The continuing delay in the commissioning of the air-conditioned local and the confusion over the installation of automatic sliding doors for Mumbai's overcrowded locals has meant that the chances of getting extra funds for the projects in the July 8 railway budget seem remote, according to railway officials.
With the projects yet to take off, in the absence of feedback, railway authorities are finding it hard to make a case for them in the budget. "Both are welcome additions to the suburban system but we really need to know how they work in actual conditions. Now it seems as if these two projects would miss an official thrust this year," said an official.
Regarding the automatic doors, officials are keen to see how Mumbaikars will adopt to the change of not being able to hang on at the train doors and also the time it would take for all doors to close so that the train can start moving. "We really don't want a situation where trains are stalled at a station for five to ten minutes because the doors just don't close," he said.
Currently, the project is stuck between the two zonal railways in the city, Western and Central, the railway board and the Integral Coach Factory Chennai, which will be constructing the automatic door-fitted rakes.
The first option given by the railway board is to have a train with automatic sliding doors but without vestibules or air-conditioning. This will be the cheapest at Rs39crore, which is however Rs 5crore more than the Rs34crore spent on building the Bombardier rake. It would take around 18 months.
The second option is to build a train with automatic sliding doors and vestibules but no air-conditioning – expected to cost Rs 41crore. This would take around 22 months to build, said officials. The third option is to build a train with automatic doors, vestibules as well as air-conditioning. This sources said would cost Rs 43 crores and would need over 26 months to build.
As far as the AC local is concerned, the feedback would have centered around its occupancy, the fare structure, and the chances of increasing the number of AC rakes. As reported earlier by DNA, the AC local which was supposed to come in by July is now in danger of missing its 2014 deadline. Work on its electrical motors and their testing have been delayed by over four months, which, in turn, has pushed the project back by almost a year.
"It would have been better if both projects got a budget push. It is an opportunity missed," said a top-ranking official.