A dream will finally come true for the Mumbai commuters with air-conditioned local trains being introduced, according to a railway budget 2015-16 announcement by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, a Mumbaikar.
Comprehensive trials of the proposed air-conditioned coaches for Mumbai's crowded suburban sections are underway since the past couple of years, and the announcement was welcomed by most commuters.
However, despite repeated announcements in the past few railway budgets, they have not yet been introduced as a regular facility owing to various reasons like overcrowding in local trains, the fare structure, the complications of automatic door opening and shutting mechanism, etc.
The special project linking Mumbai-Ahmedabad with a high-speed railway like the bullet train has evoked a mixed reaction from Mumbaikars. The feasibility study for the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in advanced stage and expected by the middle of the year.
Prabhu, a Mumbai resident, has sanctioned an amount of Rs 15 crore for raising the height of several platforms of the suburban section of Western Railway (WR).
Since the past few years, as new high-speed rakes have been introduced on the suburban section - Mumbai's lifeline used by around seven million commuters daily - there have been many accidents, some fatal and most leading to permanently maiming as commuters fell on the tracks due to the huge gap between the train footboard and platforms.
Another welcome amount of Rs.8.83 crore will be spent for installing escalators on the WR suburban section. Escalators operating at around half a dozen stations have already proved a great hit with the commuters as they dash from one platform to another.
More foot overbridges are due to constructed with an amount of Rs.6.60 crore sanctioned in the budget, but officials could not immediately inform where and when these will come up.
To cater to the growing demand of the railway commuters, the railway ministry has proposed to take up Mumbai Urban Transport Project-III to provide an integrated transport solution.
Meanwhile, the speeds of trains on nine railway corridors will be increased from the current 110 kmph and 130 kmph to 160-200 kmph to enable journeys like Mumbai-Delhi to be completed overnight.
FULL COVERAGE:Union Budget 2015
The WR plans to launch projects worth Rs.2,500 crore through the build-operate-transfer/annuity route for the Wardha-Nagpur third line and other projects in other states.
Mumbai North MP Gopal Shetty has donated Rs.1.5 crore from his MPLAD Fund for augmenting passenger amenities, Prabhu announced.
He also said Mumbai suburbs are likely to get satellite railway terminals to decongest the city and provide services to local residents.
While suburban sections on Central Railway, WR and Southern Railway have already launched pilot projects for issuing unreserved tickets on smartphones, this will be extended gradually to all stations, while debit card operated automatic ticket vending machines are to be introduced to complement the existing ones using SmartCards and cash options at many stations.