“If you want money, ensure Mumbai’s local trains have closed doors”. This is what officials from the Maharashtra government were told when they met representatives of the World Bank yesterday to discuss the possibility of the latter funding part of the Rs 11,440-crore Mumbai Urban Transport Project- III.
While the installation of automatic closing doors was not made a pre-condition, sources said WB officials laid a lot of emphasis on that as well as preventing trespassing on tracks to save lives
While this was not made a pre-condition for funding, sources said the World Bank placed a lot of emphasis on getting the government and the railways to ensure that commuters on Mumbai’s packed lifeline do not lose their lives due to overcrowding in trains as well as through trespassing on tracks.
The World Bank’s request, incidentally, comes at a very apt time. In the three days between September 19 and September 21, 35 deaths took place on the tracks on Mumbai’s suburban network, while 32 others were injured.
On the table
Following the high-level meeting between World Bank, state government and Indian Railways officials, Onno Ruhl, Country Director, World Bank, said, “We know that people die on the suburban railway system and, thus, we want doors that close automatically to be installed.
Presently, work on the trespass control project at railway stations is underway, but there is lot of scope for improvement.” World Bank officials said the institution has spent about $900 million on the MUTP so far and that they have been seeing delays in the implementation of projects.
Western Railway (WR) had begun trying out the ‘closed-door’ project in the first-class ladies compartment in March, but it was stopped in August. Officials said that they are making technical changes as they had found that the closed doors were opening late, there was no indication of which side the doors would open on, and that the motormen and guards used to press the wrong buttons at times, leading to doors on the wrong side getting opened.
“We have been making changes in the technology and improving its functioning. The closed-door system will be back in use within a week,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief Public Relations Officer, WR.
WB officials said that a bustling city like Mumbai needs AC trains too. “People here should change their habit of travelling. It will take time, but AC trains with closed doors are the next step,” said a WB official. He added that the state government and railways should think of having every third coach as an AC one in every local to give commuters more options.
The WB has made a special provision of Rs 130-crore for a trespass control project after the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) failed to utilise some of the funds allocated under the MUTP. Under this project 11 stations and 22 spots across CR and WR are being revamped to prevent trespassing near station premises and between stations.
This includes constructing skywalks, erecting barriers and fencing off areas. On the Central Railway (CR) route, 12 trespassing spots have been identified near stations, especially close to Thane, Kalwa, Mumbra and Kalyan, while on the Western Railway (WR), crossing of tracks is rampant between Mahim and Borivli.
Most of these areas have slums close to the tracks. Of the 11 stations identified, work at Kurla, Kalyan, Vasai and Nallasopara will be carried out in the first phase and the Dadar, Kandivli, Bhayandar, Kanjur Marg Thane and Thakurli stations will be taken up after that. Dadar East and West are being taken as two separate stations.
The Rs 11,440-crore MUTP-III project includes the quadrupling of rail lines between Virar and Dahanu, doubling them between Panvel and Karjat and construction of an elevated rail link between Airoli and Kalwa. It will also include the purchase of rakes for the Mumbai suburban network.
Indrawati commuting via 3.16 pm Borivli local yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Taking a local with the World Bank MD
>> The Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Mulyani Indrawati took a train ride from Churchgate to Andheri yesterday. Accompanied by other officials, she boarded the 3.16 pm Borivli local from Churchgate.
>> She spoke to women commuters about the issues they face while travelling
in local trains. “It is good that there are separate coaches for women. But, we want the railways to take more steps to ensure the safety of women commuters and offer them better sanitation facilities,” said Indrawati.
>> A commuter who was returning from the Siddhivinayak Temple offered Indrawati and the other officials modak, which they accepted
>> A lady TC checked the tickets of Indrawati and others and the World Bank COO interacted with her as well.
>> What some commuters told the World Bank MD
The trains are very safe now, we don’t feel insecure while travelling. We do, however, prefer the ladies-special trains
— Daksha Parekh
Automatic closing doors should be installed to prevent cases of people falling off from the locals
— Jayashree Shah