For nearly a decade now, local residents from Kalwa have been fighting with the authorities for closing down the level crossing gate at Kalwa. Now that it's finally been done, their efforts are getting overshadowed by politicians who were fighting to take credit for opening a new Road Over Bridge and shutting down the Kalwa Level Crossing gate which will also smoothen train services on the Central Railway.
There is a group of local residents and members of passenger associations who have been fighting for eliminating this LC gate at Kalwa for the past 9-10 years now.
The Kalwa level crossing gate has delayed and detained hundreds of trains every single day on the mainline. Now the locals have got a new Road Over Bridge as a replacement.
"We have written several letters to the rail ministry and local authorities, met officials to expedite work on this ROB that was approved in 2006 and even held protests as the average number of deaths here was almost 300 each year just before Covid," said Siddesh Desai, who works as an HR professional and is part of Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh; also spearheaded the need to eliminate this LC gate at Kalwa.
The locals from Kalwa claim that the political parties are busy taking credit although all the running around was done by them.
"It took us years to ensure that the authorities constructed this bridge that was proposed back in 2006. Now political parties are trying to take credit for this and the construction of the new ROB. But in the coming months, if there are any issues on this bridge-like bad roads, streetlights aren't there etc, then will they come forward? Moreover, there is a need for a foot over the bridge as well," questioned Rakesh Pednekar, an interior designer by profession and member of this passenger association.
This LC gate saw deaths of 300 persons or so on the Kalwa-Mumbra stretch each year.
Local citizens, however, complained that the new Kalwa bridge that opened on Saturday is a dismal civic job with no lights installed, patchy work and politicians fighting for credit. There are halogen lights installed that are making driving difficult for motorists.
The actual inauguration of the bridge was done by citizens on December 12, 2021, when they started using it because the gate had been closed for some maintenance.
"The true credit of the bridge goes to all those citizens who have been instrumental in following up with the authorities persistently for the completion of the bridge. When will the citizens get the credit?” added Siddhesh Desai.
The bridge was sanctioned in 2006 and the railway completed its work in 2017, but there were delays in land acquisition and other issues. The bridge is finally ready but the work is patchy.
Thane civic officials said the bridge was still being given finishing touches and it will get lights and all other amenities soon. The work has been executed under 50:50 cost-sharing between the Central Railway and the Thane civic body.
The level crossing gate at Kalwa, which detained the maximum number of trains on CR’s Mumbai suburban railway, was also shut down on Saturday night. With the commissioning of Kharegaon ROB, the Kalwa LC gate is permanently closed, paving way for smooth suburban train operations.
In 2013 when the passenger association checked the statistical analysis through Six Sigma, we found maximum accidents in the Thane Diva belt. As Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh started a mission to reduce the Railway Accidents in Mumbai, Kalwa was a major roadblock. Lakhs of Citizens staying in Kalwa East do not have a single ROB, FOB to cross the Railway lines.
Even Kalwa LC gate is the reason behind delay as all local trains pile up and resulting in commuters accidents.
"We highlighted this situation to Railway and TMC both luckily Railway responded well and completed 2 FOBs at Shivaji Nagar and Indira Nagar. Even Girder work completed for Kalwa ROB in 2016," said another resident.
The total cost of the project has been Rs 38.94 crore in partnership between Railway and TMC. Another point that the local authorities are stating is the Kalwa Airoli link work still has not started as local netas are not ready to shift illegal political shanties.