Forget July and September deadlines, will the much-hyped air-conditioned local for Mumbai actually miss its 2014 target itself? The fear that Mumbaikars might not get to travel in the city's first AC local anytime this year is now getting real. According to railway sources, the electrical systems of the train that were supposed to be sent to the Lucknow-based Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) in March for a month-long intensive testing might now be sent only by the end of June.
This delay, officials said, will have a cascading effect on the entire project pushing back deadlines in a big way. "If the electrical systems, the traction motors and other equipment are sent to RDSO by June end for testing, it means the testing will be done only by the end of July. And that means it will only be transported to Chennai for use in the rake by August. The building of the whole train will take another two months from this, that is October," said a senior railway official.
These dates, officials agreed, are optimistic ones and further delays are expected. "If Mumbai gets the AC rake by October, it will need to be tested under various conditions afresh. That would take some time. So there is a chance that the AC local might only be ready for commissioning by the start of 2015," said an official.
The AC local project has been a perfect example of the way Mumbai's suburban system has found itself in the blind spot of the railway board. It was first announced in the Railway budget for 2012-213, but it never materialised. The railway ministry under the UPA government had announced that it would be commissioned by July 2014. This deadline was however, rejected as 'impossible' almost immediately by city-based railway officials.
"It is a project that could be ruined if it is rushed. After all it is the first time the railways will be making a AC local train for the kind of crowds that Mumbai's suburban system sees every day. It will cost upwards of Rs43.2 crores. The railway ministry should have understood the importance of this project and should have been more pro-active with it. At the moment it seems like it is nobody's baby," said a city-based railway official.