India's train lines are notoriously slow and under-maintained

India gives go ahead for Japanese bullet train line

India has approved a $14.7bn (£9.7bn) loan from Japan to build the country’s first bullet train line.

The loan has been offered at less than one per cent interest to construct the new train route between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The decision, which comes a few days prior to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the country, gives Japan an early lead over China which is also bidding to build a high-speed rail line.

An official in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office confirmed the decision, saying there were some issues relating to the bullet train, but they had been sorted out in time for Abe's visit.

"We expect to make an announcement during the visit," said an official who declined to be identified.

A railway official said a panel led by Modi's adviser, Arvind Panagariya, had cited the accident-free record of the Japan's high-speed trains in its recommendation.

Although the Japanese loan should meet 80 per cent of the cost of project, it is on condition that India buys 30 per cent of equipment including the coaches and locomotives from Japanese firms.

The Chinese are also currently assessing the feasibility of a high-speed train between Delhi and Mumbai, although the 1,200km route is estimated to cost twice as much as the Mumbai to Ahmedabad route and no loan has been offered so far.

Modi and Abe have recently forged a strong relationship in order to expand commercial and defence ties and push back against the rising influence of China across Asia.

In September, China won a contract on a similar project with Indonesia to build a 150km fast train rail link to connect capital Jakarta with the textile hub in Bandung.

Japan's International Cooperation Agency completed a feasibility study in July on the 505km Mumbai to Ahmedabad corridor offering to cut travel time to two hours from the current seven to eight hours.

French and Spanish firms are also conducting studies into building two additional high-speed routes in a quadrilateral of criss-crossing lines across the country that would drastically reduce travel times.

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