In June 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the first Metro rail corridor of Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG), scheduled to be completed by March this year. Fast-forward to 2012, and the VAG metro corridor construction is still moving at a snail’s pace.
Now, the Prime Minister is again expected to visit Mumbai on August 17, this time around to announce two more ambitious railway projects worth a total of Rs 32,000 crore.
The two projects are the Rs 21,000-crore Oval Maidan-Virar elevated corridor and the Rs 11,000 crore Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-Panvel fast corridor, both of which are being monitored by the Prime Minister’s office.
Sources in the railways said that PM Manmohan Singh, along with his delegation shall visit Mumbai and meet officials from the state government and railways to oversee the development of the two elevated corridors.
“There are several issues on both the projects, for which we are in talks with the state government and other concerned authorities. This visit by the Prime Minister is expected to set things straight,” said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity.
Both projects have received a mention in this year’s Railway Budget. Looking at the complexities involved in the projects, the railways claim that they need help from the state government on many aspects.
“There are land acquisition issues that also include private land, rehabilitation of people, shifting of utilities and many other things for which personal intervention from the Prime Minister would prove beneficial and could expedite the work,” said another railway official.
The 62.26 km long Oval Maidan-Virar elevated corridor recently got a go ahead from the rail ministry, which prepared a detailed project report for the same. On the other hand, railway officials here have prepared a detailed report on the CST-Panvel fast corridor section that will connect to the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport at Panvel.
The Railway Ministry and Planning Commission and other departments will then scrutinize this report, after which it will get a green light.
However, transport experts and rail commuter associations claim that the visit by the PM and his team is a political gimmick. “This is a pre-run to the elections and nothing more. If one remembers, the Metro Rail of Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor was also announced by PM Manmohan Singh in 2006, yet it is progressing slowly,” said Subhash Gupta, member, National Rail Users Consultative Committee (NRUCC).
Similarly, other experts feel that such interventions from political circles hardly matter. “There are many announcements from political parties. Till such a time that the project comes up, there is no use of making such announcements,” said Jagdeep Desai, transport expert.
Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro rail route
Length: 11.07 km
Project started: 2008
Date of completion: March 2012
Present status: Civil work 80 per cent complete
Length: 32 Km
Ground breaking ceremony was done in 2009
Project was expected to be complete five years from the date of commencement
Official date of completion: 2014
Present status: Only soil testing done. Actual work is yet to begin as the place for constructing car depot and casting yard is yet to be finalised
Jacob Circle-Wadala (phase II) Monorail
Project started: February 2009
Date of completion: End of 2013
Present status: 48% complete
Wadala-Chembur (phase I) Monorail
Project started: Feb 2009
Date of completion: Early 2013
Present status: 78% complete