Living up to the expectations of thousands of commuters from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, railway minister Suresh Prabhu is likely to give a nod to the Mumbai Urban Transport Project-3 in the railway budget that will be presented on Thursday.
Officials hope Prabhu, who is a Mumbaiite and was a suburban commuter long ago, will give a push to PM Narendra Modi’s dream projects – the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and elevated corridors on the Virar-Churchgate and CST-Panvel route. Apart from a special project vehicle (SPV) to undertake railway projects in the state, the minister is likely to gift the state some railway infrastructure projects such as the new Karad-Chiplun line for connectivity to upcoming ports in Konkan.
According to railway officials, the partial doubling of the Konkan Railway line, too, may find a spot in the budget. Along with funds for the ongoing infrastructure projects in the state and the city, Prabhu is likely to make some popular announcements such as the introduction of new suburban services, including those of 15-car trains. The announcement of the much delayed air-conditioned trains, automatic doors for local trains and gadgets for ensuring safety of women may be the surprise elements of the package, claim sources.
However, with the railways battling financial crisis, it is unlikely that the entire Rs11,441-crore MUTP-3 project may be taken up at one go, said officials. A senior railway official said that they might give priority to the Airoli-Kalwa link and Panvel-Karjat doubling, as these projects have received the nod of the state government.
In a letter to the railway minister, the chief minister has sought Rs500 crore for the ongoing second phase of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-II), Rs20 crore for the Kalyan-Kasara third line project and Rs100 crore for the Nerul-Belapur-Uran line, said sources.
Activists are hoping for a positive outcome. “The first phase of the MUTP is complete, while the second phase is midway. If the third phase gets a nod in the railway budget, it will help improve the suburban connectivity in the MMR,” said Subhash Gupta, a passenger activist and member of divisional railway users’ consultative committee.
Passenger activists are, however, concerned over the delay in ongoing railway projects such as the sixth railway line between Borivli and Mumbai Central, the fifth and sixth lines between Kurla-CST and Thane-Diva, 12-coach trains on the harbour line, among others.
“The railway minister is from Mumbai and he has an experience of the suburban commute. He also has a different approach towards commuters’ issues, which has increased our hopes,” said DC Godbole, a passenger activist from Badlapur.