A fortnight after the state cabinet gave its approval for the doubling of the 28km Panvel-Karjat railway line, Central Railway authorities are keeping their fingers crossed for its inclusion in the railway budget to be announced on Tuesday. The route, currently a single line, if upgraded and converted to a suburban line, can cut the distance between CST and Karjat from 100km to just 77km.
It would also give relief to thousands of commuters who need to get to Navi Mumbai from Karjat by making the cross-over at Thane to switch on to the trans-harbour line or Kurla to hop onto the Harbour line.
Officials who spoke to dna said the time for the line to be converted into a suburban one was now or never. The rising cost of construction bears them out. A Comprehensive Transport Study, commissioned by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) in 2011, showed that the cost of converting the line into a suburban one would be Rs638 crore, the calculation based on 2005-06 prices.
The state government, which gave its nod last fortnight, pegged the cost of doubling the line at Rs1,473 crore, a rise of 130% in the last one decade. The state government believes the line could be made with railways and the state sharing the costs equally.
"This project, like several other projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan region, will become too costly to construct in a few years time. We have already lost a lot of time. It is either now or never," said a senior CR official.
The line currently starts from Panvel, moves to Chikhale, then to Mohape, onwards to Chowk and then Karjat. It is used by trains like the Pune-Ernakulam and Pune-Bhusawal express, many of them halting at Chikhale just to replenish their diesel stocks. However, a section of officials say the line runs on a very tough terrain and converting it into a suburban line would require construction of several tunnels. The other problem is that Karjat station's terminal facilities would have to be increased.