A picture may be worth a thousand words, but often one word can illustrate umpteen images. And that is all chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan needed to describe everything he saw at the Ghatkopar Metro station yesterday. “Horrible!” was Chavan’s concise comment. The CM not only found the station area extremely cramped and inapt, he was also discontented by the fact that the much-anticipated Mumbai Metro Railway project has been delayed by eight months and is now expected to be operational only by March 2013.
The concern moreover is that the chief minister himself claims he is helpless as the project is being consummated by Reliance Infrastructure – a private body – and the government only has a 26 per cent stake. “It is true that the Metro has been deferred, but we have limited control as it is being implemented by a private company,” said Chavan yesterday.
The CM thought the buildings next to Ghatkopar station were too close and maintained this is not what an elevated metro rail should look like. Sources said the width of the road adjoining Ghatkopar Metro station is 18.5 metres, while the station eats up about 18 metres of space, leaving the area very congested. However, officials from Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) said they are not at fault as the alignment was planned by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) — the nodal agency. “The framework was prepared by MMRDA and we cannot be blamed for that. It is true the chief minister said the Ghatkopar station looks congested,” said an MMOPL official on condition of anonymity.
Bhoomipujan of the Rs 2,356-crore (initial estimate) Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) corridor happened in June 2006 and as per the concession agreement, the project was supposed to be completed by March 2012. The wait has got longer. “We will try to at least begin the trial run by March 2013,” said a senior MMRDA official. The delay in procuring permissions from different agencies, like BMC and railways, apart from getting full right-of-way, led to severe cost escalation in the project. Chavan too has endorsed this fact.
Time is money
Sources in MMRDA said the project cost has risen by over 50 per cent to around Rs 3,500 crore. Officials from MMOPL, however, attributed this to market fluctuations, change in prices of raw materials and other forces. The CM also said authorities had not anticipated several environment-related issues pertaining to the second metro rail project of Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd. “We are facing problems from the environment ministry as there are mangroves at the proposed car depot,” he said. Now, MMRDA is scouting for tracts at Goregaon and Mankhurd of minimum 20 hectares each, which it expects to acquire in three months. The Metro station at Ghatkopar was one among several places visited by the chief minister yesterday to apprise himself of the developments. He also stopped by at the Monorail sites, which are being readied for operations to commence by January 2013.
The Eastern Freeway that will allow motorists to ply all the way to south Mumbai from eastern suburbs is likely to be ready by December this year. MMRDA also claims it will open the Anik-Panjrapole tunnel by this year-end.