To provide an alternative to commuters forced to travel to Dadar, Kurla or Wadala if they want to switch lines, MRVC considers a Panvel-Diva-Virar rail corridor for an east-west link in the far-off northern suburbs

In order to make travel more convenient for the 70 lakh suburban train commuters who are left with no option but to come all the way till Dadar, Kurla or Wadala if they want to switch between Western, Central and Harbour lines, MRVC officials are mulling a plan to interlink the northern extremes on the three lines. The plan proposes east-to-west connectivity on the Panvel-Diva-Virar corridor.

The planning agency of Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) will soon meet with senior railway officials in the Capital to discuss the matter. A senior official from MRVC said, "We will hold a meeting with railway officials in Delhi in the first week of January. Our priority is to ensure that during the Union railway budget, money is allotted to at least carry out a feasibility study for the proposed connectivity."

Once a marginal sum is allotted in the budget for analysing and studying the feasibility, things could fall in place, sources say. Presently, there are two tracks on the Panvel-Diva-Virar section which are used by goods trains, and sometimes, long-distance trains. The railway officials feel that it is impossible to run suburban services on the existing stretch due to the heavy goods trains traffic.

As per the initial plan agreed to by the state government and the railways, two more lines would be created to connect east and west on the three lines. "The proposal is in the planning stage and we are yet to work out the costs involved," said Prakashrao Vazalwar, Chief PRO, MRVC.

It was nearly a month back when the state government approved the new corridor, including this one. Considering the growing demand for better and enhanced connectivity from commuters in these areas, the project is deemed helpful and necessary. The state has given the in-principle approval for the feasibility study at an approximate cost of Rs 10 crore. Sources added that consultancy firm RITES is most likely to conduct the feasibility study.

Sources said that officials will also have to figure out a way to acquire portions of land for laying tracks, levelling of land and other works.

There is also a proposal for having a fast corridor on the 60-km Harbour line running from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to Panvel. Currently, there is a Thane-Panvel Trans Harbour line run by the Central Railway with over 100 services every day.