When it comes to the railways, the state government’s focus is firmly on expanding connectivity beyond the city’s limits by laying tracks across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
This, said Chief Minister Ashokrao Chavan as he marked the introduction of the city’s 101st new-age train at Sahyadri guesthouse, should be the railways’ focus.
The government wants the railways to concentrate on the belt beyond Vasai-Virar on the western route and extend the trans-harbour route connecting Navi Mumbai to the city under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) Phase 3.
“There is tremendous potential in areas beyond Virar as many travel to Mumbai by train. We need to visualise development of these areas and formulate a common Development Control rule across MMR,” said Chavan.
The government wants the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) to speed up work on existing projects, take up new sections such as Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel and provide a fast corridor on the Harbour line.
“We should make up for the time lost in executing projects. Moreover, conditions in local trains should improve to make travel comfortable,” said Chavan.
Projects such as the Virar-Dahanu service haven’t started though work on it was completed eight months ago, Western Railway sources said on condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media that they don’t have enough trains to run on this route.
All trains coming under MUTP Phase 1 were being used to add more services between Virar and Andheri.
The Thane-Kurla fifth and sixth lines for long-distance trains are set to open in the next two months after a wait of nearly 15 years.
The Thane-Bhandup stretch is expected to open soon while the Kurla-Bhandup stretch is expected to open in December.
“These projects are important for segregating suburban lines from the main line,” said JP Dange, state chief secretary.
The state government also wants the railways to ensure crowds inside trains reduce over the coming years. Currently, an average of 4,100 people travel on a 12-coach train. “We hope to reduce the passenger load to 3,000 per train over the next two years,” said PC Sehgal, MVRC’s managing director.
Railway data shows the crush inside trains has reduced by 18 per cent over the last three years.
Minister of State for Home Arif Naseem Khan said the railways should augment station capacity to reduce crowding on platforms.