Mumbai’s Elevated Rail line corridor projects move at a snail pace

Mumbai: Three new elevated corridors Kalwa-Airoli, Jogeshwari-Airoli and Thane-Kurla connecting the Harbour, Central Main and Western lines, are on the anvil; two huge elevated line projects are in limbo. Even though the state government has agreed to share costs for the new lines between Kalwa-Airoli and Panvel to Karjat, only Rs 1 crore has been sanctioned for the project so far. Officials are worried about the fate of the projects since the actual cost of the project would amount to Rs.10000 crore. Railways continue their enthusiasm for taking up elevated corridor projects, despite two such multi-crore projects – the Oval Maidan-Virar elevated line and the CST-Panvel fast corridor – already stuck in red tape, three new aerial routes have been planned.

These are the only projects that have been approved by the state while others, like laying lines in Panel-Diva-Vasai and quadrupling of lines between Virar and Dahanu, have been put on the back-burner, are part of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project III.

An official on condition of anonymity said, “Currently, only Rs 1 crore has been sanctioned for these two projects that have finally been approved but the funding remains a big question as it will require us to spend at least Rs 10,000 crore on these projects.”

In order to get the extra amount, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has to approach the World Bank, which the officials say has not been done yet. “Until now nothing concrete has been done to source the money. Neither the state nor the MRVC has approached the World Bank, which has shared costs with us for MUTP I and II,” added the official.

This comes a day after Union Railway minister Suresh Prabhu said in Delhi that privatisation of the Railways does not mean that there will be a transfer of ownership. He clarified that only private investment would be sought. Mr Prabhu reportedly said, “Railways will continue to be owned and managed by Government of India.” Railway officials have said that although this seems to be a good plan, none of the Mumbai projects have seen any interest from private players.

The MRVC is a city-based body, which was established with a 51:49 cost-sharing ratio between the Ministry of Railways and state government. It has recently also appointed consultant for the exact alignment on the ground and geo-technical survey as a part of the pre-feasibility survey for the approved projects.

These three new lines are supposed to provide connectivity across the Central and Western suburbs of the city. According to the railway officials, the lines span the Western, Central Main and Harbour line and are part of an overall blueprint to develop a series of such elevated routes for the city.

At the same time, the two older elevated projects are gathering dust in government files. The Oval Maidan-Virar corridor now finds itself cut down to an Andheri-Virar line. The project cost has been slashed to Rs 7,000 crore. The reason for its premature cut is the upcoming Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro-III line.

The state government and railway officials have been involved in a tussle since the original longer line clashed with the Metro project. The state seems to have won this battle, since even railway officials conceded that their project didn’t hold much water if there were no supporting elevated routes.

Secondly, the proposed Rs 9,500-crore CST-Panvel fast transit corridor is also stuck due to various permission issues. This line is supposed to connect to the upcoming international airport in Navi Mumbai.
It still remains to be seen which of these castles in the air actually see the light of day.

Kalwa-Airoli: Cost: Rs 336 crore

This route seeks to connect Airoli, on the Trans-Harbour line, with Kalwa, a suburb next to Thane on the Central Main line. Both the stations are in lesser-developed areas of Mumbai and this 8-km line, when it materialises, provides cross-connectivity. The project may run into trouble with environmental issues since there is a large patch of mangroves on this route. In addition, the line also runs through slums and their relocation could prove to be a problem.

Kurla-Thane: Cost: Rs 3,500 crore

Another proposed line on Central Railway is the Kurla-Thane elevated corridor. The railway sources said this alignment might be over, or next to, the present Main line railway network. With Central Railway carrying more than 42 lakh people every day, this will help ease the burden on the overcrowded local trains on the Main line.

According to officials, this corridor might also serve the high-profile Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor. “More important is the much-awaited Mumbai Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor that, as of now, might terminate at Bandra-Kurla Complex. This new (Thane-Kurla) elevated rail line shall come in handy then,” explained a senior rail official.

The ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed project is being directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office. Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had recently stated that they are waiting for the report on this project from the Japanese railway ministry. The report is expected by July.

Airoli-Jogeshwari: Cost: Rs 3,700 crore

This line, connecting the Eastern and Western suburbs, is placed a little low on the priority list but is a possibility nonetheless. According to the railway officials, the elevated corridors may intersect with each other at certain points. For example, this planned route is almost parallel to the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro-I line. This way, the people have the option of hopping onto the Metro line and taking the proposed elevated line to Virar. It may also interject the Kalwa-Airoli line. This will help to reduce passenger traffic on Western Railway, which already carries 37 lakh people a day.