MUTP-3 Rakes could be Budget’s ‘AC Sweetener’

Robust MUTP III allotment would be a good start: Railway Officials

MUMBAI: Could the 47 rakes—amounting to 565 coaches—to be procured under Phase 3 of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) be the ‘sweetener’ in the forthcoming Railway Budget? Several officials who spoke to in the run-up to the first combined Railway-General Budget said that there is a high possibility that the ruling dispensation might announce that the 47 rakes could be air-conditioned. Officials believe that the combined budget wouldn’t give much time for an elaborate set of announcements pertaining to the Railways. Therefore, the central government might resort to announcing such sweeteners and keeping other items in the fine print.

“The Railway Board has decided that the 47 rakes to be procured at a cost of Rs 2,899 crore under MUTP 3 will have an automatic closing-door mechanism and vestibules. If these rakes, which come with these mechanisms, are not air-conditioned, it would be a classic case of ‘one step forward and two steps backward’. The chances of an announcement that the rakes will be air-conditioned remains high,” said one official.

The AC rake currently being tried out on the Central Railway cost the Integral Coach Factory Rs 51.42 crore to construct. The sum allotted for each of the 47 rakes under MUTP 3 is Rs 61 crore, an amount that can ensure the rakes are air-conditioned, said officials.

Railway officials in the city are also hoping that the Rs 10,947-crore Phase III of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project gets a substantial allotment in the forthcoming Union Budget so that the project, expected to be completed in the next five to 10 years, can get off to a robust start. The MUTP Phase III includes projects like the new Rs 2,618-crore Panvel-Karjat suburban line, Rs 3,555-crore Virar-Dahanu quadrupling (addition of two lines), the procurement of trains at Rs 2,899 crore and Rs 428 crore for the elevated connector between Airoli and Kalwa.

A ballpark figure that most officials quoted by way of budgetary allotment was in the range of Rs 100-120 crore, so that pre-construction formalities and paperwork can be completed by the end of 2017. The work was given a token amount of Rs 5 crore in the ‘pink book’ for 2016-17.

“Issues like the alignment of corridors, land survey for acquisition, and setting technical parameters for the rolling stock (railway term for trains) can be completed within a year if there are enough funds. Once these issues are sorted, we can accelerate work between 2018 and 2019,” said a railway official.

Under the finance mechanism of the MUTP III, a substantial part of the money will come in from the World Bank.

The other half of the money will be shared equally between the Railway Ministry and the state government. The World Bank loan, expected to be upwards of Rs 5,000 crore, might not be inked in 2017, said an official. “It is a large amount and there are a number of formalities that need to finalised like the socio-economic impact, number of project-affected persons (PAPs), their rehabilitation, among other consideration.

Meanwhile, counterpart funds (funds from the Railway Ministry and the state government) can be pitched into the work,” said an official.

The MUTP saga so far:

MUTP Phase 1: Cost: Rs 4,452 crore. Project has been completed. Highlights include buying 909 Siemens coaches and adding two new lines between Virar and Borivli.

MUTP Phase 2A: Cost: 4,713 crore. Expected to be completed by end-2017. It includes buying 72 Bombardier rakes and converting CR’s traction from Direct Current to Alternating Current (DC-AC).

MUTP Phase 2B: Cost: 3,374 crore. Projects expected to be completed in phases between 2019 and 2021. This includes the sixth line between Mumbai Central and Borivli, and extension of CST-Andheri Harbour line till Goregaon.

MUTP Phase 2C: Cost: Rs 714.1 crore. It comprises mostly Harbour line projects, including running 12-coach trains on Harbour Line. It is expected to be completed by March 2017.