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Why Mumbai monorail is scrambling to get on track by 2019

India’s first monorail between Wadala and Chembur may not be back on track until 2019 as MMRDA is yet to procure rakes and other equipment. Worse, it is hard put to retain the current operator.

mumbai Updated: Jul 07, 2018 14:02 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A trial run of Mumbai monorail Phase II project at Currey Road junction. The Phase II of Mumbai monorail will be running from Wadala to Jacob Circle when operational.(HT/File Photo)

India’s first monorail between Wadala and Chembur may not be back on track until early 2019 because the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is yet to procure rakes and other equipment, officials have said. Worse, it is hard put to retain the current operator — Larsen & Toubro-Scomi Engineering (LTSE) — until the new one is appointed.

Monorail services came to a halt after a coach caught fire in November last year.

MMRDA is scrambling to purchase five additional rakes (trains), more than 1,300 spare parts and tyres — a necessity for resuming operations. Worse, with the consortium unwilling to run Monorail operations, MMRDA has not found a replacement.

The MMRDA had proposed India’s first Monorail in November 2007. The Maharashtra government had planned to construct nine other such corridors to unburden other modes of transport, especially the suburban railway network. However, with the failure of the pilot project, the state government abandoned the plan to build 190-km of Monorail across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The 19.5-km Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle corridor was due to start by December 2010; instead, the 8.9-km line between Chembur and Wadala under phase 1 was finally opened on February 2, 2014. Phase 2 between Wadala and Jacob Circle is yet to be commissioned. The operations on Phase 1 have been shut after a coach of the monorail went up in flames on November 9 last year.

Monorail was flagged off in 2014 to unburden the rail network. But with the second phase yet to become operational, several glitches, suspension of services and war of words between MMRDA and operator, the goal remains unfulfilled
After several delays, the 8.9-km Chembur to Wadala stretch was commissioned on February 2, 2014
The 10.6 km Wadala-Jacob Circle under Phase 2 is yet to be commissioned
The Wadala-Jacob Circle stretch was originally scheduled to be commissioned in December 2010
Since then, the deadline has been altered more than 15 times
Since the opening of Phase 1, the line has faced a lot of technical issues. The services have been affected due to power tripping, incidents where the doors of the trains opened during the travel and a tyre fell on the ground
Once the entire corridor is operational, the 19.5-km stretch will be covered in 40 minutes
Once completed, Monorail will provide seamless connectivity to the Central Railway (CR), Western Railway (WR) and Harbour Line
Phase 2 will have stations near Mahalaxmi on WR, Currey Road on CR and Wadala Road on Harbour line.
MAY 2014: The door of a train opened while it was travelling between two stations
JUNE: The constant velocity joint of one of the rakes broke
JULY: A wire got tripped because of which Monorail services were completely shut for 10 hours
AUGUST: The constant velocity joint of one of the trains developed a problem at VN Purav Marg-RC Marg Junction
OCTOBER: Services were suspended for three hours owing to a technical problem
MARCH 2015: Power supply disrupted Monorail services
APRIL: Monorail services halted due to power supply issues
JUNE 2016: A tyre of a rolling stock train burst after which its parts fell on the road below in Chembur
AUGUST: Another tyre of a rolling stock burst at Bhakti Park and its part tumbled down on the road below
NOVEMBER 2017: A Monorail coach caught fire. Since then, services have remained shut

RA Rajeev, metropolitan commissioner of MMRDA, said he had been working to resume Monorail operations. He did not reveal by when Monorail services would restart. But senior MMRDA officials said the entire line is unlikely to resume after early 2019. “We need spare parts and five new rakes. Of the 10 rakes provided by them, six are operational. Four are almost out of order because of cannibalisation; they have to be fitted with new spare parts,” Rajeev said. He estimated that five new rakes would arrive in Mumbai before May-June next year.

MMRDA was yet to take a call whether the entire 19.5-km corridor would be commissioned or only the first phase as it has only 10 rakes as of now. “We want to restart the entire corridor. But it is difficult because you cannot ask people to wait for 10 minutes for the next train. If people cooperate, we can resume the entire line with 10 rakes,” Rajeev said.

Another trouble that MMRDA is wrestling with is finding a new operator after a consortium of Larsen & Toubro and Scomi Engineering last month said its three-year contract with MMRDA had ended. MMRDA refused to accept the consortium’s contention. It is exploring legal recourse for an amicable solution. It argued that LTSE could not leave the project midway because the entire corridor was not operational.

“Their contention is that they have operated for more than three years... As the project was not completed, it cannot be said that operations have started,” said Rajeev. HT’s messages seeking comments from L&T and Scomi Engineering remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

The Monorail corridor was supposed to be a first-of-its-kind transportation system in the country, which would cater to 1.25 lakh passengers daily, but it has reduced to an 8.9-km joyride. The corridor saw around 18,000 passengers daily on the corridor.

MMRDA expects ridership to go up once Phase 2 is operational as it passes through dense localities of the city. MMRDA’s Monorail revenue was Rs 4.10 crore in 2016 and Rs 3.33 crore in 2017 (till the November fire).

First Published: Jul 07, 2018 10:41 IST