (Image: The Hindu)

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 14 laid the foundation of India’s first bullet train with Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed railway project in Ahmedabad, the city is still waiting for its first Metro ride. The then Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Modi, in 2003, conceptualized the Ahmadabad-Gandhi Nagar Metro Rail, yet the fate of the project hangs in balance. Many observers suspect when Mr. Modi could not complete his pet Metro rail project while being at the helm of the affair in state for twelve long years, what is the guarantee that the ambitious bullet train will start operating as projected.

Several other states where the project was launched much later have Metro running with full speed; this includes Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2016 a financial express report offered a glimpse of hope that the Gujarat Metro will start running in the end of 2019. The report said, “Change of guard at the top almost two years ago has led to significant changes in the implementation of the MEGA (Metro-Link Express for Gandhinagar & Ahmedabad). After years of delay and a near-derailment on account of a scam involving alleged financial irregularities, work on Gujarat’s first ever Metro rail project, called the MEGA project is picking up speed rapidly.” However the ground reports suggest that the 2019 deadline will be further extended.

In the wake of lurking fate of Ahmadabad Metro Railway, many political observers are viewing the foundation as hurried last minute political gimmick considering the upcoming Gujarat election. Few Analysts suggest that the foundation should have taken place in Mumbai as Ahmedabad was initially not included in bullet train link plan. According to a BBC report “BJP’s election manifesto released in April 2014 promised a 5,846km (3632 miles) “high speed train network (bullet train)” linking Delhi, Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai. Interestingly, it didn’t include Ahmedabad, the largest city in Mr Modi’s native state, Gujarat”. Perhaps, Ahmedabad got into picture of bullet train during Japanese premier Shinzo Abe’s last Gujarat visit.

Land acquisition for bullet train may not be as problematic as it is for Metro project considering almost 80% of around 500 km track would be made on elevated platform. Still, there will be many other technicalities and challenges that will test the resolve. Other observers have pointed out that at a time when the state is coping up in the aftermath of devastating flood, was the bullet train a priority at this juncture?

Incidentally, Jammu Tawi New Delhi Rajdhani Express got derailed just outside New Delhi station hours before on the same day Prime Minister Modi was laying foundation for the bullet train. A week earlier on September 7, another Rajdhani from Ranchi to New Delhi got derailed barely 200 metres away from the New Delhi station. The day had seen two more derailments at two other places.

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