Encroachments on Pune-Lonavala section slowing Railway’s works

Pune:  Plans to establish better connectivity between Pune and Lonavala by laying a third railway line and expanding the Shivajinagar station under the public-private partnership (PPP) model are facing serious hurdles because of dense illegal encroachment along the Pune-Lonavala line and near Shivajinagar station, Subodh Jain, the Railway Board’s Member (Engineering), said.

Jain, a former General Manager of Central Railway, was in the city to attend a railway function. He told reporters that the plan to expand the Shivajinagar station was ready, and had been sent to the state government for approval. However, a considerable area needed for this expansion was under encroachment, Jain said.

“In the first phase, only the area on which there’s no encroachment will be developed,” he said. “The rest of the area will be developed in the second phase because if we try to take up the entire plan at one go, things will never take off, because getting rid of the encroachment is really difficult.”

The long pending proposal to lay a third pair of tracks between Pune and Lonavala is facing similar hurdles. Senior railway officials said a large chunk of the area along both sides of the tracks on the Pune-Lonavala and Pune-Kolhapur lines are under illegal encroachment. The Railways normally keeps 50 metres on either side of the tracks for future expansions.

According to an official survey carried out last year, the density of encroachments is highest in the Pune-Lonavala section, with 5,500 cases having been registered against unauthorised dwellers. About 1,700 encroachments have been identified along the Pune-Kolhapur tracks. Officials said these numbers have been increasing fast. The railway PRO said the office of the Zonal Chief Engineer has not carried out a fresh survey this year.

Harsha Shah of the Railway Pravasi Group blamed the Railways for failing to prevent the encroachment. Shah said the Railways was reluctant to act against the illegal hutments.