Home » Cover Story » Metro For Mumbai Only By 2021–God Willing

Metro For Mumbai Only By 2021–God Willing

Alison Saldanha,
Share with your friends




For years, Priyanka Dias, 25, a business analyst with a global IT firm in the special economic zone of Santacruz Electronics Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ), in the western suburb of Andheri, spent 1.45 hours travelling from office to home for roughly a distance of 18 km during peak hour traffic. That’s 10.28 km per hour.


Most of this time, roughly 45 minutes, was spent commuting a meagre 5.2 km stretch from SEEPZ to Andheri railway station. This means she travelled 1.9 metres per second, which is comparable to the pace of beetles and faster than that of spiders, tortoises and snails.


On good days, Dias took a bus; on others she took her chances with an autorickshaw. Mostly, she walked from office along the dusty, noisy, traffic-infested stretch to her destination.


As it turns out, walking was the fastest way of getting there.


This was before the 11.4 km-long, Rs 4,300-crore Metro Line 1, Mumbai’s first modern mass rapid-transit system line, linking Ghatkopar in the east to Versova in the west, opened in June 2014.


Today, 1.1 million passengers use the east-west link, and Priyanka’s own commute has been reduced by 30 minutes on this dreaded stretch of land.


Line 1 is part of the Rs 72,500-crore Mumbai Metro Project, the largest transport project Mumbai has ever undertaken. If implemented, it could change the face of India’s financial capital.


That’s a big if.


Mumbai makes the unacceptable acceptable


In the decade leading up to 2005, Mumbai witnessed a 137% increase in cars, 306% increase in two-wheelers, 420% increase in autos and 128% increase in taxis, according to the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA)’s Comprehensive Transportation Study (CTS) of 2008.


During this decade, the minimum average travel speed, the slowest recorded travel speed, fell from 30 kmph to 5 kmph in the suburbs and from 18 kmph to 8 kmph in the island city.


About 78% of Mumbai uses public transport, which is great at a global level. But this is primarily because people have no choice.



The MMRDA study notes that the use of public transport in Mumbai is chiefly the product of other phenomena, such as “unusually compact urban form, high densities, low incomes and lack of affordable housing”.


Although Metro Line 1 has cut Priyanka’s travel time, she still braces for a jam-packed turbulent 30-minute-long suburban train journey that often sees her travelling on the footboard of a train coach.


Mumbai’s suburban rail system is one of the cheapest in the world, but its low cost comes with a deadly penalty: around 10 people on average die every day, CTS noted.


A US Federal Transit Administration report of 1996 has described a density of five passengers per sq m as “totally intolerable” and eight passengers per sq m as “unacceptable”.


In Mumbai, it is common to accept the unacceptable.


The MMRDA estimated that on average, 12 passengers stand in a sq m, rising to 16 persons per sq m between car doors during peak hours. The Indian Railways officially calls this “super-dense crush load”.


“Commuting in Mumbai is the true leveller,” Dias told Indiaspend, “the problems are so pervasive–they affect everyone. Despite the blessing of a Metro, travelling east-west for less than 20 km still takes me nearly as much time as crossing a 42 km north-south distance that is fully serviced by packed suburban trains. The nightmare consumes four hours of my day, five days a week. By the end of it, there is hardly any energy to do anything except rest before the next work week begins.”


Delayed, delayed—and now revised


With the situation only likely to worsen, planning authorities view the introduction of a metro rail rapid transit system as a panacea for Mumbai’s transport tribulations. Every day, 11 million passengers in Mumbai use public transport, and MMRDA has projected that roughly 7 million passengers will benefit from the metro and substantially unclog road and railway traffic.


“When the CTS was carried out, we realised Mumbai should have gotten a Metro a long time ago. This was the first moral of the story,” Sanjay Sethi, managing director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) told Indiaspend.


The MMRDA in its metro proposal noted that the existing suburban rail system is “under extreme pressure and the public bus system’s role is limited to providing feeder services for the railways”.


However the metro is riddled with delays and cost escalations. Mumbai’s population and vehicles are set to rise over this decade. MMRDA’s study, from trends recorded in the base year of 2005, has estimated that that by 2031, the city’s population will grow to 34 million from 12.4 million and vehicular growth will expand to 9 million from 2.3 million today.


