Citizens' Issues
Fresh thinking for underground Metro in Mumbai

Providing underground Metro in Mumbai makes sense. However, the government should seriously consider introducing BRTS if it is worried about nearly 4,000 fatalities every year on the railway system

Though the Government of Maharashtra (GoMah) through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) may not acknowledge that there is enough knowledgeable people among the citizens, it seems to be taking some cues from what is being put up in the public domain by some activists. After getting varied feedback from citizens across the society for its 33.5 km Metro Line III which goes through Mantralaya precinct, dense Girgaon areas, upper middle-class Prabhadevi, the business district of BKC, the slums around the airport terminals and the industrial areas of MIDC and SEEPZ and also experiencing stiff resistance by residents and shopkeepers of Bandra-Santacruz stretch and Charkop slums, GoMah has realized that executing infrastructure projects cannot be a cake walk. They seem to have realized that one cannot have one standard for one set of people and another, aggravating norm for others. It has realized, hopefully fully, that democracy has to be reflected on the streets too.

There are near insurmountable problems of putting up the Metro Rail in Mumbai. Let us list them out:

  1. During peak period, which extends over two sessions of four hours and a very small dip during period in between during the day, road space is practically in short supply. (This does not mean increasing road space by widening roads or putting long viaducts is an answer). Blocking a road for any duration of time means finding alternative routes of commute, which Mumbai does not have.
  2. Elevated Metro Rail, Mono Rail or road viaduct would block roads during construction leading to great inconvenience not only to the motorcar user and bus operations but also make the vulnerable pedestrian and bicyclist inconvenienced as well as subjected to risk to life and limb.
  3. Mumbai is already a dense city. It also has very dense underground utility services lines which cannot be disrupted at any cost. Elevated Metro Rail and Monorail need to have foundations for the pillars to support the spans. Foundations have to take these underground utility services into account. This has cost implications and more importantly time implications.
  4. At stations sites, not only the underground utility services problems accentuate but the entire road space gets congested by ugly structures every kilometre, spoiling whatever aesthetics the city has had. After all this, the commuter who becomes a pedestrian after the journey or is one before the journey on the Metro has to negotiate restricted pathway space with all kinds of obstructions.


The list can be expanded, no doubt, but recognizing such near insurmountable problems that will make living in Mumbai a curse and to tackle it intelligently, minimizing people’s hardships is what a good government should be doing.

In that direction the step has been take by GoMah through MMRDA by reconsidering the over-ground Metro Route II from Charkop to Mankhurd via Bandra to making it an underground line just as the Colaba-BKC-Airport-SEEPZ Metro Route III has been considered. They have also realized that the Dahisar-Andheri Metro Line IX must also be considered now itself, as that is the need. At no stage can the Metro be above ground for the points enumerated above.

Going underground by itself will not leave city undisturbed if one adopted conventional designs. Access to the stations must be innovatively designed and also should be placed sufficiently deep so that all construction work is done avoiding all utility service lines and by not Cut and Cover Method (CCM) but using Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).

Frequency of Metro Rail service should be as little as one minute and three coaches per train, thus there could be considerable saving in the costs of underground stations. With coach capacity of 300, at one minute frequency, the service capacity works out to 3 x 300 x 60/1 = 54,000 pphpd (passengers per hour per direction) as against proposed six-coach train at three minute frequency giving a capacity of 6 x 300 x 60/3 = 36,000 pphpd.


At station locations, adjacent buildings must be acquired and access to station platforms must be from these new station buildings and not from footpaths. The persons from whom the buildings would be acquired must be provided for adequately considering what he would have benefited by being in such proximity to the Metro Rail Station. Extra space could then be used for housing some of the Metro Rail personnel and the rest commercially exploited if possible and necessary.

At 20m/day and 300 working days in a year, the number of years the 150 km Metro bore  will take 150 x 1000 / 20 / 300 = 25 years. One can deploy four TBMs and the period can be reduced to six years.

Finance will then be the main problem.

Architect Nitin Killawala, one of the petitioners for demanding underground Metro, has presented to MMRDA at the public hearing few months back an alternative to the Line II and Line III by suggesting a route plan. Perhaps the MMRDA did see some sense in that and have begun to rethink. Whichever way it is, if the planners do hold public presentations say every six months rather than reaching only through the media, a lot could be achieved. Planners like Mr Killawala can contribute to the process of planning.

Since the finance problem cannot be sorted out overnight, the project will take time. Therefore an alternative mobility plan must be worked out and quickly implemented. Priority has anyway to be provided to walking and cycling infrastructure —Tokyo has combined cycling and pedestrians pathways and is working wonderfully well—but the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) needs to be also prioritized.

At Rs1,000 crore per km of the underground Metro, the cost could come to Rs1,50,000 crore or if innovative methods utilized it could be brought down to Rs1,00,000 crore. On the other hand even at Rs20 crore/km, a 200 km network of BRTS will cost Rs4,000 Cr only. This can be completed in three to five years.

