Mumbai: Train to Alibaug stays on paper

Apr 21, 2015, 06:59 IST | Shashank Rao

MMRDA has put the ambitious Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor on the backburner and is now planning to build a 79-km road from Virar to JNPT

Grand plans always look good on paper, but their implementation can often leave much to be desired. That is precisely what has happened to the ambitious plan to connect the beach town of Alibaug to the mainland both by rail and road.

The quickest way to reach Alibaug from the city is by the ferry service from Gateway of India. File pic
The quickest way to reach Alibaug from the city is by the ferry service from Gateway of India. File pic

There are two different proposals that exist now, one made by the Indian Railways and the other by the Maharashtra government, both of which are more or less on the backburner.

West meets Central
The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) had drawn up a plan for a suburban rail corridor connecting the Western, Main and Harbour lines of Central Railway. This corridor was to extend further till Alibaug and for this an extensive study was conducted. But then this proposal never took off.

This proposed corridor was to cater to the industrial belt comprising areas like Kalamboli, Kharbao, and Bhiwandi, which the local builders had dubbed ‘New Thane’. The Indian Railways was keen on going ahead with this project. Prior to the Union Railway Budget, it had also included this corridor in the Mumbai Urban Transport Project, Phase-III, (MUTP-III) which was to begin way back in 2011.

The cost of MUTP-III, approved by the Railway Ministry, has touched Rs 11,441 crore, up from the previously estimated Rs 8,775 crore. Gradually, MRVC realised that not only was the state government unenthusiastic about implementing the project, the Dedicated Freight Corridor (Western Region) that is monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office was also literally coming in the way of the proposal.

“This is a proposed future rail corridor for which various studies are yet to be conducted,” said Prabhat Ranjan, chief PRO, MRVC. The DFC is aimed at decongesting and separating freight movement completely, thus giving the Railways a chance to improve its earnings.

The DFC would have cleared the existing Virar-Diva line, where goods train ply, and these freed-up lines could then have been inducted into the suburban section. Presently goods trains running on this line carry containers from both northern and southern parts of India.

Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor
Moreover, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has plans for an ambitious Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor, despite the state government having plans to extend the suburban rail network till Alibaug. Sadly, even this Rs 9,000 crore MMRDA project is in the doldrums.

As part of this plan this multi-modal corridor was to have supported Metro rail, dedicated bus lanes, and multi-lane roads for vehicles along the 126-km stretch from Virar to Alibaug. Now, the MMRDA authorities have decided to go ahead with the road network between Virar and Alibaug as laying Metro rail now would not be apparently feasible.

As part of this project, the 79 km Virar (Navghar) to Chirner (JNPT) stretch will serve the same areas which the Panvel-Virar rail project of the Railways would have done. Again, MMRDA’s multimodal corridor would have catered to the areas of Virar, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Dombivli, Panvel, Taloja, Uran, the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, JNPT Port, the proposed Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) and DFC. Moreover, it would have also connected NH-8, Bhiwandi bypass, NH-3, NH-4 and NH-4B, Mumbai-Pune Expressway and NH-17.

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