Source: MMRDA, Lea Associates South Asia, “Executive Summary of Comprehensive Transportation Study”


In 2004, the MMRDA finalised the Metro masterplan, which proposed a 146.5 km rapid-transit system for Greater Mumbai to be completed by 2021. With Line 1 opening only this year instead of 2012, and work on the other corridors not even started, the plan itself needs to be revised.


As of today, the plan consists of just three more corridors—Colaba-Bandra-Seepz (32.5 km), Dahisar-Bandra-Mankhurd (40.2 km), and Wadala-Thane-Kasarvadavali (30 km)—which, along with the already commissioned Line 1, will create a network of 114.1 km, integrated with the existing commuter railways and thus connected to the island city, the suburbs, commercial hubs, and the airport.


The costs have ballooned from Rs 67,618 crore (2012 estimates) for nine corridors to the new revised estimate of Rs 68,202 crore for the three lines now left. MMRDA estimates that it will take roughly six to seven years to complete construction of each metro corridor after tenders are finalised, which they are currently are not.


‘By the grace of God, the metro will come by 2021’


Except for the completed 11.4-km Line 1, no construction has started on the three corridors of 102.7 km. While the tendering process for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro has begun and the line is expected to be commissioned by 2021, the other two corridors are still on the drawing board, having just received clearance from Maharashtra’s new Chief Minister Devendra Phadnavis last month.


“We need a solution that is urgent to respond to the growing problem. A delayed answer through the Metro is not something Mumbai can afford. The current project cost estimates are almost equal to the size of three annual budgets for Mumbai,” Madhav Pai, director of urban transport think tank Embarq India said.


If the experience of building metro corridors in other cities around the world is any indication, the project is more likely to take 10 years to complete after the implementation phase begins. “By this time, car ownership may triple, bringing in a host of new traffic-related transportation problems for the city,” Pai said.


Might a bus rapid transit system (BRTS), which involves creating dedicated bus lanes on arterial roads, be a faster and cheaper infrastructure addition for Mumbai? It would cost a tenth of the metro.


“The Metro system fares even at the initial discounted rates for Line 1 are pricing out the poor,” Pai said. Presently, the initial promotional fares are only marginally above that of the suburban railway, but the ongoing fare war between MMRDA and project operator, Mumbai Metro One Private Limited, raises serious concerns of affordability. If the project operator’s proposed initial fare structure prevails, with a 100 % hike from current maximum fares, Mumbai will have India’s costliest metro system.


The controversy snowballed during the preparation for Line 1’s inauguration, with former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan even threatening to boycott the opening ceremony. A month after commissioning the line, MMRDA moved the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the fares of the Mumbai Metro.


“The project as it currently stands is a service for de-clogging roads that are used by barely 10% of the population that owns cars. The huge costs involved at such a large scale would be better directed towards low-income housing, public education and healthcare,” said Pai.


Sethi disagreed. “Mumbai does not have the bandwidth for an above-ground BRTS,” he said. “There are issues regarding the width of the road, the nature of Mumbai’s traffic, and further, it involves major changes in the current traffic system which are near impossible to implement here.”


The metro, according to Sethi, must be viewed as complementary to the train and bus network, which transport 56% and 26% of commuters, according to the CTS. “These systems are efficient and comprehensive—the new Metro serves to decongest them and offer an alternative mode of public transportation. Mumbai has one of the highest shares of public transport usage and the Metro is being built keeping this in mind,” Sethi said.


Still, Mumbai’s planned and existing Metro network is much smaller in comparison to other world cities. With more than 500 km of rail infrastructure, Shanghai has the world’s largest metro network, followed by Beijing, another fast-growing network in China. In fact, according to the International Association of Public Transport and the International Railway Journal, Asian cities take up 5 of the 10 top positions for largest network connectivity. London is the longest non-Asian network in the ranking, with New York, Moscow, Madrid and Paris completing the table.



Acknowledging Mumbai’s shortcomings and the possibility of traffic demands changing drastically over the next few years, Sethi said, “Comparing with world statistics, we know the Metro should have come earlier. We are now hoping that by the grace of god and those involved in seeing the project to its fruition, we are able to have Line 3 up and ready by our goal of 2021.”


