MAHARASHTRA’S Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced on January 10 that the regional government had approved plans to build the first phase of a heavy metro network in Mumbai over the next five years. He said Delhi Metro Rail Corp had been asked to prepare a detailed project report for an 8 km underground line.

The route follows the same corridor identified for repeated metro projects since the early 1970s. It would run from Colaba near the end of the peninsula to Mahalaxmi, where it would connect with an elevated alignment to Mahim. The next phase would run underground eastwards from Mahim to Mankhurd. A later extension would run north from Mahim to Charkop (Kandivali), parallelling the Western Railway main line.

Shinde put the total cost of the initial section at Rs32bn, although earlier studies suggested the figure would be closer to Rs140bn. According to the minister, the state and the Indian government will each contribute Rs6bn, with the remainder coming from the World Bank and other international agencies.

Indian Railways has already launched a programme to modernise Mumbai’s extensive suburban network. On December 29 IR ordered traction equipment worth Rs3·8bn from Siemens Transportation Systems for a fleet of dual-system EMUs. Able to operate on Central Railway’s 1·5 kV DC network and Western Railway’s 25 kV 50Hz lines, the 170 three-car sets are to be assembled at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai over the next three years.