There is good news for the 10-lakh-odd commuters travelling on the Harbour line. There is the possibility that 12-car trains could be started on that line from the end of this financial year.
At present, the line has scope only for 9-car trains. Similarly, suburban services on the Virar-Dahanu line may be brought back on track after several delays.
Vivek Sahai, chairman of the railway board, has made assurances that this proposal would be expedited. "I wish all trains were 12-car on the Harbour line. But, I promise trains on the Harbour line will become 12-car by April 2012," Sahai said.
This would be a major boost for commuters on the Harbour line travelling to Navi Mumbai. Currently, trains on the trans-harbour [Thane-Panvel] stretch are partly 12-car.
Another proposal to get a boost is the mega kitchens at metro cities.
The railway board will soon obtain the machine from Australia that helped Commonwealth Games authorities prepare 60,000 food plates a day. Railways can then stop the unhygienic and highly-priced food from contractors on long distance trains.
"The first mega kitchen will come up in Delhi followed by Mumbai," Sahai said. This will begin in the next seven months.
The railway board stated that their first priority was power conversion from 1500-volt DC to 25,000-volt AC and that they would start it by 2011-12. "Once the conversion is complete, it will be easier to take suburban services to Dahanu," Sahai added.
However, the practical problem about starting services is the reconstruction of two bridges on the Virar-Dahanu stretch that are dangerous. Sources in the Western
Railway said it would take 10 months for them to complete the work.
Apart from this, the system of issuing suburban tickets was found to be inconvenient for commuters. The railways are also working on a national smart card that could be used in on the railway, metro and monorail.
Sahai also criticised railway officials in Mumbai for being callous in cases of railway accidents on the tracks and said those responsible should be taken to task.
'Churchgate-CST rail link plan futile'
The railway board has made it clear that the proposal to connect Churchgate station with Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) via a railway line would be a futile and costly affair.
Similarly, the proposal for an elevated rail corridor above the 60-km Churchgate-Virar stretch could also be a non-starter.
The chairman of the railway board, Vivek Sahai, who came to Mumbai on Saturday, pointed out the status on these multi-crore projects.
"Connecting Churchgate station to CST by rail would not just be costly but would lead to an increase in operational costs as well," Sahai said. Sahai joked that walking would actually be good exercise.
Mamata Banerjee had announced the study for this proposal in the Railway Budget 2010.
Railway authorities feel it is virtually impossible to build railway lines on the congested road.
Moreover, underground railway tracks would prove to be very expensive, which railway officials feel would be an unnecessary expenditure.
On the other hand, the Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor that authorities believed would be the solution to the ever-increasing number of commuters hasn't got technical clearances.
The Western Railway has seen an increase in daily commuters by 8%.
"This proposal was to be implemented on a public-private partnership basis. But, its technical feasibility hasn't been cleared yet," Sahai added.
Last year, a feasibility study found the corridor unviable due to space constraints and that the entire 60km stretch cannot be elevated as desired. Former railway minister Lalu Prasad had proposed this plan over the existing line between Churchgate and Virar.
The study had said that an alternative was to build a railway track on three levels - underground, surface and elevated.
The cost of building an elevated rail track is Rs 100 crore per km, while that of an underground line is three times that.