Opposition to India’s Rs 1.08 lakh crore bullet train project intensified in Maharashtra on Saturday, a day after 23 lives were lost in a stampede at Elphinstone foot overbridge. MNS leader Raj Thackeray on Saturday said his party will not allow a single brick for the project to be laid in Mumbai until existing suburban rail infrastructure was upgraded. The MNS has also called a protest at the Churchgate railway station on October 5 to protest the loss of lives. As of Saturday evening, more than 3,960 people had signed the #SayNotoBulletTrain online petition on Change.org, which was started by a teenager, Shreya Chavan, following Friday’s tragedy.
“We do not want bullet trains, we need better railways,” the petition states. “Statistically speaking, nine people die everyday on Mumbai’s tracks. Under this scenario, the funding proposed for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train must be invested in improving conditions of local trains and transport in Mumbai. It’s not development if it is not beneficial to the majority population,” it argues. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam has also said his party would protest against the bullet train project under the existing circumstances.
The opposition is not without basis. Official numbers and reports point to a need to prioritise an upgrade of existing public transportation facilities to ease the congestion levels within the city. While the Centre has estimated that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, once fully commissioned, will cater to 1.6 lakh commuters daily, most of them travelling for business purposes. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region suburban rail system, on the other hand, already caters to 78.1 lakh commuters daily, official numbers show.
In April 2016, the Mumbai municipality’s comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) has stated that an investment of Rs 1.67 lakh crore needs to be mobilised between 2016-2034 for upgradation of transportation facilities to “ease the current congestion level and address commuter safety concerns.” The study, conducted by LEA Associates South Asia Private Ltd (India) for the municipality, has mapped the existing deficiencies in transportation network and the rising day-time congestion levels.
That is a huge bill to foot, with authorities admitting that such resources were hard to come by. In fact the report itself warns of past experiences where thin spreading of funds has restrained the transportation upgrade plan.
“Multiple demands for the limited financial resources have restrained the authorities in undertaking major development programs. This overlying constraint has made authorities adopt reactive and incremental planning practices and has also restricted their capacities for handling large projects, while relegating strategic planning to the background,” it states.
For the record, the Maharashtra government has committed to a capital investment of Rs 5,000 crore for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
The country’s commercial capital is India’s most populous city with a residential population of 1.24 crore. Due to a limited supply of land for development, the state government and the municipality permitted higher floor space index (FSI) for construction activity in various parts leading to higher population densities in these belts. While this has meant that the city is hosting more people than ever before, planners complain that the transport infrastructure planning has never been dovetailed with the changing land-use patterns, leading to woefully lacking public transport and other
While this has meant that the city is hosting more people than ever before, planners complain that the transport infrastructure planning has never been dovetailed with the changing land-use patterns, leading to woefully lacking public transport and other infrastructure such as water, sanitation, and health. Government’s town planners admit that its inability to locate growth centres in satellite towns has aggravated Mumbai’s traffic woes. The CMP study backs this observations. “Around 7 lakh people enter Mumbai from surrounding areas in the morning peak period for work and other purposes. The city’s estimated internal travel during the morning peak hours (between 6-11 am) is 42.5 lakh trips. About 5.65 lakh vehicles enter or leave Mumbai each day,” it states. According to the report, the unaffordability of apartments in the commercial capital has also compounded problems. “A major influence on urban travel is the practice of people changing jobs but not homes, even if this involves increased travel. The experience of developed economies is that this by itself is creating a 30
According to the report, the unaffordability of apartments in the commercial capital has also compounded problems. “A major influence on urban travel is the practice of people changing jobs but not homes, even if this involves increased travel. The experience of developed economies is that this by itself is creating a 30
“A major influence on urban travel is the practice of people changing jobs but not homes, even if this involves increased travel. The experience of developed economies is that this by itself is creating a 30 per cent increase in travel demand,” states the report.
After mapping the existing land use patterns and the peak hour travel demand, the report, which has been now been adopted in the city’s new development plans, has said that Mumbai needs to urgently take up works for improvement of station area around eight railway stations – Mumbai Central, Lower Parel, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Borivali, Kurla, and Chembur -besides construction of six new flyovers, four elevated roads, and widening or construction of ten rail overbridges, including the one at Elphinstone, before 2019. “In the short term, there is a need to undertake transportation project that address specific existing deficiencies in order to provide some relief to the current congestion levels and safety concerns,” it has stated. This alone is expected to cost Rs 38,528 crore.
Further, between 2016 and 20134, the study has mapped the need to take up upgradation work at 35 railway stations, besides building 18 new flyovers, eight elevated bridges, 28 ROBs, and 34 dedicated bus corridors. The cost of this upgrade – Rs 1.67 lakh crore – is much higher than the cost of the bullet train project.
“Traffic congestion and transportation issues in Mumbai are very complex due to high population densities, limited land for development, inadequate transport infrastructure, and informal hawking activity near suburban rail systems,” the report states. It has also called for the setting up a Unified Transportation Authority for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, while observing that the suburban rail transit system wasn’t a core area of the Indian Railways.
Maximum City’s travel woes
Residential population: 1.24 crore
Day time population: 1.31 crorePeople
People traveling within the city during morning peak hours (6-11 am): 42.5 lakh
Urgent investment needed: Rs 38,528 crore (till 2019). Proposed suburban stations that need to be upgraded till 2019- Mumbai Central, Lower Parel, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Borivali, Kurla, and Chembur. Ten ROBs over railway lines along Western and Central Railway needed on an urgent basis.
Total investment needed: Rs 1.67 lakh crore (2016-2034). Investment in Metro systems (Rs 72,700 cr), road and highways (Rs 56,793 cr), suburban rail (Rs 17434 cr), bus rapid transit systems (Rs 5397 cr), road safety (Rs 900 cr), trespass control (Rs 760 cr)