For the last 19 years, CIDCO and Central Railways have charged extra on every ticket bought by 10 lakh commuters travelling from the city to Navi Mumbai every day, in a bid to recover Rs 44 crore spent on the construction of the Vashi bridge. They have amassed Rs 265 crore, and still won't stop
Rail activist Anil Galgali has written to the Central Railway, asking it to stop levying a surcharge of Re 1 and Rs 2 on second class and first class tickets, respectively, for travel to Navi Mumbai from Mumbai.
The railway bridge between Vashi and Mankhurd on the Harbour Line
This, after the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and Central Railways have been jointly charging a surcharge on rail tickets from 10-lakh odd commuters per day travelling to Navi Mumbai, ever since the Mankhurd-Belapur rail line was completed at a cost of Rs 45 crore and the Thane Creek Bridge, popularly called the Vashi bridge, was put into operation in 1992.
However, over the years, the state government, planning authority and railways have recovered a surcharge of Rs 265 crore � almost 6 times the cost of the project.
"The railways claim that this surcharge has been levied to recover not only the cost of building the bridge but also laying of tracks and related infrastructure. This is absolutely wrong since they are government agencies and their intention shouldn't be about making profits," explained Galgali.
Individual commuters have also approached Member of Parliament (MP) Sanjeev Naik on the issue. "I have asked the state government to withdraw this surcharge. Now, the government and CIDCO should take care of any deficiency on their own," he said.
He has also approached Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on this issue. "The authorities earn more than Rs 1 crore every month as surcharge from ticket sales. Plus, instead of levying a new surcharge when the fast corridor on the Harbour line comes up, money from this surcharge can be utilised towards that," he feels.
Meanwhile, CR sources say the surcharge will be recovered until the financial liability of the government and CIDCO is cleared and that there is no stipulation on the number of years that the surcharge may continue to be levied.
"Once the state government tells us that their costs have been recovered and we need to stop collecting surcharge, we will do it," said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, CR.
"CIDCO has contributed 67 per cent to the construction of this railway line and the bridge. If they count interest rates, developmental costs related to the construction of the railway tracks on the Mankhurd to Belapur stretch, and other peripheral expenses, the total expenditure to be recovered is Rs 787 crore.
"This decision was made in a tripartite agreement," maintained CIDCO spokesperson M Ninawe.