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India to start first bullet train project

  • Jalees Andrabi

    Agence France-Presse

Ahmedabad | Thu, September 14, 2017 | 05:50 pm
India to start first bullet train project Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe look on during a ground breaking ceremony for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project in Ahmedabad on Sept.14, 2017. India's first bullet train project, a $19-billion initiative linking Ahmedabad to Mumbai, was launched Sept.14 as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe hailed fast-growing ties between Asia's two biggest democracies. (Agence France-Presse/Sam Panthaky)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday inaugurated India's first bullet train project -- a $19 billion line in the home state of Indian leader Narendra Modi intended to revitalise the country's vast but dilapidated network.

The initiative is seen as emblematic of fast warming relations between New Delhi and Tokyo, who are seeking to combat China's growing influence. 

It is also a new beginning for a rail transport system plagued by accidents and chronic delays.

The line, using Japanese trains and technology, will link Ahmedabad to India's financial capital Mumbai and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.

The 500 kilometre (310 mile) journey will be cut from eight hours now to just over two hours when services start.

"I hope to enjoy the beauty of India through the windows of the bullet train with Modi on my side when I come to India in a few years," Abe told a ceremony in Ahmedabad.

"It marks the beginning of a new chapter in ties between India and Japan."

Abe's visit comes just after a border standoff between India and China in a disputed and strategically important Himalayan area. The two prime ministers both hailed the strengthened ties between their countries.

"The Indo-Japan relationship is not just about bilateral trade. It has developed into a strategic and global partnership in the Indian-Pacific region," said Abe.

Modi has pledged to invest billions of dollars to modernise India's creaking railway system that remains the main form of travel for millions. The bullet train is one of his pet projects.

"Today India has taken a giant step in fulfilling a long cherished dream," Modi said to loud cheers from the audience.

"The bullet train project will bring great speed, great development and great technology to the country."

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