While the bone of contention for much of the nation in Wednesday’s railway budget was the hike in ticket prices, the 68 lakh commuters in Mumbai were more concerned about another aspect – whether the budget would make provisions to improve services on the suburban network, the city’s lifeline.
On this front, there were mixed reactions. “There is no immediate relief to Mumbaiites. The mega elevated corridor projects will be operational after years. The execution needs to be speeded up,” said Hilary Castelino, 44, a Mira Road resident.
Activists said most projects mentioned in railway minister Dinesh Trivedi’s speech were already in place. “Conversion of routes from DC to AC and elevated corridor projects were spoken of earlier. There should have been emphasis on developing infrastructure, such as foot over bridges,” said Kailash Verma, general secretary, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh.
Deepak Gandhi, chairperson,Mumbai Suburban Railway Passengers Association, said the budget had no provisions to address the main grievance of commuters – the overcrowded locals. “Commuters have been left high and dry. More intra-suburban station shuttle services should have been announced.”
However, some activists felt the budget was not a complete disappointment. “It addresses safety and cleanliness concerns of commuters,” said Jagdeep Desai, founder trustee, Architect Forum for Improving Quality of life in Mumbai Suburbs.
Some commuters too, responded positively to the budget. “There were positive announcements such as introducing 12-car rakes on harbour line and enhancing facilities on stations by renewing public-private-partnership. We need to wait and see how much is implemented,” said Suryakant Ghadi, 49, banker.