February 28, 2018 1:47:56 am
At the inauguration of the three foot overbridges constructed by the Army, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal Tuesday said Mumbai’s suburban railway would get over 100 new FOBs by next year. While 22 bridges will be built by June, tenders for the rest will be floated later this year.
Three FOBs — one each at Parel-Elphinstone Road, Currey Road and Ambivali railway stations — built in four months by the military wing of Bombay Engineering Group and Centre (BGE and C) or Bombay Sappers were opened to the public Tuesday afternoon. While thanking the Army, Goyal said its work served as motivation for the railways to construct bridges faster. The Army was tasked with building the FOBs after a stampede on the FOB connecting Parel on the Central Railway and Elphinstone Road on the Western Railway claimed 23 lives on September 29 last year.
“Since October last year, the Indian Railways along with the Army has constructed 20 foot overbridges (17 by the railways and three by the Army) for Mumbai suburban. An additional 22 bridges will be constructed by June. Tenders for 56 more bridges will be completed in the next 12 months. So, we will try to construct more than 100 bridges in Mumbai suburban railways,” Goyal said.
The 17 FOBs constructed by the railways have been built at stations, including Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Kurla, Currey Road and Parel. The tenders and designs for these bridges were approved between January 2017 and October 2017. The Army was asked to construct the three bridges on October 31, 2017 after the stampede. While it was expected to finish construction by January 31 this year, it was delayed by almost a month.
“We are also trying to increase the number of air-conditioned coaches in trains. We will also introduce second-class AC coaches in future, build elevated corridors, improve signalling systems and extend the Harbour line till Goregaon from Andheri,” Goyal said.
The three FOBs built by the Army were inaugurated by Mumbai residents, among them fishermen, flower vendors and dabbawallas, ordinary Mumbaikars for whom the suburban railways is a lifeline. Besides Goyal, the inauguration was attended by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and about 25 officers of Bombay Sappers led by Lt Gen Vishwambhar Singh. “We are happy that we have successfully completed the task within the time-frame,” said Lt Gen Singh. The bridges, inaugurated at 3.30 pm, started getting crowded by 4 pm. Fadnavis said, “The residents of Mumbai have inaugurated the bridges. The sanctioned budget of Rs 51,000 crore will help add amenities to the stations.”
The FOB built by the Army at Parel-Elphinstone Road station is an alternative bridge connecting Elphinstone Road station with Parel. It is located to the south of the existing bridge, where the stampede occurred. The new FOB is 70 metres long and will help flower vendors commute from the phool market to Parel. As many as 1.6 lakh commuters will be able to switch to the alternative bridge, senior railway officials said.
Vijay Wadekar, a flower vendor, who has been using the existing FOB at the Elphinstone Road station for 25 years, said, “I’m happy I won’t have to commute all the way from the phool market to the old (existing) bridge to reach the station. While we are happy with the new bridge, it came after years of wait.”
The 30m-long FOB at Currey Road station made by the Army is the third bridge at the station. Sheetal Jahdav (29), who travels to Thane from Currey Road station daily, said, “The FOB will certainly help ease any potential congestion. The stampede at Elphinstone Road station is fresh in public mind, so people will appreciate the new FOB. But the ticketing booth is at the opposite end, making it inconvenient.” The 20m-long FOB at Ambivali station is the second at the station. Raghunath Ubali (65), a regular commuter, said, “The new bridge is welcome. However, as commuters will trespass to go to the other side as there was no bridge towards the north of the station for a long time, police must be posted to prevent them from crossing tracks.” Meanwhile, Fadnavis handed over land documents to Goyal for bullet train project at the Bandra Kurla Complex station.
(With inputs from Paridhi Joshi, Ankush Bandyopadhyay and Tanvi Shenoy)
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