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Mumbai pedestrians can walk safe in the sky

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Skywalk at Bandra…Most of the proposed elevated walkways are expected to be complete by mid-2009.
Skywalk at Bandra…Most of the proposed elevated walkways are expected to be complete by mid-2009.

The city skywalks are set to flaunt modern designs such as cable stays and arches, and the stretches could vary from 100 metres to over two km, depending on locations.

S. Shanker

The marginalised pedestrian, who has seen footpaths disappear rapidly and very few subways surface, will soon have numerous aerial pathways to stride along in Mumbai. And, that too, away from roadside hawkers and the incessant honking of bumper-to-bumper traffic in congested areas, especially on the roads that lead to suburban railway stations.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, which has planned 50 skywalks, or foot over-bridges, is keen on adding more to the number.

It has allocated Rs 600 crore for the skywalk project and there are proposals to have shopping plazas on some of the walkways as well.

The MMRDA is responsible for the development of the Mumbai metropolitan region, which comprises the city and a rapidly expanding hinterland. It is the apex body for planning and co-ordination of development activities and, for significant projects, takes up the responsibility for implementation as well.

The first 1.3-km elevated walkway from Bandra Railway Station to Kalanagar on the eastern side of the station, which has been completed as a pilot project, is said to be used by one lakh commuters a day. The four metre wide skywalk, at a height of 20 feet, was built at a cost of Rs 13.63 crore.

The city skywalks are set to flaunt modern designs such as cable stays and arches, besides bowstring shapes. The stretches could vary from 100 metres to over two km, depending on locations.

Of the 50 skywalks planned, 18 will be undertaken by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation and the others by the MMRDA.

Prioritising pedestrian safety, the alignment and design would depend on a number of factors, such as entry/exit points, road width, underground utilities and proximity of adjacent buildings.

A revenue spinner

The MMRDA appears to sitting on a potential revenue-spinner. The agency has received an offer of Rs 78 crore for exclusive advertisement rights for the Rs 13-crore Bandra walkway for a 10-year period, said the MMRDA’s Additional Metropolitan Commissioner Mr Milind Mhaiskar.

However, the nodal agency is looking to ensure that the contracts include overall maintenance, cleanliness and operation of lifts too.

Mr Mhaiskar said proposals were also on for Victoria Terminus to Churchgate and Regal, which he said could be longer than the Bandra skywalk. The agency has identified 120 locations in the Mumbai metropolitan region where commuter movement is between one lakh and five lakh a day, and more skywalks could come up in these areas.

A consultant appointed by the MMRDA has also identified Parel, Virar, Kurla, Kanjurmarg and Andheri stations for skywalks. With work in progress, most of the proposed elevated walkways are expected to be complete by mid-2009.

In addition, the MMRDA is also looking at shopping arcades on the skywalks, more to rehabilitate persons affected by the projects.

Initial hiccups

In the early skywalks, there were some complaints of vibrations, which, however, have been sorted out to the satisfaction of commuters. “One has to understand that the skywalks are basically cantilevered structures,” said Mr Mhaiskar.

Mr L. Sridhar, an executive of a private company, who took the Bandra skywalk for the first time this Friday, said he was pleasantly surprised at the ease and comfort with which he could cover the distance, though the stench of garbage below was nauseating, even at that height.

Most at Rly stations

With the suburban railway system being the most popular and dependable mode for Mumbaikars, a number of skywalks are planned alongside the rail tracks.

An estimated 65 lakh commuters use the local trains on a daily basis, where overcrowding is a common phenomenon.

During peak hours, 16-18 people are said to occupy each square metre in the railway coaches.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 23, 2008)
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