2016 the warm-up: Upcoming projects that could ease Mumbai's woes

From AC local trains with automatic doors to more open spaces, and a five-star hotel at the airport to a coastal road project, there’s a lot in store for Mumbaikars. Here’s a lowdown

Coming soon: Locals with AC and automatic doors
The introduction of trains with automatic doors will no doubt prevent mishaps like the shocking death of Dombivli youth Bhavesh Nakate after he fell off a packed CST local in November.

Deadline: March 2016 (closed doors); Mid-2016 (AC train)
The introduction of trains with automatic doors will no doubt prevent mishaps like the shocking death of Dombivli youth Bhavesh Nakate after he fell off a packed CST local in November.

Railway officials began testing the automatic doors on coaches in March 2015. This March, the revamped coaches with automated doors will begin rolling in. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Railway officials began testing the automatic doors on coaches in March 2015. This March, the revamped coaches with automated doors will begin rolling in. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Coaches with automated doors will ensure passengers don’t fall off, or try to pull off dangerous stunts, like leaning out of the doorway. In addition, the city’s first air conditioned local is also expected to roll out by March or April.

Currently, rail authorities are discussing what format to employ for the AC rakes - three AC coaches attached to a regular local train or a single AC local train or an AC coach after every two regular coaches.

BEST buses go green
Deadline: Mid-2016 onwards
The year 2016 is when the quintessential red BEST buses will go green — the BEST Undertaking is procuring 30 electric buses this year.

BEST will get 30 electric buses and  30 low-floor buses for the physically challenged  this year. File pic for representation
BEST will get 30 electric buses and  30 low-floor buses for the physically challenged  this year. File pic for representation

Apart from this, BEST is also getting another 30 buses with low floors to improve accessibility for physically challenged commuters. Each bus will cost Rs 65 lakh each.

On the downside, the Undertaking will cut down its bus fleet from 4,100 to 3,900 buses. However, the fleet will be back to full strength by March 2017.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train
Deadline: Undecided
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced this Rs 98,000-crore high speed rail corridor, the project has met with mixed reactions, but railway sources said 2016 will likely pump some momentum into the plan, with a series of meetings between railway officials from Delhi and Mumbai to figure out the details.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor is expected to reduce commuting time between the two cities to less than two hours from the current seven. Pic/AFPThe Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor is expected to reduce commuting time between the two cities to less than two hours from the current seven. Pic/AFP

The main problem is that the state is unwilling to part with prime real estate at BKC, where the rail corridor is proposed to begin. Once this is sorted out, the government will get both technical and financial assistance from Japan, renowned for its bullet trains.

Yes, we cab!
Deadline: Undecided
Did your cab driver charge an exorbitant amount citing ‘surge prices’ while dropping you home after New Year celebrations last night? Well, if the state Transport Department has its way, this could soon become a thing of the past.

File pic for representation
File pic for representation

The state has already drafted the City Taxi Scheme, 2015, which will govern all taxi services, be it black-and-yellow cabs, fleet taxis or mobile app-based cab aggregators like Uber and Ola. Not only will cabbies be made accountable for their pricing and quality of service, they will also become accountable for passenger safety, as the policy will make it mandatory to install GPS and SOS safety systems.

12-car trains on Harbour line
Deadline: March 2016
The most neglected section of Mumbai’s suburban railways will finally get 12-car trains this year, making train travel easier for the 10 lakh commuters who use this service daily.

Over 10 lakh commuters cram into the Harbour line trains every day. With the introduction of 12-car trains, more space will be created for passengers. File pic
Over 10 lakh commuters cram into the Harbour line trains every day. With the introduction of 12-car trains, more space will be created for passengers. File pic

The extra coaches will increase the carrying capacity of each train by 33 per cent, thus accommodating an additional 3 lakh passengers. This required a major transformation of tracks and platforms at stations between CST and Panvel, but the work is now 75% complete.

Giving Mumbai its space back
With open spaces being gobbled up right under its nose, the BMC will have to introduce a policy that not only protects these spaces, but also appeases all the stakeholders.

Deadline: This year
The open space policy is likely to be finalised in 2016. Slammed for favouring politicians and corporates alike, the BMC will have to get rid of these loopholes.

