Of the total 1380 hectares required for the project, just 693 hectares has been acquired so far. Farmer’s groups in both Maharashtra and Gujarat have been resisting land acquisition, while scores of court cases have been filed.

The new Maharashtra government is concerned that the state’s interests have been short-changed in order to further the interests of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party. “While a majority of the track will be built in Gujarat (348.1km) against only 155.7km in Maharashtra, both states are required to contribute an equal share of the equity,” says Mr Manisha Kayanade, a spokesperson of the Shiv Sena party, the lead partner of the new coalition government in Maharashtra. “This is an unfair clause and will definitely be reframed.”

Costing Rs 1.1 trillion ($US 15.3bn), the line will be largely built on elevated tracks apart from a 21km section between Virar and Thane which includes a proposed 7km under-sea section.

Constructed as part of a government-to-government memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2017, 81% of the project’s funding will be made available through a Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) loan that has a 50-year repayment clause, with a 15-year moratorium period.

The authorised share capital of the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) is Rs 200bn. Of this, the Indian government has a 50% stake, while the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat each hold 25%.

Until last month, both Maharashtra and Gujarat, along with the national government, had been under the control of the BJP.

“With the Shiv Sena - Nationalist Congress Party - Congress coalition assuming power in Maharashtra, big policy changes are possible,” says NHSRCL managing director, Mr Achal Khare. “The ambitious Mumbai - Ahmedabad line could well become a victim of the fight between the political parties.

“It is too early to say whether the difference of opinion between the union and state government will lead to cost and time overruns. So far, we are meeting the defined timelines.”

"With regard to the new  Maharashtra government's decision to review the Mumbai Ahmedabad high-speed corridor project, JICA will continue to closely monitor the matter through communication with NHSRCL, which will make necessary coordination with relevant governments as the executing agency of the project," a Jica spokesperson told IRJ.

The official completion date for the project is in 2023, and Modi seems determined to showcase the big-ticket project as his government’s big achievement in the run up to the country’s next general election in 2024.

When complete, travel times between the cities would be reduced to 2h 7m compared with the current travel time of more than 6 hours.

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