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Stuck on slow track for years, Railway projects need a fillip in February 1 budget

Several projects aimed at making train commute smoother and expanding the capacity of the suburban network are yet to take off. One such project is the segregation of the long-distance and local train traffic sanctioned under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project 2 in 2010.

budget Updated: Jan 31, 2019 13:36 IST
Aroosa Ahmed and Kailash Korde
Aroosa Ahmed and Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
general budget,railways budget,mumbai suburban network
Several projects announced by the NDA government at the Centre aimed at making train commute smoother and expanding the capacity of Mumbai’s suburban network are yet to take off. (Reuters File / Photo used for representational purpose)

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government gets ready to present its last budget, including Railways’, before the Lok Sabha polls on February 1, several projects aimed at making train commute smoother and expanding the capacity of the suburban network are yet to take off.

One such project is the segregation of the long-distance and local train traffic sanctioned under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 2 in 2010. The aim was to create additional lines and stop trespassing to reduce the pressure on suburban lines and improve the frequency and speed of the trains. However, the work on the fifth and sixth lines between Kurla and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), and Thane and Diva has been going slow, with the deadline for the latter being extended from 2019. Also, there is not much progress on the work on the sixth line between Mumbai Central and Borivli.

Sanctioned in 2015-2016, MUTP-3 is another project that is stuck. It includes doubling the existing Panvel-Karjat railway line, quadrupling of Virar-Dahanu railway line and acquiring 47 new AC local trains. The Railways are yet to make loan arrangements to begin the work. The land acquisition for the project is expected to start in a few months.

“Ground work for MUTP-3 is expected to start soon, as the state plans to acquire the land within a few months,” said a senior official from the Railways who did not wish to be named.

Passengers’ associations are irked with the delay. “The earlier government had sanctioned many projects to ease suburban railway commute. We had high hopes from the current government, but it failed to implement the projects,” said Lata Argade, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.

Along with the misses, there have been a few hits too, a case in point being the bullet train corridor. The foundation stone for the project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad was laid in September 2017, after which the work on the station and train designs began. The land acquisition is expected to begin soon.

The city also got the biggest suburban railway project, MUTP-3A, in the Union budget of 2018-2019. The project has received nod from Niti Aayog and awaits the final Union cabinet nod.

“The projects under MUTP-3A will decongest the suburban commute. We are expecting allocation of more funds for it in the upcoming budget,” said a senior railway official.

The government also worked on providing passenger amenities, need for which was highlighted after the Elphinstone Road stampede in September. The push helped the city get foot overbridges (FOB), escalators, elevators and other passenger amenities.

“Mumbai did not see major infrastructure boost over the years. However, the change in railway policy helped construction of much-needed bridges,” said Subodh Jain, retired member, engineering of railway board.

The much-awaited extension of western railway’s harbour line between Andheri and Goregaon was completed in 2018, while the first phase of the Nerul-Belapur-Uran was opened in 2018.

Railway officials want the important projects –15-coach local trains on CR and WR, longdistance train platforms at Jogeshwari railway station to decongest Bandra Terminus and Mumbai Central – to get a boost in the budget.

CR hopes to get help for the Kalyan yard remodelling project.

“We had submitted our demand on the railway board portal. The budget should focus on the projects that were announced earlier and allocate funds for them,” said a senior CR officer, on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

First Published: Jan 31, 2019 13:35 IST