Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train on Fast Track with HC’s Help. Today is Big Day for Undersea Tunnel in Thane Creek

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is of “national importance and in public interest”, said the Bombay High Court on Thursday while dismissing a petition filed by Godrej & Boyce company.

The firm challenged acquisition proceedings initiated by the Maharashtra government and the NHSRCL in Mumbai’s Vikhroli area for the project. A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and M M Sathaye said the project was one-of-its-kind and collective interest would prevail over private interest.

The state government and the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) had claimed the company was delaying the entire project which was of public importance.

The authorities had told the HC that the acquisition process of the entire line for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was complete except the land owned by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited in Vikhroli area.

Tender for Bullet Train Project’s Undersea Tunnel Opens Today

The tender for constructing a 21-km tunnel, including a 7-km undersea stretch, of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor (bullet train) will open on Thursday, February 9, a report in Indian Express stated.

The tunnel, the first undersea passage in India, will be built at Thane creek, between underground stations at Bandra-Kurla Complex and Shilphata in Maharashtra.

The report stated that the tunnel is crucial to the bullet train project and is seen as the most challenging piece of civil engineering in the high-speed rail corridor. It may take around 60 months to construct.

The bullet train project is a 508-km corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, crossing Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The project is executed with technical and financial assistance from Japan, and costs around Rs 1.1 lakh, as per 2015 prices.

Salient Features of the Undersea Tunnel

• It will be a single-tube tunnel to accommodate twin tracks. The section will include constructing 39 equipment rooms at 37 locations adjoining the tunnel.

• Tunnel boring machine with a cutter head of 13.1-metre diameter will be used for construction. Usually, 5-6-metre diameter cutter heads are used for urban tunnels used in Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS) or Metros.

• The Indian Express report quoted an official statement: Three TBMs would be used to make about 16 km of the tunnel, and the remaining 5 km will be through the new Austrian tunnelling method (NATM).

• This tunnel will be about 25-65 metres deep from the ground level, and the deepest construction point will be 114 metres below Parsik hill near Shilphata.

Dispute Between Maharashtra Government & Godrej: The Background

Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited and the state government have been embroiled in a legal dispute over acquisition of the company-owned land in Vikhroli area of Mumbai for the bullet train project since 2019.

Of the total 508.17 kilometres of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is planned to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land in Vikhroli (owned by Godrej).

The state government had earlier informed the court that it has already deposited the Rs 264 crore compensation amount awarded to the company in October last year.

The Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd had filed a petition challenging an order of September 15, 2022 passed by the Maharashtra government awarding compensation to it for land acquisition for the bullet train project.

It had termed the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the state government as “unlawful” and claimed there were “multiple and patent illegalities” in the same.

The HC bench, however, said it has not found any illegality in the compensation or proceedings initiated by the authorities. “The project is of national importance and in public interest. We have not found any illegality in the compensation. It is the paramount collective interest that would prevail and not private interest,” the court said.

The company has not made out a case for the court to exercise its powers and hence no interference is required, it added.

Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for the company, sought the HC to stay its order for a period of two weeks so that they could approach the Supreme Court in appeal. The bench, however, refused to stay its order.

The company had earlier sought the HC to direct the state government not to proceed towards the award passed and initiation possession proceedings.

It said the award granted by the government was “ex facie illegal and hence a nullity”. It also refuted the allegations made by the government and the NHSRCL that the company was causing unnecessary delay in the project.

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