Waiting for the Metro
Peering down on the busy Andheri-Kurla Road from his paper-strewn office at Marol, KP Maheshwari, Mumbai’s ‘Mr Metro’ is a vexed man. The director of Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) is in charge of the first Metro line’s (Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar) construction.
On the road below, waiting at Marol Bus Stand, is an equally hassled Santosh Shrivastava. His bus is stuck in the gridlock caused by the Metro construction.
Both are troubled by one question: When will Mumbai get its first Metro?
The onus is on Maheshwari and the 5,000-strong workforce that is putting in 17-hour days to make Mumbai’s commute easier.
As workers mill around Jog Flyover at Andheri, giving the final touches to the 1,000-ton pylons set up 39 mt above the ground, it seems as if work on the project is finally inching towards the home stretch.
The pylons represent one of the toughest parts of the construction. They will hold together a cable-stayed bridge on which the Metro will glide over the flyover on the Western Express Highway.
The DN Nagar depot, used as a Metro work yard, is also the site of feverish activity as workers prepare a ramp to conduct test runs over the next three months.
The frenzy can be attributed to the fact that the project has been under construction for 1,100 days and passed its deadline last month.
“We have hit the home stretch. We have raised 331 of the 451 pillars required,” said a senior MMOPL official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
MMOPL is likely to begin work on the most demanding parts of the project by the end of this month. This includes the railway crossing over Andheri. Construction of the stations, apart from the one at Subhas Nagar where MMOPL has still not got land, is in various stages of completion.
“We hope to complete civil work before the end of this year. However, as safety tests are needed, commuters will be able to use it only by mid-2012,” said Maheshwari.
Red tape, poor planning and congested roads have combined to delay the city’s first Metro route, which should have been completed within three years of construction beginning in February 2008.
However, the state government’s unwillingness to clear squatters and provide right of way for construction on stretches such as Subhas Nagar and Asalpha, as well as the railways’ unwillingness to clear a bridge, mean that you can ride the Metro only by June 2012.
“There were court cases over the Subhas Nagar land. It is a small stretch and we will give MMOPL the land soon,” said Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) Joint Project Director PR Dilip Kawathkar. MMRDA is the nodal agency for the Metro project.
Once complete, the Metro will change the way you travel. No stifling heat inside compartments, no hanging out of trains and no grimy platforms. You will ride an escalator to a swank station and the security will include CCTV surveillance and an emergency switch that will let you talk directly to the driver.
For Shrivastava, the wait may have got longer. He just hopes it’ll be worth it.