The Union railway budget is likely to kick off efforts to improve and speed up connectivity between Mumbai and its far-flung suburbs in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
Once the proposed rail corridors get going, they will revolutionise mass transport in and around Mumbai, and possibly start the process of decongesting Mumbai.
Currently, Mumbaiites contend with several issues. The routes - Churchgate to Virar on the western line, CST to Karjat-Kasara on the central line and CST to Panvel on the harbour line -are over-burdened because of the lack of alternative options.
Also, while these lines offer south-north connectivity, the eastern and the western suburbs are poorly linked to each other.
There are also no good transport options for those who would be interested in buying homes and shifting to the far-flung suburbs.
The budget has attempted to address these problems.
The railway minister announced in the budget that the financial module for the Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor would be finalised and that a survey would be conducted for the proposed CST-Kalyan elevated corridor. Both these corridors can give commuters the option of travelling faster and more comfortably in AC trains. It will cost more than the regular route, but it can help reduce the number of private vehicles on the roads.
The proposed CST-Panvel corridor will serve the same purpose on the harbour line, besides providing a connection to the second airport in Navi Mumbai.
By proposing the Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel corridor, which is part of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project III, the Railways are also providing east-west connectivity within the MMR.
The budget has proposed several more surveys in the MMR, including the Thane-Navi Mumbai airport line, the Vasai-Thane-Diva double line and the Pen-Thal (near Alibaug) line.
"Mobility in Mumbai and in the vicinity will improve with these lines," said Arun Mokashi, urban transport expert.
Experts feel the city is in desperate need of rail lines that will connect the central and the western suburbs. "The new corridors announced in the budget will connect these missing links," said Ashok Datar, urban transport expert.
Datar, however, does not think the elevated corridors are a good idea. "The Railways should try to disperse the crowd instead of putting new overhead line on the same corridor," he said. Mokashi feels building these elevated corridors will be challenging.
"The implementation of MUTP II and III can solve the connectivity problem, but rail projects are not progressing as expected," said Mokashi.
Under MUTP III, Uran, Alibaug, and Pen in Raigad are likely to be connected with the suburban network.