Sorry, Mumbai, your Metro just got delayed by 6 months

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By Ranjeet Jadhav  www.mid-day.com

Officials say this is because Western railway has given them permission for only 57 4-hour blocks instead of the 127 they need to build bridge over rail lines at Andheri

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s (MMRDA) claim of finishing the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) corridor, or the first line, of the Metro by March 2012 has come to naught.

In a presentation to the chief minister on Thursday evening, MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana admitted that work on the line would only be complete by the third quarter, or July-September, next year.

While MMRDA officials are blaming the six-month delay on the Western Railways not granting them full permission to construct a bridge over the Andheri railway line (see box), experts say that a wide variety of factors will ensure that the corridor won’t be completed even by 2013.

“The ongoing construction of the VAG Metro corridor is in full swing. We are confident of completing the civil work on the entire stretch by this year-end and the metro line will be fully operational by the third quarter of 2012, “Asthana had said in the presentation, forgetting, it seems, to mention that the deadline was actually March, 2012.

Confirming the delay, MMRDA’s Joint Project Director Dilip Kawatkar said, “Civil work, including electrification, on the line will be complete by August 2012 and the first train should be able to run in September.”

Passing the buck
MMRDA officials say the reason for the delay is that they had asked the Western Railway for 123 blocks of four hours each to construct the bridge, of which only 57 have been granted and that too in the night, when the trains are not operational.

“The lack of permission for 123 four-hour blocks will cause the delay. We have been granted in-principle approval for 57 such blocks. We will work between 1 am and 4 am and the balance of an hour will be adjusted in the Sunday megablocks of the Western Railway,” said a senior MMRDA official.

“Even this may, however, pose a problem because some of the work is such that it needs to be done in daylight, which may require a block in the morning,” he added.

Sceptical
Independent Architect Nitin Killawala, who has been pressing for an underground Metro and has also, along with others, filed a PIL on the issue, is, however, sceptical of the revised deadline as well.

Speaking to MiD DAY, he said, “The MMRDA has been talking about the pending railway permission since 2009.

They are into the habit of misleading the public by first announcing the date of completion and then postponing it saying that the delay is because of pending permissions from the railways.”

“I feel that the project will not even be complete by 2013 as there are many other obstacles apart from the railway bridge construction like bridges passing over the Andheri flyover and the pending work of the Metro yard at Versova.”

Killawala also said that the construction of the bridge over the Andheri railway tracks will be a near-impossible task for the MMRDA at night and if it is done in the daytime, it would surely cause inconvenience to the Western Railway commuters.

A railway official, on condition of anonymity, said that the need for so many blocks could have been reduced had better technology been used in the bridge’s construction.

The Other Side
MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana said, ” MMRDA and Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL, the consortium constructing the line) are in constant touch with railway authorities and we are sure that we will get full co-operation while constructing the bridge passing over the railway lines at Andheri.”

Asked whether the railways had agreed to allow them to work in the daytime, Asthana said, “If they give us permission to carry out the work in the morning, we will welcome that.

Otherwise, we will have no option but to carry out the work between 1 am and 4 am, when the trains are not running, so that Western Railway commuters are not inconvenienced.”

Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR, said, “The construction of the Metro bridge passing over the railway tracks at Andheri should be done in such a way that it does not affect the trains.

They should plan and start the work when no trains are running because we cannot permit them to carry out the work during the day as it may affect our services.”

Bone of contention
In March 2011, MMRDA and the railways signed an agreement for the construction of the bridge across the railway tracks at Andheri. The 180-metre long bridge is expected to cost Rs 35 crore.

The deadline for completing the entire VAG Metro line as per the concession agreement between MMRDA and Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), which is constructing the line, is March 2012.

123
The number of four-hour blocks the MMRDA has asked for, of which WR has granted 57

11.07 km
The length of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor

Rs 2,356 cr
The estimated cost of constructing the VAG corridor

Rs 35 cr
The cost of constructing the bridge

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