MUTP III feasibility remains unsanctioned despite Aayog’s query

MUTP IIIMumbai: Despite the spate of announcements by the Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu during his visit to the city last week, the ground reality remains that the next big project Mumbai Urban Transport Project III (MUTP) has remained unsanctioned till date.

The railway ministry is yet to reply to NITI Aayog’s questions about the financial feasibility of the project, a question the Aayog had asked back in February 8 but the officials are stumped with the question and are yet to reply.

The Union railway minister had declared that the MUTP III project would be the next target of the ministry in Mumbai, in his budget speech in 2015.

But when the Niti Aayog asked them how a system that runs into losses of up to Rs.1,600 crore can afford MUTP III, the officials were left speechless.

The initial estimates of MUTP III are an approximate Rs 10,000 crore and like its predecessors, MUTP I and II, it will be funded by the railway ministry while the other half will be a loan at an interest of seven per cent from the World Bank (WB).

It has been over two-and-a-half-months since the railways was asked to respond to that question. Commenting on the matter, a railway official said on the condition of anonymity, “The Aayog had asked us to do three things. The first is to approach the World Bank and ask it for a loan of Rs 7,000 crore since the railways has not done it yet, even though talks of MUTP III has been on for a decade. It has also asked the railways how it would work out the loan since running one 12-coach service cost the railways Rs 55 lakh per annum.”

The official said that the last condition put forth by Niti Aayog was that railways implement the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) on either the Western or on any of the Central Railway’s lines. “It has been decided to run the CBTC on the Harbour line for experimental purposes but this decision too has not been officially put on paper,” said the official.

When asked about MUTP III, Suresh Prabhu had in his two-day visit to the city on April 21 and 22 he had said that work will happen ‘step-by-step’ and that these things ‘take time’.

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