Change is the only constant to life. For all problems we face, a change in current situation is necessary for finding a solution. The interesting thing about change is that we don’t notice it while it’s happening. In fact, sometimes we don’t notice it for a while after it has happened too. It is only when one fine day, we come across a situation in our daily lives that makes us retrospect and look back to the situation a while ago that we realize how much change has occurred.
This is the story of the Mumbai Metro which will feature four phases covering a total of 116.6 kilometres and is expected to be completed by 2021.
Phase 1 connects the Versova- Ghatkopar corridor and has been built by Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), a joint venture company formed by Reliance Infrastructure, Veolia Transport and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
Phase 2 after several revisions was decided to be a Mankhurd-Dahisar corridor. As of the last update, it will be constructed in three phases – Mankhurd-BKC, BKC-Andheri and Andheri-Dahisar. It will be built by a public private partnership(PPP) consortium comprising of Reliance Infrastructure, SNC Lavalin Inc. Canada and Reliance Communications.
Phase 3 will connect Cuffe Parade to SEEPZ. The first underground metro line of Mumbai featuring 27 stations was supposed to be completed in 2016 but is now expected to be completed in 2020.
Phase 4 covers the Wadala-Thane-Kasarvadavali corridor which will be mostly underground with a certain section being partially elevated.
Current Status of Mumbai Metro
After being under development for 7 years, facing numerous delays, bureaucracy issues and many other problems, Phase I of the Mumbai Metro was officially inaugurated on June 8, 2014. Phase I forms a link between the Eastern and Western sides of Mumbai. Its significance can be highlighted by the fact that it has slimmed down an hour’s journey by road down to a meagre 21 minutes by Metro. Considering that road travel along this corridor is much worse during the monsoons and peak hours, this is the change that all commuters along this path have been praying for.
Metro opened with an initial capacity of 7 lakh commuters which they are scaling up to 11 lakh with as many as 270-280 services, on a daily basis. The Metro stations have state-of-the-art security systems. Instead of tickets, Metro operates using tokens and smart cards. They also have elevators and escalators for ease of elderly citizens. The stations also have small eateries, ice-cream shops, mobile accessories shops, stationery shops, etc. within the premises.
The colourful coaches are air-conditioned with the last coach being reserved for women. The door operate automatically. Inside the coaches, there are seats reserved for senior citizens and physically handicapped people.There are also several small posters which promote good social etiquettes like giving you seat to someone in need, like an old man, a pregnant lady, etc.
The Metro apart from a fast journey also brings in a factor of safety. With closed door coaches, there is no hanging from the doors. While the Indian Railways are taking good measures, it is always gut-wrenching to hear news of someone falling off or getting hit by the poles while hanging out of the train coaches and suffering serious injuries.
I spoke about change at the start because while I became a frequent commuter on the Mumbai Metro, I didn’t realize how significant it is until just last week.
To highlight the change it has brought I’ll share two stories of my life.
- I stay in Powai and attended college in Andheri from 2010-2012 using the 319 and 335 bus routes. Without traffic the journey took half an hour while during monsoons, the same travel at times took me as much as 2-3 hours due to the intense traffic jams at Saki Naka junction. A 1-2 hour window was always necessary to reach on time.
- The 340 bus route was the best way to get from Andheri Station to Ghatkopar at the time due to no direct train and the switches required made it a very arduous option. The length of the queue for this line would always draw stares from people who were passing by. There was space for five snaking queues at 340’s bus stop at the depot and the line used to extend way back until the ticket counter or right upto the top of the railway bridge. This, inspite of that bus having probably the best frequency among all others leaving Andheri depot.
After the start of the Metro, given how close Saki Naka junction is, it was my obvious choice to travel to Andheri. Last week I had to visit a place next to the Andheri depot for some work. It was then that I noticed that the two bus queues which were the longest, 340, 319-335 had now become contenders for shortest queues around the depot! It was surreal to see a half empty queue for the 340 bus during peak hours. Bus conductors around the area say that while earlier they were rarely free from handing out tickets, now they are able to even sit and rest! Seeing half-empty 319-335 buses leave the depot reminded me of how just three years ago to have left in an half-empty 319-335 from Andheri felt like a supremely lucky day. Now, this was common occurrence.
Commuters have given several reviews to many newspapers like these from Mid-Day:
Shahrukh Mirza, 32, a real estate agent said that commuting to his office at Ghatkopar from Four Bungalows, Andheri (W) has become easy now and finds it equivalent to a blessing.
Tara Pujary, 18, a Bhavan’s College student had this to say, “Changing buses and literally chasing after autos to get to college has been a problem I’ve had to face for the last two years. But now with the metro taking me from my house at Marol to college in Andheri West, for the last month travelling has been largely a trouble-free affair”.
At Saki Naka junction it is now rare to find a fully halted traffic jam and it is mostly moving traffic. The introduction of Metro was aimed at connecting the north-eastern side of Mumbai with the north-western side but it has done so much more.
It has helped to make the road travel along the same path so much easier. The areas that the Metro goes along had seen a price appreciation of 400% over last 8 years, at the time of its launch. The expectations are for prices to climb even higher.
The Metro today has become a part of our daily lives and we assume it to be an integral part of public transport now, just like autos, buses and trains. Mumbai can never look back from the change that the Metro has brought and Mumbaikars, like myself, are surely looking forward to the rest of the Metro project being completed soon.