(Image credit :Niteen Kasle | Dreamstime.com)


This article is a part of our series “Mumbai Special: The Revival Agenda”. You can read the whole series here


“Liked this story? Indiaspend.org is a non-profit, and we depend on readers like you to drive our public-interest journalism efforts. Donate Rs 500; Rs 1,000, Rs 2,000.


  1. Vissionary Reply

    December 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Is there any ray of hope for TRIPURA ?

    Lakhs of Educated Youths (and their families) of TRIPURA (2nd highest populous state in NORTHEAST) have been languishing in complete frustration for over a decade now (recent news on TRIPURA can be referred for details) due to lack of –> Progressive policies, Meaningful development, Best of the industries and quality professional employment opportunities, Best of the class healthcare, Proactiveness in being nationally and globally competitive.

    Does anyone know why capital AGARTALA is not yet even an inch near to a tier-2 city like PUNE ?

    Does anyone know what TRIPURA have achieved (in terms of giving its educated youth much needed professional career opportunities at par with other progressive states) till date by focusing only on natural resource (rubber, bamboo, plastic) based industry, which in progressive states (e.g. Karnataka, Maharashtra) is considered as intermediary industry, while IT and High Tech industry are the prime economy drivers !!

    Does anyone know why poor and lesser educated people are still not able to live a life with self dignity – at par with those in other progressive states (e.g. An Healthcare firm or IT MNC firm not only employs Doctors, Engineers, Managers and other graduates – alongwith them there are many other supporting and maintanance staffs who get due trainigs, well paid and can make their own career as well !!).

    Does any one know HOW LONG (and WHY) people of TRIPURA (Youths especially) have to languish in backwardness when rest of the progressive states are vying for attention from top IT MNCs and High Tech firms to set up their base ??

    If tier 2 cities like PUNE, GURGAON can achieve same through right mix of people, policies, push and willingness to embrace technology and competition – why can’t AGARTALA ??

    Hope much needed ECONOMIC VIBRANCY (like Bangalore, Mumbai, Gurgaon, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad) is created in AGARTALA (to emerge as new SMART CYBER CITY of India!) with best of the policies and setting up of World Class Infrastructures.

    Really hope leadership in CENTER, TRIPURA Govt and Other Concerned DIGNITARIES takes a FUTURISTIC and PROGRESSIVE approach and goes BIG to put TRIPURA into national & international scheme of things and strives hard in making AGARTALA into an world class city signifying uprising India’s growing prowess!

    We really need to move forward by developing TRIPURA with world class infrastructures and bring it at par with best of the other Indian states in the shortest possible time!

    Yes – we do have logistical issues in terms of connectivity,tough terrains – which slowly but surely being overcomed with multiple links opening up through Bangladesh,Myanmar!

    Appreciating TRIPURA Govt and Center on the development works so far,would request to set higher goals and aim to make TRIPURA the new face of emerging India!

    Some of the very important issues plauging TRIPURA badly:

    1.INDUSTRY – Not a single High Tech corporate, Big MNCs – especially economy driving Service Sector (from IT, High Tech – source of higher disposable income – source of thriving economy) have a presence in TRIPURA – Need of the hour (with major connectivity projects on and due for completion in next 1-2 years) is to have many of these companies (e.g. IBM,Accenture,TCS, Infosys, Wipro,HCL,Cognizant, Tech Mahindra) set up Delivery & Consultancy centers (by facilitating them with setting up of necessary IT zones / parks – in the line of ITPL Bangalore, Electronics City Bangalore, HITEC Hyderabad, Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park Hinjawadi Pune, DLF IT Park Chennai – with due URGENCY) – Which is a must to open up window of professional opportunities (and mass employment) for bright (More than 6 lakhs UNEMPLOYED !!) youths of the state. TRIPURA is also home to massive talent pool with combination of huge number of working professionals (working in other Metros and abroad currently), local educated youths, youths (and working professionals) from neighboring NORTHEAST states and legal working professionals from Bangladesh and Neighboring countries! At the same time geographical proximity of AGARTALA to important BANGLADESH cities (and subsequently to other SE Asian countries) gives ample business opportunities for IT Majors to expand their client base across industrial domains (e.g. Digital Bangladesh project being envisaged by Bangladesh Govt).

