Vande Bharats give ghost town Wadi Bundar fresh life
The revitalization of Wadi Bundar, which was once a bustling freight traffic hub, is expected to bring new life to the area and boost connectivity.
Mumbai: Wadi Bundar, once the epicentre for freight traffic, resembles a ghost town after sunset today. But the sheath of gloom is being slowly lifted, as the rail yard, built in 1882, is being transformed into a state-of-the-art depot where semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express trains will be stationed and maintained.
Earlier this week the new non-AC Vande Sadharan Express train, coloured in distinct orange and grey, arrived here under Central Railway (CR). CR also carried out trial runs of the train on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT)-Igatpuri section.
Positioned in the heart of south Mumbai, the rail yard is situated partly below Sandhurst Road station and the neighbouring P D’Mello Road. Once upon a time the criss-cross rail lines ferried grains and spices from across India to bustling wholesale markets in the city. That vivacity is poised for revival once the hub is transformed into a world-class facility.
Wadi Bandar: 2.0
Four Vande Bharat Express trains run on the routes controlled by CR. The draft plan indicates a dedicated eight-line maintenance facility for the trains, under CR’s Gati Shakti project. “It is a ₹54 crore project, where eight stabling lines will be created, plans for which were sanctioned in 2020,” said Shivraj Manaspure, chief PRO, CR.
Work on construction of the shed, rail lines, stripping junk to create more space has begun. Today, Vande Bharat trains operating between CSMT to Shirdi, Solapur and Goa are stabled here – they are cleaned with specialised vacuum cleaners using cyclone technology, said a CR official.
Indian Railways has sanctioned over ₹2400 crore to set up 21 maintenance depots, pan-India, to service over 400 Vande Bharat trains that will emerge in the next four years.
Spread across 19.2ha, Wadi Bundar is a vital link for trains starting from CSMT. It has 14 sheds that were used for loading and unloading of commodities such as cement, food grains and other raw materials. Today, it has been reduced to handling coach maintenance and parcel booking, besides which a linen washing plant also operates from here.
Around Wadi Bundar
Besides this project by Indian Railways, other infra developments proposed by the state will re-energise the area. Metro-11, connecting CSMT with Wadala via the harbour route, has been proposed. In January, the 12.77-km line, which will predominantly be underground, was handed over to Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), although the deadline for the project is yet to be issued.
According to sources, considering the value of land, authorities have decided to construct the underground corridor which will pass through the heart of the city. The detailed project report has marked this as the ‘green line’ with 10 stations. In the first year of its operations, the line is likely to witness more than 12 lakh daily ridership, which would cross 18 lakhs in 10 years.
Once this network is operational, CSMT will be linked to both western and eastern suburbs through Metro. Metro-11 will have an interchange facility with the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Line-3. This corridor will be a significant stretch as it passes through the Mumbai Port Trust area, which is planned to be redeveloped into a major commercial and entertainment hub in the future. The area has been envisioned as a new financial centre, complete with government offices, hotels, residential and commercial properties.
A perfect past
At one time, one of the largest wholesale markets operated out of Wadi Bundar from where goods were transferred by sea and freight trains. Within, sub-markets such as Dana Bundar, Masjid Bundar and Carnac Bundar were created, each carrying out distinct businesses of wholesale goods. Over time, as the APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) market emerged in Vashi, businesses moved and gradually this flourishing hub lost its sheen.
Bal Malkit Singh, 60, owner of Bal Roadlines, a trucking company, remembered the heyday of the 1980s. “Our office used to be here. Businessmen thrived, especially those dealing in grains, cement and perishable goods,” said Singh.
Although Masjid Bundar is an important railway station and continues to cater to different sectors – from trucks and tempos, to containers, steel and metal – the volume of business has drastically reduced. The area is dead by 8pm.
“Three to four decades ago, this business district catered to 20,000-25,000 trucks, trailers and tempos daily. Now, there are barely 1000-odd godowns after markets shifted to Navi Mumbai. Only parcels are booked and distributed from here now,” said a member of Bombay Goods Transport Association. The association, now located in Wadala, had its office in Wadi Bundar until a few years ago.
Carnac and Hancock bridges provided ease of movement to people headed towards the dock. “It is good news that the railways are reviving Wadi Bundar for parking Vande Bharat trains. This could revive the neighbouring areas,” said K Shenoy, 65, a resident of Mazgaon. “Alongside, work on Carnac and Hancock bridges should also be expediated, as they are vital to connectivity by road.”