Every weekend the railways carry out 'blocks' on rail lines as they name them jumbo or mega for upkeep and maintenance of rail infrastructure. But there are some days when these works are humongous in nature requiring hours. One such block of 16-20 hours is expected next month or in April which is already giving jitters to the authorities.
This is not just because of the nature of work but also due to the fact that it has the potential to disconnect Thane district with Mumbai for those many hours or force motorists to take a long detour via Navi Mumbai. We are talking about the last leg of the Thane-Diva fifth and sixth rail lines for which two 75 metre-long girders need to be launched over the highway amidst dense residential and commercial areas near Mumbra Bypass road.
"We are trying to work out a feasible solution so that motorists face the least inconvenience and are in discussion with MRVC," said Balasaheb Patil, DCP, Thane Traffic Police.
At present, there is no alternative east-west connecting bridge for vehicles to pass apart from Mumbra Bypass. All the heavy containers coming and going towards JNPT take the Mumbra Bypass road. The railway officials said that they are hoping to complete work on Kopri road over the bridge by mid-March while the work of Diva ROB and at Kalyan is a long way to go.
"There was hardly any space for keeping these two girders next to the tracks, on road. We require anywhere up to 16-20 hours of a block to launch them and install it as part of finishing 5-6 rail lines of Thane-Diva," said an official from Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) that is doing this Rs 550 crore project that started in 2008 at an initial cost of Rs 180 crore.
According to plans, the girders are ready; these have been brought from other parts of the country and assembled here. In November last year, the first metal girder was assembled and gradually shifted making space for assembling the second one. If this was not big enough, a big problem arose; it's raising and installation that would require shutting down road traffic from Nashik and Gujarat end vital to connect the JNPT port as well as Mumbai.
"We are in talks with the local authorities for the block. We have completed 80 percent of the work and by December this year the work will be complete," said R Khurana, Chairman and Managing Director, MRVC.
The rail authorities claim that they want to finish it in one go so that another such massive block isn't needed. They are looking at taking this block in March or April depending on the permissions that we will get and other factors too.
Sources said that ideally, they are aiming to start work by 4 am or so and take until late evening. The rail and local authorities are discussing ways to mitigate this issue so that in one go this work gets over and there is no need to make another block. Of the 10 kms stretch of these rail lines, work on 8 kms is already complete.
"The project is already delayed for long. No doubt people will go through inconvenience for some hours during this block period but in the long run, it will only benefit lakhs of daily rail commuters," said Siddesh Desai, member, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh.
Once the girders are launched, they will connect it with the remaining portion and complete these two lines mainly meant for segregating long distance with suburban local trains. It will pave the way for the introduction of additional local services on the mainline.
Thane-Diva is the CR’s busiest section in the suburban network. The 9.9 km-stretch between Thane and Diva has four existing lines on which six lines (Diva-Kalyan and Thane-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Terminus) converge, creating a bottleneck that obstructs and delays local suburban and outstation trains.