Japan helps India launch first bullet train project
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Thursday launched the start of work on India's first bullet train.
The leaders meet at Ahmedabad in Modi's home state of Gujarat to lay the foundation stone for the 508 kilometer (315 mile) Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rai project.
"A strong India is in Japan's interest and a strong Japan is in India's interest," Abe said after laying the stone. He said the partnership between the two countries was "special, strategic and global".
Modi described the rail scheme as a "big gift" from Japan. "I congratulate the people of India as we have taken a bold step to realize an old dream of bullet train," he added.
The project, a joint venture between Indian Railways and Shinkansen Technology of Japan, is part-funded by a $17 billion loan from Japan.
The first train is estimated to start running in 2023 but Modi said it should be launched on Aug. 15, 2022, when India celebrates its 75th year of independence.
The train is expected to reduce the travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai from eight to two hours at an average speed of 250 kph (155 mph).
More than 22 million passengers use India's rail network daily but the system is blighted by aging stock and poor maintenance that have controbuted to nearly 590 train accidents in the last five years.