To end the ongoing stalemate over the land allocation for the car shed for Metro lines and its friction with the Centre over the Kanjurmarg land, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is likely to form another committee to study and zero in on the right location for the car shed for the Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz) corridor. This committee will be the third to study alternatives for the depot for line 3 in the past five years.
On Tuesday, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) also wrote to the state government, stating the 25-hectare plot in Aarey Colony will prove to be “insufficient to handle future traffic and hence can prove to be an imperfect solution in the future” and that Kanjurmarg plot would be a “better option” for the car shed.
Sources privy to the development said the government was likely to issue an order with the terms of reference in a day or two. The committee is likely to deliberate on the technical feasibility of both, the Aarey and the Kanjurmarg plots. In 2015, the then Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government had formed a committee under former metropolitan commissioner UPS Madan to find an alternative site for the depot. The MVA government, too, in December 2019, had formed a committee under additional chief secretary (finance) Manoj Saunik to study the alternatives.
While the MVA shifted the car shed from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg in October 2020, the Bombay high court (HC) ordered an interim stay on the transfer of the Kanjurmarg land, after the Central government claimed ownership on it. The litigation and court order has put a spanner in the ongoing Metro shed work, with clear indication of the delay in commissioning of the line. However, sources said chief minister Uddhav Thackeray is keen on the Kanjurmarg plot. In his address to citizens last Sunday, Thackeray also invited the Opposition and the Centre for a dialogue.
Thackeray has been criticised by the Opposition BJP for shifting of the shed, saying it will delay the project by three years and lead to the escalation of the cost at least by ₹4,000 crore. Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis attacked Thackeray saying the decision of shifting the shed location was to satisfy his ego.
Meanwhile, in its letter to the state, the MMRDA has stated that the depot in Aarey was planned to accommodate a total of 39 rakes, however, as per the traffic estimates, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), which is executing the project, would require 42 trains by 2031 itself. The letter states, “The depot capacity at Aarey would have got exhausted by 2031 itself. To meet the full projected requirement at Aarey Depot, it is necessary to restore to full 30 ha. land. This would have required the additional 5 ha land kept aside as there are more than 1000 trees existing on the land. It’s very difficult to create additional depot facilities other than Aarey at a later date once the system comes in operation (sic).” It further states, “The present commissioning plan of line 3 is mid-2023 and if a quick decision can be taken by the state government to provide land with minimal delay, of about six months, it would still be possible to commission line 3 by Dec of 2023. (sic)”
It states that while the cost of building separate depots for line 3, 4 and 6 would be ₹2,434 crore, an integrated depot at Kanjurmarg can be built at a cost of ₹1,600 crore. The letter states, “Considering the scarcity of land and consequent land acquisition cost involved, Kanjurmarg appears to be a more efficient alternative. An integrated car shed utilises the synergies of the project to avoid duplicating the infrastructure and costs and improves operational efficiency. In the event if Kanjurmarg land is not allotted, it would also involve additional land acquisitions and detrimental ecological impact and duplication of infrastructure and resources (sic).”