With elections just around the corner, neither the Sena (which is in support) nor the BJP (in opposition) will want to start the New Year on the wrong foot.

While the policy is expected to be tabled before the General Assembly in January, activists are already up in arms against it. Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta can check if there is a need to hand over plots to third parties at all, instead of developing them himself (BMC).

Airport’s five-star
Deadline: End of 2016
The Mumbai airport could become the first in India to house a five-star hotel. Work is already in progress, and the Taj Santacruz might just welcome its first guest in 2016.

Although it was to launch in November 2015 after the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) offered a final clearance in October, security concerns and a few last minute permissions have led to a delay.

Jet and SpiceJet at T2
Deadline: March and mid-2016 respectively
Jet Airways and SpiceJet counters will operate from the T2 this year. Jet was earlier believed to shift this month but March is the new deadline, followed by SpiceJet in the middle of the year. Go Air and Indigo will continue to operate from Terminal 1B.

Additional airlines
Deadline: Undecided
Mumbai may see German carrier Lufthansa operate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, from Mumbai to Frankfurt. Its introduction will see the airline offer 170 more seats every day from what it currently offers.

Lufthansa fliers will have the option to fly premium economy class or premium economy — an upgraded economy class launched by Lufthansa globally in 2014.

Annual budget
Like every year, BMC’s annual budget is bound to become a hot topic for discussion. While roads and civil works departments are expected to hog most of the funds, investment is expected in gender budget - for economically backward women, debris management, clearing of dumping grounds, public parking lots, saving mangroves, and other unconventional areas.

BMC was criticised for replacing the yellow lights at Marine Drive with LED bulbs. File pic
BMC was criticised for replacing the yellow lights at Marine Drive with LED bulbs. File pic

The civic body needs to effectively mobilise public participation to ensure investments are made wherever necessary. For example, the BMC faced flak for two Central government projects in 2015. One was replacing streetlights at Marine Drive from yellow sodium vapour lamps to white LEDs.

Second was the Smart City project, which largely focused on developing Lower Parel as a centre of commerce. The BMC failed to convey its reasons to Mumbaikars for doing so and ended up taking unpopular decisions. In the New Year, it will have to avoid repeating these mistakes.

Draft Development Plan
Deadline: February 2016
One of the major topics of discussion among Mumbaikars in the first-half of 2016 will be the Draft Development Plan (DP).

With its February 2016 deadline inching closer, officials from the DP department are burning the midnight oil to ensure an error-free draft. All this is happening under the leadership of veteran Ramnath Jha, a former bureaucrat.

But despite taking extra efforts, the draft made headlines for the glaring mistakes in its designation survey. Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta will have to be on his toes to ensure nothing goes wrong.

The same goes for the hawking and parking policies. People had discarded both the policies in the past, as the former brought hawkers to their doorstep and the latter took away their parking space.

Mehta, however, can’t take forever to implement the hawking policy as the issue is being monitored by the High Court. He will have to strike a fine balance between pleasing SoBo residents and protecting livelihood of hawkers.

Coastal road project
Deadline: Gets MoEF’s green signal

Since its inception, the project has remained a bone of contention between environment activists and the BMC.

Environmentalists are upset with the MoEF for giving the green signal to the road. File pic for representation
Environmentalists are upset with the MoEF for giving the green signal to the road. File pic for representation

While the Ministry of Environment and Forest issued a notification recently allowing the state to reclaim land for construction of the road, it cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Green activists are upset at the go-ahead and feel the road will be a waste of money.

Soon, you can hop onto Monorail Phase II
The Wadala-Jacob Circle corridor will most likely be launched by mid-2016

Deadline: Mid-2016
For Mumbaikars who brave the arduous traffic from the eastern suburbs to the central suburbs every day, the ride is set to get a lot easier with the completion of the Monorail on the Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle corridor.

By the end of this month, you will likely see trial runs being completed on the Monorail’s final stretch between Wadala and Jacob Circle. Pic/Bipin Kokate
By the end of this month, you will likely see trial runs being completed on the Monorail’s final stretch between Wadala and Jacob Circle. Pic/Bipin Kokate

By the end of this month, you will most likely see the Monorail whooshing by during the trial runs, and if all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to hop on to it by the middle of the year.

