The long-pending plan to expand Mumbai’s suburban rail network is gaining momentum.
For long, transport experts have pointed out the need for extending services to areas around Mumbai, thus helping to decongest the city. A fast transport system would mean people could stay in distant areas, yet reach work on time.
Railway officials are working out plans to connect the city’s east and west and also develop regions such as Navi Mumbai, Kasara, Karjat, Pen, Alibaug, Virar and Dahanu. Jagdeep Desai, architect and planner said: “Development in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region would drastically improve if connectivity through suburban trains gets extended. One of the best examples is Navi Mumbai, which gained popularity once it got rail connectivity.”
New lines have been proposed along the Virar-Diva-Panvel route, connecting the western, central and harbour lines. “The studies would begin now,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer, Western Railway.
The state also wants Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation to study the feasibility of another 223 km for the suburban network. “People are moving towards the eastern side and further north. The railways should extend to those areas. Eventually, lines beyond Borivli and Kalyan will have to be quadrupled,” said a senior Central Railway official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project Phase 3, which is expected to start by 2017, a fast corridor on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-Panvel route, third and fourth lines on the Virar-Dahanu route, extension of the Harbour line till Borivli, a Panvel-Karjat line and fifth and sixth lines on the Borivli-Virar are planned. “If planned growth is arranged north of these sections with east-west connectivity and residential areas in between, traffic south of these sections will reduce,” said Prakash Tendulkar, a railway expert.
Some of the lines under consideration are Thane-Bhiwandi, Diva-Vasai, Panvel-Uran, Diva-Panvel, Kharkopar-Jite, Panvel-Karjat, Panvel-Jite-Thal and Thal-Alibaug. This would mean an extension of the network to the ends of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.