Expansion is the key for the Mumbai suburban railway network, and this was evident in the budget announced by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday.
Officials, however, admitted that getting the work done will be a Herculean task as it will involve taking several permissions and environmental clearances, undertaking land acquisition and tackling inter-ministerial issues. Representation pic
With the suburban network severely congested, the minister refrained from announcing any new train services and, instead, sanctioned several projects adding up to Rs 111 crore to extend the network and add to the existing lines.
With real estate prices forcing people to stay further away from the city, officials said provisions have also been made for stations like Thakurli on the Central line and Vasai on the Western line to be developed into terminuses and local train services to be extended to Roha in the future.
“We are running train services with 3 minutes headway (gap between each train) during peak hours,” said a Western Railway official on condition of anonymity. “At five minutes, the headway is only slightly better during non-peak hours,” he added. The Central Railway, too, runs train services with a gap of 4 minutes during peak hours.
Officials said CR and WR together run around 2,700 services every day and they are on a tight leash. Any technical failure or accident causes disruption across the network, leaving trains bunched. “There is a need to add more lines so that the long distance trains can be separated, thus giving more breathing space for local trains,” said a Central Railway official.
Keeping all this in mind, no new suburban services were announced in the Railway Budget this year. The budget also provided funds for land acquisition between Panvel and Roha, which will help in laying more lines in the future.
Suresh Prabhu has allotted nearly R111 crore for additional lines on the Diva-Kalyan, Panvel-Pen, Pen-Roha, Kalyan-Kasara, Belapur-Panvel, Thane-Turbhe-Nerul- Vashi and Belapur-Seawoods-Uran stretches.
While the lines will be doubled and even quadrupled in places, officials accepted that getting the work done will be a Herculean task as it will involve taking several permissions and environmental clearances, undertaking land acquisition, ensuring rehabilitation of project-affected people and tackling inter-ministerial formalities.
More than 3 per cent of the total suburban train passengers which amounts to well over 1 lakh people travel from places far away from the city. Officials said that owing to the high real estate prices, people are forced to flock further north of Mumbai and, for this reason, Prabhu also announced the setting up of ‘satellite terminus’ stations.
Senior rail officials said that Thakurli on the Central line and Vasai on the Western line would be developed under this scheme. A terminus is already being developed between Kalamboli and Panvel on the Harbour line.
Apart from these, under Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP)-III, there are proposals to build a new elevated line between Airoli and Kalwa, connecting the Harbour line with the Main line of Central Railway on the Panvel-Karjat section and additional rail lines between Virar and Dahanu.
CST, which is a world heritage station, will also undergo a change in the months to come. The length of long-distance train platforms 10, 11, 12 and 13 will be increased to accommodate 24-coach trains from the 18- or 20-coach ones they can cater to presently.
The remaining platforms (between 14 and 18) are already long enough. A budget allocation of R57 crore has been made for this. Rs 9 lakh has also been allotted to carry out a survey for the CST-Panvel fast corridor.