Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mumbai Metro Rail - a time to hope

Reading and commenting on Dilip D'Souza's blog on the Peddar Road Flyover, coupled with Vishal's comment on my earlier blog, has prompted me to check out the Mumbai Metro Rail Project.

We all know the success story of the Delhi Metro. It's website made me frustrated as a Bombayite and proud to be an Indian. But I digress. Let's get back to Mumbai Metro.

This is what it is supposed to be

Proposed cost: Rs19,525crores

Phase 1:
- Colaba-Charkop - 36km [Cost: Rs7,432crores].
- Consists of an underground stretch of 11km between Colaba and Mahalakshmi.
- Of the 36 stations on this route, 11 will be underground.
- Line to be completed by 2010-11
Phase 2:
- Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar - 13km [Cost: Rs970crores]
- Entirely elevated
- This leg will have 13 stations.
- As I mention below, financial bids for this leg have come in.
- Mahim-Mankhurd - 12.8km
- Charkop-Dahisar - 7.5km
Phase 3:
- Bandra Kurla Complex-Andheri-Kanjur Marg - 19.5km
- Andher(East)-Dahisar(East) - 18km
- Hutatma Chowk-Ghatkopar - 21.8km
- Sewri-Prabhadevi - 3.5km

Implementation timeline - Till 2021
Total length: 146km, of which 111km will be elevated and 32km underground

Let's now look at the history

This article informs us that the idea of the Mumbai Metro Project is more than thirty-years old. In 1974, the Indian Railways had proposed a 22km-long underground railway from Colaba to Kurla, which was shelved due to high costs. In 1999, the then-CM, Mr. Rane had met a "Mumbai Metro Planning Group" promising them that the Rs9,000crore project (in 1999) was "under consideration by the Cabinet sub-committee".

Five years later in Jan-2004, the MMRDA presented the masterplan for the Mumbai Metro Rail to the-then CM, Mr. Sushilkumar Shinde.

A year and three months later, in April-2005, the Delhi Metro Chief, Mr. E. Sreedharan presented phase I of the project to our current CM, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, who approved it.

The Indian Urban Transportation Society's blog informs us that in early-March 2006, the Maharashtra Cabinet finally approved the Versova-Ghatkopar and Colaba-Charkop links of the project. As per this news clip, financial bids are in for the Versova-Ghatkopar leg and the shortlisted bidders are (a) the Reliance Energy -Connex combine with a bid of Rs1,254crores and (b) the IL&FS-Unity Infrastructure Projects combine with a Rs1,296crores bid. We await the winner.

For more details on the Versova-Ghatkopar leg, here is an Executive Summary from the MMRDA. This is an entirely elevated leg parallel to the Western Express Highway. That's the good news. The bad news? 3,000 structures, mostly in Asalpha village, will have to be demolished.

So, that is where we are. The Mumbai Metro Rail can single-handedly change the face of our city, and more importantly, public transportation as we know it. As always for anything good in Bombay, it's still on paper.

This project will take another 15 years, i.e. by 2020 it should be functional. It's easy to be sceptical and rant about how this won't happen and/or can't happen. Yet - I hope it will. Things today are different from what they were 15 years back, in 1990. I'm sure that if I had crystal-gazed on Bombay in 1990, and seen Bombay as it is now in 2006, I'd have fled the city. I couldn't so I didn't.

We didn't have an option of blogging in 1990. Institutions like the MMRDA didn't have websites . The Right to Information Act didn't exist. Neither did the many newspapers and TV channels we have now. Yet, politicians were as corrupt then as they are now. And Bombayites were as frustrated then as they are now. And probably as indifferent now as they were then.

My point - we, as citizens of this city, should no longer play the indifference game. Form an informed view and hold the relevant authorities responsible for their actions and inactions. Ranting is easy (and cool?), but changing things isn't. How's this for a dream - a concerted effort on the part of Bombay bloggers (form a community?) to take up various issues on an organised scale ?

I'd hate to end on a note of depression. And hope is my latest addiction. Hope for the city. And I hope that the metro is up and running by 2020. So that when I look back at 2006 then, I feel good that I chose to hang around in this city - and more importantly hope for it.

Referenced links: Delhi Metro, MMRDA, The Indian Urban Transportation Society's blog. The news articles referred to above, and others, can be found on my Metro tag.

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