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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

No new metro, monorail routes till 2021?

Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, May 03, 2013
First Published: 15:22 IST(3/5/2013) | Last Updated: 15:23 IST(3/5/2013)

It has been a long wait, but 2013, the year before the polls, may have something good in store for commuters in Mumbai.

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Come August, you can travel in the country’s first monorail, from Chembur to Wadala, or hop into the air-conditioned Metro from September (this is the first phase of both projects, and the full rides will take off in 2014).

Now, here is the bad news. These will be the only metro and monorail routes you can access till 2019 or even 2021, when the next metro corridor — the underground Colaba-Seepz line — will be completed.

In fact, the next monorail ride may never happen. State planners are unsure whether this feeder system with its low passenger carrying capacity is feasible for our megapolis.

Even the second metro corridor from Charkop to Mankhurd, which was to be completed next year, faces uncertainty because of environmental clearances and tiffs with the concessionaire.

“Nine corridors were planned for the metro system in Mumbai. But after nine years, we have completed only one small phase of the first corridor. At the rate we are going, all the corridors will finish only in 2050,” said Narinder Nayar, chairman for Mumbai First, initiative of corporates that is partnering with the state for city’s makeover.  “There will be little benefit to the city if only one metro line is completed.”

Poor planning, execution
A look at the top transport projects shows that Mumbai’s much-talked about multi-crore makeover has been hit by poor planning and slow execution, which eventually stems from lack of vision and political will.

For instance, the Western Freeway project envisages connecting the entire west coast from Nariman Point to Borivli via sea links. But after the Bandra-Worli sea link was thrown open to public in 2009 — five years behind schedule and at 400% cost overruns — the remainder of the freeway project is stuck.

While chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is keen on construction of a coastal road, the Congress’s ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, wants the sea link. Also, the Union environment ministry is unlikely to amend its laws easily to allow reclamation necessitated for the coastal road. 

In the meantime, motorists zip from Bandra to Worli within minutes only to get stuck in traffic snarls jams at Haji Ali and Peddar Road.

Over emphasis on big-ticket projects
Transport experts slam the over-emphasis on big buck steel and cement projects rather than a comprehensive transport, mobility plan for the city.

“Smaller policies and projects that could change the way the city commutes - restraining cars, parking policies, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) - are ignored. There is also lack of political will, a vision and uniform or nodal authority to take the Mumbai makeover forward,” said Ashok Datar, transport expert.

In fact, the state has, despite prodding by the high court, shied away from introducing any kind of restraint on number of cars plying on roads. 

At least two former studies have said that the BRTS, which costs one-third of a metro, is feasible on city's arterial roads, but the CM recently announced that it was not the right system for congested Mumbai.

Too many agencies, no accountability
According to a senior bureaucrat, the fact that multiple agencies are involved leaves room for errors and zero accountability. “Various agencies, such as the BMC, MMRDA and MSRDC seem to be running on different tracks without any comprehensive plan in hand. Efforts to have a nodal authority for the makeover have come to a naught in the past five years,” he said.

For instance, the state government set up a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority to co-ordinate all transport projects, but that is now defunct.

In 2004, a post of secretary (special projects) was created as a nodal officer for the makeover project, but over the years it has been given no importance.

The empowered committee on the makeover, chaired by the chief secretary, includes representatives from corporate houses and bureaucrats, but it has little mandate to implement suggestions and decisions taken.

The need of the hour, say experts, is to set up an authority at the state-level to oversee and push all makeover projects.

UPS Madan, MMRDA commissioner, termed the slow decision-making and planning as 'teething problems'. “Our next big-ticket projects will move faster. There is uncertainty while executing such projects because there are diverse opinions about everything,” he said.


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