THE National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) of India has called tenders for the design and construction of an underground station in Mumbai for the 508km high-speed line from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.

Bids are due to be submitted between October 13 and 18, and are scheduled to be opened on October 21.

The civil and building works contract includes the construction of a cut and cover tunnel and Shaft 1 between kilometre points 0.255 and 0.775 at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai.

Local obstacles to the Mumbai - Ahmedabad project have been removed following the change of government in Maharashtra state in June, and the programme is now gaining momentum after accumulating delays and cost overruns.

NHSRCL is preparing documents for other station tenders to be called later this year, likely to include Vapi, Bilimora and Bharuch.

India’s railways minister, Mr Ashwini Vaishnaw, has said that the country’s first section of high-speed line, running for 50km from Surat to Bilimora, would be ready by 2026.

Funding has started to arrive in the form of a first tranche from a Yen 100bn ($US 755.1m) loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), under an agreement signed by Jica and the Indian government on July 25.

The government under prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi, is keen to show progress with construction ahead of the next parliamentary elections scheduled in 2024, but land acquisition in Maharashtra remains a source of delay.

Only 72.2% of the land required has been acquired in Maharashtra, compared with 98% in Gujarat and 100% in the Union Territory of Dadar and Nagar Haveli (DNH).

In Maharashtra as a whole, NHSRCL has taken possession of only 39% of the land, comprising 40% in the Palghar area and 36.3% in the Thane district but none of the 4.8ha required in the Mumbai Suburban area.

Project costs are also likely to increase following a change in policy that will now see all electrical, signalling and control systems sourced exclusively from Japan.

The Indian and Japanese governments are also believed to have agreed on the need to import additional tunnel boring machines (TBM) for the 22km tunnel connecting Thane Creek in Mumbai with the mainland area, where only two TBMs were to be acquired.

“Work on Thane Creek - the weakest link in the corridor - is unlikely to begin anytime soon,” says one project insider.

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