With the aim of easing the rush hour crowds on board Mumbai’s suburban railway, Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu once again spoke of the vision of two elevated railway corridors, one running from Churchgate to Virar on the Western Railway and one from CST to Panvel along the Harbour Line of Central Railway. While the railway Budget estimates presented Thursday made no specific budgetary allocation for either project, officials said the tendering process and financial valuation work is expected to be finalised during the 2016-17 financial year.
Announcing the CST-Panvel corridor, Prabhu said this will offer connectivity between the Chattrapati Shivaji airport and the proposed Navi Mumbai airport, also spelling good news for residents of developing areas around the city’s second airport. For now, the estimated project cost has been pegged at around Rs 10,000 crore, with proposed air-conditioned coaches planned that will ferry at least 7.6 lakh passengers everyday covering a distance of 49 km in 50 minutes.
With at least 12 stations, the corridor will commence from Carnac Bunder (adjacent to platform number 18 of CST) and pass through P D’Mello Road, Wadi Bunder and then emerge near the existing Reay Road station of the Harbour Line. From there, the corridor will follow the existing railway alignment till Panvel. Between CST and Vashi stations, the alignment will be elevated, including a new bridge to be constructed across Vashi creek. An elevated bridge from Vashi to Belapur will run through Palm Beach Road. An alternative bridge will run from Seawood/Nerul till the Navi Mumbai international airport while a Mumbai Metro Rail line will connect the Chattrapati Shivaji airport and Mankhurd station.
The Churchgate-Virar corridor, introduced first in the 2007 Union Railway Budget and all but shelved owing to disagreements between the Central and state governments, found mention once again in Thursday’s budget speech. At an estimated cost of Rs 35,000 crore, the route is slated to run along the same alignment as the Western Railway line and is expected to be completed in the next five years. The line between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi stations will be underground and will run above the Western line from Mahalaxmi to Virar.
Senior railway officials, however, said the average Mumbaikar does not have much to look forward to in the budget. “The budget has not made any allocations for either of the projects. For the Churchgate-Virar corridor, the underground process is too time consuming and is three times more expensive than the elevated option. The elevated part of the bridge has its own hurdles. The acquisition process is long-drawn and will require a large amount of funds,” said a WR official.