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Mumbaikars will soon be able to travel by the country’s first monorail.


Interview with Additional Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA, Ashwini Bhide
With the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) getting final safety clearances for the monorail system from experts in Indian Railways, Mumbaikars will soon be able to travel by the country’s first monorail.
The first phase of the 8.26-km-route from Chembur in suburban Mumbai to Wadala in Central Mumbai is likely to be open for commuters within seven days.
By mid-2015, the second phase of 11.28 km connecting Wadala with Mahalaxmi in South Mumbai is also expected to be commissioned.
Malaysian infrastructure company Scomi, in a joint venture with L&T, is executing the full project, which is expected to cost MMRDA Rs 3,000 crore.
Additional Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA, Ashwini Bhide, who has been a driving force behind the project, feels that the service will offer a comfortable alternative to commuters although the route will not make enough commercial profits.
Excerpts from the interview:
Is the monorail system financially viable? Especially, given the fact that the project itself is running behind schedule by two-and-a-half years and only the first phase of 8.26 km out of 19.54 km is being commissioned.
Across the world, transport infrastructure projects based only on fare collection are never profitable.
The same is the case with monorail. Such projects are services, which the local governments have to provide to the citizens that too with government subsidy.
The project will recover costs but it will not generate profits. In a similar venture, MMRDA has pumped in Rs 1,200 crore on the Eastern freeway but that money will not be recovered by the way of toll. At the time of project planning, the construction work was split in phases because, MMRDA was aware of the delays in getting the right of way and laying columns on very congested roads.
Commercial operations in two phases were very much part of the plan.
What is the status of the second phase of theproject?
Today, about 90 per cent of the civil works of the route, which will connect Wadala with Mahalaxmi, has been completed. Simultaneously, stations are also being constructed.
Permission has also being sought from Railway authorities for constructing the elevated track over the existing railway lines in Central Mumbai. Before the onset of monsoon season, the civil works would be completed. In effect, the second phase is likely to be ready in 15 months.
What steps are being taken for passenger safety given the fact that Mumbai is always in the crosshairs of terrorists?
Since the construction started after 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, a number of security steps have been incorporated in the design of the route.
Space for security personnel has been earmarked at stations for quick deployment.
After prolonged deliberations with security agencies, it has been decided that the personnel of Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) would be deployed at the stations.
Their job profile would be similar to the tasks carried out by the personnel of Central Industrial Security Force. MSSC has already procured security equipment and it is in the process of installing it at the stations.
When can the citizens of Mumbai expect the ride on the monorail?
The first phase of the 8.26 km route would be operational ‘any day’. The physical construction of the elevated route was completed about a year ago. Since then, we have been carrying out independent and integrated safety test for traction, signalling, rolling stock and communication.
safety assessors
The entire tests have been carried out by six independent safety assessors. Singapore Metro Corporation has also certified the route for all safety parameters.
These 12 months were also utilised for handing over the route from the projects team, which undertook the construction to the operation and maintenance team.
Since monorail comes under the purview of Tramways Act, the State Government has appointed the former Commissioner of Railway Safety as an advisor.
He has also given the safety approval.
With his clearance, we are ready for commercial operations.
Only the final clearance in the form of a notification from the Urban Development Department of Maharashtra Government is awaited.
We are fully prepared for the launch.
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