Suburban Transit Dreams
After dithering for more than a decade, the World Bank has cleared a Rs 2,602-crore loan to improve Mumbai’s hugely overburdened public transport system. The loan will help fund half the cost of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project II, which aims to expand facilities for road and rail transport in the city.
This comes as good news for Mumbaiites. More than 80 per cent of the city’s population are commuters. The project will expand the capacity of suburban trains by over 30 per cent, improve frequency and cut travel time by laying more railway lines and increasing the length of the trains. The project also hopes to improve public road transport by putting more buses on the roads, creating link roads between the eastern and western suburbs, decongesting traffic at railway stations and increasing pedestrian subways and overbridges.
The World Bank had funded an earlier transport project in the city which was completed in 1984 but had held back from financing the second phase in view of Maharashtra’s fiscal problems, especially during the Shiv Sena-BJP government’s tenure. The Democratic Front government, understandably, is viewing the loan approval as a triumph. However, despite the elation there are rising concerns about impending fare hikes as part of the project costs will be passed on to the commuters. Another voice of dissent comes from the Save Mumbai Committee which feels the project in its current form will go against pedestrian interests and has suggested an alternative blueprint.