Thus, if Metro is going to be provided then

  1. It should be underground all over
  2. Plan for a three-coach train running at one minute frequency and make underground stations absolutely only for boarding and alighting purpose.
  3. Acquire adjoining properties where stations will be located and convert that as station
  4. Build infrastructure prioritizing facilities for walking, cycling and the BRT.  Mumbai need not wait for Metro to get completed.

(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07).  He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011 ). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected])



Sudhir P Badami

4 years ago

On matter of making Railways accessible to Persons with Disability, the subject of raising platform levels has been tackled. Please read article No 47 & 48 at website
There is another article that gives ceratain details of schemes that would make travel for all, plus the PwD and Elderly, pregnant women and infirm etc safer. I will upload it soon.

Bapoo Malcolm

4 years ago

Letter to the editor sent the day before yesterday: 05 July 2012

As someone who narrowly escaped death at Dadar’s platform # 4 two days ago, this comes from the horse’s mouth. 1) The gap is too wide, no matter what the PRO says. Increasing the height by 11 cms. Is just 4 inches more. It’s too little. Think of the passengers carrying umbrellas, bags, purses. The elderly, the disabled. How can they access their special compartment if it is beyond reach? 2) The trains stop for too short a time. This has been a Dadar feature for years. The guard cannot see the full length of the train; 12 bogies on curved platforms is an impossibility. 3) There is no audible signal before the trains start, to indicate imminent movement usually followed by a very fast pick-up. That signal will save many lives. It costs little to install and was a standard fitting years back. 4) The habit of crowding the doorway, at all times, needs to be curtailed. Luggage should be confiscated if left there.
Purposeful lack of safety features is tantamount to culpable homicide. Not spending money in raising ALL platforms adequately is criminal. It may be time for a PIL.
And finally, bring back Dinesh Trivedi. We need safety first, not Mamta Banerjee. One doubts if she can board a train at Dadar!

AND what happened yesterday!

My wife, in order to avoid the killer platform # 4 (?), the fast train one to Churchgate (Up), went to the slow train platform last night. There she fell due to failed lights and an ill surfaced platform. She is lying in bed just now, badly hurt, having been sent back from work. The hospital bill is Rs. 1,400/-, we were there till midnight.

She was told by the regulars that there had been other accidents on the spot too. Where is the PRO and his tall talk? These guys are killers, ensconced as they are in their ac offices and leaching their salaries. Ask them to send their families by cattle class. Do they dare?

Also, last Monday the entire bridge (north) was dark and many fell at the top of the stairs. I was there.

Bapoo M. Malcolm

Consistently inconsistent foodgrain policy!

The Wadhwa Committee pointed out that some Rs28,000 crore subsidy annually spent by the government was pocketed by vested interests. Nothing much has been done, except to let the foodgrain rot in the poorly built warehouses!

Everyone is looking up the sky to seek the help of rain gods for the monsoon to arrive. We have repeated assurances from leaders and weather scientists that “it is due anytime now” for the crop-sowing season, and “not to worry too much”. Such vagaries of the rainfall continue to play havoc in India.
In an estimate made by the World Food Programme, almost 25% of the world’s hungry people live in India. Which means some 200 million people or one-fifth of the population are hungry and starving for food and somehow eke out a living.
If statistics are to be believed, most of them unreliable anyway, but still form a basis for facing the reality, millions of tonnes of foodgrain are lost, wasted, damaged and are unfit for human consumption due to a variety of causes.
The PDS (public distribution system) established to ameliorate the living conditions of the poor people living below the poverty line (BPL) is in shambles.  A committee appointed by the Supreme Court, headed by former SC judge, justice DP Wadhwa, described the PDS as “inefficient and corrupt”.
The report highlighted that the system was plagued by black marketing and unofficially run by a “vicious cartel of bureaucrats, fair price shop owners and middlemen”. It would be truly interesting to find out how the shop owners are given the ‘license’ to run the “ration shop” as they are popularly called. A detailed study would indicate the political nexus of the vested interests.
The report also pointed out that some Rs28,000 crore subsidy annually spent by the government was pocketed by vested interests and suggested stern action to stem the rot.  Nothing much has been done, except to let the foodgrain rot in the poorly built warehouses!
What is really happening?  In most production areas, since there are inadequate and poor storage facilities, foodgrain, packed in poor quality sacks, are kept in the open for the rodents to feast, while people starve. Rain or sunshine the grains get damaged, rot and are unfit for consumption.  Such criminal wastage goes unreported and unpunished while the poor go hungry and scavenge for food. Every year at least 20% to 30% of the foodgrain produced go waste in this manner.
According to statistics available, there some 492 warehouses in India; two-thirds of the foodgrain are kept in government’s own construction; one-sixth is kept in the open and the remaining in hired facilities. These are neither adequate nor fully suitable and weatherproof to prevent rotting and other types of damages.
Whether the godowns maintained by the FCI (Food Corporation of India) are complying with above essentials is a debateable question.
Recently there was a media and public outcry that instead of letting the foodgrain go waste in this manner, the government must give it away to the poor and the needy. A rough estimate says that one million tonnes of foodgrain would take care of ten million people for the whole year.  Petitions were made to the food minister. What happened? Nothing, as usual and somehow, the issue was lost in the maze of other political chaos.
From a bowl in hand and seeking food under the PL-480 Programme India has come a long way, to become a net exporter. But, are we taking advantage of this progress? No. Apart from letting millions starve, decisions on export are subject to whims and fancies of the government as we have consistently inconsistent policies of banning and allowing exports on the pretext of protecting the “aam aadmi”.
Overseas buyers cannot be subject to uncertainty when they have others ready and willing to offer the same products in competition. Whether it is onion to the Middle East or cotton to China, the importer needs have to be supplies in an assured manner. Our export bans also affect the shipping industry.