    2.LIFESTYLE – Not a single world class 5 star hotel (Taj, Leela, Oberoi, ITC), World class shopping mall (Phoenix Market city Mumbai, LuLu International Shopping Mall Kochi, Mantri Square mall Bangalore), multiplexes (PVR, Big Cinemas, INOX) , World class Retail chains (Walmart, IKEA, Pantaloons,Shoppers Stop, Croma, Reliance Retail etc) exists in TRIPURA – Need of the hour is to have many and which is a must for a better and modern lifestyle for both people of State as well as thousands of (domestic and international) tourists arriving in the state.

    3.EDUCATION – Not a single higher education institute of national importance (IIM, IIT, IISc, AIIMS, Symbiosis management institutes, Xavier management institutes etc …) exists in TRIPURA – Need of the hour is to have many (given the fact that a huge number of students from TRIPURA migrates to other states for pursuing Engineering, Medical and Management from best of the institutes) which is a must to bring youths at par to the ones in other part of India !! This will also help best of the brains from other parts of INDIA to know NORTHEAST (TRIPURA in particular) better!

    4.HEALTHCARE – Not a single HOSPITAL of national importance (in terms of professionalism , proven quality and trusted brand) exists in TRIPURA which is a must for those helpless people of state who has to run around and rush to Chennai and other cities for treatment even during those critical hours of life! – Need of the hour is to go PROACTIVE and INVITE best of the brands available (e.g AIIMS, FORTIS, APPOLO, MANIPAL Hospitals) to set up their HOSPITAL CHAINS at AGARTALA, at the same time highlighting enormous business opportunities they can derive from Medical Tourism Market comprising of Tourists coming from other Northeast states, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and other Neighboring countries.

    5.RAIL – Really hope TRIPURA gets connected to Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) Network with individual lines to MYANMAR and BANGLADESH – in the earliest possible time. Given the huge prospect of being a important Rail hub (catering to domestic and international traffic) connecting NORTHEAST to SE Asia and further to Europe, Hope AGARTALA rail station gets transformed into a world class Rail station (with best of the technologies, equipments, infrastructure and amenities) in the line of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Maharashtra) and Chennai Central station (Tamil Nadu). Also, need of the hour is to have a seamless Rail connectivity between all the NE capitals (Mumbai-Chennai like network need to be put in place for people to move across NORTHEAST easily without any hassles/security issues). Does anyone know when first High Speed Train will arrive in TRIPURA ?

    6.CITY TRANSPORT – Not the best of the Road Infrastructure and City Transport System is in place in AGARTALA! Need of the hour is to have world class technology (e.g. GPRS enabled systems) and equipments embedded in ROADS (e.g. Digital Sign boards, CCTV cameras, Automatic Traffic Signal Control System etc.) and PUBLIC TRANSPORT VEHICLES (e.g. High Tech VOLVO AC and Non-AC Buses, Double-decker Buses) ; and install a organized process (e.g. Daily, Monthly and Yearly Passes, Dress code for Bus operators) in place – with something like Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transit system, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System! Does anyone know when AGARTALA METRO will be flagged off ?

    7.AIRPORT – Really hope AAI comes up with an world class international terminal (in the line of Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore , Mumbai Airports) in AGARTALA with modern technology, infrastructure, equipments and best of the amenities! With growing economic linkage between INDIA and other ASEAN countries (latest being PM’s visit to Japan and Thailand) as part of INDIA’s LOOK-EAST POLICY,it hardly leaves any room for imagination – the role AGARTALA going to play in near future being the hub of international trade. And SMOOTH and AROMATIC flow of INTERNATIONAL and DOMESTIC travelers (includes businessman, tourists, patients, students) will hold key to fully realize potential of LOOK-EAST policy envisioned by INDIA’s leadership.

    8.WATER Ways – TRIPURA Rivers are connected to Rivers in Bangladesh. Need of the hour is to transform TRIPURA rivers into national waterways, set up World Class Inland ports (in the line of Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project) and connect them to Bangladesh River and Sea ports, which would ease TRIPURA’s landlockedness to a significant extent and improve Supply Chain and Logistical delivery of goods and services!

    9.HIGHWAY – Hope AGARTALA gets incorporated to have seamless access to SE Asia connectivity points (India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan Multi-modal Transit). Also Need of the hour is to have Multi-lane express highway (in the line of Mumbai-Pune expressway, Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway) connectivity among all NE capitals. Can there be a Express Highway (via DHAKA) connecting AGARTALA and KOLKATA ?

