The much-neglected Vasai-Diva-Panvel corridor has rake in good ticket revenues for the Central Railway (CR) since it was classified as a "suburban" line, but commuters will have to wait a long time before they get the electric-powered locals that run on Mumbai's suburban system.
Currently, several long-distance passenger trains and freight services run on the nearly 70-km line and there are only a small number of diesel-powered local trains.
The section was declared a suburban line on April 1, 2013, which led to higher fares for commuters with the addition of various surcharges attached to suburban ticket rates.
However, the reclassification also meant that the services were to be improved, with better amenities at platforms, akin to the facilities on the Mumbai suburban system. Officials agree that most of the stations on the section are not very much better than rural rail outposts.
Consequent to the higher charges the railways have collected higher revenues. According to data available with dna, the railways earned Rs52.82 crore between April 2013 and March 2014, as compared with Rs41.97 crore in the corresponding period of 2012-13. This is a substantial 25 per cent increase. Railway officials point out that the income from passes and tickets on the section has risen by 20 per cent since it was declared a suburban line.
Last year, the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) sent a proposal to the CR to run suburban locals on the route on a short-term basis as the plan to build a new line between Vasai and Panvel had not taken off.
"The cost to build a new line was pegged at Rs5,600 crore. Neither the state nor the railways is prepared to put in this kind of money right now," an official explained. So, the MRVC came up with the short-term option that would cost about Rs1,000 crore. The main expense is for converting the signaling to automatic.
But the short-term option hasn't received a favourable response either. CR officials say the Vasai-Diva-Panvel route is among the busiest in the country due to the freight traffic.
"Operating suburban locals on the line is not feasible. The people will have to wait for a new suburban corridor there," a senior CR official said.
Earnings on the Vasai-Diva-Panvel route
2012 Rs41.97 crore
2013 Rs52.82 crore