Mumbai: The fifth line link between Bandra and Santa Cruz, currently being blocked by residents of shanty towns along the Navpada cemetery as it cuts off the burial site from the townships, is turning into a bigger nightmare for the Western Railway. A group called the Navpada Kabrastan Rasta Bachao Andolan has already started sending out messages about carrying out a signature campaign against the line and officials believe in no time the matter could snowball into a communal one.
“The fear is real because the residents of the area are politically active and have enjoyed the patronage of political parties for a long time. If these political parties also jump into the fray for the sake of votes, then there is a real danger of Mumbai losing out on a rail line that will help commuters immensely,” said a top-ranking WR official. In fact during a press interaction on Monday in Andheri, Mumbai North MP Gopal Shetty had hinted as much and called the issue a ‘social problem’.
The benefits of the new link are considerable. The stretch is the missing link of the fifth line – also called the Suburban Track Avoidance line – that runs between Mumbai Central and Borivali and is used in both directions by long-distance trains. This missing link will ensure that long-distance trains don’t come onto the fast tracks between Bandra and Santa Cruz in the process hitting the punctuality schedules of suburban trains during peak hours.
According to WR officials, the link will also allow WR to run three extra trains each during the morning and even peak hours.
“These extra trains will run at better speeds than current ones. That is because all long distance trains will be running along this new line,” said the official. Over the next few days, according to WR officials, the railways is planning to give the residents three options. The first is a new level crossing for the cemetery some distance away from the unauthorised path that the residents want to protect, the second is a subway and the third is a footpath. In fact these three options were discussed in a meeting between residents of the area and WR Divisional Railway Manager Shailendra Kumar but nothing concrete could be agreed upon, said officials.
Officials cutting across departments told that it is now the state government and the railway ministry that will have to act quickly on the matter. “If we blink this time, then Mumbai will forever be captive to such demands and almost no rail line or even metros for that matter will be able to come up. We owe it to the people of Mumbai that we do not give in to any such demand that affects public infrastructure like rail lines and roads,” said a senior WR official.