PCMC halts govt plan in tracks

Vision For Quadrupling Of Pune-Lonavla Section In Trouble
Transport experts have been insisting on improvement of mass transport in Pune metropolitan area, particularly the augmentation of the railway lines in the PuneLonavla section, but the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation has rejected the state government’s proposal for quadrupling of the tracks in the municipal limits.The Pune-Lonavla route is among the busiest in the country as it connects Mumbai with southern India, but has just two tracks.

Over the past five years, there has been a demand from commuter groups that the frequency of suburban local trains should be increased. The Railways run 44 local trains. Currently , the average frequency is between one and one-and-half hours.

Railway authorities say that unless a third line is constructed, frequency of local trains cannot increase. Before he got elected, Maval MP Shrirang Barne had travelled in a local train and the feedback he got was that the frequency of trains should be increased.

Elected office-bearers say the proposal was rejected as the municipal revenue is dwindling. While there is no octroi now, the Local Body Tax has also fallen. The demand for two rail tracks is not a huge one as PCMC would have to pay Rs 275 crore, in the Rs 3,200 crore municipal budget.

The state urban development department, in a letter in January this year, had said the railway ministry and the government will implement the project by equally sharing the cost. The Pune Urban Transport Project would implement the project on the lines of Mumbai Urban Transport Project.The government had sent a proposal to Pune Municipal Corporation, and PCMC in June this year, stating that the project will benefit many commuters.

Besides PMC and PCMC, the Pimpri Chinchwad New Township Development Authority, and Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority were asked to share half the cost on pro-rata basis.

For the entire 70km track, the total cost, excluding the cost of land acquisition, comes to around Rs 2,306 crore, which is Rs 33 crore per km as per the feasibility report. For laying two additional tracks, PCMC would have to pay Rs 275 crore to the state government.

A senior civic transport official said, “Around one lakh people travel in the local trains on the Pune-Lonavla route daily .There has been a constant de mand from railway commuters for increasing the frequency of local trains to meet the needs of the growing population in areas surrounding the route. But the Railways have expressed the need to increase the number of tracks on the route before increasing the frequency of the local trains.“

Senior railway officials of Pune division say as many as 150 express trains, freight trains and local trains are run on the route which has just two tracks.Availability of the path, which is required to run these trains, is not there at present. Running more trains will not be beneficial to commuters as well as for the Railways because trains will stop at every station. “As soon as the third track is built, the Railways will be able to run more trains,“ a senior official said.

Gulamali Bhaldar, president of the Chinchwad Railway Pravasi group, said quadrupling is urgently required for the next 50 to 100 years. “PCMC, which is financially sound, can easily give Rs 275 crore for construction of two additional tracks. Corporators, who have rejected the proposal, should be questioned. They have not considered the interests of the commuters,“ Bhaldar said . Although the general body has rejected the proposal, municipal commissioner Dinesh Waghmare can approve the proposal in public interest, he added.

Source : TOI