Days after Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced that he wanted to turn stations into airports, sources said that such tall promises would only remain on paper if encroachers continued to have their way.
"Every time authorities attempt to remove illegal slums and encroachers, there has been a public agitation. Some of the agitations have also spilled on to the rail tracks, causing train delays," a source in the railways said. Two days ago, Prabhu had told authorities that he planned to transform stations into airports with fancy restaurants and commercial offices. For this purpose, he also planned to raise the floor space index (FSI) for railway land. But, if such a plan were mooted for the city, the biggest problem at hand for authorities would be razing illegal slums in the vicinity.
While 37.25 hectare of Central Railway (CR) land is currently encroached, Western Railway (WR) has lost 41.2 hectare of land to illegal slums. A few months ago, there were a series of protest at Diva, Badlapur and Titwala stations after slums were razed. Most train services have been delayed due to such protests. According to figures, 228 train services were delayed in 2015-16. The numbers increased to 278 in 2016-17. Sources said, before implementing any such plan, they would have to rehabilitate the encroachers.