Abe’s India visit: Japan set to win India’s first bullet train deal

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The India-Japan relationship is set to move onto fast-track during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December 11-13 visit to India, with Tokyo expected to win the right to construct India’s first bullet train. The deal will bolster Japan’s sentiment after losing an Indonesian high-speed rail deal to China, the Nikkei business daily reported on December 8.

According to the report, Japan will offer more than 1 trillion yen (USD 8.11 billion) in loans to construct India’s 980 billion rupee fast train. Japan had recently lost the bid to build Indonesia’s first fast-train, as Beijing provided a USD 5 billion loan without guarantees. Mr Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to issue a joint statement on this pathbreaking deal.

Earlier, Tokyo was picked to assess the feasibility of building the 505km (313 miles) corridor linking Mumbai with Ahmadabad, the commercial capital of Mr Modi’s home state Gujarat. It was concluded that it would be technically and financially viable.  Construction of the high-speed railway link will start from 2017 and will be completed in 2023, according to the Nikkei report.

Offering finance has made Japan the clear frontrunner in the project to build and supply the route. The bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected to cut down the travel time from 7 hours at present to 2 hours. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai corridor are a part of the diamond quadrilateral connecting India’s top four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The Delhi-Mumbai project which is around 1,200 kms was awarded to China after it won the contract.

However, the critics of bullet trains argue that instead of spending billions on a bullet train, India would do well to spend the same amount on modernising its creaky railway system.

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