Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Wish List for Pune – Mumbai Railway Corridor

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune, Travel by Amit Paranjape on December 3, 2014
Deccan Queen from 1990s (image credit: twitter.com/rajtoday)

Deccan Queen from 1990s (image credit: twitter.com/rajtoday)

The Mumbai – Pune rail corridor is one of the most important rail corridors in the country. It connects two big metros (total population over 25 million). The Mumbai-Pune rail line also continues down towards Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The Mumbai – Pune stretch is also a very busy and important freight corridor, given the large number of manufacturing companies in Pune. Given the rise in services and manufacturing industries in both cities, as well as the overall population and per capita incomes, the number of commuters between the two cities has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, the railways hasn’t kept pace with this over the past few decades. The Mumbai – Pune Road Expressway provides some relief…but even that is getting congested.

Mumbai – Pune was one of the first intercity rail-lines completed in India (1850s). It was also the first intercity rail-line to be fully electrified (1920s). In 1930 luxury train Deccan Queen was started, and it took just 2 hours 45 min to cover the 192 km distance! Over the years, the Deccan Queen has slowed down (thanks to the heavy suburban local traffic) and now takes around 3 hours 15 min. So basically, in 85 years we have regressed…instead of speeding up! The Deccan Queen when it started was considered to be one of the fastest trains in all of Asia. Today on one hand, many countries have speeded up their trains to 150/180/200/300 kmph and beyond…while Mumbai – Pune corridor is still stuck at 110 kmph for over 80 years.

Here’s my wish list for the Pune – Mumbai rail corridor. Note, this is an unconstrained wish-list. I am not an expert in railways and don’t have feasibility/cost data for these suggestions. Note that this list is for the existing corridor (not for a possible high-speed ‘bullet train’…that will need an entirely new corridor, to support speeds of 300 kmph and higher (similar to the true high speed trains, in operation in Europe, Japan and China.)

The main thrust of the wish-list below is: expanding capacity of the current corridor to achieve faster run-times, some route changes, and faster frequencies. Expanding (widening) the corridor is key since this stretch has heavy suburban local traffic, which slows down through long distance trains.

Wish List 

*  4 tracking of  Lonavala – Pune – Daund (present 2 tracks)

*  4 tracking of Bhor Ghat (Lonavala – Karjat) … (present 3 tracks)

*  4 tracking of Karjat – Panvel (present 2 tracks)

*  4 tracking of Panvel – Vashi – Mankhurd – Kurla (present 2 tracks)

*  Establish: Pune-Karjat-Panvel-Vashi-Mankhurd-Kurla-Mumbai has the main Pune-Mumbai route. This will cut-off 25-30 km distance. Note, this is the route that Pune-Mumbai road takes as well.

* Ideally, provide a rail link along with the proposed trans-harbor link between Uran and South Mumbai. This will save another 10-20 km for the distance between Pune and South Mumbai (CST Station).

*  The present route Pune-Karjat-Kalyan-Thane-Kurla-Mumbai is longer (192 km). This also is affected by heavy suburban local train traffic from Kalyan to Mumbai (fast locals).

*  Current max speed on this route is 110 km/h. Bhor Ghat max speed is 40-60 km/h (or less).

*  Explore if certain stretches of the non-Ghat section can be speeded up to 150-170 km/h (semi-high speed).

*  Start hourly trains between the 2 cities on the new route. 2 hour run time is feasible with the current track (max speed of 110 km/h)…This was envisaged over two decades back with the Mumbai – Pune ‘Shatabdi’ ..but never implemented due to the suburban traffic. Even with a max speed of 110 km/hr and a 45 min travel time in the Ghat section, a sub 2 hour travel time is easily possible for a 160 km distance.

*  Higher frequency (hourly and 30 min at peak times) should also lead to smaller trains, resulting in faster acceleration. This can facilitate short 2 min stops in Lonavala, Panvel if required.

*  Connect Panvel Station with a light rail connection to the new upcoming Navi Mumbai airport at Kharghar. This will be convenient for both Mumbai and Pune travelers.

*  Run some trains from Pune to western suburbs (route them from Kurla to Andheri/Bandra ..), instead of Dadar/CST.

*  Start Lonavala-Pune-Daund suburban local trains with 15 min frequency. This is critical for the Pune metro region’s public transit. The Lonavala – Pune – Daund suburban corridor should be fully exploited to support Pune’s public transit system.

* To support this heavy Pune – Mumbai traffic, significant upgrades will be required for Pune and Shivajinagar stations. Both need additional platforms. Also, given the space restrictions at Pune, Shivajinagar, will have to expand capacities of Khadki/Dapodi/Pimpri and Hadapsar/Loni stations.

* Pune and Shivajinagar Stations should be supported by underground metro stations, to ease the commute. Khadki/Dapodi should also have metro stations (on the PCMC/Hinjavdi Metro route).

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Pune’s development – A strong need for lobbying!

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 1, 2014

Pune is the largest city (metro area) in the country, which is not a capital city. It is very strategic and important for the state and the country from multiple standpoints – Manufacturing, Software, Education, Defense, Research, Heritage, Culture, etc. Over the past three centuries, it has played a key ‘thought leadership’ role for the country in politics, social reform, culture, industry and education.

And yet, we find that Pune’s development and planning is in a complete mess. Delhi gets a lot of attention, thanks to it being the capital of the country. Other metros (e.g. Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad) get some attention from the state governments. Unfortunately, Pune hasn’t really fit well in the priority schemes of the state or the center.

Ideally if the metro areas have their own governance (and budget allocation) mechanisms (like in many countries), the Pune metro area can take care of itself. Unfortunately in India, cities are not autonomous. They have to rely on the state and central governments for budgets, planning, approvals, etc.

How do we fix this situation? PMRDA is a good step…but not enough. Basically, what we need is strong city-centric lobbying with the state and central governments for all tactical and strategic issues!

Take the example of Pune Airport, Metro, PMRDA itself… pending for such a long time with no clear decision making and urgency. There are plenty of examples. The city doesn’t even have a ring road, even though it has been under discussion for decades. Public transportation is a mess (most probably the lowest percentage of commuters travel by public transit in Pune, as compared to other metros).

Given that Pune is not a capital city, the lobbying needs to be much more than that is being done by other metros. We have a much steeper slope to climb. Lobbying needs to happen at all fronts, across all levels – across sectors of industry, across levels of government and bureaucracy, etc.

Organizations like the Pune International Center, MCCIA, Local Media, Local Industry Leaders, and Education Leaders can play a big role in regularly highlighting the city’s issues. Ultimately, every Punekar should take this up as their responsibility to lobby for the city’s development agenda. I am trying to do my small bit via the social media (twitter). The effectiveness of social media is increasing day by day, and provides a good option for the ordinary citizen to highlight their issues.

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