Iconic CST railway track to be shut down on December 2014

Central Railway authorities will close the track between platform numbers 1 and 2 on the Harbour line. They will also extend adjacent rail lines to accommodate 12-car trains as partof the proposed Rs 1,800 crore plan to make CST a world-class station.

CR says that platform number 1 at CST is historically significant but closing it is essential to ease commuter woes. File Photo

Mumbai’s first railway track at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) will shut forever. As per plans conceptualised by the Central Railway (CR), authorities will shut the track between platform number 1 and 2 on the Harbour line and level them with concrete by December 2014. This will be done to extend rail lines on Harbour line so they can accommodate 12-car trains in the near future. This is also part of the proposed Rs 1,800 crore plan to make CST a world-class station.

The CR officials say that after the first track at CST station (the one between platform numbers 1 and 2) is closed, track number 2 will become the first line for Harbour line trains.  File Photo

End of an era
The first train that ever ran in Mumbai was way back in April 1853 between Bori Bunder to Thane, thus creating a 160-year-old history for Indian Railways. However, the first-ever suburban electric multiple unit (EMU) local train with four coaches plied between CST and Kurla from the same platform number one on the Harbour line in February 1925.  “Line one at CST station on Harbour line has a historical significance. But we need to shut it to ease commuter traffic,” said a senior CR official.

At present, over 1,600 suburban train services and approximately 50 long distance trains operate on the 18 platforms at CST station. Every day around 580 local trains ply on the CST-Panvel Harbour line. The passenger count using local trains on CR has been growing drastically. At present, over 37 lakh passengers use the route on a daily basis. To cater to this ever-growing population, authorities want to replace nine-car trains with 12-car trains on the Harbour line.

This 33 per cent augmentation is being done at a proposed cost of around R714 crore. As per the plan, all platforms on the Harbour line have to be extended by December 2014.

The authorities had two options -- either partly demolish their administrative building along the Harbour line towards the north, which was a tedious job, or shift the tracks. Sources said at present they are going for the second option. Once the railway track between platforms 1 and 2 is filled with concrete, the track numbers will be shifted and the platform’s width will be increased on the west side of the station. Consequently, track number two between platforms 2 and 3 will become the first line for the Harbour trains.

“After the tracks are levelled, the neighbouring track and platforms would be extended further north which can accommodate 12-car or even 15-car trains,” said a senior CR official on condition of anonymity. Even signals and crossovers would be changed accordingly.

Officials claim that there is already an existing line (tracks and platforms) right next to the existing fast corridor. “There is no need to put in another line. We only have to make changes in the existing one, which isn’t used much,” said another CR official. Right next to this, the slew of platforms meant for the long distance trains begin.

CST, a world-class station
Plans to make CST into a world-class station are hitting a roadblock time and again. The recent one is that structures coming up in the station’s vicinity shouldn’t be more than 24 metres. The CR had plans to develop buffer zones in and around the CST complex and had proposed a skyscraper, a three-star hotel, lodging facilities for passengers, a 20-storey shopping and commercial complex and eight buildings at the Wadi Bunder side of CST, on P D’Mello Road. All these could take a hit due to the height restrictions made during the recent heritage impact assessment report.

In other words, no structure can overshadow the dome of CST building. This effectively curtails all plans and allows no more than about seven storeys for any building that will come up. Nearly 10 years ago when the railways were in the process of obtaining ‘world heritage’ status for the terminus, they had mentioned three buffer zones surrounding the building, where any new development would be restricted.

The boundaries hemming in the CST structure are starkly uneven. On the west side, it extends till Metro cinema, on its south till the bus station, and on the east it goes right up to Wadi Bunder, which is more than a kilometre away.

The Buffer Zone game plan
Buffer Zone-I: It would be refashioned into a pedestrian zone, after clearing the taxi stand and shifting some amenities to the basement. Transferring of several offices and adding more platforms is also part of the proposal.
Buffer Zone-II: The authorities should avoid any high-rise development that could obstruct the view of the heritage site from a distance.
Buffer Zone-III: They have proposed skyscrapers and hotels. 

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