Cricket legend and Member of Parliament Sachin Tendulkar has raked up an old debate of isolating the suburban rail system of Mumbai by writing to Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal asking to create a single Railway zone for Mumbai Suburban Rail comprising both Central and Western Railways.
“I am sure you will support this idea beyond the difficulties of implementation, it will provide much-needed focus, budgetary assistance and exclusive administration to the needs of the people of Mumbai,” the Master Blaster’s letter reads.
What the MP may or may not know is that this was attempted in July 1999 with the formation of the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) — a joint venture of the Indian Railways and Maharashtra government. It was created to run the suburban line but now implement only those projects that involve expansion of the suburban rail network, says a MRVC official. Then again in December 2015, the Railways addressed a similar query, saying that amalgamating a single zone for Mumbai is not feasible.
Tendulkar had reasoned that a common body would “help optimise management of suburban railway stations and surrounding railway-owned land, and enable speedy decision-making, holistic planning and execution of projects. It will also free Mumbai suburban from overall supervision of Indian Railway, which remains largely preoccupied with maintenance of country’s national rail network.”
However, rail officials said there are many technical reasons why a unified suburban system is not practical. “Mumbai’s rail system is complex and comprises not just local trains but also long distance and goods trains,” explained a senior rail officer, adding “There are two different zones operating in the same city and amalgamating businesses and operations is very difficult.”
Still, senior rail officials say that a committee has been formed to look into Tendulkar’s suggestion.