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Railways dig deep for high-cost elevated corridor

Sources say a consultant would be hired by April to make the Rs 17,000 crore proposed project between Churchgate and Virar commercially viable

Eight months after the pre-feasibility study of the Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor stated the project was workable, railways are finally trying to make the venture financially viable. This, only days before the 2012-13 railway budget is to be tabled.


Lofty Ides: The elevated track on the Western line (above) will start
from Virar and terminate at the 22-acre Oval Maidan, Churchgate, going
underground and emerging at ground level wherever necessary.
File Pic


On February 17, the railways called tenders in Delhi for the purpose of appointing consultants who can suggest to them ways to make this approx Rs 17,000-crore corridor - deemed as one of the most sought-after railway projects - commercially feasible.

This is an important development as for over two years, the railways had been studying the technical expediency of actually having an elevated corridor on the 60-km Western Line. A document on the Indian Railways website states that the department has decided to appoint a financial consultant in connection with this elevated suburban rail corridor between Churchgate and Virar.

Over the top
"We are doing the groundwork here on this stretch and sending details to the railway board. This being a mega project, where expenditure could touch Rs 20,000 crore in future, is being keenly looked at by the rail ministry," said a senior Western Railway official, on condition of anonymity.

A financial consultant is required as railway officials feel they would need experts who could suggest ways to actually implement this project that would be both elevated and underground along the stretch. "By the time this project sees the day of light, many other public transport projects would also be in place. Costs have to be determined based on future needs," said another railway official. As per the tender, the department will begin scouting for financial consultants from February 23 and will reportedly decide on a name by April 4, 2012.

Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi recently stated that there is need for railway stations to be commercially developed, which department officials interpret as constructing buildings at stations allowing people to set up  offices. 

High and low
They have already had a meeting with the state government and Planning Commission regarding smooth availability of land wherever needed along the way.

As per the latest plans designed for this corridor, the elevated rail will start from Virar and terminate at 22-acre Oval Maidan, Churchgate with it going underground and on ground level wherever necessary. Railways want to acquire land between Grant Road and Charni Road for the underground corridor that will terminate beneath the Oval Maidan.

Railways have also asked the state government to make provisions for shifting the high-tension power station between Dahisar and Mira Road. Between Vile Parle and Andheri, the track will be at ground level alongside the existing track, since this stretch falls in the funnel area of aircraft -- both the domestic and international airports are located a few kilometres away from the railway tracks.

Officials claim that the power station is obstructing a clear pathway for the elevated corridor. The height of the corridor is said to be about 16 metres from the rail line at ground level, reaching around 20 metres at Andheri, where it will pass over the upcoming metro rail. There are about 83 foot over-bridges and 25 road over-bridges on Western Railway. None of these will have to be demolished for the elevated corridor.

As per the plan, the elevated track is to terminate at Mahalaxmi and then go underground.

It had also been proposed that this line could terminate at Mahalaxmi and then commuters could board the proposed Colaba-Bandra metro rail, which the railways rejected.

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