After going through the list of projects planned under MUTP-2 and MUTP-3, I can’t help wondering, what is the point of naming it MUTP (Mumbai Urban Transport Project)? Every single work planned under the project is related to the railways. Not a single non – railway work has been planned in MUTP-2 & 3. Even the planning of MUTP-2 and MUTP-3 has been done by MRVC, again a body related to railways. Hence, the name MURP (Mumbai Urban Railways Project) would be a better choice instead of MUTP!
But, the broader question that needs to be asked is, will development of railways alone solve all the transportation woes of the city? (whether the proposed work in MUTP-2 & 3 is realistic or not is a completely different issue, worth one full post!) Yes, a lot of improvements are needed in Railways. But this does not mean that the other modes of transportation should be ignored, especially by a project which is called Mumbai Urban transport Project.
In general, the MUTP has always been a railway oriented project. The only non railway work in MUTP has been purchasing 644 buses for BEST, who is in charge of bus operations in Mumbai, and construction of Jogeshwari – Vikhroli link road and Santacruz-Chembur Link road. Except the 644 buses, both the other projects are still incomplete.
MUTP-2 & 3 takes one step forward. All the details are decided by the railway authorities (MRVC) only! No other mode of transport gets anything. This is nothing short of injustice. On one hand, MRVC keeps on proposing n number of new projects with high costs, which are impossible to implement, and other modes of transport continue to suffer. Lets take an example: After MUTP-2 and MUTP-3 are completed, apparently there will be 6 tracks between Churchgate and Virar! And then there is the elevated corridor proposed between Virar and Churchgate. Any sane person will be able to say that there is simply no space for laying these many new tracks.
On the other hand, there is a lot that can be done to improve other modes of transport, but is getting stuck up for lack of funds and willpower. Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) is a classic example. Setting up a proper BRTS will require quite a lot of investment which BEST is simply not capable of. But no one thinks of funding BRTS. So much can be done in BRTS if funds are made available. With dedicated lanes where the road is wide enough, buses will be able to travel the distance from Borivali to Churchgate in 90 minutes. This journey takes at least 140-150 minutes at present. This high journey time is a reason why the number of people using BEST’s AC buses right upto south Mumbai is very less, even though the service is offered at an economical fare. The reduction in journey time will surely draw more passengers. But a huge number of buses will be required to make BRTS a reality. This is where funding plays an important role. After providing an alternative mode of transport in the form of BRTS (AC as well as non AC buses, at frequency of one bus every 1-2 minutes), curbs should be imposed on usage of private vehicles.This too will help in bringing down the traffic congestion and will ensure that people actually use the BRTS. Delhi is lucky in this regard. They are getting very good buses by the hordes, thanks to the commonwealth games proposed next year. More than 2500 brand new buses will hit Delhi ‘s roads by next year!
Another example is water transport. Proposals for introducing water transport from Borivali to Nariman Point have remained just that – proposals. The proposals have been eating dust for years. There has not been any development on this front.
MUTP-2 and 3 was a golden chance to do something about these issues. But unfortunately no one is in a mood to do it. All MRVC is interested is in is publicity. The adherence to deadlines is another farce. Projects in MUTP-1 are still not complete. Just purchasing 600 odd buses will not improve road travel. The opportunity for improving road travel, unfortunately, has been lost. A slight relief is the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission), through which 1000 buses are being purchased. But they will not be used for BRTS.