The coastal town of Alibaug is known for its never-ending beaches and verdant greenery. What it is not known for is a well-connected railway route. City dwellers who often head towards this popular weekend destination have complained in the past about its poor rail connectivity.
And going by the present deadlock, they have to wait. Plans to extend the suburban section right upto this town in Raigad district via the Pen-Alibaug corridor seem to be stuck in a limbo, as the Railway authorities and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) don’t seem to be on the same page over its funding. At present, commuters have to take the catamaran or ferry services from Gateway of India till Mandva, which takes 45 minutes. From there, they have to catch a bus to Alibaug, which takes another hour.
The proposed 28-km long Pen-Alibaug rail corridor for suburban train services will not only give rail connectivity to Alibaug, but also extend suburban services beyond the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Sources in Central Railway (CR) said that they have also prepared the proposed alignment for this project, estimated at Rs 300 crore. The MMRDA however hasn’t reciprocated the enthusiasm.
“It was also submitted to the MMRDA since we want the state government to pitch in with at least 50 per cent of the funding. We need support from the MMRDA, as it is developing the metropolitan region. Other sources confirmed that the railway minister spoke about the project last week in parliament after MP Anant Geete raised the issue. Geete is said to have pushed for the project on the grounds that the rail route would further boost tourism in Alibaug.
Railway officials said that the revenue generated from this project would be meagre, as no freight trains will be plying and employment would be only through suburban services. So they want the state to partly bear the expenditure. As per the plan, diesel suburban trains will run from Panvel to Pen, aligned along the proposed Virar-Alibaug highway and the Pen-Thal goods line. The rail line is expected to terminate at Khandala, which is a small village near Alibaug.
“Initial plans have been prepared and it could be considered for any of the future MUTP projects,” said Subodh Jain, General Manager, CR. The MMRDA, however, seems to be on a different page altogether. They want to first focus on constructing the Rs 3,600-crore plus proposed Virar-Alibaug road corridor, and so had refused to pitch in with funds for the rail project. “At first we had refused to fund this project. However, we are now planning a meeting with the chief secretary to decide the future course of action,” said Rahul Asthana, MMRDA commissioner.
Time catamaran or ferry services take to cover distance from Gateway of India to Mandva