A railway budget to bring Mumbai back on track

In his maiden budget speech, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu approved seven new projects worth Rs 8,775 crore to bolster the city’s suburban network; mid-day had reported on all seven being pitched by the railways

After years of neglect and tokenism, the city finally has something to cheer about in the Railway Budget. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has approved all the seven projects pitched for by the railway authorities, in order to strengthen the suburban railway infrastructure that is bursting at its seams.

Commuters near the railway crossing at Jogeshwari. Railways have identified 14 stretches where trespassing occurs and propose to take measures to crack down on the menace. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Commuters near the railway crossing at Jogeshwari. Railways have identified 14 stretches where trespassing occurs and propose to take measures to crack down on the menace. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Though there were no new trains announced or no passenger fare hike, Prabhu, in his maiden budget, sought to ensure ongoing works and those proposed for the city get completed. mid-day had reported on February 25 that the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC), the body tasked with expanding the railway network in the city, had pitched for seven new projects to be included in the Railway Budget 2015-16.

An FOB at Dadar has no roof. Dadar is one of the 20 stations that have been approved for a makeover, a project that is expected to cost R1,950 crore till completion. Pic/Atul Kamble
An FOB at Dadar has no roof. Dadar is one of the 20 stations that have been approved for a makeover, a project that is expected to cost R1,950 crore till completion. Pic/Atul Kamble

Prabhu has approved the projects worth Rs 8,775 crore under Mumbai Urban Transport Project-III (MUTP-III). However, by the time these reach completion the cost will have run up to Rs 11,441 crore.

mid-day’s February 25 report
mid-day’s February 25 report

New lines
Sources said there are mainly three new lines: Panvel-Karjat doubling, Kalwa-Airoli elevated connector and lines 3 and 4 on the Virar-Dahanu stretch. All three are multi-crore projects that would enhance the capacity of the suburban network. They shall also help in extending rail lines further north of Mumbai.

There is a growth of nearly 80,000 commuters on the entire suburban network that carries a good 76 lakh people every day. Prabhu, in his speech, said, “The suburban rail networks are the lifeline for metro cities of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

To meet growing demand, there is an urgent need for integrated transport solutions. We propose to take up MUTP-III for Mumbai.” The minister also mentioned that expansion of the railway network to remote and backward areas serves as an engine for growth and brings overall socio-economic development in the region. The state government has also apparently accepted rail’s plan to share their finances for the growth of railway.

No trespassing
Another approved proposal is to clamp down on commuter trespassing people crossing railway tracks in the city. There are 14 stretches notorious for trespassing, which cause commuter deaths daily. These include Thane-Kalwa, Mahim-Matunga, Ghatkopar-Vikhroli, and Govandi-Mankhurd.

A proposed Rs 520 crore will be spent to tackle this problem. This includes installation of escalators, elevators, building foot over bridges (FOBs) and providing green cover. A total of 26 escalators, 12 FOBs, 8 elevators are expected to be installed at select stations.

Green patches will be developed in between tracks or at the end of the platforms. “Initially these will be implemented at 12 stations,” said an official. Preliminary work shall begin in May. The state government has approved the holistic makeover of 20 railway stations in Mumbai.

These are Bhayander, Mira Road, Borivli, Goregaon, Andheri, Bandra, Dadar, Lower Parel, Mumbai Central on the Western line; Shahad, Kalyan, Dombivli, Thane, Mulund, Ghatkopar, Kurla, Dadar on the Central Railway Main line and Chembur and Wadala on its Harbour line. From Rs 1,500 crore in the planning stages, costs are expected to touch Rs 1,950 crore till completion.

Sunny days
Prabhu also announced the use of solar energy at railway stations and its premises. “To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it is intended to expand sourcing of solar power as part of the Solar Mission of Railways.

1,000 MW solar plants will be set up by developers on railway and private land and on rooftops of railway buildings at their own cost, with subsidy or viability gap funding support of the Ministry of Non-Renewable Energy in the next five years,” he said. A pilot project for a solar panel has already been set up at Surat railway station.

Presently the railways in Mumbai are complaining about the increasing cost of electricity they buy from distributors. Officials claim they have to pay as much as R9 per unit, while the charges in neighbouring stages are around R4-6 per unit.

In an acre of land, normally, solar panels can generate 1 MW of electricity. This is sufficient to run nearly 800-1,000 homes. Railways are still working on the project to ascertain how many acres of land it will be able to provide for the solar energy panels.

Western Railway in Mumbai have sent to the railway ministry a list of stations where solar panels can be installed for energy production. This includes Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Andheri, Bandra, Borivli and others.

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