Lalu Prasad’s Railway Budget had a little something for Mumbai and its residents, the largest cash infusion the city’s suburban train network has seen in its 154 years of existence, Rs5,000 crore.
The money, to be given over the next five years, is part of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project’s (MUTP’s) second phase, and is to be used to refurbish an overburdened network serving as the lifeline of India’s commercial capital.
Every day, some 6.5 million residents of Mumbai (46% of the population) use the network that operates 2,046 train services in the city’s central and western suburbs. By some estimates, the average distance covered by a commuter is 27km. Commuters spend between 45 minutes and two hours on the train.
The money is to be used to lay additional lines, buy rakes and convert railway services from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) leading to better use of electricity, a possible 20-30% reduction in energy costs, and more frequent trains. At peak hours, the network ferries 5,000 passengers in one nine-car train built for 1,700 people. Increasing the frequency should help reduce this number.
The MUTP-II, once it is completed in 2012, will increase the capacity of Mumbai’s local trains by 56%, reducing the crowd on trains. Trains will also be available every two or three minutes during peak hours rather than the current five or six minutes.
This will be achieved through the creation of two corridors on the central and western lines, which will handle both outstation (or long-distance) and suburban trains
The Budget promises 150 additional suburban services on both the lines this year. A new rake each will be bought for the central and western railways’ suburban sections.
Passengers can also buy their season tickets online. Local trains will also at some point (it was not clear exactly when) have air-conditioned compartments.
Escalators, automatic ticket vending machines and smart cards that can be used on both trains and buses (as in London) run by the local transport company BEST, are also planned.
In the first Railway Budget since bombs ripped through local trains and killed 187 persons in July last year, Prasad announced the setting up of an integrated body to secure 101 stations in the Mumbai metropolitan area.