The Railway Budget on Thursday received a mixed response from Mumbai’s commuters and political parties as no big ticket announcements were made, but the impetus to the third phase of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) stuck since 2011, absence of hike in passenger fares, security cameras for safety of women were some measures welcomed.
“Though no new trains have been announced for Mumbai or Maharashtra, not increasing passenger fares and those of seasonal passes is a welcome move. The introduction of airconditioned local trains will make the daily commute better and reduce accidents as doors will have to be closed,” said Harshavardhan Patil, a government employee who commutes from Thane to CST.
“Passenger fares have not been increased. Soon after the Narendra Modi came to power, there was a sharp increase in fares for seasonal passes. That was not repeated. There is greater thrust on safety and customer service,” said Kalyani Kale, a travel agency executive, who travels on the Western Railway.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu briefly mentioned in his speech that the stalled MUTP III project would be speeded up, but he did not mention specifics. The third phase of MUTP envisages additional tracks for 517 km which could operate 266 trains at a cost of Rs. 52,000 crore. This includes 76 km of new suburban corridor linking Vasai-Virar on Western Railway to Diva-Panvel on Central Railway which could enable commuters in far western suburbs to travel to Navi Mumbai.
The project, stuck without much groundwork since 2011, also proposed two additional lines between Virar and Dahanu Road (65 km), two additional lines between Borivali-Virar (26 km), two lines on between Kalyan and Kasara-Karjat, a fast corridor between CST and Panvel on the Central Railway. However, it was not clear exactly how much funds have been allocated or which of these sections would be prioritised.
Describing the project as “progressive and pragmatic”, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “Though the budget avoids populist announcements, this budget will help railways achieve greater heights of developmental transformation. The allocation of Rs. 11,500 crore for MUTP III is a significant step for Mumbai, and I would like to thank Mr. Prabhu.”
Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party slammed the budget describing it as a “missed opportunity”. “The thrust on implementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in railways is a dangerous trend. The concept of PPP model so far in the country has been that the public sector bears the risk and the private sector walks away with profit, such a model can spell disaster for the railways,” a statement from the AAP Maharashtra unit said.”