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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Zoom past the skyline, zip across Mumbai suburbs

Saurabh Katkurwar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, February 11, 2013
First Published: 02:05 IST(11/2/2013) | Last Updated: 02:26 IST(11/2/2013)

Come September, you may be able to zip from Chembur to Wadala, cutting across the city's skyline, in just 19 minutes, using the country's first monorail system.

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And by early next year, Mumbai will join an elite list of metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Bengaluru, when the much-awaited Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line of the Metro project will be ready for use.

After skipping four deadlines (the initial one being December 2010), the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has claimed that work on the 20-km Chembur to Jacob Circle monorail corridor - the first in a list of several proposed corridors - has neared completion. However, only the 8.8-km stretch till Wadala will be commissioned for public use by September; the complete corridor will be opened next year. Once complete, it will allow commuters to travel from the eastern suburbs to the island city in about 25 minutes, on an elevated track. 

Then, by early next year, you could hop on to the Mumbai Metro and travel from the eastern to the western suburbs in a record 21 minutes - reducing the current travel time by at least 40 minutes. The MMRDA claims that 98% of the civil work on this corridor has been finished.

Around 10 lakh commuters, who regularly travel on this stretch, are expected to benefit from the project.

The monorail, on the other hand, is expected to cater to 1.5 lakh commuters this year, which will go up to 4 lakh once the entire corridor is commissioned.

These two projects will give the city a transportation system that matches global standards, and a faster, more comfortable commute. And this couldn't have happened sooner, in a city where most of the population relies on public transport, where road travel is unpredictable, owing to traffic congestion, and which has so far only had the suburban network to depend on.

Even though they're touted as solutions to the city's travelling woes, both these projects have missed several deadlines and run into trouble over permissions and clearances.

Confirming that first phase of the projects is on track, Dilip Kawathkar, joint project director, MMRDA, said: "The civil construction of the first phase of the monorail is almost over and we are carrying out trials. We expect that the Chembur-Wadala route will be ready by September this year." He added: "The Versova-Ghatkopar Metro corridor is expected to be ready early next year. We need to give finishing touches to the stations; the construction of the corridor is nearly done."

Some transport experts are sceptical about the agency meeting the new deadlines. "The MMRDA may have nearly finished civil construction of the Mumbai Metro and monorail projects, but the actual completion of work is going to take a lot more time. Given the current pace of work, I do not expect the agency to open the projects to the public in time," said transport expert Jitendra Gupta.

Moreover, the two corridors that are near completion are merely a part of the entire project - the fate of the remaining corridors remains uncertain. In the first phase of the Metro project, the MMRDA had promised two more lines - from Charkop to Mankhurd and Colaba to SEEPZ. As HT had reported last week, while the agency is planning to scrap the contract for the second corridor, work on the third will be expedited, but will take at least another year to begin. The agency is also going to rethink all the proposed monorail routes.

The recently-released white paper on MMRDA projects mentioned eight new metro corridors and seven additional monorail projects, at a cost of Rs62,192 - but with these plans still on paper and going by trends noticed so far, it is unlikely for any of these to take off soon.

Joy for commuters
Once this line is operational, commuters will be able to zip from Chembur to Wadala in 19 minutes, seated in spacious coaches and comfortable, air-conditioned rakes.

The monorail will be less noisy, and travel on the elevated tracks will be smooth, away from the chaos of traffic jams and the hustle-bustle of the city.

The trains are expected to accommodate 1.25 lakh commuters daily, lifting the passenger load off current public transport modes, especially the suburban train network.

Of missed deadlines and an endless wait
The first phase of the monorail was expected to be open to public by December 2010. After four extensions, it is now likely to be ready by September this year, while the second phase - till Jacob Circle, is expected to open early next year. The other proposed phases -  which will run through the eastern and western suburbs and the hinterland - are still stuck in the planning stage.

What next
The MMRDA is carrying out a feasibility study of the Wadala - Teen Haath Naka route. The decision on development of the route will follow soon.

The agency is also planning to rethink all the other proposed routes, because the project, owing to its low passenger-carrying capacity, could be unfeasible. But the agency's recent whitepaper lists 7 proposed monorail routes.

Why this is good news
The Metro line will directly link the eastern and western suburbs and is expected to benefit more than 10 lakh commuters.

Mumbaiites can cover the busy stretch from Versova to Ghatkopar in 21 minutes - a distance which takes 1 hour to 1.5 hours on road and is not directly linked by the suburban network.

Air-conditioned rakes will provide a comfortable commute.

With a high passenger-carrying capacity, it is expected to reduce the load on the suburban network.


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