MUMBAI: On the backdrop of announcement of “review” of the USD 1 billion Bullet Train project, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday met Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who wanted to clear “misunderstandings” and gauge the new administration’s interest in the USD 10 billion Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project.
Branson met the CM at Matoshree, the Thackeray family bungalow in suburban Bandra, soon after the Shiv Sena chief returned from a tour of Pune district earlier in the day.
He had made it clear at an event here on Wednesday that the entire cost of the project will be borne by the private sector and it will not depend on any funding from the state.
“It is just a courtesy call (with Thackeray) and also to ensure that any misunderstandings regarding the project are cleared,” Branson had told reporters here.
“When there is a change in administration and you have a big project going on, it is important to have a courtesy call. Uddhav Thackeray and the various coalition people that he has around them need to meet people who are doing big projects or those wanting to do big projects in their state,” Branson had said.
“We just need to see whether the new government is keen as the old government (on the project),” he had added.
“It was a courtesy visit. During the meet the Hyperloop project as well as the aviation related issues were discussed. Branson spoke about various projects of his group. He also spoke of the possibilities of high-tech projects his group would like to develop in Maharashtra and the investment and employment potentials of such projects,” a senior government official who attended the meeting said after the meeting.
Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, CM’s Principal Secretary Bhooshan Gagrani and MLA Aditya Thackeray too attended the meeting.
Hyperloop is the name given to a technology originally conceived by Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk, wherein vacuum is used to transport people very fast. The technology is yet to be commercially launched and multiple companies are working on it.
Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One had stunned all by announcing the project when Devendra Fadnavis was the state’s chief minister and had promised to get the project going by 2020.
The Fadnavis government had accorded infrastructure status to the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project that seeks to reduce the travel time between the two cities to just 23 minutes.
However, the future of the project appeared bleak after new CM Thackeray announced a review of all the big-ticket infrastructure projects in light of the delicate fiscal health of the state.