Long wait ahead for modernised railways

Jun 20, 2012, 06:50 IST | Shashank Rao

Introduction of AC locals, decision on continuation of CVMs and construction of elevated rail corridors on three suburban lines yet to see the light of day

Slow and steady wins the race, but in the case of the Railways this adage holds a completely different meaning. Several of the projects that were proposed to upgrade facilities for Mumbaikars continue to stay on paper. And in order to check on the progress of these projects, Chairperson of Railway Board (CRB) Vinay Mittal, the topmost bureaucrat in the Indian Railways (IR), recently visited Mumbai after the Union Railway budget was announced for the current fiscal year. It has been learnt that the Railway Board (RB) itself is unsure about the implementation of some of the major projects in the city, which have been on paper for quite a few years now.

Hurry up! Implementation of pending projects on an urgent basis is the only way to revive Mumbai’s clogged lifeline. Representation pic

AC locals
Once again, a tentative deadline has been set for operating air-conditioned local trains in the city. The CRB announced that the RB is looking at operating an AC local by 2013-14, only if several concerns were taken care of. The primary one is related to pricing of tickets and revenue generation. Since tickets for AC trains would be several times higher than the regular ones, number of commuters opting for AC services remains to be seen. “The suburban system in Mumbai is very complex and we will be able to run more air-conditioned trains only after seeing commuters’ response,” Mittal said. The railway authorities believe that higher fares will limit the use of AC services and that these special trains might obstruct free movement of the regular ones that ply bulk of the passengers. While the first AC local will run on Churchgate-Virar route, its future depends on the response it receives from the 33-lakh WR commuters.

Though coupons are one of the most sought after options for commuters, who want to avoid serpentine queues for purchasing tickets, their future seems uncertain. The CRB has announced that the railways is looking at continuing Coupon Validating Machines (CVMs) but only after examining the possibility of connecting it to the main server of Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS). Currently, the CR and the WR are unable to keep a tab on the sale of coupons, and the precise station from where they were punched.“ We have received recommendations from both the general managers — CR and WR — for continuing CVMs and we are examining it,” Mittal said. But unless the existing CVMs aren’t connected to the main server, the railways is contemplating on terminating the entire system by 2015, against the RB’s official deadline of March 2013.

Sources said that the major challenge is to print a code, behind every coupon, so that it matches with the machine using which it was punched. A system needs to be created that would send this information, after punching, to the main server. If the railway authorities are able to devise such a system, only then the CVMs will remain operational.

Irrespective of the fact that three elevated corridors have been proposed on Western line, Central line and Harbour line each the railways, at present, is only considering the execution of Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor. The future of the remaining two corridors — CST-Panvel and CST-Kalyan — will depend on the success or failure of the Churchgate-Virar corridor. This means that Mumbaikars, who had been promised three corridors, will have to wait for at least a decade for the work on the Rs 20,000-crore Churchgate-Virar corridor to be completed, and depending on its success or failure, expect the commencement or the shelving of the other two corridors.

WR General Manager Mahesh Kumar said that within the next 10 days they might receive the State Support Agreement (SSA) from the government that will define the project further. Once this is over, by the year-end they would be looking at calling global tenders, wherein private developers will be invited to construct the combination of elevated-underground rail corridors.

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