Why is such a lot of money being spent on skywalks that are inconvenient, a Metro that cannot accommodate large numbers, a monorail and a sea link for a privileged few?
When I read a newspaper report earlier this week that there is insufficient space to accommodate escalators at the skywalks which are coming up across Mumbai, I just could not help thinking that the blokes at MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority) are very capable of messing around with matters of public importance without application of mind from the outset. The lucre of Rs600 crore (allocated for the skywalk projects) was too big not to be attracted to, or delay, lest they were halted in their tracks. The contract costs have since escalated to Rs735 crore.
The design of the skywalks does not support the aim of making the journey for pedestrians easier and safer. Let alone the convenience of the average pedestrian, the design also grossly violates the accessibility aspect with regard to the Disability Act 1995. The usage of skywalks that have already been commissioned is dismally poor. And all this is coming up after Rs385 crore has been spent and numerous trees have been chopped down. Is this not a scandal of sorts?
After the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) is completed, the carrying capacity of the railway system will increase to 1,80,000 pph (passengers per hour) from the current 1,50,000 pph. The load on the railway system is around 3,60,000 pph. Thus, there will be a shortfall of 1,80,000 pph even after the MUTP has been completed. We know that the capacity of the Metro will be about 72,000 pph after it has been fully commissioned. So, the Metro would not be able to meet the needs of Mumbai's public transport requirements. Even after knowing this, MMRDA is pursuing with the Metro Rail. Is not the lucre of the over Rs60,000 crore Metro Rail Project more attractive than the Rs3,000 crore cost of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS)? Is this decision also not bordering on a scandal of sorts?
The monorail project has gone ahead, again, without any analysis in terms of both the need and utility compared with other modes of public transport like BRTS and Skybus. Does this also not border a scandal of sorts?
We are also seeing that due to non-availability of funds, all kinds of manipulations are being carried out to get the projects moving. MMRDA is planning to start work on all the remaining eight lines together, with the objective of completing them by 2014! Are not the guys at MMRDA being too ambitious, perhaps even greedy, to think of doing all of it simultaneously, thereby subjecting the whole population to great distress over a long period?
Then there is the 5 lakh rental housing scheme-most unimaginatively conceived, at faraway locations, a high cost of transport and long duration of unsafe travel. Is this not another scandal of sorts?
About Rs1,600 crore was spent on the Bandra-Worli Sea link for about 35,000 users to travel swiftly, while 60,00,000 people travel on suburban trains in super-crush load during the peak periods. Now it is envisaged to extend the sea link to Nariman Point, without any consideration of the high cost and low utilisation. But spend just about Rs3,000 crore on a 200km network for BRTS instead of, or along with the high-end ticket projects, and we could save 4,000 lives that are lost in rail accidents every year. Is this also not a scandal of sorts?