Despite ropeway, cable tram to Matheran back on track

Sep 19, 2011, 08:20 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

MMRDA had decided to scrap Rs 100-crore cable railway project due to PWD's ropeway project; but chief secretary now insists on the project that he had announced when he was MMRDA chief

The MMRDA was forced to reconsider its plans of doing away with the proposed funicular railway -- trams hauled by cables or ropes -- to Matheran after state chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad made clear his intentions to press on with the project that was announced during his tenure at the MMRDA.

Slowly Rolling: The toy train that currently transports tourists to
Matheran takes about two hours from Nerul. file PIC

MMRDA officials are of the opinion that the Rs 100-crore funicular railways be scrapped since the Public Works Department (PWD) has already planned a ropeway along the same route, which would be quicker to build for less than half the cost.

But Gaikwad, who was MMRDA commissioner when the project was planned, cites tourist interests to see the project through.

Last Friday, after reviewing the ongoing projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Gaikwad made it clear that none of the projects announced during his tenure, including funicular railway at Matheran and Mangrove Park at Gorai, have been scrapped.

"None of the projects have been scrapped. The work of Mangroves Park at Gorai has already started. But we are going slowly over the funicular railway, as we will have to discuss it with the PWD, which also has plans to construct a ropeway in the area and we don't want both the projects to clash," he said.

After Rahul Asthana took over from Gaikwad as the authority's commissioner earlier in the year, he had said that MMRDA would emphasise more on infrastructure projects within MMR and reconsider taking up other projects. But the authority, after giving indications of scrapping the funicular project, is repeating the statement made by its former boss. Said a senior official on condition of anonymity, "We have not scrapped the projects but are going slow. We are also in talks with railways, and once we get the permission, we will implement the project."

However, an MMRDA official who did not wished to be named said that investing Rs 100 crore in the funicular railway would be nothing but a waste of public money. "The PWD's ropeway in Matheran was planned much before the funicular railway.

It is much more viable because its construction cost will be less than half the cost of funicular railway, and it would take much lesser time for completion. Before announcing the funicular railway, the MMRDA should have checked with the PWD."

The statement made by Gaikwad on Friday shows the growing rift between the state's top bureaucrat and the MMRDA Commissioner on how the agency responsible for the city's infrastructure should operate.

Why funicular?
In February this year, the MMRDA under Gaikwad, had invited tenders from interested parties for designing, construction, development, financing, operating and maintaining funicular railway between Matheran and Dudhani. The authority had said that a double reversible funicular railway, with two passenger cars and attached goods trolleys, would help in transporting tourists and cargo to Matheran much faster than the road route. It would cover a route of 1.3 km from Dudhani village near Panvel to Maillot Spring Point in Matheran within 10 minutes.

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