The World Bank on Tuesday approved $430 million to finance the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 2A to improve the suburban railway system in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region – one of the world's largest urban centres with a population of 18 million in 2001.

A statement said the Mumbai Metropolitan Region faces enormous challenges with shortages of land, housing, infrastructure and social services that have not kept up with the growing demands.

In 2006-07, an estimated 6.4 million passengers daily (2.3 billion passengers annually) travelled on the Mumbai suburban railway, which makes it the lifeline of the city. The commuters are subjected to severe overcrowding conditions with about 4,500 passengers travelling in a nine-car train as against a rated carrying capacity of 1,700. This translated into a density of up to 16 people per square metre in cars.

“The first Mumbai Urban Transport Project has already managed to reduce the level of crowding in suburban trains from 4,500 to 4,100 passengers per nine-coach train at peak hours in spite of traffic increase,” said Hubert Nove-Josserand, World Bank Senior Urban Transport Specialist and Project Team Leader. “This follow-up project will further improve the capacity, operational efficiency, level of comfort and strengthen the institutional capacity of the agencies in charge of the suburban rail system in the Mumbai Metropolitan area.”

The project aims at adding more vehicle capacity during peak hours, reduce peak-hour overcrowding, shorten journey times, improve operational efficiency through reduction in energy consumption and strengthening institutional capacity.

The system will add 720 cars, and expand maintenance facilities, provide additional stabling lines, and complete the conversion from 1500V DC to 25KV AC traction of the remaining sections of Central Railway in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.