If there is one single factor that led to the once-sleepy township of Vashi becoming a much sought-after corporate and residential address, it is the township’s swanky railway station.
The station, which was inaugurated on May 9, 1992 and now handles 62,730 commuters daily, has become a major commercial hub that has seen residential and commercial development explode and realty rates zoom over the past 15 years.
To begin with, the clean, airy, well-designed station, with proper subways for commuters, was a hit from day one with commuters, leading to a residential boom. Then commerce took off, with the station’s seven towers that form the International Infotech Park (IIP) and the massive office complex developed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) to support the information technology industry in Vashi.
Operational since June 1998, the IIP features over 300,000 sq ft of built-up space, housing IT majors like Satyam, Patni, Sify, 3i Infotech, Iris Business Services, Cyquator and Tracmail, to name a new.
The station was a result of a joint venture between the Central Railway and CIDCO. “Both bodies wanted the station to be self-sufficient in creating funds for the development of the station. So they decided to sell space in the station premises for offices, eateries and other commercial enterprises. It was the first station to do so,” recalls Vinod Trivedi, former director of the Progressive Group, which built the railway station.
Though Vashi and Belapur stations were built simultaneously, the former was the first to be inaugurated by the then-President of India, R Venkataraman.
Real estate rates, the best indicator of an area’s popularity, tell the story of Vashi’s rise. While residential property rates were as low as Rs 1,500 per sq ft till 1992, they range between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 now. Commercial properties, which were anywhere between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000 per sq ft in 1992, are now Rs 15,000 to Rs 40,000. Retail space, in particular, is much in demand and three major malls — Centre One, Raghuleela and Inorbit — have come up within walking distance from the station.
Smaller units do well, too. Says Chelaram Chaudhary, who owns the Vashi Juice Centre on the second floor of the station, and was one of the first to open shop here, “All the offices here help me do good business. Competition has increased but there’s room for everyone,” he says.
This affluence has brought with it concerns of security, however. Dileep Nadkarni, owner of the Udipi Snacks eatery, says, “This is one of the busiest stations but it lacks security. Mumbai is on its toes after the terror attacks but Navi Mumbai is still laidback. The station hardly has any security not even metal detectors.”
According to Nadkarni, though the area has developed because of the station, the station has not been updated keeping in mind the growing population. “Of the four exit points, only two are being used. During an emergency there coud dbe a stampede. The authorities need to upgrade the facilities.”
Nerul resident Arati Chauhan adds, “Earlier the station was host to so many exhibitions, but not today. We used to come here just to see the exhibitions; now we come only to board a train.”
Other residents say the station has not kept pace with growing commuter numbers; insufficient ticket counters being the main complaint. Cleanliness is also an issue. “The station was once known for its cleanliness but it is so dirty now,” says Roshan Mathew, a Koparkhairane resident.
In spite of their complaints, its commuters are still proud of their station. Adds Mathew, “There are always problems with places like this that are built with a great hullabaloo. But its eateries and bookshops and space, both inside and outside the station, still make it the No 1 station in the city.”
A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality.