Pune – Mumbai is one of the busiest urban corridors in the country. It connects two metro regions with populations of over 6 million and 20 million, respectively. Today, the commuters rely on the expressway and the train corridor. The traffic on this corridor is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade. There are already plans in place to expand the expressway from 6 to 8 lanes, and to improve the Bhor Ghat section via an alternate road alignment.
(Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), Japan. Image Credit: Wikipedia)
However, given the future growth in this area (Pune metro region may cross 10 million by 2030!), an alternative high speed rail corridor is also critical. The present rail corridor is restricted to 110 km/h (..and to a much slower limit in the Bhor Ghat section), and more importantly has a severe traffic congestion, thanks to the Mumbai suburban rail traffic. The Deccan Queen took less time to travel between Mumbai-Pune in 1930s (when launched), than today!
In addition to catering to the inter-city traffic, the high speed rail corridor can also support the new Navi Mumbai Airport in Kharghar (Panvel). The HSR corridor from Pune-Panvel-Kurla will support rapid access for Pune and Mumbai travellers to reach this airport (reducing the need for the new airport in Pune, which has been in a limbo for a long time). It will be possible to travel from Pune to Panvel (120 km) in under 45 min, and from Kurla, Central Mumbai to Panvel (30 km) in under 15 min. This will enable a great access to the new international airport from both cities.
I understand that the Pune-Panvel HSR corridor will be a bit more expensive and challenging given the mountainous Bhor Ghat section…but these challenges have been addressed in many other places in the world. More tunnelling will be required. One advantage of tunnelling is that, it may reduce some land acquisition issues.
The Ahmadabad-Mumbai HSR corridor entails a huge investment of 100,000 crores. For a small fraction (less than 25%?) of this investment, the corridor can also support excellent high speed connectivity between:
Pune – Navi Mumbai (Airport)
Mumbai – Navi Mumbai (Airport)
Pune – Ahmadabad
I hope the concerned authorities (Maharashtra Government, Central Government, Railways and others) consider this HSR corridor as a top priority and start work in this direction. Also, Pune, Mumbai industry and commerce bodies need to lobby for this aggressively.