According to officials at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the present ridership on the Monorail is 15,000-17,000 per day; a number that is expected to double once the final stretch between Wadala and Jacob Circle is thrown open to the public.

“More than 90 per cent civil work on the Wadala-Jacob Circle stretch has been completed and if everything goes according to plan, from mid-2016, commuters will be able to travel from Jacob Circle to Wadala and Chembur,” said MMRDA joint project director Dilip Kawatkar.

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link
Deadline: 2020
The year 2016 will breathe new life into the crucial Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project, which will connect Sewree on the Mumbai with Nhava Sheva in Raigad district.

The Rs 11,000-crore project has been in the pipeline since the 1970s, but will finally see the light of day at the end of this year, when work is expected to begin.

Two more Metro lines
Deadline: 2020
Work on two more Metro lines — Dahisar East-Andheri East (16.50 km) and Dahisar East-Charkop-DN Nagar-Mankhurd (18.6 km) — will begin in mid-2016.

New and improved: Old Mumbai-Pune highway
Deadline: 2019
Accidents and motion sickness on the winding ghats will become a thing of the past with the augmentation of the old Mumbai-Pune Highway, which will not only expand the current four lanes to eight, but also add a 9-km tunnel cutting through the ghats between Khopoli and Lonavala.

A new 9-km tunnel will allow motorists to cut a straight route through the ghats. Pic/Sameer Markande
A new 9-km tunnel will allow motorists to cut a straight route through the ghats. Pic/Sameer Markande

The project could begin by the middle of this year, provided it gets clearance from the MoEF. Not only will motorists be able to bypass the ghats — the most accident-prone stretch on the highway — but the project will also segregate the old highway and the Expressway and reduce travel time by 30-45 minutes.

Colaba-Bandra- Seepz Metro
Deadline: 2019
The city’s first completely underground Metro project will also get on track this year, with construction expected to begin in mid-2016.

File pic for representation
File pic for representation

Metro III is a much-needed connection between south Mumbai and the western suburbs, but is currently embroiled in controversy as activists have opposed the construction of the car depot in the forested Aarey Colony.

This ambitious Rs 24,000-crore project might also be extended from Seepz to Kanjurmarg.

Kalanagar junction flyover
Deadline: Mid-2018

Tired of pointlessly waiting at the Kalanagar junction? With the beginning of this year, will start the construction of a 2-km flyover that will allow you to bypass the Kalanagar traffic signal if you are heading towards Bandra (east), Reclamation or the Sea Link.

Motorists who complain of traffic jams at Kalanagar junction will soon be able to bypass the area via the soon-to-built flyover. File pic
Motorists who complain of traffic jams at Kalanagar junction will soon be able to bypass the area via the soon-to-built flyover. File pic

The flyover will start near the Income Tax office in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), pass over the Kalanagar junction and land on the south-bound lane of the Western Express Highway, ahead of the Bandra (east) skywalk.

With around 60,000 vehicles passing through this busy junction during peak hours, the R153-crore flyover will no doubt come as a relief to motorists stuck in traffic.

New Vashi bridge
Deadline: 2018
The existing Vashi bridge is a nightmare for motorists travelling between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, with its narrow width leading to a bottleneck on the crucial Sion-Panvel highway.

The narrow bridge over Vashi creek often leads to nasty traffic jams on the Sion-Panvel highway. Pic/Sameer Markande
The narrow bridge over Vashi creek often leads to nasty traffic jams on the Sion-Panvel highway. Pic/Sameer Markande

A new bridge has been discussed for over a decade, but 2016 is the year when work will finally begin. The project is likely to begin in September or October and will take two years to complete.

Thane-Borivli tunnel
Deadline: 24 months from start of project

The state’s longest proposed underground road tunnel, spanning 15 km between Thane and Borivli, could soon become reality if it gets the necessary permissions, including environment clearance. This will reduce travel time from the current peak hour duration of 90-120 minutes to a mere 20 minutes.

File pic for representation
File pic for representation

The twin-tube tunnel will start at Tikuji-ni-wadi (Thane), pass under the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and end at Ekta Nagar, Borivli, on the Western Express Highway. Two adjacent tunnels will hold three lanes each, and will be constructed using Tunnel Boring Machines.

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