Train commuters in the city would have been travelling far more comfortably by now if the Railways and the government had been a little more efficient and a lot less lackadaisical.
Information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed how a report on increasing the capacity of Mumbai’s rail network has been shuttling between various railway and central government departments for the past six years.
A transport consultancy firm, the Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, had conducted a survey on the city’s rail network on behalf of
the Mumbai Vikas Rail Corporation (MVRC) and submitted a report in March 2005 suggesting technical changes in the rail network, the implementation of which would have allowed 271 more trains to run on the existing network within 90 seconds of each other (against the current three minutes).
The report set a deadline of 2011 for the project implementation, which means that by now the rail network would have been carrying 13 lakh more people by running 20 to 22 trains per hour as opposed to the current 14 to 17.
The project cost at Rs 3,979 crore was one-fifth the cost of a new metro line.
In August this year, after all the concerned agencies finally consented to the implementation of the recommendations made in the report, the Railway Board asked the MVRC to ascertain whether the report holds relevance after so many years.
“It took more than six years for the authorities to realise that this report will benefit Mumbai’s 70 lakh train commuters. Now, when they have all agreed, they want to check if the report is still relevant. I hope it won’t take another six years to do that,” said Sunil Ahya, an RTI activist who has been tracking this report.
“The main issue was the cost involved. The project would have put an additional burden on commuters so it needed approval from higher authorities,” said a senior MRVC official, requesting anonymity.
The report kept shuttling between six agencies, including the MVRC, the Railway Board, the Planning Commission, the Central Railway, the Western Railway and the World Bank.
The MVRC, the nodal agency coordinating with the five bodies to finalise the project, has asked the Western Railway to submit the modifications required in the report. “The MRVC is dependent on approval from other bodies for the implementation. Such delays are bound to happen unless there is one regulating body for Mumbai’s suburban system that can take the decision,” said Ahya.