Oval Maidan-Virar elevated rail corridor gets a forward push
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To be executed through Public-Private Partnership mode on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis, the project envisages a 63.27-kilometre two-track corridor along the existing Churchgate-Virar section.
While 42.72 kilometres of this new corridor will be on elevated track, 8.04 kilometres will be underground and the remaining 12.52 at grade (ground level).
Space constraints and extremely limited possibilities of expanding the rail network at the ground level on the existing route in future have prompted the move to set up this corridor, 68 percent of which will be elevated, 20 percent at grade and 12 percent underground.
The entire stretch, with 26 stations (see box) will be designed for trains to run at an optimum speed of 100 kmph. In the long run, this corridor could be extended beyond Churchgate to go upto Nariman point or Mantralaya.
Railways estimate that around 1.7 million passengers would use the corridor in 2019-20. The Concessionaire executing the project (to be selected through competitive bidding) will have the freedom of setting the tariff.
The project that has been in the works for almost five years finally got the required push from Rail Bhavan with the ministry keen on having its own Metro to compete with the upcoming Mumbai Metro One-a joint venture of Reliance Infrastructure, Veolia Group and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
Indian Railways operates one of the most crowded and overloaded suburban railway systems in the world, that too, as a loss-making venture due to low ticket rates. For long, the ministry has been toying with the idea of introducing air-conditioned trains on suburban routes where better fare tariffs can contribute to revenue.
Of the 26 stations between Oval Maidan and Virar, five would be underground, 19 elevated and two at grade. The 8.04-kilometre stretch between Oval Maidan and Mahalaxmi would be underground. Between Mahalaxmi and Borivali, 25.22 kilometres would be elevated and 2.20 kilometres would be at grade. This 2.20 kilometre section north of Santacruz to north of Vile Parle station will be made at ground level because of height restrictions imposed by the Airports Authority of India.
In the Borivali-Virar section, 17.50 kilometres would be elevated while 10.31 kilometres would be at grade. In the alignment for this section, Railways have kept a provision for two future lines.
While the distance between stations would vary from 1 kilometre to 4.5 kilometres due to traffic and topographic reasons, the average spacing between these stations would be around 2.25 kilometres.
In the underground sections, the rail level will be around 15 metres below ground level. In the elevated sections, presence of 81 foot over bridges (FOBs) and 25 road over bridges (ROBs) has ensured the rail level will vary from 15-20 metres from road level. The plan is to run high quality, 3,660-mm wide air-conditioned coaches having features similar to other metros on this route.
The Railways plans to run services on this corridor for 19 hours a day (from 5 am to midnight). Trains will stop at each station for 30 seconds and will have a transport capacity of 90,000 passengers PHPDT (Peak Hour Peak Direction Traffic).
Railways also plan to set up emergency sidings on the corridor so that trains can be reversed in case of an emergency. A maintenance depot at a location north of Virar station and four construction depots at Mahalaxmi, Jogeshwari, Mira Road and Naigaon have also been planned.