For 17-year old Neha Joshi, a student of Government Polytechnic College in Bandra, manoeuvring her way out of Bandra station to reach college is more difficult and time-consuming than travelling on the 17-km Borivli to Bandra stretch on the suburban train.
For around five lakh suburban commuters like Neha, making their way around Bandra station has become a daily struggle.
On the east side of the station, a large number of commuters travel to the business district of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), which comprises several government offices like Mhada, the collector’s office, family court, the food and drug administration (FDA), the diamond market, various consulates and the headquarters of different banks and financial institutions.
Several others are residents of government colony, Kalanagar, Shastri nagar, Patrakar Vasat, Gandhi nagar, Maharashtra Nagar, students in Chetana Institute, Hiray Architecture and Government polytechnic college.
“The staircase on the east side of the station is always blocked by autorickshaw drivers, who don’t allow commuters to walk freely. To avoid them, I take the nearly 1km skywalk daily,” said Joshi, who commutes from Borivli to Bandra in 30 minutes, but spends around 45 minutes to reach college, which is barely 2km from Bandra station.
Similarly, thousands of government officials, officegoers in BKC and residents in Kalanagar and government colony complained about the congestion on the foot overbridge at the station — the only connection to the skywalk on the eastern side.
“Until a few years ago, traffic in Bandra (West) was disciplined with autorickshaws entering the station area in a single line and bus passengers queuing for BEST buses. However, in the past three years, the traffic discipline on the west side has turned into chaos and both autorickshaw drivers and commuters should be blamed for it,” said Naresh Fernandez, Bandra (West) resident.
“Only one FOB is connected to the skywalk on the eastern side. As a result, a majority of users take the same FOB, leading to a stampede-like situation on the stretch, which also has hawkers. The skywalk should be connected to more FOBs,” said Suvarna Agarkar, Bandra resident.
A bigger concern, however, is the under- construction road overbridge (ROB) at Bandra (East), which will provide direct connectivity to vehicular traffic from Bandra station to the terminus. Thus, the vehicular traffic for Bandra terminus, which is currently blocking the station area, will shift to elevated road and the existing road space is expected to be freed to some extent.
The motorists on both the east and the west side complained about haphazardly parked autorickshaws and private vehicles that occupy a majority of the road, leaving no space for moving traffic.
The commuters also complained about crowding at bus stops because of the addition of new bus routes on the two bus stops opposite the station. “Earlier, only two bus routes 211 and 219 would stop at the stops. But in the past few years, BEST has added a few more routes, thus increasing the crowd at these stops,” said Sunil Rao, Bandra, Carter Road resident.
Commuters also complained about illegally parked vehicles on GR Varasakar Marg and Turner Road, both connecting Bandra (West). The GR Varasakar Marg station road connecting to Hill Road has been encroached upon by eateries and furniture shops. “The buses take over half-an-hour to cross these stretches,” said Pallavi Desai, Malad resident, who works in Bandra (West).
Sharat Chandrayan, western railway chief PRO, said, “We have requested the state to construct an elevated deck or road that will connect Bandra station to the western express highway. This can also be connected to the under-construction ROB so that commuters from BKC, Kalanagar or WEH can have direct access to the station as well as Bandra terminus. But so far there have been no proposals.”
On the line
Bandra is regarded as the queen of the suburbs, but its station does not match the description. Built during the British era, this station is one of the busiest on Western Railway (WR).
Lack of efficient infrastructure for public transport
The station lacks the infrastructure for public transport service on both the east and the west side. Accessible public transport will ensure faster dispersal of commuters getting in and out of the station. The frequency of BEST buses is affected largely because of the traffic congestion outside the station. The lack of space to turn the bus prompted BEST to stop services recently. Activists have been demanding more services from the station to different areas such as BKC, Bandra terminus, Linking Road and Hill Road to reduce waiting time for buses.
Illegally parked vehicles, encroachments on road and footpath near Bandra station
The roads on both the west and east sides of Bandra station are often reduced to a single lane because of illegally parked private vehicles. Similarly, footpaths are encroached by local shopkeepers and small hotels. The GR Varasakar Marg connecting the station to Hill Road at Bandra (West) is badly affected by roadside eateries and furniture shops that have encroached an entire footpath and some portion of the road. In Bandra (East), two of the three lanes connecting the ONGC building to Bandra station are always encroached upon by private vehicles, hawkers and roadside eateries, compounding the congestion problem around the station.
Traffic indiscipline, autorickshaw menace outside Bandra station
This is the biggest contributor to the traffic chaos outside Bandra station on both sides, thus affecting faster dispersal of commuters and easy access to the railway station. The autos are parked in two, three and even four rows outside Bandra station, thus blocking the entire road, leaving no space for private vehicles or BEST buses. Activists complain they never find any traffic police outside the station. There is no segregation of metered and share-an-autos queues.
Lack of commuter friendly infrastructure like skywalks and an incomplete road project
The MMRDA built skywalks on both the east and west side of Bandra station for commuters. However, a large number of them don’t use the skywalks as their landings are not at convenient locations. Further, these skywalks do not have escalators, which is another reason why commuters prefer to cross the roads or walk on roads, adding to the congestion.
Incomplete ROB connecting Bandra station and terminus
Vehicular traffic in Bandra (East) and the congestion on the station road would have been majorly reduced if the ROB connecting the station and the terminus had been completed in time. The Rs28-crore elevated road project commissioned in 2011 came to a halt a year later because of encroachments.
Lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and non-motorised transport
The lack of pedestrian-friendly walkways, footpaths and escalators or lifts on skywalk adds to the problems of commuters walking in and out of the station. There is no provision to park non-motorised transport such as bicycles.