Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe launched work on India’s first bullet train at Gujarat’s Ahmedabad on Thursday this morning. The 508 km high-speed rail link to Mumbai is seen as a centrepiece of PM Modi’s efforts to demonstrate India’s capability to build high-tech projects. The project also signals New Delhi and Tokyo’s close ties amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The bullet train is expected to begin operating in 2022.
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- “A strong India is good for Japan and a strong Japan is good for India,” said Mr Abe after the two leaders laid the foundation stone for the project at the Sabarmati station. He spoke in Japanese but began with “Namaskar” and ended his speech with a “Dhanyawad.” Japan PM Shinzo Abe says Indo-Japan partnership is special, strategic and global.
- PM Modi said “New India… has taken an important step towards fulfilling a big dream.” He said the “bullet train will bring employment as well as speed,” adding that it was an emotional moment for India and that Japan has proved itself a “strong friend.”
- The prime ministers of the two countries also laid the foundation stone for an institute that will come up at Vadodara where around 4,000 people will be trained for the bullet train project. The ceremony is Mr Abe’s first official engagement since he landed to a grand reception on Wednesday afternoon. The two leaders will hold summit meetings after the function.
- The Rs. 1.1 lakh crore bullet train project is a joint venture between the Indian Railways and Japanese firm Shinkansen Technology. The Japanese team estimated that the first train would roll out by 2023, but Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said PM Modi wants the train to start on 15 August 2022 – when India completes 75 years of Independence.
- Japan will fund 81 per cent of the project, nearly Rs. 88,000 crores, in soft loans at an interest rate of 0.1%. The loan will have to be repaid over 50 years.
- The new train will race between PM Modi’s home state Gujarat and Mumbai, carrying 750 passengers. Travel time will be reduced from eight hours to a little over three hours if it stops at all the 12 stations and around two hours if it stops at only four.
- At an average speed of 250 km per hour, with a top speed of around 320 km per hour, the train will run at more than double the top speed of the fastest train in India.
- Of the 508-km stretch, 92 per cent of the route will be elevated, six per cent through a tunnel and the rest on the ground. The high speed train will pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under sea near Thane in Maharashtra.
- The Maharashtra government is still undecided on where the bullet train will end in Mumbai. The state government this week agreed to spare 9,000 sq metres plot for the station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on the condition that the railways assess suitability of an alternative site.
- At their summit talks today PM Modi and Mr Abe are expected to focus on bolstering defence and security ties. They are also expected to discuss cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. The recent nuclear test by North Korea will come up during the talks, officials said.