Doklam effect? China puts Chennai-Bengaluru high speed train project on backburner
Did the Doklam standoff lead to the delay in the implementation of the high speed train project in south India?
An internal brief of the Mobility Directorate on the status of nine high-speed projects of the railways shows that the Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore corridor, a 492 km stretch, lies in limbo because the Chinese railways has failed to respond to the ministry's communiques.
China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co Ltd (CREEC), a state-owned firm, had completed a feasibility study around a year ago but has stopped responding to Railway Ministry's emails, officials told PTI.
"The Chinese company submitted the final report in November 2016 and after that the Chinese team has suggested for a face to face interaction. No date has been fixed from their side," said the note prepared by the Mobility Directorate. On the reason for the delay, the brief states - "lack of response" from Chinese railways.
The brief also states that the feasibility study by CREEC was submitted to the Railway Board in November 2016 and after that the Chinese company had sought meetings with officials of the Board.
However, officials say that the Board has been unable to get in touch with officials of CREEC despite repeated communications sent to them via mails in the last six months.
"We have even tried to get in touch with them through their Embassy here, but we are yet to hear from them," said an official.
The ministry officials said that it was the standoff between the two countries in Bhutan's Doklam area between June 16 and August 28 this year that seems to have derailed the project.
"The study began in 2014 and they submitted the report in 2016. The entire cost was borne by them. In fact they have shown so much interest in collaborating with us for other projects as well, so we think that it was the standoff that must have raised doubts," said a senior rail official.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam since June 16 after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam.
The brief, prepared by the department in charge of all the high speed corridors, also states that except the Chinese roadblock, work on the eight other projects was on track.
China had in fact not only pitched for the Mumbai- Ahemdabad high speed network, which was finally bagged by Japan, but also for the bullet project in the Mumbai-Delhi sector, which is yet to be finalised.
China is also training railway engineers in heavy hauling and it is with Chinese collaboration that India is setting up its first railway university.
The Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore corridor is one of nine such high speed corridors being developed by the ministry. The aim was to increase the speed from the present 80 kmph to 160 kmph.