The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is implementing infrastructure projects worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore in and around Mumbai. These include the construction of 12 Metro corridors, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, Virar-Alibag Multi-modal Corridor and the six growth centres in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. R A Rajeev, MMRDA Commissioner, tells The Indian Express why Mumbai’s motorists don’t blame the MMRDA that has barricaded several roads for under-construction projects, even when their traffic woes have, perhaps, never been more acute.
Even as Mumbai gets an infrastructure upgrade, problems of heavy traffic have been compounded by rains. Do you agree?
The planning of infrastructure on such a large scale has never happened in any city in the world, where projects of more than Rs 1 lakh crore have been started together. Yes, we all are facing problems in road travel but once the 300-km Metro corridors are ready, the city will not see any traffic problems on roads. Other than this, the MMRDA is also planning ropeways. The MMRDA has recently got the nod for one from Malad to Marve and another from Borivali to Gorai. Where we cannot construct Metro, we will experiment with ropeways and other modes.
Barricades erected for infrastructure projects have shrunk the city’s roads and stretched driving hours. Your views.
First, the MMRDA is thankful to every resident who cooperated with the MMRDA. Where construction work has been completed, we have removed barricades. Like on Metro 7 (Andheri East to Dahisar East), we have removed almost 70 per cent of the barricades. On other Metro construction sites, we have planned diversions on roads and have also taken the help of traffic police to guide motorists. People have seen the amount of work that is happening in the city, and that is why they don’t blame us for the traffic congestion.
Why did the MMRDA miss the 2019 deadline of Metro 7 (Andheri East to Dahisar East) and 2A (D N Nagar to Dahisar)?
To construct any Metro corridor, which is more than 10 km, it takes more than four years for commercial operations. Bhoomipoojan of these lines happened in 2016 and the actual construction started in 2017. According to the contract, civil work takes a minimum of 30 months and then the system and rolling stock takes six to eight months. Yes, we were late by six months for Metro lines 2A and 7. But the MMRDA will not miss the deadline of mid-2020. The city will witness two fully functioning Metro lines opening on the same day. Metro Line 7 is an elevated corridor, which will connect Andheri (East) to Dahisar (East) and Metro 2A is going to connect D N Nagar to Dahisar.
Why did the monorail fail to attract riders even after the full corridor was opened to public?
The full phase of the monorail, which now connects Chembur to Sant Gadge Chowk, was thrown open for the public in March. We expected ridership to increased to 1 lakh daily but due to the unavailability of mono trains, we failed to run more service during peak hours. As of now, we only have four mono trains on which we are running services on the full corridor. To run extra services in the full phase, we require more than 10 trains. We have four other trains, which have some parts missing and we have invited tenders for them. If all goes well, we can get four rakes before October and can increase services of the monorail.
Since the monorail failed to pick up, have you shelved plans for constructing other monorail corridors?
Running the monorail is a tough task. There are only three or four companies that manufacture mono rakes and parts and each company has different rakes and gauge line. When the monorail was planned, we had not done the risk analysis properly. The capacity of the monorail, if fully occupied, is close to 300 to 400 commuters. A city like Mumbai, where lakhs of commuters travel daily, is not suited for a monorail. So, yes, at present there are no plans for monorail corridors.
How far has the plan to construct an International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) moved?
The plan of constructing an IFSC in BKC is in the pipeline. We have submitted our plan to the central government, which has to take the final call. Earlier, there were some issues regarding the bullet train passing through the same land and land was required for it. We have given 0.9 hectares of land to the National High Speed Rail Corridor, which is implementing the bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. We have given land on condition that there will be an underground station of the bullet train and above that, the MMRDA will construct the IFSC. We are waiting for a go-ahead from the central government.
Why was there a need to expand the powers of the MMRDA?
Mumbai has the standard of living like an international city. The area connected to Mumbai has become an affordable housing sector. When people migrate to peripheral areas, development takes place, but that development is unplanned. When these peripheral areas come under a municipal corporation, planning infrastructure in an unplanned development zone becomes a tough task. So, we asked the government to increase the jurisdiction of the MMRDA, which is now extended to Pen, Palghar and Raigad. We are waiting for the urban development department’s nod for the and once we get, we will plan infrastructure projects connected to these areas.
What is the status of the growth centres planned in the expanded MMRDA jurisdiction?
In the development plan of the MMRDA (DP-2036), we have planned 12 growth centres, of which six have been finalised as of now. One is in Kalyan where land acquisition is underway and the other five are in Dahanu, Nallasopara, Bhiwandi, NAINA (Navi Mumbai airport influence notified area) and Pen. For the other five centres, we have already prepared a detailed project report. We have submitted our regional plan to the urban development department and we are awaiting its nod. Once we get the power of a special planning authority (SPA), we can speed up infrastructure projects in these areas. Our plan is to connect all these parts with the Metro. For this, we are planning to take the Metro to Virar and a plan is in progress to connect Mumbai international airport with the Navi Mumbai airport. The MMRDA is studying the viability of a Metro line. Once it is done, the MMRDA will award the contract of construction of the Metro line. For any infrastructure project, we require a good amount of land for which we need the powers of an SPA.