Union Railway minister Piyush Goyal on the present and future of Mumbai’s lifeline | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Union Railway minister Piyush Goyal on the present and future of Mumbai’s lifeline

Hindustan Times | ByPiyush Goyal
Feb 07, 2019 01:14 AM IST

At a total length of 459km, the network has more than 3,000 services of local trains carrying around 80 lakh Mumbaiites on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest urban transport systems in the world.

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 Mumbaiites reach their destination on time. At a total length of 459km, the network has more than 3,000 services of local trains carrying around 80 lakh Mumbaiites on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest urban transport systems in the world. Dabbawalas carrying tiffins on local train has become an iconic image in the city.

Union Railway minister Piyush Goyal.(HT File)
Union Railway minister Piyush Goyal.(HT File)

To ensure that Mumbai has world-class infrastructure, in keeping with its metropolitan status, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken a number of initiatives to upgrade the suburban system, which will help improve passenger satisfaction and safety, reduce congestion, and with a plan for the future.

With regards to passenger safety, Railways is working in mission mode. Foot overbridges (FOBs), platforms and pathways on platform-end are now treated as safety items, having highest priority with no restriction on budget. Earlier, only the first FOB at a station was considered essential and subsequent were 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 to about three months from eight-nine months. We have also raised the height of all station platforms in the suburban section to allow safer entry and exit from trains.

Often passengers get into a train and don’t 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 on the door of the coach to signal 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 in new projects. In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Mumbai Urban Transport Project-3 (MUTP-3) worth approximately 11,000 crore. Under this project, several works have started, including the Airoli-Kalwa elevated link, Panvel-Karjat new suburban double-line corridor, and 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 55,000 crore was announced for a new project in Mumbai – 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 communication-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 first phase of the long-awaited Nerul-Seawood/Belapur-Uran new line is finally complete. Sanctioned in 1996-97, the work was slow. However, after 2014, it was fast-tracked and the line was finally opened in November 2018. The intervention of the chief minister helped smoothen all issues. Currently, the second phase of the project is in progress.

Having travelled on local trains as a student, I know the difficulties an average yatri faces. To beat the sweltering heat and humidity, the first AC rake was introduced. We have given green light to procure 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. Days of waiting in long lines have ended, with the introduction of UTS mobile app to buy unreserved tickets on the spot. Waiting for trains has become more convenient with the introduction of high speed WiFi 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 for its maiden journey in less than five hours, showing how eagerly people were awaiting the service.

We are now improving stations through increased lifts, escalators, Swacchata and security through cameras. We have also given importance to security of women passengers. Taking feedback, CCTV cameras have been relocated at stations to ensure better focus on women’s coaches.

Over the past four-and-a-half years, Railways has become cleaner, safer, faster and more convenient. Indian Railways is committed to providing better services to every Mumbaiite and our efforts to improve infrastructure, passenger convenience and safety will ensure the iconic Mumbai suburban system is part of the vision for New India.

Piyush Goyal is the Union Railway minister of India.

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