The appointment of a city politician, Suresh Prabhu, as the railway minister will fast track the infrastructure-upgrade our suburban rail network is crying for, city transport experts and activists hope.
For the past few years, the city has not received sanctions for new rail infrastructure projects. Recently, the proposal to commercially develop three key suburban stations – Dadar, Kurla and Borivli – was turned down by the railway board.
However, with Prabhu taking over as the railway minister, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) had started a study of 20 suburban stations for commercial development.
Instead of investing public money on roads, largely used by the private vehicles, the government should focus on improving rail infrastructure that caters to millions of passengers, said transport experts.
“With 7 million people travelling by trains daily, suburban rail infrastructure projects deserve a boost. Special attention should be given to the harbour line,” said Madhav Pai, director of Embarq, a not-for-profit initiative of the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Upgrading existing station infrastructure should be a priority, experts said. “Focus should be on improving facilities on platforms. The new railway minister should ensure projects are completed in a time-bound manner, which is not happening now,” said Rishi Agarwal, research fellow at Observer Research Foundation.
Lata Argade, commuter activist, said: “The railway minister should expedite the procurement of new Bombardier rakes and prioritise the completion of projects past their deadlines.”
The MRVC has proposed four projects that can vastly improve rail commute in the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR) Airoli–Kalwa link, Panvel-Karjat doubling project, Virar–Dahanu 3rd, 4th line construction project and Vasai-Virar-Panvel suburban corridor.
“We hope some projects will definitely get a push [by Prabhu],” said Rakesh Saksena, MRVC chairman and managing director.