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Snails are faster, Central Railway takes 18 years for 15-km

After 15 years, the 18-km stretch of new rail lines between Kurla and Thane are expected to be ready in the coming year. Transport experts and commuter associations say this would be the longest time taken to build the smallest distance of rail lines.

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Rajendra Aklekar

Updated: Dec 22, 2010, 12:52 AM IST

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After 15 years, the 18-km stretch of new rail lines between Kurla and Thane are expected to be ready in the coming year. Transport experts and commuter associations say this would be the longest time taken to build the smallest distance of rail lines.

The work on building an 18-km rail line has been plagued with several problems, including encroachments. “Lord Ram had a vanvaas of 14 years, but Mumbai’s commuters are suffering for longer than that thanks to the railway’s work culture. Whatever problems faced, they should not have taken such a long time,” Madhu Kotian of Mumbai Railway Pravasi Sangh said.

But thanks to new Central Railway (CR) general manager Kul Bhushan, who cracked the whip, and asked his officials to complete all such pending projects with a fixed deadline, Mumbaikars will now see the project being completed.

Conceived in 1995, the project is divided into two phases — phase I, from Kurla to Bhandup (10 km), was approved in 1995-96 at a cost estimate of Rs102 crore and phase II, from Bhandup to Thane (7 kms), was okayed in 1997-98 at a cost estimate of Rs56 crore.

“It would be the longest time taken by any railway body anywhere to complete such a small stretch,” concurred Subhash Gupta of National Railway Users Consultative Committee.

“It is an unprecedented delay. In today’s market scenario, rail corridors should be increased to boost connectivity. The highways have grown. The railways should catch up,” transport expert Ashok Datar said.

The project, which has partly been held up because of encroachers, has seen costs escalating by Rs166 crore. The Kurla-Thane additional lines project is a part of the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP).

And not just encroachments, there were housing societies on the land, too.

The project was primarily delayed because of these buildings coming in the way of the new tracks near Ghatkopar.

Residents refused to budge unless free accommodation of equivalent area was provided to them.

They also demanded that the alternate accommodation be provided in Ghatkopar itself. A plot was identified near Nath Pai Nagar in Ghatkopar and a 10-storey building was built there for them. The railways had to deposit money for it.

“Those who have worked on the project know the details. There were no delays from the railways. Settling the issues of encroachers by MMRDA and state took time,” a senior official on the project said.

The railways have, however, recently opened a 10-km stretch between Vikhroli and Thane for goods traffic. As a part of larger city rail planning, it has plans to set up an additional rail corridor of two lines between Kurla and Kalyan stations.

The new facilities will enable the railway to completely segregate outstation and suburban trains. While the section from Kalyan to Diva is complete, work on additional lines between Kurla to Thane and Thane to Diva is under progress.

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