Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train in Ahmedabad. The high-speed train will run from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.

“Japan is committed to the ‘Make in India’ scheme,” Abe said after inaugurating the project with Modi. “Dear friend Narendra Modi is a far-sighted leader who decided to make a ‘New India’ and choose Japan as a partner. We completely support it.”

Modi said New India had taken an important step towards fulfilling a big dream. “If technology is used to empower the poor, then we can fight poverty,” he said, thanking Japan for providing technical and financial help to get the bullet train project going. He said Tokyo had given New Delhi a loan of Rs 88,000 crore for the project at the interest of only 0.1%.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is turning into a Single Economic Zone, the Indian prime minister said. “The project brings with it thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities. The ‘Make In India’ initiative will also get a boost,” he added.

The bullet train project comes at a cost of Rs 1.1 lakh crore. The Shinkansen high-speed bullet train, which India bought from Japan, will cover the 650-km distance between Ahmedabad and Mumbai in two hours. The project is expected to be completed in 10 years.

Several other ministers were also present at the event in Ahmedabad. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that with the foundation stone for the bullet train project, “we are also laying foundation of a ‘New India’”. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said this bullet train “will be a symbol of brotherhood between the people of India and Japan”.

Reactions to the project

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena on Thursday called the bullet train project “unnecessary”, saying the Maharashtra government would have to spend Rs 30,000 crore on it.

“The prime minister’s dream is not for the common man, but for the interest of the wealthy and the business class,” the party said in its mouthpiece Saamana. “Even as Mumbai local trains suffer daily, a bullet train will be running between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.”

The editorial also refuted Modi’s claim that the project will generate employment. “Right from the screws and tracks to labourers and cement, everything will come from Japan,” it said. “The bottom line here is that the land and funds will come from the governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat, while the profits will go to Japan.”