Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Why the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail (HSR) corridor should be extended to Panvel-Pune

Posted in Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on December 12, 2015

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.

1024px-JR_East_Shinkansen_lineup_at_Niigata_Depot_201210(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.

Pune needs more traffic cops!

Posted in Cars, Current Affairs, Pune by Amit Paranjape on May 18, 2015

Pune traffic mess worsens every day. Road infrastructure is woefully inadequate for 3+ million vehicles. But what exacerbates this further is the massive traffic indiscipline. And this traffic indiscipline/anarchy is growing everyday.

One key reason for indiscipline is the lack of enforcement. There is no fear in the minds of signal/one-way violators that they will get caught. Visitors to Pune from other metros in India, routinely describe the traffic lawlessness on the streets here as much worse than their home towns.

Many will be surprised to know – Pune has more vehicles than Mumbai! (Most of these being two-wheelers, which actually worsen the traffic indiscipline issues…).

The traffic in Mumbai is a lot more homogeneous (4/6 wheelers), while that in Pune is a lot more heterogeneous & chaotic (2/3/4/6 wheelers). 80+% of Pune’s vehicles are 2-wheelers, and due to their small size and flexible maneuverability, they are often the biggest offenders when it comes to traffic violations. Narrow roads in Pune also add to the problems.

Like in all other infrastructure and development areas, Pune has woefully inadequate traffic police strength for the 3+ million vehicles (AND growing at 1,000+/day!). Note, Mumbai has 3x (or more) traffic police personnel as that of Pune. (I am researching exact numbers… also trying to find benchmarks with other cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai…Any pointers would be appreciated!).

Instead of constantly blaming Pune traffic (I do too…) we should also lobby the authorities for additional enforcement capacity. The Pune Police have made these demands about additional strength at multiple points of time.  The citizens of Pune need to lobby their elected representatives at all levels regarding this demand.
And yes, structural changes are needed in penalties (increasing fine amounts) and driver licensing tests…but those are medium and long term measures. Long term measures should obviously also focus on better public transit (and reduction in private vehicles…). But, short term for Pune, additional traffic police manpower is absolutely essential. Also, immediate deployment of camera based enforcement is critical. Wherever technology can help in better enforcement, it has to be actively used. Enforcement needs to done not only at signals but at random spots along the roads. Traffic violators should worry about getting ‘caught’ anywhere, and at anytime. Discipline culture will take a long time to build… it starts with fear of law: If you break a traffic law…you will get CAUGHT and FINED!

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).

Welcoming Pune’s IPL Team – Sahara Pune Warriors

Posted in Cricket, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 25, 2010

Sahara Pune Warriors

The ongoing controversy in IPL not withstanding, Pune cricket lovers enthusiastically welcomed the new team in town: Sahara Pune Warriors. Tens of thousands gathered at the S.P. College Grounds yesterday evening for the name and logo unveiling ceremony. The most valuable IPL Team (new franchise bought by the Sahara Group for $370 Million) got a great reception.

A quick poll across friends/colleagues and a look at twitter stream confirms that the name is “ok” – could have been better; but could have been a lot worse! [ E.g. Dare Devils?? Knight Riders?? , etc.] The same goes with the logo. I personally would have preferred something more modern. Though the city’s connection with the ‘Maratha Warrior’ in the logo, is well represented.

What does the team mean for Pune? For starters, it brings world class cricket to Pune. Local talent will get a big opportunity. Pune has never had its share of good cricket – for various reasons. Hopefully, that will be a thing of the past. And yes, IPL will also bring in some great entertainment with it. Cricket purists dislike the excessive focus on entertainment – I too would prefer more focus on cricket, than the peripheral action. But then it is this entertainment that brings the sport to the masses. Just look at how American Sports Leagues(NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) mix the two. The entertainment doesn’t take the focus away from the main sport. The real stars in the American Leagues continue to be the players: Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, or Alex Rodriguez. And the quality of the skill and athleticism are absolutely terrific.

