State’s body blow to WR’s elevated rail corridor


By Binoo Nair

Wants Virar-Churchgate rail line to terminate at Mahalaxmi instead of Oval Maidan, railway officials say it will defeat the purpose

METRO Navi mumbaiIt seems the Western Railway’s (WR) ambitious multi-billion dollar elevated rail corridor project has received a death blow. The technical committee of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has termed the all-important Mahalaxmi to Oval Maidan leg ‘not feasible’.

As per the current plants, the project will have an elevated line over the existing stations between Virar and Mahalaxmi, and will go underground between Mahalaxmi and Oval Maidan, including a massive terminus.

The MMRDA report, which was recently submitted to the state Urban Development (UD) department, says the underground portion would mean disturbing prime land holdings around the existing stations between Mahalaxmi and Churchgate. It would also include opening up of Oval Maidan under the ‘cut and cover’ technique for almost two years to build the terminus.

What the state wants

The state wants the rail line to terminate at Mahalaxmi and people be transhipped by high-speed elevators to the Colaba-Bandra metro route which is being considered by MMRDA. While the WR has accepted the feasibility report of the Virar-Mahalaxmi leg, it had put the burden of the remaining leg on the State considering it would disturb areas falling under the civic body.

Sources say the other hitch is that the private companies that will participate in this public-private-partnership project might demand FSI at station areas, something the State may not be able to provide. Allowing construction of multi-storeyed railway stations is an alternative, but the current levels of congestion and lack of proper commuter dispersal channels there will turn buildings into an ‘urban nightmare’.

The UD department has now forwarded the file to Western Railway to take a call on what they propose to do and the file is expected to reach WR bosses by end of this week.

WR’s Defence

A senior WR official said that the WR has been quite clear that project comes upto Oval Maidan or it does not serve its purpose of decongestion of the existing ground lines. Last month, WR General Manager Kul Bhushan, along with senior officials, had apprised Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Planning Commission officials of the need for the rail line terminating at Oval.

“Currently, one and a half lakh people alight at Churchgate every hour during the three-hour morning and evening peak. The elevated rail line is expected to take away nearly 30 per cent of the load on the existing lines.

“Since having an undergound station at Churchgate is not feasible because of the narrow dispersal points on the roads on either sides, the elevated corridor terminus was planned undergound at Oval Maidan. Having an elevated rail till Mahalaxmi will serve no purpose,” said an official.