47 AC trains set to miss 2021 deadline as Mumbai agencies bicker

There is uncertainty over which agency will put the local trains on the tracks.

mumbai Updated: Aug 12, 2018 03:50 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
AC trains,Mumbai,Air-conditioned local trains
Once rolled out, the new AC trains are expected to ease the pressure on the existing suburban railway network. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

The 47 air-conditioned (AC) local trains, which the city was to get by 2021 under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-3), will now arrive even later as there is uncertainty over which agency will put them on the tracks. This AC train project is different from the current AC train that runs on WR.

The Rs10,900-crore MUTP-3 was launched more than three years ago to improve the capacity and quality of existing train corridors in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). More than 80 lakh commuters use the suburban train network on a daily basis.

The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), a body specially created for planning and implementing suburban railway projects, wants the entire AC train project to be handed over to the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) of Railways, while the suburban sections of Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) — who will be running the trains – want it to be implemented through MRVC.

In June, MRVC wrote to the Railways’ policy-making body, Railway Board, to hand over the project to ICF, which had manufactured the non-AC suburban locals for Mumbai in the first two phases of MUTP. However, CR and WR have strongly opposed the plan and written to the board with their objections. Their primary contention is the ICF will not have “first-hand knowledge” of the suburban network’s needs and problems, which the MRVC is familiar with.

Officials, on the condition of anonymity, said procurement of local trains involves several aspects, including testing of locals before commissioning on tracks. If MRVC, which has the expertise after the first two successful projects, procures the trains, it will be easy for them to monitor the project and develop it as per Mumbai’s needs.

The bickering, however, is likely to delay implementation of MUTP-3, as procurement and running of the 47 AC trains at the cost of Rs3,491 crore was one of its crucial elements.

The specifications of the new AC train are ready and the Railway’s Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) has finalised the designs in January 2018. According to officials, the bidding process should have started by now and the 47 trains should have ideally been on tracks by 2021.

MRVC chairman and managing director RS Khurana said: “We have sent a proposal to the Railway Board that the rakes [trains] should be manufactured at ICF. The board is processing it and a decision is expected soon.”

CR and WR officials who HT spoke to said this was an unexpected step at this stage, when the project was at the bidding stage. A CR official, on condition of anonymity, said the city will get better trains if MRVC procures them.

External experts are of the opinion that ICF’s role should be limited to manufacturing the trains, while MRVC should monitor the project.

AV Shenoy, transport expert, said the bickering and the resulting delay is due to lack of a single-point decision making body. “ICF is a manufacturing body of Indian Railways, but it is obvious that all the railway projects should be rooted through MRVC. Considering the urgency of getting new trains for Mumbai, railway minister should intervene and take the decision, so the project should not get delayed,” said Shenoy.

Rajeev Singhal, a railway activist, said the MRVC is trying to wash its hands of their responsibility. “MRVC was formed for suburban projects and if it is asking ICF to procure locals for Mumbai. It is trying to pass on its responsibility on to others,” he said.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 03:49 IST