    10.BUSINESS MEET – Not a single Global Investor Meet organised yet in AGARTALA (whereas in Karnataka, Gujarat and even Chattisgarh these are almost frequent affairs – Recent one being PUNJAB getting thousands of crores of investment out of a Investor Summit !!). Need of the hour is organize such event which would surely put TRIPURA in global map and radar of world class corporates!

    11.SPORTS – Not a single International stadium exists in AGARTALA to hold national and international level football and cricket tournaments (ODI, T20, Test matches, IPL, ISL, Challengers League etc) !!! Need of the hour is to set up an World Class International stadium with latest technology, infrastructure, equipments and best of the amenities (to the level of Eden Gardens Stadium, M Chinnaswamy Stadium, M. A. Chidambaram Stadium) to facilitate football and cricket crazy fans of TRIPURA (2nd Populous NE state!!), fans from neighboring NE states and neighboring countries of Bangladesh & Myanmar, budding cricketers and footballers from NORTHEAST to watch their favorite STARS in action !! This would also be a huge boost to Tourism, Relationship build up with neighboring countries, Opening up of many other avenues in industry starved NORTHEAST TRIPURA! For an instance, even though INDIA will be hosting 2017 U-17 FIFA world cup, there seems to be no chance of having few matches played in TRIPURA – though that would be the nicest thing to bring WORLD much closer to NORTHEAST TRIPURA !! Does anyone know when first international cricket match will be played in AGARTALA ?

    12.ECONOMIC ZONE – Really hope AGARTALA gets incorporated in the proposed BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) corridor project and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) project. Having close geographical proximity with important cities like DHAKA and CHITTAGONG will surely help TRIPURA leverage it’s strategic location of being India’s Gateway to SOUTHEAST ASIA! Also there is a urgent need to build economic and industrial corridors connecting all NE capitals to leverage economic potential between Northeast India and Southeast Asia. Does anyone know when a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will come up in AGARTALA?

    13.TOURISM – There seems to be no concerted approach in Branding and Marketing TRIPURA TOURISM with a wider internet reach through Social Media network, Top travel and hospitality web sites (in the line of Maharashta Tourism, Tamilnadu Tourism, Uttar Pradesh Tourism, Kerala Tourism, Goa Tourism) even though there is a huge scope for TRIPURA in both National and International Tourism Market. Also hilly terrains can be transformed into a major hub for Adventure Tourism (in the line of Ladakh) in addition to existing eco, cultural and religious Tourism.

    14.TECHNOLOGY – There seems to be no approach in promoting and using modern technologies e.g. Internet Of Things (Combination of Physical things, Sensors, Internet, Cloud, Big Data and Real time Analytics) – which allows to overcome day to day challenges and enhance quality of public life (e.g. Wireless sensors on Bridges and Buildings for precaution against earthquake and natural disaster; Smart farms to improve Agriculture productivity; Effective Monitoring of Healthcare for patients; Managing Rivers, lakes and flood situations; Managing Traffic Congestion; Managing Air Polution; Managing Forest Degradation; Maintaining Roads and Highways; Monitoring Goods Transportation; Monitoring vehicle speed and preventing Road Accidents).

    15.SMART CITY – Hope AGARTALA gets incorporated in the SMART CITY project envisaged by NDA Govt.

    Also urgent need of the hour is to complete all the existing infrastructure projects as soon as possible and identification and sanctioning of all other infrastructure projects fulfilling above infrastructure gaps without any further delay!!

    Anything less than ‘WORLD CLASS’ would only defeat the very purpose behind infrastructure development of TRIPURA under LOOK-EAST Policy!!

    IMPOSSIBLE – just means I AM POSSIBLE! If India need to catch up with developed part of the world,the most strategically placed Northeast (especially TRIPURA) need to be made into a developed region in the shortest possible time!

    I strongly believe TRIPURA govt (in close co-ordination with Center, other concerned dignitaries & all corporate vissionaries) can certainly achieve this sooner rather than late, which would definitely give its people a better employment opportunities, a better healthcare, a better access to quality education, a quality lifestyle, and last but not the least a confident and connected TRIPURA leading India’s charge towards contributing to a more stable and stronger global economy!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *