Monorail, metro rail, catamarans, elevated roads and sea bridges are expected to offer faster and more reliable connectivity than the age-old suburban Railway system, which has not been upgraded for last 50 years.

Last week, around 40 lakh Mumbaikars literally had a hell of a time as the city's lifeline, the suburban Central and Harbour Railway lines were down for three days due to signalling issues. More suffering was in store for them as they had to hit the roads, which already had bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The ongoing transportation problems of the Mumbai region will not be solved in 2012. However, from next year on , it is expected to be mitigated as alternative transport projects are coming up.

Monorail, metro rail, catamarans, elevated roads and sea bridges are expected to offer faster and more reliable connectivity than the age-old suburban Railway system, which has not been upgraded for last 50 years.

On the forefront of the transport revolution is the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), which is implementing almost 90 per cent of the projects in Mumbai city, which is the one of the most populous urban regions in the world. The city generates five per cent of the country's GDP, accounts for 25 per cent of industrial output and 70 per cent of maritime trade in the country.

Transport revolution

MMRDA intends to develop a Metro Rail network of 146 km in Mumbai city. The project is being implemented in three stages. In the first phase, Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar, Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd and Colaba-BKC-Airport transport corridors are being developed.

The work on the Rs 2,356 crore Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor is going on in full swing. MMRDA expects work on the corridor to be completed by the year-end and is looking forward to conduct tests early next year.

The concession agreement for the Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd corridor has been signed, financial closure has been achieved and the geotechnical investigations have also been completed. Now, the actual construction of this corridor is expected to begin soon. This project is worth Rs 8,250 crore.

The Authority has proposed fully underground third Metro corridor from Colaba to Bandra-Kurla Complex to Seepz in Andheri. The project proposal has been submitted to the Union Ministry of Urban Development and Department of Economic Affairs for their approval. This Rs 21,000-crore route will offer direct metro connectivity from South Mumbai to international and domestic airport.

Monorail Project

Accepted world over as low cost transportation system, which can be implemented in a short time, the monorail in Mumbai will act as a substitute to the high capacity mass transit systems like suburban and metro services and will add to the public transportation network in the city.

The suburban local trains are the lifeline of Mumbai region, but in order to provide rail connectivity to inaccessible areas, the MMRDA has undertaken the monorail project. India's first monorail will run from Chembur to Wadala and from Wadala to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk in central Mumbai by early 2013.

Today, during peak hours, it can take up to two hours to cover this 20-km distance.

However, the travel time for the same distance would be cut down to a mere 40 minutes once the monorail is commissioned. The frequency of the monorail would be every five minutes and about 600 passengers will commute in the four monorail compartments.

Since it has rubber wheels and runs on sleek guide beams, the monorail is less noisy. The Rs 3,000-crore project has been awarded to L&T Ltd, which is drawing technical support from Scomi of Malaysia.

The Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link MMRDA has also been entrusted with the task of developing the Rs 9,000-crore 22 km long trans-harbour link, which will link South Mumbai with Navi Mumbai. The sea bridge was first proposed in the JRD Tata Committee Report of 1984. Over last 28 years, the project did move beyond the drawing board stage, mainly because of the huge funding requirement.

However last year, the Maharashtra Government shifted the project to the cash-rich MMRDA, which has now called for the pre-qualification bids. This link will not only offer easy and faster connectivity to the city, but also save invaluable time and fuel.

The 22-km sea bridge will connect Sewri in Mumbai to Chirle near Raigad district and join National Highway-4B. The bridge is also expected to offer trigger economic growth in Raigad district and its surrounding areas. The sealink will have six lanes for the vehicular traffic and two separate lanes for the Metrorail.

The massive project will be implemented on a public-private partnership basis.

Given the rapid rise in population and economic boom in far flung areas of Virar in western suburbs and Alibaug in Raigad district, MMRDA would be connecting these two areas with a 126 km multi-modal corridor, which will have a eight lane highway and a rail link for the faster movement of people.

This Rs 9,326-crore project will significantly reduce travel time between areas like Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Dombivli and Panvel. This project is to be implemented in two phases – the first phase will run from Virar (Navghar) to Chirner (79 km) and the second phase will run from Chirner to Alibaug (47 km).

All relevant preliminary plans and techno-economic feasibility studies have been completed. Tenders would be soon called for the project.

Sahar Elevated Road

The Sahar Elevated Road is yet another critical road link, which is being developed by MMRDA. This Rs 288-crore, two –km-long elevated road will provide a dedicated link between Western Express Highway and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It provides six lanes for the traffic and is slated for completion in the second quarter of 2012.

The project is partiality funded under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Water Transport Project

The Mumbai region has a long coastline, dotted with small jetties and small ports. Since ancient times it has been used for trade and commerce.

However, a sustainable passenger water transport, which could offer an alternative transport system to the Railways was never developed.

In the early 1990s, attempts were made to connect Navi Mumbai with Colaba in South Mumbai with a hovercraft. However, the venture soon ran out of steam due to financial constraints. In 2010, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) had called for the bids for the Rs 1,200-crore project for connecting the western suburbs with South Mumbai but that project ran into legal and financial difficulties.

Now, MSRDC has decided to once again call for the bids but this time it has a Rs 750-crore cash funding from Maharashtra Government, which will cover all the viability gaps in the project. It has invited bids for operating a passenger and vehicle water transport project on the eastern and western coast.

On the east coast, it will connect South Mumbai with Nerul and Mandwa and on the west coast with Marve. Small ships, catamarans and other vessels will carry the passengers and their cars to south Mumbai.

(This article was published on April 26, 2012)
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