What Mamata missed out on? Mumbai’s lifeline
Mumbai: Many Mumbaikars Wednesday said they felt let down by Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee's 2009-10 budget as she made no mention of this financial capital's lifeline - the suburban trains.
"It is shocking that there is not even a mention of the Mumbai suburban section, which has been a profitable unit independently over the past so many years," said daily commuter Mangesh Sawant.
Sawant pointed out that though Banerjee mentioned the Kolkata metro rail, the Mumbai suburban service, used by over seven million commuters daily, was "apparently too insignificant" for any consideration.
"The least that was expected was some additional outlay for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project of the Mumbai Rail Vikas Mandal, but nothing has come," he said.
Terming it "an interim budget", Passenger and Traffic Relief Association President Chandrakant Vora said that barring some long-distance services, Mumbai had got nothing and even Maharashtra as a whole had been given a pittance.
"Though there are some good schemes, it will depend a lot on how they are implemented by the railway bureaucracy, otherwise, they will remain on paper," Vora said.
He listed various pending projects like the long-delayed extension of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-Andheri corridor to Borivali, promise of better and faster rakes for the city to replace the slow and aged ones and the proposal for a link between Churchgate and Thane.
Mumbai Suburban Railway Passengers Association Secretary D. Sompura feels that the 12 non-stop trains announced by Banerjee between various centres, including Mumbai, are unviable.
"For instance, if the journey from Mumbai-New Delhi takes around 18 hours by Rajdhani Express, which makes four halts en route, how much time will the new non-stop services take?" Sompura wondered.
Besides, he said it was not clear what on-train arrangements would be made in terms of ensuring sufficient food and water, cleanliness, medical or other emergencies, if the trains are going to travel non-stop for so long.
"What about passenger comforts, especially when there will be non-air-conditioned coaches?" Sompura said.
Sompura said that when people complain of fatigue in the world-class comforts of long-haul flights to various international destinations, it is difficult to imagine travelling non-stop in non-air-conditioned trains.
West Zone Railway Pensioners Association president M.D. Sathe, while welcoming plans to make 50 stations world-class, demanded similar world-class treatment and upgradation of the suburban train services.
"The railways minister has said nothing about increasing speed of suburban services to reduce travel time. The passengers should also have representation on the proposed project monitoring committees Mamata has announced, otherwise it will be another meaningless bureaucratic exercise," Sathe said.