The world's densest suburban system — the one in which 7.5 million Mumbaikars travel cattle class every day — needs almost Rs52,000 crore till 2031 to sustain itself and make your commute slightly less horrendous than what it is today.
The Rs52,000-crore estimate is expenditure on projects between 2011 and 2031. The bad news: the mega projects envisaged under this, also known as the Mumbai Urban Transport Project phase 3, should have started in 2011. Unfortunately, four years down the line, the MUTP-III is still trapped in the files of the railway ministry. Neither the babus running the ministry nor the state government has shown even a cursory interest in freeing it for your benefit.
"It is the worst phase for the railways currently. Projects under MUTP-I are over, some MUTP-II projects have started. But it is the third phase, which will take the city's suburban system to the next level," a railway official said. "But the railways and the government are not serious about the future of the railways. It will require tremendous planning and of course loads of money to begin work on the third phase. Commuters are left with no option but to suffer."
Worse still is the railways and the government cannot agree on how to go about the third phase.
The railways cites item 3.3 (g) of the Indian Railway Vision 2020, which former railway minister Mamata Bannerjee had placed before Parliament in 2010. It says "partnership with state authorities will be necessary for the development of suburban rail systems".
The word 'partnership' is what is causing the problem, say officials. "For the railways it means 'finances' whereas for the government it means providing all the 'support', a loose word, needed to build a rail line — something that we officially call the 'State Support Agreement'," a senior railway official said.
The result: projects that should have begun by now if they were to make commuters' lives a bit easy by the end of this decade have collapsed.
The Rs10,000-crore Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel suburban line is an example. While the railways wants it to be built on the back of taxes levied by local area bodies through which the rail route would go, the government is still to bite the bullet.
The Rs20,000-crore Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar elevated corridor plan has collapsed. Only it needs to be officially announced that the project's been scrapped. Other projects like the CST-Panvel and CST-Kalyan elevated corridors too might go the same way.
Costs envisaged for the next two decades:
2011—2021: Rs20,013 crore
2021—2026: Rs17,304 crore
2026—2031: Rs14,850 crore
Total: Rs52,167 crore