Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister for Railways, Coal, Finance and Corporate Affairs, Govt of India, writes about the Mumbai Suburban railway network, its importance to the smooth functioning of the metropolis and how his ministry is bringing about a systemic change for its betterment. He also illustrates the achievements of his ministry under the current government and the plans they have for creating a glorious future.
Railways is the lifeline of the Nation. Nowhere is this as true as in Mumbai, where the suburban network popularly called ‘the local train’ ensures that Mumbaikars reaches their destination on time. At a total length of 459 kms the network has more than 3,000 services of local trains carrying around 80 lakh Mumbaikars on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest urban transport systems in the world. The dabbawala carrying tiffins on the local train has become an iconic image to describe the city.
To ensure that Mumbai has world class infrastructure in keeping with its metropolitan status, Government under Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji has taken a number of initiatives to upgrade the suburban system, which will help improve passenger satisfaction and safety, reduce congestion, and adequately plan for the future.
With regards to passenger safety, Railways is working in mission mode. Foot Over Bridges (FOBs), platforms and pathways on platform end are now treated as safety items having highest priority with no restriction of budget. Earlier only the first FOB at a station was considered as essential and subsequent as passenger amenities. To allow free and safe movement of passengers, 87 FOBs have been constructed since 2014 including 44 after the unfortunate Elphinstone Road station tragedy. A further 70 FOBs will be commissioned this year while 55 will be commissioned next year. The average time for construction has been reduced from 8-9 months to about 3 months. We have also raised the height of all station platforms in the suburban section to allow safer entry and exit into trains.
Very often passengers climb a train and do not register that it is about to move. This poses a serious risk to their lives and wellbeing. Therefore, a new innovation in the form of a blue light signal on the door of the coach to signal that the train is starting, has been introduced. Passengers will now have adequate warning. We will proliferate this system after all trials are completed.
Under our Government, we have significantly scaled up investments into new projects. In 2016, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project 3 (MUTP 3) worth approximately Rs. 11,000 Cr. Under this project a number of works have been started, including the Airoli-Kalva elevated link, Panvel-Karjat new suburban double line corridor, and the introduction of 47 new air conditioned suburban trains. These will help decongest the network while adding improved services.
In the 2018-19 budget, an unprecedented Rs. 55,000 Cr was announced for a new project in Mumbai – the MUTP 3A, showcasing the Government’s ambitious plans for the suburban system. Under this a number of lines will be extended and introduced. In addition, a communications based train control system will be introduced for improved safety and punctuality. Funds will also be allocated towards station improvement and procurement of AC rakes.
Under this Government, long pending projects are also being fast tracked and completed. The long awaited Nerul-Seawood/Belapur-Uran new line first phase project is finally complete. Sanctioned in 1996-97, the work was very slow. However, after 2014 the work was fast tracked and the line finally opened in November 2018. The personal intervention of the Chief Minister helped to smoothen all issues. Currently the second phase of the project is in progress.
Having personally travelled on local trains as a student, I know the difficulties an average yatri faces. To beat the sweltering heat and humidity, an AC rake was introduced for the first time ever. We have given the greenlight for procuring 210 AC rakes.
It was inconceivable that for a city which never stops, people stopped and waited in long lines to buy tickets for local trains. Those days of waiting in long lines have now ended with the introduction of the UTS mobile app to buy unreserved tickets on the spot. Waiting for trains has become more convenient with the introduction of high speed wi-fi at 27 stations.
We have also reduced the waiting time for trains. Since 2014, 214 services have been added to the Mumbai suburban network. To meet the ever growing demand for direct connectivity between India’s financial capital and political capital, an additional Rajdhani train was introduced between Delhi and Mumbai. It will take a different route covering central India, and will serve hitherto unserved areas. In a record, this Rajdhani was fully booked in less than five hours for its maiden journey, showing how eagerly people were awaiting this service.
We are now improving stations through increased lifts, escalators, Swacchata and security through cameras. In fact, we have also given importance to security of women passengers. Taking feedback, a number of CCTV cameras have been relocated at stations to ensure better focus on ladies coaches.
Over the last four and a half years, Railways has become cleaner, safer, faster and more convenient. Indian Railways is committed to providing better services to every Mumbaikar and our efforts to improve infrastructure, passenger conveniences and safety will ensure the iconic Mumbai suburban system is a part of the New India vision.