Will Mumbaiites wait for Metro network get longer?

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Published on Oct 31, 2020 12:53 AM IST
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The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government managed to save green space by shifting the proposed car depot for Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) out of the Aarey Milk Colony, but the move is expected to affect the schedule of construction of Metro network in Mumbai, at a time when Covid-19 pandemic has already affected the work. With the car shed shifted to Kanjurmarg, there will be changes in designs of Metro-3 as well as Metro-6 (Swami Samarth Nagar to Vikhroli) line, which are expected to lead to time and cost overruns, which, experts say, is a highlight of infrastructure projects in Mumbai.

Cases in point

The foundation stone for the Bandra-Worli sea link was laid in 1999 when it was estimated to cost 660 crore. Mumbai’s first sea link, however, was delayed by five years, increasing the cost to 1,630 crore, with an additional interest cost of 700 crore, which is still being borne by Mumbaiites, 11 years after the line was opened for traffic in 2009.

Another project, the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, connecting Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, was on the drawing board for three decades before the project work started in 2018, with its cost increasing from 350 crore when it was mooted in the 1980s to 17,843 crore, the cost at which it is being executed now.

Mumbai’s first Metro – the 11.5-km corridor connecting the suburbs of Versova, Andheri and Ghatkopar – took six years to be executed. It has been six years since it was made operational and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), which operates the line, are in a bitter tussle over the cost of the project. While the former claims it to be 2,356 crore, the latter says it escalated to 4,026 crore.

World over, reasonable delays in project implementation are expected, however, the numerous legal, environmental, technical, political and contractual hurdles in executing infrastructure projects in the financial capital of the country mean commuting stays a nightmare in the city, especially as the railways are overburdened and roads are choked.

Ground reality

Currently, 180km of Metro lines are under-construction in the city. These include line 2A, 7, 3, 2B (DN Nagar-Mandale), 4 (Wadala-Thane-Kasarwadavali), 4A (extension of line 4 till Gaimukh), 5 (Thane-Bhiwandi-Kalyan), 6 (Swami Samarth Nagar-Vikhroli) and line 9 (extension of line 7 from Andheri to the airport and Dahisar to Mira Bhayander). Another 42.6-km line is at tendering stage. These include 10 (Gaimukh-Shivaji Chowk), 11 (line 4 extensions till Azad Maidan) and 12 (Kalyan-Taloja).

Three other lines of around 103km are at the detailed project report stage. These include line 8 (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport-Navi Mumbai International Airport), 13 (Shivaji Chowk-Virar) and 14 (Kanjurmarg-Badlapur).

The total cost of the 337-km line is 1.40 lakh crore, of which 41,308 crore or close to 30% is being funded by national and international agencies. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding Metro-3, will also have to approve the change in plan for it to go ahead.

Impact of change

In 2004, then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government had made a plan for a 146-km network by 2021. The Mumbai Metro master plan underwent major changes in the last decade, but was put on fast track in 2014.

Paresh Rawal, transport planner and public policy expert, said, “The Metros were a need of yesterday for the city. Its need has, in fact, increased in today’s scenario. All major infrastructure projects that were undertaken in the past few years were to further private transport. Nothing has been done to augment public transport in the city.”

The earlier deadline for Metro-2A (Dahisar-DN Nagar) and Metro-7 (Dahisar E-Andheri) East was December 2019, which was later revised to December 2020. Now it is expected to be operational by May 2021.

A part of Metro-3 (Aarey to Bandra-Kurla Complex as per the earlier plan) was estimated to be operational by June 2021, which was later revised to December 2021. Officials now estimate the line will be operational only by 2023-24. A per day delay in executing Metro-3 costs 5.87 crore to the exchequer. A committee appointed by the MVA government had in February 2020 stated that a delay of 2.5 years would lead to a cost of 5,356 crore.

Zoru Bhathena, environment activist and member of Save Aarey Group, said, “Even if the depot at Kanjurmarg will take two years to be completed, Metro-3 is nowhere close to being completed in two years.” Nitin Killawala, an architect, who has been demanding underground Metro corridors, said, “It is common sense that optimising lands for a single comprehensive year instead of two years, in itself is a huge saving, especially if one can save a land as sensitive as Aarey forest.”

The decision also means tweaking designs for Metro-6, which is already under-construction. Officials said the platform size for six stations will have to be modified to accommodate the line 3 trains which are of eight coaches, whereas all other Metros are designed for six coaches.

RA Rajeev, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, who has been the brain behind the new plan, said system integration of two lines was possible. “MMRC has to make a new DPR for the extension and depot. For Metro-6, the platform will have to be worked out.”

For the rest of the corridors, he said, the ongoing pandemic, which affected manpower and machinery for a few months might delay the timelines by around four-six months. “In terms of timeline, we expect a four-six month delay. However, we do not see major cost escalation for most of the corridors,” he said.

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