European rivals, who did not succeed in the bidding for India’s ambitious bullet train project, are casting aspersions about the Japanese Shinkansen technology. Work for the first such project in India, connecting Ahmedabad with Mumbai, got off in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe this week. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 1.08 lakh crore. Railway Ministry sources said there is a concerted effort by vested interests to undermine the project by casting doubts on it. “These forces are out to prove that India is not ready to run a bullet train when its normal train running operations is under question. They are citing the recent incidents of train derailment to prove their point,” said sources.“Similar questions were raised when Maruti Suzuki came to India three decades ago. In the last four-five decades, we did not upgrade our railway infrastructure. We continued to run our trains with old technology. As a result, India could not keep up with the world. This is an opportunity to shift to modern technology. The bullet train will bring with it a new era in the railways and India will be a member of the prestigious league of countries having high speed trains,” said an official.
According to these sources, what prompted the Ministry of Railways to award the work of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) to Shinkansen technology was its zero accident history and the loan which is coming almost for “free”. “There were proposals from many countries, mostly European. However, we opted for Japanese technology as it was coming almost free of cost and with such a favourable funding. Those countries which could not bag this project are now trying to create doubts over it. But the government is determined to do it. Though the project is supposed to be completed by December 2023, we would like it to be completed by 15 August 2022,” the official said. As a part of the cooperation agreement between India and Japan, Japan is providing a soft loan of about Rs 88,000 crore at an interest of 0.1 %. Repayment of the loan will begin after 15 years of receiving the loan, which makes it practically free, since the loan interest works out to be about Rs 7-8 crore per month. They said this is the first time in India that an infrastructure project is being funded under such favourable terms. The repayment period is 50 years, with a grace period of 15 years. Generally, any such loan comes with an interest rate of 5-7 % with a repayment period of 25-35 years. India is getting the loan at almost zero cost, as more that 80% of the project cost is being funded by the Japan government. What also prompted India to go for the Japanese technology is that it was getting the cutting-edge technology in totality. “The Shinaknsen technology is known for its reliability and safety and is proven for more than 50 years. The train delay record of Shinkansen is less than a minute, with zero fatality. There has not been a single accident in the last 50 years,” sources added.