It’s a battle, not for survival, but for travel. Thanks to illegal hawkers, autorickshaws and illegal structures, commuters have to spend an hour to travel from Kurla railway station to Bandra-Kurla Complex, a distance that should ideally be covered in 10 minutes.
“The Supreme Court’s directives ban hawkers within 100m of station area, but the rule is being flouted blatantly in Kurla. The civic body’s action is clearly not enough. The best example of civic apathy is the public bridge, which has been completely taken over by hawkers. Moreover, autorickshaws ply with as many as five people, which is dangerous,” said transport expert Jitendra Gupta.
“Illegal hawkers take up the entire road in the evening leading to traffic snarls. If there is no traffic, you can easily reach BKC in 10 minutes, but hawkers don’t allow it to happen. Officegoers heading towards BKC and those heading towards Phoenix Market City mall make the stretch a nightmare,” said Gupta.
Adding to the struggle are autorickshaw drivers, who act as per their whims and fancies.
“During peak hours, autorickshaws are parked on the roads leading to the station and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. This, in turn, pushes the traffic on to the road leading to BKC and Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) road. You are not only just ducking vehicles, but also wading through a sea of hawkers sitting in the middle of the road,” said Prithiviraj, a working professional, who travels daily from Kurla station to BKC.
The CST road leading towards the Yadav municipal market – the shortest route to BKC -- is blocked by a chawl. Although the residents have lost the legal battle against the civic body, it hasn’t been razed yet.
The east side of the station is a little better in terms of traffic than the west, but illegal hawkers, BEST buses and autorickshaws continue to remain a problem. The plan to extend the skywalk, too, remains on paper.
Citizen activist Gaurang Damani said, “In the east, the BEST bus depot is adjacent to the station. While the buses come from all directions, autorickshaw drivers, too, jostle for space. Also, the frequency of buses is poor. There are some rough patches on the roads leading to BKC and LBS, which obstruct the flow of traffic.”
NCP corporator Saida Khan, who has been pursuing the station area traffic improvement scheme (Satis) plan, said, “If Satis gets implemented, we could control the traffic issues. The proposal was cleared by the civic body, but its implementation hasn’t happened yet. Despite many follow-ups with local ward office, it is still in cold storage.”
NOT A CAKEWALK. BRACE TO HOP, SKIP & JUMP
One of the oldest stations in Mumbai constructed in 1879, Kurla has eight operational platforms. On an average, nearly 4 lakh passengers use the station. Apart from the harbour and Central line local commuters, long-distance travellers too use the station to reach the terminus, which is nearly 15 minutes away. Business centres, educational institutes and attractions such as the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), Vivekanand Education Society and Phoenix Mall just add to the chaos.
Only for hawkers, not walkers
Like is the case at most railway stations, Kurla station area, too, is plagued by illegal hawkers. Be it in the east or west, hawkers continue to obstruct traffic movement as well pedestrians during peak hours. In case of this station, the hawkers haven’t stopped at roads. They have also occupied the public bridge, leaving commuters in a fix. The authorities are unable to fix the problem for good because of problems related to jurisdiction. When civic officials try to take action, they flee towards the railway station and vice versa when railway officials raid the spot. Just like the number of commuters travelling towards BKC and Phoenix Mall, the problems for commuters, too, are on the rise. The apathy of the authorities have left commuters struggling
Autorickshaw drivers plying between station and BKC charge as per their whims and fancies. They carry around five passengers on their trips to BKC. During office hours, there is absolute chaos near Bharat Cineplex and SG Barve road, with autorickshaws coming from all directions. As BEST buses take the longer route and more time, many passengers have to depend on autos. Most of the times, the autorickshaws are parked haphazardly. To add to it, commuters keep running in the middle of the road to hail the vehicles. In the east, a bottleneck has been created by the entry-exit point of BEST buses near the depot. The most notorious are autorickshaw drivers plying between Kurla station and Kurla Terminus.
Illegal structures come in the way
Travel on SG Barve Marg leading towards Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is nightmarish during morning and evening peak hours, thanks to the illegal structures blocking the way. While the commute from Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) to railway station using SG Barve Marg during non-peak hours takes 10-15 minutes, it takes up to an hour during peak hours. The stretch from Bharat Cineplex to station via station road near Ram Mahal hotel, too, is blocked because of illegal structures. The shops on the east as well as the west make the lane narrow. In the west, a chawl on New Mill Road has lost the four-decade legal battle to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). But even two years later, the civic authorities haven’t demolished it. If the chawl is demolished, there will be better connectivity to the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The authorities have been ignoring the demand made by motorists for years, forcing them to struggle their way to work daily.
A road remains just on paper
Being one of the busiest railway stations in the city, on an average, one person dies daily in a railway accident at Kurla. Although Bhabha hospital is less than 2 minutes away, it takes almost 20 minutes to seek help because of poor road connectivity. A road has been proposed opposite Ram Mahal hotel, leading to Bhabha hospital, in the development plan (DP) but has not been connected because of the existing structures. Another road from Shree Krishna Chowk to Yadav municipal market could be the shortest possible route from Kurla station to BKC. But an old structure forces people to take the Malik Hassan Marg instead.
A subway that isn’t
The work on the subway is yet to be completed. It was partially constructed in 2011 by the railways to give some relief to daily commuters. However, so far, only the east side of the subway has been opened. Earlier, it was proposed as a vehicular subway, but the fresh plan has changed it to a pedestrian subway. This subway is the best example of planning and coordination failure between the authorities. Now, the civic body will have to complete the remaining work. The station area traffic improvement system (Satis) plan, too, is stuck.
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