Mumbai's harried commuters and authorities overseeing the over-saturated system are hoping this railway budget, to be tabled in Parliament on July 8, would have something to cheer for poll-bound Maharashtra, Mumbai in particular.
With almost all projects having ground to a halt due to dearth of cash as well as lack of coordination between the state and railway authorities, Mumbaikars are praying the budget would rejuvenate the sector and provide relief to commuters. DNA takes a look at some of the projects, which a majority of officials believe will once again kick start the railways.
Mumbai Urban Transport Project 3
It was supposed to be a Rs 52,000 crore blueprint for city's suburban network over 20-year period starting 2011. It envisages buying 266 new local trains and laying 517km of new tracks. But despite it being envisaged three years ago, files pertaining to it continue to do the rounds in Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) and state govt corridors. With the kind of money it requires, railway officials are hoping the project would get a mention in the railway budget for the preliminary work on it to begin.
It will run through an area which builders have already named New Thane, as the scores of real estate hoardings advertising flats in Bhiwandi-Kharbao area will testify. The 76km Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel suburban line, set to cost upwards of Rs 7,000 crore, will create scores of new townships along the route, and in turn an entirely new city on the lines of Navi Mumbai. The hitch however is that railways and state govt can't seem to agree on how to finance it. Railways wants the state to tax local bodies along the route to shore up the money while the govt wants railways to build and run it.
"This line could be a game-changer provided it gets going now. In a few years, land will no longer be available," said an official.
Konkan Rly doubling and electrification
One of the country's most congested routes, Konkan Railway was Indian Railway's finest addition since Independence. However, the euphoria soon died down with the single-line route battling over-congestion, natural disasters during monsoon and crippling diesel bills due to lack of electrification. In April, KR announced it had finished the first phase of the track-doubling survey and found that it was technically feasible only on 300km of the 741km route. This includes the 47km between Roha, where KR starts, and Veer on the northern side, and 60km between Udupi and Mangalore. The other stretches are patches in between these two expanses.
"The route sees 78 trains daily and several hundred more during the festival season, but getting tickets during Ganpati, Diwali and Christmas on KR is becoming near impossible. Hopefully, the budget will get electrification and doubling back on track," said the official.
Churchgate-Virar, CST-Panvel Elevated Corridors
Both projects, with a cumulative cost of Rs 40,000 crore, died out after railway ministry and state govt failed to agree on land development and Floor Space Index. However, the two, which have the capacity to give an air-conditioned addition to the suburban network, are an absolute must, believe officials.
The Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar Elevated Corridor, once it becomes operational in 2019, is expected to reduce the number of vehicular trips daily on the route by 7.7 lakh trips. Mumbai sees some 14 million vehicular trips a day, and experts who prepared the feasibility report, had estimated that around 10% of all people using cars, taxis, rickshaws or buses along the route would switch to the corridor. And the environmental impact of the rail corridor would be a drop of almost 41 tonnes of carbon monoxide emitted every day.
Similarly, the CST-Panvel Elevated Corridor would reduce 6 lakh vehicle trips daily, and the reduction in carbon monoxide emissions would be 7.55 tonnes daily, according to the feasibility study.
These two projects would also see a daily average fuel reduction of 60,000 litres as well.
"The much talked about foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways, could start with these two suburban projects," said an official.
Provision to buy more AC rakes for WR and CR.
Funds to lay two new tracks between Virar and Dahanu.
Funds to overhaul suburban signalling system to increase frequency of trains.
Quickening pace of commercial development of railway land to raise funds for Mumbai suburban and state projects.