Mumbai Suburban system, CST-Panvel elevated corridor and Virar-Diva-Panvel quadrupling projects gets the boost

Railway Budget boost for CR’s mega projects – Mumbai also got fund allocation of Rs.83 crore under passenger amenities, to both Central and Western railway, according to railway officials.

MUMBAI: The Union Budget, which included railway finances for the first time, has brought good tidings for Mumbai. Suburban infrastructure projects connecting the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) have got a major boost in the budget announced on Thursday. The Union railway ministry has made a provision of Rs.636 crore for the city’s railway infrastructure projects, besides making giving its nod to the CST-Panvel elevated corridor and the Virar-Diva-Panvel quadrupling project, in the 2017-18 budget.

Though the 72-km Vasai-Virar-Panvel Corridor (initial cost of ₹8,787 crore) and the 55-km CST-Panvel Fast Elevated Corridor (initial cost of ₹14,525 crore) were announced nearly three years ago, work has been sanctioned in the current budget. “This means we don’t have to wait for another budget to begin our work. We can at least start work, and the process of permissions and other paperwork takes time. We will be sending this to the Union government for approval,” a senior railway official said.

The Virar-Diva-Panvel quadrupling project will improve east-west connectivity in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), easing pressure on existing suburban corridors. The CST-Panvel elevated corridor, which is touted as a fast corridor for the harbour line, will provide suburban connectivity to the proposed Navi Mumbai airport.

Estimated to cost around Rs.8,700 crore, the Vasai-Diva-Panvel quadrupling project, is the city’s biggest railway project in terms of project cost, while the CST-Panvel corridor will prove to be an engineering challenge for railways. The ministry has made a token budgetary allocation for both the projects.

Although the Virar-Diva-Panvel project is awaiting approval from the Union cabinet and the CST-Panvel elevated corridor is still to get the NITI Aayog’s approval, railway officials said once the budgetary allocation is made for any project, they consider it a sanctioned one.

Prabhat Sahai, Managing director, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation, said, “The allocation of ₹10 lakh is the token amount sanctioned to begin work. In case we require more funds in the current year, we will surely get another sanction. We have completed surveys and finally, we can start work.” They see this as a major boost for the city’s railway infrastructure. “The CST-Panvel elevated corridor and Virar-Panvel will be a centre-and state-funded project. The detailed project report (DPR) for both these projects is ready and awaiting sanction from the Union government,” said Prabhat Sahai, Managing Director and Chairman of MRVC.

In the railway budget copy, which was made public on Friday, Mumbai has received Rs.639.50 crore for ongoing Metropolitan Transportation projects, including the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). MUTP-II and MUTP-III have been allotted Rs.137 crore and Rs.411.50 crore respectively. Apart from this, the Belapur-Seawood-Uran project got Rs.66 crore.

MUTP-II, worth Rs.7,300 crore, is partially complete and under it, the city has received 70 new locals, besides DC-AC conversion on the Central line and 12-car locals on the Harbour line. Under MUTP-III, new projects such as the 3rd and 4th line between Virar-Dahanu (63km), Airoli-Kalwa (4km), which will provide easier access for suburban commuters between Kalyan and Panvel and the doubling of Panvel-Karjat line (28km) are likely to kick-start soon.

A few of its important projects have been given substantial funds, which officials said would go a long way in completing them over the next three to five years. However, two Mumbai-based projects have received a token amount of Rs 10 lakh crore. These include the Rs 9,356-crore Virar-Vasai-Panvel new suburban corridor and the elevated CST-Panvel corridor, which at current prices is expected to cost upwards of Rs 14,500 crore.

The Ahmedanagr-Beed-Parli new corridor project has received the biggest allotment — Rs 780 crore. The sanctioned amount works out to about 27 per cent of the total cost of the project, which stands at Rs 2,826 crore. The line is a pet project of the BJP, and is a 50-50 per cent joint venture of the railways and the state government. Both the state government and the railway ministry have pinned high hopes on the project as the BJP’s trump card in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra, the two regions the rail line will connect. The state and Centre want the Ahmednagar-Beed line to be completed by March 2019 so that it can showcase it for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2019.

The 270-km Wardha-Nanded project has received Rs 738 crore, while the 112-km Karad-Chiplun line has received Rs 301 crore.

The Karad-Chiplun line was a longstanding demand of citizens to have a link between the Central Railway and Konkan Railway in such a way that it connects cities like Pune and Kolhapur to the Konkan line. The new project, expected to cost upwards of Rs 2,500 crore at current prices, will involve the construction of a 103-km railway line from Chiplun on the Konkan Railway and Karad on the Pune-Kolhapur section of the Central Railway. That part of the railway line will run along the Koyna river.

The Kalyan-Kasara third line project, which is out of Metropolitan Transportation Project’s list, received only Rs.20 crore. The state government had sought Rs.200 crore for it.

Mumbai also got fund allocation of Rs.83 crore under passenger amenities, to both Central and Western Railway, according to railway officials. The fund will be used for better facilities for suburban commuters at stations, which includes toilets, escalators, foot overbridges, drinking water facility, cover-over-platform and platform raising.

The Central Railway (CR) Mumbai division has also received Rs24 lakh to raise and resurface 48 platforms at 33 stations. The CR has been also sanctioned Rs.6.5 crore towards various protection works on the Neral-Matheran narrow gauge line such as a boundary wall.

Railway activists, however, were disappointed with the budget. “The railway budget is good for rail network expansion in Maharashtra, but it has been disappointing for Mumbai. Only two major infrastructure projects have received budgetary allocation. Priority should have been given to installing escalators, constructing FOBs on suburban stations,” said Subhash Gupta, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC) Central Railway (CR).

According to a railway official, Rs.5,958 crore has been sanctioned for Maharashtra. The pink book, which was released three days after the Union Budget was tabled in Parliament, shows that Maharashtra has been sanctioned more funds than was expected, totalling ₹28,000 crore. It covers six new lines and a 64-km corridor between Pune and Lonavala (initial cost of ₹4,253 crore). The Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) III has been allocated ₹411 crore. Besides two rail infrastructure projects in Mumbai, four more railway line projects got approval, including Pune-Lonavla 3rd and 4th line. Other three projects include Jeur-Ashti, Phaltan to Pandharpur and Hatkanangale-Ichalkarangi railway lines.