November 4, 2018 4:32:08 am
FOURTEEN years since Mumbai’s trans-harbour railway line was inaugurated to facilitate passenger movement between Thane and Airoli, southern Navi Mumbai, including mainly the rapidly developing Ulwe node, is set to get a connectivity boost with the inauguration of the first phase of the Seawoods Darave-Uran line. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will inaugurate soon.
Offering connectivity between two new stations on the Central Railway, the line will improve access to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA).
Since the trans-harbour line was launched in 2004 by the then railway minister Lalu Prasad, it will be the first new corridor on the suburban railway, this time, creating an extension towards the southern part of Navi Mumbai from Seawoods station.
While the project was conceptualised in the early 90s by the Navi Mumbai planning agency City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO), it was delayed by environmental constraints. Subodh Jain, the former general manager of the Central Railway (CR), recalled that the new line was aimed at boosting housing projects in Uran. “After the success of the Mankhurd-Belapur harbour line, the railways and CIDCO both wanted to explore the possibility of another line till Uran to bring in urbanisation. The project was always going to be executed on an 80-20 per cent cost sharing basis between CIDCO and the CR. While the design plans were ready in 1997, the project was stalled after environmentalists raised concerns with the line infringing on the coastal zone in the area,” Jain recalls. For almost 10 years, no work was done on the project.
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At a cost of Rs 1,782 crore, CIDCO and CR are building the railway line on a cost-sharing basis of 67 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively. While there are 10 railway stations on the route, spanning 27 km, four new stations — Sagar Sangam, Targhar, Bamandongri and Kharkopar — will be constructed after Seawoods in the first phase. Although, trains will only halt at Bamandongri and Kharkopar stations at present as construction of Targhar and Sagar Sangam is still underway. The CR will build the remaining stations in phase II of the project.
According to senior CIDCO officials, the linear suburban line between Seawoods and Kharkopar cuts through the fish-shaped town of Ulwe at its center. So, Ulwe residents can now choose between Bamandongri and Kharkopar to take the local till Seawoods station. The CR will only run shuttle services between Kharkopar and Seawoods, as extending them till Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) will affect train services on the harbor line.
“As many as 20 pairs of shuttle services have been planned between Seawoods and Kharkopar. Initially, we have kept the frequency of the services at every 30 minutes, as we require to gauge the popularity. While Seawoods and Bamandongri are at least 5 km apart, Kharkopar and Bamandongri are at a distance of 1.5 km. According to the fare system, the entire journey would not cost more than Rs 10 (per person),” a senior CR official said.
Currently, Ulwe residents use Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport buses and share rickshaws from Seawoods, Vashi and CBD Belapur stations to get to Ulwe. From Nerul station, a bus runs every five minutes to Ulwe, and rickshaws are available till about 8.30 pm. The minimum bus fare is Rs 18 per person, while a share rickshaw ride costs Rs 25 for one.
A senior Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) official told The Sunday Express: “We operate 26 buses till Ulwe node from different stations of Navi Mumbai that have 304 services a day. As many as 50 passengers travel during peak hours on one trip, which means as many as 15,000 commuters use the service on a daily basis. We are contemplating reducing the frequency of the bus services on the route and deploying buses on another route, as commuters may switch to using the railways.”
Financial analyst Taranjeet Kaur, who moved to Ulwe with her husband six months ago thinking that the railways would improve connectivity to the town, said: “I take a rickshaw from Nerul station to my house and it takes around 20 minutes. Due to multiple construction projects, we often face a lot of traffic and the road is accident prone. I am looking forward to using the local train, as it would be cheaper and safer to travel in the night.”
Real estate developers are also excited about the railway line, as they believe flat owners who considered housing projects in Ulwe as “investments” may now shift here to stay. “Even Navi Mumbai residents used to fear settling down in Ulwe due to connectivity issues. But for the past one year, we have seen an increase in the number of queries and buyers of houses in the node. The property rates have also increased by a good 40 per cent. In the next five years, we will see more buildings after the airport projects-affected locals hand over their land for construction to builders,” said realty dealer Satish Ghangwali of Aristo Real Estate, a consultant firm in Ulwe.
Similar to the well-built railway stations in Navi Mumbai, Bamandongri and Kharkopar will have double discharge platforms, subways and refreshment facilities in the concourse area. Targhar station, being built at a cost of Rs 105 crore, will have an elevated car park.
Prajakta Lavangare Varma, the joint managing director, CIDCO, claims that the railway line will help make southern Navi Mumbai a fulcrum of economic activities. “Usually, transport corridors are planned after an area has been developed. But we are planning it much in advance. We are opening the area of Ulwe, exactly opposite to NMIA, for development of many non-aeronautical commercial activities. The railway line would be one of the many transport corridors being planned, along with coastal road, metro line and National Highway to connect Navi Mumbai to south Mumbai.”
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