Mumbai pin hopes on the NDA to get railways out of comatose scenario in the city

मुंबई Mumbai:  Railway officials in the city are counting on an unprecedented ten-nil National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sweep of the seats in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to kick-start the comatose railway scenario in the city. With assembly elections four to five months away, officials say they are expecting NDA MPs in the state to use their ruling party status at the Centre to get projects in the city off the ground and steal a march over an embattled Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine.

“It took five years for the courts to step in before the state and the railways could decide who owned a 43,000 sq mt plot of land in Bandra. In fact, the then railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had to write a terse letter to chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan in April 2013 about the land, because the officials of the revenue department were going slow on making a property card for it,” said a senior railway official.

The situation came to such a stage that one of the railway’s most ambitious projects — the Rs.20,000 crores Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar elevated project — got shelved because over a period of two years, the state and railways could not agree on the terms and conditions of the State Support Agreement. “And to think this was a project being monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office,” the official pointed out.

“Hopefully the NDA MPs in the city will keep the pressure on the railway board over project, especially in the run-up to the assembly elections. Kirit Somaiya meeting with Central Railway officials over the platform gap issue is a good sign,” said an official.

Lying in a coma:

1) Mumbai Urban Transport Project Phase 3 — The Mumbai Metropolitan Region’s (MMR) most ambitious long-term plan, it envisages an expenditure of Rs.52,000 crores till 2031 to completely overhaul the suburban network, and create new lines. It was supposed to start in 2011, but the state is yet to give a formal approval to the project, leaving city-based railway officials a frustrated lot.

2) Churchgate-Virar, CST-Panevl elevated corridor — The state and the railways could not sign the State Support Agreement, leaving the project in tatters. After postponing the Request for Qualification formalities over ten times, the railway ministry shelved the project in February. The CST-Panvel elevated corridor is in a similar condition, with railway ministry officials saying the project has not moved an inch since it was given formal approval by the railway ministry in 2012.

3) Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel suburban corridor — The railway ministry on April 1, 2013 declared the Vasai-Diva and Diva-Panvel line a ‘suburban’ line from a ‘non-suburban’ one. The state and the railways are unable to come to an agreement on how to finance the Rs.5,600 crore project. While the railways wants the state to get local civic bodies through which the line will pass, to levy taxes and raise finances, the state has not bit the bullet on it.

4) Railway land development — The distrust created between the state government and the railway ministry during the tussle over ownership of the Bandra plot has taken a toll on other railway land projects. It was only last week the railway ministry through the Rail Land development Authority began development on land near Wadala, Mahalaxmi and Kurla Terminus.

5) Parel terminus — Despite commuters having a horrid time boarding and alighting at the vastly-inadequate Parel station, the project’s files remain buried in the railway ministry’s red-tape. Railway officials say the project’s design, estimate and source of funding have all been finalised, but the ambiguity on when it would start remains.