Mumbai, Reconnected - Ashwini Bhide

Mumbai, Reconnected

Despite Mumbai’s intricate and seemingly wellconnected public transportation, our city is often missing from top 10 international rankings of public transport systems. In fact, studies show that the average Mumbaikar using the suburban railway spends one and a half hours commuting from their homes to work every single day. So, how do we solve this problem and eventually spend less time travelling, and more time increasing overall productivity levels?

Ashwini Bhide, an IAS Officer and the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation’s Managing Director, believes she may have the answer. In a speech delivered to the Rotary Club of Bombay on Tuesday 7th March, Bhide described Mumbai’s Metro Three project, a 173 kilometre, mostly underground subway-like structure that connects the city’s prime regions, and named it the city’s “next lifeline.”

Part of “Mumbai’s master plan”, established in 2004, the Metro Three is one of nine corridors that builds an interconnected system of metro lines throughout major business areas in the city. With the deadline to inaugurate all nine corridors fast approaching, Bhide explains that all the parties involved are hoping to “complete as many as possible in the next five to seven years.”

Many may ask why such an infrastructural development is necessary when Mumbai already has one of the best linked train networks in the country. However, Bhide highlights a few of the issues with our current rail structure. Firstly, the Central, Harbour, and Western lines are laid out as “vertical perspectives, from north to south,” and do not have enough effective links horizontally, from East to West. Moreover, the average railway user is forced to transit a further “two to five kilometres once they exit a station in order to reach their desired destination”, lacking a “doorstep” system, in which a railway station is located within walking distance to their home or workplace. And finally, a burgeoning estimate of “twelve million passengers travel via railway” daily, despite the fact that the trains’ capacities remain much lower.

These issues all lead to a tragic 3,500 deaths annually on public transport, mostly due to trespassing and overcrowding. Therefore, “there is no option – the metro project is a compulsion,” said Bhide.

Compelling Mumbai’s corporations and governmental bodies, and even international parties, to work together with regard to the financial, environmental, and social aspects of this project, the new transportation system will be a force for positive infrastructural change due to the effort of the numerous and diverse groups involved, especially when considering its features. Some of the development’s components include: “serving 6 centralised business districts, interchanging with the existing system, advanced safety and security features, and 24/7 continuous security surveillance.”

Ultimately, the Metro project is expected to lead to a “35% reduction in road traffic, decrease in fuel consumption, creation of business opportunities, and an improvement in our citizens’ economic productivity.”

However, most importantly, Bhide affirmed that it will “reposition Mumbai” as a metro-city to be reckoned with, and help it gain the worldwide competitiveness that it once boasted due to its effective, efficient, and unparalleled public transportation system.