It is essential that the Central Warehousing Corporation, set up in 1957 and operating only 469 warehouses, with a storage capacity of some 10 million tonnes should be directed to increase or create additional capacities in production areas; modernize them and also ensure that they have good transportation facilities at their disposal for movement of goods. We need to learn and implement better management systems of control and overcome the current lethargy, inefficiency and eradicate the corrupt practices that are visible.
All these are sad state of affairs; it also makes us wonder if these facilities are covered by insurance of any kind?

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)


Expanding work into Jordan

A visit to Jordan was fruitful as the writer met many merchants there. The 56th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

 The Indian government had a bilateral agreement with Jordan whereby rock phosphates were regularly imported from this country and we had a great number of items to sell. This Hashemite kingdom had closer relations with Britain, as King Hussain was educated there and was a student of Sandhurst Military Academy.
He was friendly but tough and would not cave in for threats. He had to deal with the Palestinian problem; because of the occupation and expansion of Israeli Zionist rule, more and more people from Palestine became refugees in their own homeland and had to be accommodated in Jordan.  
The west bank of the Jordan River was occupied by force and the displaced people had to find shelter elsewhere. It was Jordan first which had to take the influx of refugees fleeing from their homes. They were welcomed and assisted, and thousands of families stayed in make-shift camps, which, over the years had become permanent features, not only in Jordan, but in Lebanon as well.
No doubt, the Palestinians had also settled down in Syria, as they crossed the land borders, but because of the political system and Syria itself had a large unemployed population, there was not much anything these people could do for their livelihood, as a result of which, they moved to Lebanon. Shatila camp was one of the largest and it lay close to the Beirut International Airport.
Our Ambassador AK Dar was also accredited to Jordan and Cyprus; there was no office as such for the Indian consulate in Nicosia, but we had one in Amman to look after our interests.  Consular work was done there and the representative would come down to meet the ambassador once in a fortnight or so.
There were lots of enquiries from Jordanian merchants, and I decided to make a brief visit to Amman. In the few days that I stayed there, I met a number of active merchants, all of whom spoke good English. I expanded my contacts there and encouraged them to meet us in Beirut, which they frequently visited. Engineer Khalifeh Abdullah was one of the regulars, through whom Indian cast iron industry, especially Kajeco of Agra, benefited the most. Abdullah's Indian visit was after his long discussion with me; he met the EEPC officials in Calcutta and also senior people from RSI (Haik Sookias), DN Singha (Diken), Grand Smithy Works and Vijay from Kajeco in Agra. In the end, after his own trial-and-error methods, it was a lucky connection for Vijay and Abdullah that they were able to strike deals beneficial to both.
On my return, I submitted my report to the Council, and this was to become the next book, "Opportunities for Engineering Goods in Jordan", which as published in December 1973.
The visit to the island nation of Cyprus did renew several contacts with buyers there.  This small island had some inherent political problems; roughly 70% of the population was Cypriot-Greek and the balance of Turkish origin. There was a separate Turkish quarter and although there was a lot of friendliness and movement, it was always a tense situation.
The Cypriot-Greeks spoke Greek and were associated with business and government jobs/contracts. I was able to meet a number of them and introduced the opportunities for getting goods from India. But the main problem remained that there was hardly enough cargo for stopping over to deliver Indian products in Famagusta, their only developed port. Our efforts to make a break-through in Cyprus were unsuccessful.

Meantime, VP Singh our commercial attaché in Beirut was promoted to posting in Canberra, Australia; NK Nair, the commercial attaché in Baghdad was transferred to Beirut; Sharma, the successor of Ganga Lal Casewa in STC was succeeded by Kamal K Mittal and SK Singh, the ambassador from Afghanistan took over from AK Dar.  
With NK Nair's arrival, we hit off well and on his encouragement and support, my visits to Baghdad began in 1973 with frequency, as our relations with this country began to develop on a more serious note than before.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)


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