Colaba-Seepz underground rail proposed first in 1920

MUMBAI: The Colaba-Seepz metro rail route has an alignment virtually similar to the one for an underground rail route proposed in the colonial era and later again during Jawaharlal Nehru’s rule, according to railway documents accessed by an NGO, Mumbai Underground.

The first proposal was submitted under the British government in the 1920s and later in 1950 by PG Patankar, head of BEST’s engineering section and a member of Indian Road Congress.

Files on the old proposals made during the British era and then Nehru’s regime indicate that it was WR Davidge, a consulting town planner, who was first tasked with putting together a report on an underground railway line.

Davidge suggested an underground rapid transit system in 1922-23. ” An underground railway for the fort and adjoining business and commercial districts of Bombay would undoubtedly meet a considerable want and there is every possibility that the amount of traffic will, before long, justify the consideration of such a railway . I have carefully considered the circular route suggested by the engineer to the municipality and find myself in general agreement therewith, subject to the electrified suburban traffic being free to circulate through the whole of the city underground circle,” he said in his recommendation.

Patankar’s proposal came three decades later. It was accepted by the Union government and by the BEST administration. He cited the example of Milan, which had an underground rail to ease congestion on the city’s narrow roads. London and Tokyo too had built mass transit systems knowing that vehicle and human population would grow at a fast pace, he said.

“Condition of Bombay is no different,” Patankar said in his report. Referring to the city’s growth, he pointed out that until 1950 Mahim creek was the outer limit of municipal jurisdiction, but that year it had been increased up to Jogeshwari on the western side and Bhandup on the east. In 1957 the limits were further extended to Dahisar and Mulund.

Mumbai’s population was 1.49 million in 1941 and it went up to 4.2 million in 1961. ” Also, density of vehicles in the island city went up from 38,391 in 1955 to 93,441 in 1962… In 1950, the city had 361 buses but in 1962 the number was 1,209,” Patankar wrote. As per his report, an underground transit system with a speed of 80kmph was proposed and it was to link Colaba to SionMahim with provisions to extend it in the suburbs. The cost was pegged at Rs 17.50 lakh per km, cheaper compared to costs then estimated in Japan and European cities. The cost of Metro 3 is now pegged at about Rs 800 crore per km.