While commuters hope that Tuesday’s railway budget does not mean another fare hike – it would be the fifth in less than one year – and has fund allocations to make their travel easier, the state wants the budget to consider the needs of the city and put the Mumbai Urban Transport Project-III on track.
Railway officials suspect there will be a fare, although it will not be a direct one, as the Railways may levy fuel or amenities surcharge on the ticket.
In two pre-budget letters to Union railway minister PK Bansal, CM Prithviraj Chavan has push forward corridors such as Virar-Diva-Panvel, the quadrupling of Virar-Dahanu lines, doubling of Panvel-Karjat lines, a Panvel-Alibaug line, under MUTP-III.
Similarly, passenger associations hope the budget will help improve the city’s railway infrastructure. “Out suburban network caters to the highest traffic compared to any other city and deposits the highest revenue. Considering this, the Railways should allocate maximum funds to strengthen the city’s network,” said Subhash Gupta, member of National Railway Users Consultative Committee.
The Western (WR) and Central Railway (CR) have a long wishlist. Officials want air-conditioned trains on the central line, CCTV surveillance in locals, more escalators at stations, more ticket-vending machines and funds to improve the state of stations.
“We want a decision on the proposed Parel and Thakurli terminus,” said a senior CR official. A WR official said they want funds to improve Borivli station.
However, railway officials are not optimistic about the city getting much. “Most probably, Mumbai won’t get much more than a few surveys and funds for ongoing projects. If any major project gets clearance, it will be a bonus,” said a railway official, on condition of anonymity.
Officials say the state’s apathy is to be blame. “Most of the big projects cleared in the last rail budget have not moved ahead because of lack of state initiative.”
For instance, the government has not yet signed the state support agreement for the 63-km Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor and the Panvel coaching complex project because of cost-sharing differences with the Railways.