Looking beyond cricket – the fact that Pune got this team, and with such a huge valuation means something else. Finally, Pune as a city is stepping out of the shadows of Mumbai. Pune has always been the cultural capital of Maharashtra – but the economic size and might of Mumbai have always overshadowed Pune. A look at all the original 8 IPL Teams will tell you that all of them are from capital cities. In India, capital cities have always received some ‘special treatment’ when it comes to infrastructure and other development programs – politics (at all levels) contributes to this. In a sense, Pune winning such an expensive franchise is a victory of ‘Economics’. The rapid growth and rising young affluent work force (driven by IT, Automotive and other Business Sectors) was a clear attraction for the various parties bidding for the Pune Team.

The new 55,000 capacity Pune Cricket Stadium (MCA Pune International Cricket Center)  being constructed at Gahunje (off Mumbai-Pune Expressway, near Talegaon) will be one of the best in the world. Take a look at the impressive proposed design: http://www.hopkins.co.uk/projects/_3,135/ 

I can’t wait for next year’s IPL. The new auction will decide which players become part of this team. Especially the Mumbai-Pune games will be really interesting. Over the coming years, I am sure these games will develop into intense rivalries. With Mumbai likely playing some games at the D.Y. Patil Stadium and Pune playing near Talegaon, this will be one classic ‘Expressway’ Contest!

 

 

A BMW On Indian Roads – 1970s Bollywood Story

Posted in Cars, Current Affairs by Amit Paranjape on March 25, 2010

This sounds like a Bollywood story of the 1970s …. two twins get separated at birth. One gets to enjoy the luxuries of the modern world, a great loving and caring family and comfort…gets to have all the fun and entertainment he desires. Has a great bunch of siblings and friends.

And then there’s the poor brother! He is subjected to immense hardships…Uncaring step-parents (who for some reason seem to always wear white uniforms) ….A society that tries very hard (successfully I may add) in making sure that he doesn’t come anywhere close to realizing his full potential. He is perennially subjected to abuse and is often shackled by the environment he lives in. Rarely does he catch a glimpse of freedom (if at all)…and that too is extremely short lived.

Ok – enough of Bollywood…and why am I boring myself with it 🙂 .   But wait, I am not really talking about Bollywood, am I? The separated twins are in fact two impressive V8 BMWs that were produced together at the same assembly plant near Munich in Southern Germany. One had a small trip to make to Dusseldorf, and got to rule the Autobahns! While the other got ‘shipped’ to the Nhava Sheva Port in Western India, was subjected to the ‘misery’ on Indian Roads :-).

[Note you are welcome to create Tollywood and Mollywood equivalents of this story … just replace the BMWs with Mercedes and Audis.  ]

Isn’t it a sheer joy to see these beautiful, elegant and powerful performance machines, ‘steadily’ ambling on Indian Roads?  I am sure their designers in Germany would be proud to see their magnificent creations cruising at a ‘fast’ 20 kmph (what’s that – just a difference of a ‘0’ from their intended speeds)…I guess , as much pride as a breeder of thorough-bred horses would get from seeing a racetrack winner, carrying a groom in a wedding procession 🙂

I mean, you do need those 300 (or even 400) BHP engines that can do 0-100 kmph in less than 6 sec, to drive in Pune traffic…yes, definitely! And all those ‘Must-Have’ features like 4 Wheel Drive, Anti-Slip/Traction/Stability Controls, 8 Airbags, Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning Systems, Night Vision, etc…etc. are a must for Mumbai! And what better way to navigate on Indian Roads than use the latest built-in sophisticated voice-guided Satellite GPS Navigation System? The system for sure is more ‘intelligent’ and ‘effective’ than the neighborhood ‘Panwala’ when it comes to finding local street directions .

On a few small occasions these mechanical thorough-breeds get to gallop a bit…that is if they manage to escape Pune Traffic…and head to the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. The Expressway itself is a poor cousin of the German Autobahn (not with respect to the road quality itself, but the way some of the smaller brethren behave on these roads – endangering everyone around them!). Still, touching 100 kmph or at times even 150 kmph must be satisfying for sure. But just when the fun starts, these cars are welcomed by ‘Navi Mumbai’…and then by…Chembur and Sion…what more can I say!

Like in Bollywood, there are no happy endings to this story 😦

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