Mumbai: The Shiv Sena versus Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slugfest over the location of a Mumbai Metro car depot for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line is set to get uglier, with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray now looking at land meant for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet bullet train project to Ahmedabad.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is considering using a plot of land in the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) that had been set aside to be the originating point for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.
“We are considering various alternative sites. One is the land at BKC that has been earmarked for the bullet train project. The other alternatives are Pahadi, Goregaon, and a plot of land in Kalina,” Sanjay Kumar, Maharashtra’s chief secretary, told ThePrint.
The BJP has slammed the government for considering such a move. Former CM Devendra Fadnavis said: “Exactly who are this government’s advisers? They are not only trying to drown the government, but also the state. The BKC plot is prized land. The last land that we sold at BKC was at the rate of Rs 1,800 crore per hectare. The car shed will need 25 hectares, which means the cost of this land is more than Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore.”
For reference, a Japanese firm had bought a three-acre land parcel at BKC for Rs 2,238 crore last year, so the 25 hectares (or 61 acres) required for the metro car shed project would cost over Rs 45,000 crore.
Fadnavis, now the leader of the opposition, added: “The bullet train station is proposed to be constructed three levels below the ground. The design is such that on top there will be buildings of the proposed International Finance Centre (IFC). Now, if we decide to construct the metro car depot underground, it will cost at least Rs 5,000-6,000 crore as against the Rs 500 crore now. This will multiply the annual maintenance too by five to six times.”
BKC plot was considered before
The state government started evaluating alternative sites for the metro car depot for the 33.5-km Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line, commonly known as ‘Metro line 3’, after the Bombay High Court stayed the transfer of a plot in Kanjurmarg to the city’s development authority.
The MVA government had, in October, decided to move the metro car shed, originally proposed at Goregaon’s Aarey Colony, from the ecologically sensitive green lung to Kanjurmarg. However, the central government took the state government to court claiming ownership of the plot, which was once a salt pan, and questioned the suburban collector’s order transferring it to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).
The BJP has been pushing for the car shed to remain at Aarey Colony, citing time and cost-efficiency.
Some of the alternative sites being looked at now, including the BKC plot, were considered several times during the planning of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz line. In 2015, a technical committee, which Fadnavis had appointed to study alternative locations for the car depot after strong protests against building it at Aarey Colony, had also considered the BKC plot, but did not find it suitable.
An official who did not wish to be named said the BKC plot was mainly ruled out due to the commercial value of the land.
The Maharashtra government decided to hand over 0.9 hectares to the Centre for the bullet train project in September 2017 when Fadnavis was the CM. The state government took the decision after much debate, as the BKC plot is one of high value and the state government was planning to capitalise it by building the IFC on it.
Ultimately, the Fadnavis government reached an agreement with the Centre to develop the bullet train station deep underground and leave the surface for the development of the IFC, as planned.
Tug of war over bullet train
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is proposed to run on a 508 km-long corridor, and is to cut the six-hour journey between the two important cities to about two hours. Maharashtra will contain 120 kilometres of the route, with four of the 12 stations.
The BJP has aggressively pushed for the bullet train, one of PM Modi’s showpiece projects. The Shiv Sena, however, has been opposed to it since its inception, with its leaders saying the corridor is being made to bring Mumbai closer to Gujarat, and take businesses to Ahmedabad.
Ever since he took over as CM in November last year, CM Thackeray has postured against the bullet train project. Earlier this year, in an interview to Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, he said the subject had taken a back seat and he would much rather prefer a Mumbai-Nagpur bullet train than one to Ahmedabad.