Mumbai: Two rakes of Metro-3 ready, but won’t come to the city soon

Complications to the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Mumbai Metro-3 just got compounded. The Metro rakes meant for Metro-3 are slowly seeing the light of the day, but have given rise to a cause of concern for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC). At present there are two rakes of 8-car each, meant for Aqua line of Metro-3, lying ready at Alstom’s SriCity facility in Andhra Pradesh.

With little progress on construction of carshed for Metro-3, either at Kanjurmarg or Aarey, the authorities are worried over what will happen when more rakes comes out of production unit and are ready for despatch. As per schedule the first prototype rake of 8-car was to come in November 2020 and the second rake was to come in June this year. Alstom started manufacturing in December 2019 for which a mock-up coach was readied in November 2019.

These were to be tested at the site here for six months for gauging its technical workability and finding out issues based on which necessary upgradations would have been made. The contractor Alstom has apparently already done initial testing at its production unit in SriCity. Each coach has been built at a cost of Rs 11 crore and total cost is around Rs 2,700 crore.

This run has to cover 10,000 kms in 6 months for knowing what corrections, changes and improvements are needed. Under the present situation, the data of train running is likely to be based on the one that the contractor has after their testing. The stagnation and delay in timely arrival of Metro-3 train-sets according to sources could also mean that maintenance of rolling stock will be affected in the long run.

“There are two Metro-3 rakes of 8-car each that are ready. We expect one rake to be added every 2 months,” said sources in the government. Alstom has been given a contract to manufacture 31 Metro trainsets comprising of 248 cars that is being done at SriCity. At present they have not asked Alstom to stall manufacturing work but to slow down a bit.

The trainsets will be able to accommodate at least 3000 people on a single trip. The Aqua Line trainsets will feature a host of safety elements including CCTV cameras, smoke detectors, emergency intercoms, fire extinguishers with wider detrainment doors to quickly evacuate passengers in case of an emergency. This will also serve differently-abled individuals and includes dedicated space for wheelchair in every car.

“We will have to test the prototype trainset on the underground network here to gauge any technical faults and corrections required. Only then will rest of the fleet will come with rectified versions,” said another official.

Officials from the government agree that after a few months when more rakes will be ready, there will be pressure to be delivered here in Mumbai. This is because, the manufacturing site in SriCity will exhaust the available space given the fact that Alstom has bagged contracts for manufacturing Metro trainsets, locomotives and rolling stocks for other projects across the country and world.

The government officials are not discarding the possibility of slowing down in manufacturing of Metro-3 trainsets by the contractor to prevent delays to their other projects. And also the possibility of paying high percent of demurrage charges in the future that will add to project cost. The officials state that since the day work has stopped on the carshed at Aarey, there has been loss of more than Rs 2,500 crore with around Rs 4 - 4.5 crore each day.

The former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis said that the Metro 3 carshed at Aarey was approved by the green tribunal and Supreme Court. Then tree felling and its transplantation were also done. 25 percent work was finished and the government changed the site and proposed to be moved to Kanjurmarg which is a marshy land and under litigation.

“Even the Committee set up by the new government suggested that taking carshed to Kanjurmarg will increase the cost of the project by Rs 5,000 crore and duration by 4 years. Also that it's a land under litigation. I think this Metro is a victim of ego and ill advice by some officers who were vested interest. Even today if Aarey work is completed we can have this Metro rail up and running in max 10-12 months,” said Fadnavis to The Free Press Journal.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) that is constructing the 33.5 kms long Metro-3 corridor has completed 95 percent of tunnelling. They have laid 2.5 kms of tracks and expect to complete the entire stretch within 18 months. A total of 10,740 ton of Head Hardened (HH) rails imported from Japan will be utilized for Metro-3 tracks. A total of 201,600 sleeper blocks will be required for the entire project.

Environmental activist Zoru Bhatena said that in the last three years the authorities have been telling us that the rolling stocks will arrive. “There seems to be space near the access ramp at Aarey that would connect Metro-6. Here it looks like there is space to park 4 trainsets. Over the past few months, there has been no work on the stilt to connect the underground and elevated rails here,” said Bhatena. Meanwhile, the issue of carshed at Kanjurmarg is being heard by the High Court. The cost has escalated to Rs 33,406 crore for this project.

A senior state government bureaucrat said, "At present there is no clarity on the title of land and its ownership for the carshed".

The MMRCL refused to comment on the issue.

Despite attempts, state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte was unavailable for comment on the issue.

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