Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s budget may not have been anything out of the ordinary, but it did not leave suburban commuters in Mumbai completely disappointed.
As a long-term solution to the problems of suburban services, Prabhu gave his approval for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project-3 (MUTP-3) and allocated Rs511 crore for MUTP-2, which is already underway.
In fact, the allocation for the second phase — which involves procurement of 72 new suburban trains and putting two more line between Kurla and CST — was more than the state government’s demand of Rs500 crore. “The state will share an equal amount for the project,” said Prabhat Sahay, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd, chief.
The budget also focused on improving suburban connectivity and set aside Rs30 crore for the Nerul-Seawood-Uran new line, another Rs30 crore for tripling of Kalyan-Kasara rail line and Rs70 crore for doubling of the Panvel-Roha line.
“Our fund allocation has increased under all heads. We don’t think we will be able to spend the entire amount. However, this has been a good budget,” said Sunil Kumar Sood, general manager, CR and WR.
And in some more good news for commuters, special allocation of Rs120 crore has been made for installing escalators and lifts at stations. These were sanctioned even in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Also, Wi-Fi service may be commissioned at CST, LTT, Bandra Terminus and Mumbai Central Terminus. The facility will be free for the first 15 minutes.
Allocation for passenger amenities on the Central Railway was increased from Rs74 crore to Rs130 crore. Similarly, on Western Railway, a provision of over Rs30 crore was made for raising height of platforms, installing escalators and building foot overbridges.
However, the budget did not have any mention of the Churchgate-Virar and CST-Panvel elevated corridors or new services with MUTP-2 rakes.
Not only Mumbai, the state also received significant budgetary provision. Long-pending infrastructure projects worth Rs22,000 crore have been sanctioned. This includes a new line between Karad and Chiplun, doubling of third line between Pune-Lonavla, doubling of Pune-Miraj-Londa and Wardha–Ballarshah third line.
Transport expert Ashok Datar said approval for the MUTP-3 will result in more suburban tracks. “AC trains between Kalyan-CST and Churchgate-Borivli can reduce the use of cars on the roads,” he said.
Shailesh Noyal, a passenger activist, however, said the budget reiterated the promises made earlier.