The Mumbai Metro One project, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006, has been mired in controversies since its inception. Even as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan expressed his displeasure over the delays recently, experts believe that the Metro project could take another two years to become fully operational.
The country’s first public-private partnership Metro project, in collaboration with Anil Ambani-led RInfra, has always been in the line of fire for several reasons. Experts have slammed the MMRDA and MMOPL for its poor planning and careless approach towards commuters and safety norms that often resulted in accidents and loss of lives. Speculation is rife that the government is likely to take over the project in future.
The latest controversy surfaced when last month, the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) of Western Railway planned to write a letter to the consortium. The CRS office could not figure out whom to address the letter to. Speaking to this newspaper, CRS Padam Singh Baghel said, “My office could not find an appropriate officer to address the letter to. Finally, we addressed it to the commissioner of the MMRDA and sought permission for the trial run. We also asked him about who to approach for queries and permissions in future.”
Officials from the Western Railway are also irked by the “unprofessional” behaviour of MMOPL officials. “Though, I have been dealing with the MMOPL officials for the last three years for works related to bridge construction over the Andheri railway station, I am yet to know the name of that one responsible official in this consortium who we can communicate with,” said a senior Western Railway official, adding that MMOPL lacks the foresight needed to implement such projects, which is resulting in the inordinate delay.
While the MMOPL spokesperson refused to comment on the issue, an engineer from MMOPL claimed that though the Metro project has been delayed owing to various reasons, MMOPL had successfully completed several other projects. “The construction of the Cable Stayed Bridge at the Western Express Highway has been tested with the Metro rake, while the rail overbridge at Andheri station was completed within a record 288 days. All the major parts of the car-shed depot have been completed, too. The completion took time because these are gigantic projects.” However, apart from missed deadlines and several controversies, it is the non-adherence to the safety norms that has invited severe criticism. In the seven accidents that took place on the construction site, six persons have lost their lives, while 17 suffered major or minor injuries. The MMOPL has so far paid compensation to the tune of `49.08 lakh to the victims’ families.
Dilip Kawathkar, joint project director of MMRDA, was unavailable for comment.