Bandra station: Heritage in the west, east in the dumps

While the railways is set to bring the heritage structure on the west side of Bandra station back to its former glory, the east side remains neglected with close to no development of the land there, valued at around Rs 4,500 crore

Bandra station could be a study in extremes; on the west lies the impressive façade of its historic building, and on the east lies a vast expanse of nothing but muck and slums. And this polarity is only set to get worse, with Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu yesterday announcing an elaborate plan to revive the heritage structure on the west.

Spot the difference: While the heritage building (above) on the west side will soon undergo restoration to bring it back to its former glory, the east side has seen little or no development, but the WR chief has assured that this would change in the future.
Spot the difference: While the heritage building (above) on the west side will soon undergo restoration to bring it back to its former glory, the east side has seen little or no development, but the WR chief has assured that this would change in the future.

Yet, little has been done so far to uplift the east side, despite the fact that it houses prime land — valued at around Rs 4,500 crore.

A view from the Bandra skywalk tells the whole story — this side is crammed with little else than slum dwellings, stacked one on top of another. Years ago, these were temporary structures but after a fire spread through them — miraculously causing no loss of life — the hutments made a return as permanent concrete structures.

Spot the difference: While the heritage building (above) on the west side will soon undergo restoration to bring it back to its former glory, the east side has seen little or no development, but the WR chief has assured that this would change in the future.

The empty land is currently being used by people to farm vegetables and other plants but could just as easily be turned into a scenic spot for citizens to enjoy, with the greenery and a pond making for a beautiful backdrop.

“These are illegal slums and it is the state government’s job to remove them. There are lot of political barriers too that hinder their removal,” said a Western Railway official.

The Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is quite close to this area, and is now said to be the costliest commercial hub in Mumbai. Ironically however, the value of this land has served as a deterrent for development.

“There was a proposal to commercially develop this property; however, we didn’t receive much interest from the private parties,” said another WR official, adding that one of the reasons stated was that the cost of this property is pegged at R4,500 crore, making it unviable for private developers.

“We will be working out (the issue) with the state government to resolve this matter,” said SK Sood, general manager, Western Railway.

Meanwhile, yesterday Indian Railways signed a Memorandum of Underst-anding (MoU) with UNESCO to revamp Bandra station (west) which is listed as a Grade I heritage building. As part of the study, a conservation plan will be developed to restore the heritage building, as well as a strategic plan to redesign the surrounding public spaces to improve traffic flow, signage, pedestrian paths, public amenities and cultural vibrancy. The study will begin in July and will be completed by the end of this year.

“Once we get the study report, we will begin work within four months,” said a railway board official. The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, has also been approached to create a 3D simulation and walkthrough of the main station building, highlighting the heritage aspects and unique features of architectural design.

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