Ensuring Efficient Transit

An efficient public transport system is critical to the further development of Mumbai. The financial capital of India, it is one of its fastest growing cities, with a population of 12.47 million in the metropolitan region. One of the biggest challenges Mumbai faces pertains to public transportation. Transport services like buses and trains are overcrowded, slow, inconvenient and unsafe.

The Maharashtra government conceptualised the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) in 2002. With the aim to provide more efficient public transport, the project seeks to augment transport facilities by increasing the number of suburban trains, increasing east-west road connectivity and reducing travelling time within city limits.

Progress so far

The MUTP is being implemented by the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), a special purpose vehicle formed by the Maharashtra government and Indian Railways (IR). For execution purposes, the project has been divided into three phases. So far, Phase I of the project has been completed while Phase II is under implementation. Meanwhile, Phase III of the project was approved in late 2011 but is yet to take off.

Phase I of the project involved increasing the number of trains in the suburban train network and the introduction of ventilated railway coaches. It was undertaken at an estimated cost of Rs 41.58 billion (approximately $945 million). Under Phase I, about 645 km of the direct current (DC) rail system was converted to an alternating current (AC) system. Further, the train fleet size was increased to 285×9 car rakes and 250 junctions were equipped with area traffic control systems.

In 2010, the Maharashtra government signed an agreement with the World Bank and MRVC for the implementation of Phase II of the project. At the time of the project’s inception, the cost for Phase II was estimated to be Rs 53 billion. However, owing to delays in land acquisition, obtaining coastal clearances, and rehabilitation of the project- affected population, the project cost was revised upwards to Rs 80 billion. The project is now expected to be completed by end-2017.

For execution purposes, the second phase has been divided into three components – Phase II (A), II (B) and II (C). The Phase II (A) of the project involves the procurement of 864 electric multiple unit (EMU) coaches (72 EMU rakes with 12 cars each). For this, MRVC entered into a partnership with the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in 2011. The first two prototype rakes were despatched in October 2013. According to the latest update, in February 2016, the 24th EMU rake was flagged off. The World Bank has provided a loan worth Rs 16.35 billion for this component of the project.

Further, Phase II (A) involved the conversion of trains running on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CSTM)-Thane, CSTM-Tilaknagar and Mahim-Vadala Road sections from 1,500V DC to 25kV AC traction. This conversion is being jointly executed by MRVC and Central Railway (CR). The agencies involved have successfully completed the conversion of DC trains on the planned tracks.

The second component of MUTP Phase II – Phase II (B) – has been divided into six sub-components. The first subcomponent, which involves the construction of the fifth and sixth rail lines from Kurla to Mumbai CSTM (including the alignment of the Harbour Line from Dockyard Road over the Eastern Freeway), is expected to entail an investment of Rs 13.7 billion. It is being jointly executed by MRVC and CR in two parts – Kurla-Parel (Part I) and Parel-CSTM (Part II). Part I requires a total of 1.98 acres of land between Sion and Matunga while Part II requires 1.61 acres of land between Currey Road and CSTM. Tenders for the two parts have already been invited and requisite permissions for the commencement of work have been received.

The second subcomponent of Phase II (B) involves construction of the fifth and sixth rail lines between Thane and Diva. It was scheduled to be completed by December 2015. However, it missed its deadline as the Ministry of Railways (MoR) failed to reclaim land that had been encroached near the rail overbridge at Mumbra station. This subcomponent is expected to be completed by June 2017.

The third subcomponent of Phase II (B) involves the construction of the sixth rail line from Borivali to Mumbai Central. This 30 km rail line will be developed by Western Railway (WR) and is estimated to cost Rs 9.3 billion. The project is considered to be one of the most difficult and costly ventures for IR and is expected to increase the frequency of suburban services as well as improve the punctuality of train services.

Work on this stretch commenced in August 2015. The Railway Board has sanctioned Rs 9.3 billion for its development. Meanwhile, some major land acquisition issues between Santa Cruz and Borivali stations have been resolved and the resolution of other land disputes is in progress. Preliminary work on the Andheri-Borivali section has also commenced. Currently, WR is in talks with the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation to transfer 550 square metres of land near Vile Parle at a cost of Rs 115 million for the section.

The other subcomponents of Phase II (B) involve extension of the Harbour Line from Andheri to the Goregaon station and the resettlement and rehabilitation of project-affected households. The Andheri-Goregaon station extended line is expected to assist the authorities in diverting some traffic on the corridor, especially between Bandra and Andheri. However, MRVC is facing engineering difficulties in executing the work due to high water levels at the construction site leading to water-logging issues. Nevertheless, the authorities expect to complete the extension work by June 2016.

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The government has been providing significant financial support in the form of budgetary allocations to the MUTP Phase II project. In the Railway Budget 2016-17, the MoR has allocated funds to the tune of Rs 6.31 billion which is about 23 per cent more than the amount allocated in the 2015-16 budget (Rs 5.11 billion). Apart from ensuring speedy implementation of the project, concerted efforts are being made to rehabilitate 2,500 people that have been affected by the project.

Time and cost overruns aside, the project is expected to deliver significant gains. The capacity of the suburban train system will be increased by about 20 per cent. Prudent planning such as construction of additional lines between the busiest areas of the city will also reduce congestion. In addition, the completion of Phase II will lead to the segregation of passenger lines from freight lines.