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Maharashtra government knew Kanjurmarg land was under litigation, yet it shifted the Metro car depot there: Report

A committee headed by Chief Secretary Manoj Saunik had submitted a report in January 2020, informing the MVA government that the Kanjurmarg land site was sub judice

A report published in Times of India has revealed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra knew beforehand that the Kanjurmarg land it had finalised for Metro card shed was under litigation. The report said that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government were already informed about the challenges in regard to the Kanjurmarg land site in January 2020, about 9 months before the government decided to shift the Metro car shed from Aarey colony.

A committee headed by Chief Secretary Manoj Saunik had turned down the plan of a depot at Kanjurmarg in its submissions made in January 2020. The 98-page report submitted by Saunik revealed that officers of Mumbai suburban collectorate admitted that the land at Kanjurmarg is “still sub judice”.

The revelations made by officials in the report is at variance with the senior bureaucrats, who later claimed that the land under consideration was not mired under any legal matters and the state govt owned it.

Shifting of Metro depot would incur an additional cost and 4 years of delay

The Kanjurmarg site is about 8 KM away from the original site of Metro car shed in Aarey. The panel estimated an additional cost of Rs 5600 crores for construction at the site in Kanjurmarg. It also stated that if the court hands over the plot to private owners, cost to obtain it would be Rs 7,862 crores.

The Saunik panel had also highlighted that the commissioning of the Metro car shed project at the Kanjurmarg site, which is located in marshy and low-lying area, would delay the project by 4 years due to time needed to prepare the ground. The panel submitted its findings in January but the Maha Vikas Aghadi passed up the report and went ahead with plans to relocate the car shed in Kanjurmarg.

Operational complexities would increase drastically if Metro depot is shifted to Kanjurmarg: Saunik Report

Besides, the Saunik panel also raised alarm over the “technical integration” and “complexity of interface” between Metro line 3 and 6 if the shed were to be shifted to Kanjurmarg. It cautioned the Uddhav Thackeray government that profound changes will have to be made in Line 6 viaducts if the Line-3 depot is to be located at Kanjurmarg.

“Line 6 works would need to be suspended immediately. The administrative responsibility for reviewing, redesigning and constructing the revised Line-6 works would have to be transferred to Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to examine whether joint running is operationally possible between Kanjurmarg and Aarey. This would also require the approval of the MMRCL Board, MMRDA, GoM (Government of Maharashtra) and Government of India,” the report as quoted by the Times of India said.

The report also warned about the technical integration of systems of the two lines, especially in matters related to signaling, telecommunications and of the rolling stock. The committee suggested that even if the shifting of the Metro car shed is done, accounting all its downsides, even then the shifting of depot would have an adverse effect on the frequency of operations on both Line 3 and Line 6.

Construction of depot at Kanjurmarg would affect the frequency and operation of Line 3 and Line 6 Metro lines

“Line-6 is being designed for a rake composition of six coaches while Line-3 is being designed with rake composition of eight coaches. A different signalling system of Line-6 would complicate the integration further. The committee considers that it is possible to shift the depot at Kanjurmarg if all repercussions related technical, operational, financial and time delays of integration are worth accepting,” the report said.

Citing that the main passenger corridor Line-3 would be from Cuffe Parade to Aarey, the report said that a 16-line operational yard for operational purposes will still be required at Aarey even if the depot is shifted to Kanjurmarg.

In case, the stabling yard is not built in Aarey, the report observed, all the trains of Line-3 would have to travel an extra 8-KM long stretch to and from Kanjurmarg, to cater to the operations, both during morning hours and peak hours, which would lead to a ton of operational complexities and hamper the frequencies of trains on both Line-3 and Line-6.

The Saunik report further noted that shifting of depot and stabling yard to Kanjurmarg will affect the carrying capacity, increase the operational complexities and lead to operational losses in the long run.

Soil condition at Kanjurmarg unfavourable for the construction of Metro depot: Saunik Report

The committee also held a dim view of the soil conditions at the Metro car shade plot in Kanjurmarg. It said that the subsoil was made up of “slush overlaying a highly compressible layer of clay on bedrock”.

It opined that the clay layer will need pre-consolidation before the construction of a depot over it so that uneven settlement in formation does not lead to distortions in the track geometry. In addition to this, the report said that ground improvements and filling works are needed and expected to take about two years of completion after the contract for construction work is granted.

“The Committee considers that none of the possibilities of shifting the depot to Kanjurmarg meets the requirements of an alternate site to the present location at Aarey within the brief given by the government. Especially as numerous litigations are ongoing about the land,” it added.

Uddhav Thackeray had claimed new site will cost Rs 0

Earlier in October, the Maharashtra government had declared the area where the metro car shed was planned was forest land and said that now the facility will come up at a government land in Kanjurmarg. “The Aarey car shed will be moved to Kanjurmarg. We have allotted government land for the car shed for Rs 0. We won’t spend a single rupee for acquiring this land,” he said.

Along with this, the state govt also dropped all the charges against the protesters who had tried to stop the car shed project at Aarey Milk Colony. Almost 808 acres of land in the area was proposed to be declared as a reserve forest. Aaditya Thackeray had informed that the land at Kanjurmarg has already been handed over to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority last week. He said that it will cost Rs 0, and not more than Rs 10,000 core as it was told.

BJP leader and former Devendra Fadnavis had sharply criticised the move, saying that the decision was taken just to satisfy ego. He had cited the Saunik report to allege that the decision will increase the cost of the project by at least Rs 4000 crore and also added that the project will be delayed by several years due to ongoing litigation and the condition of the new site.

Bombay HC slams Maharashtra government stating “Transfer of Kanjurmarg land for the metro car shed borders on fraud”

In a scathing comment against the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court said last week that the order transferring land at Kanjurmarg to the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) for building its metro car shed bordered on fraud. The court made the comments because a title suit over the land is pending before it, therefore the land can’t be used or transferred to anyone before that case is settled.

The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni made the comments while staying the construction of the car shed for line 3 of Mumbai metro. The bench was ‘aghast’ to note that the Collector issued the order handing over the land to MMRDA without bothering to wait for the outcome of the civil application pending before the High Court.

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