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Mumbai gets metro

Mumbai, May 18: Mumbai has begun the journey to catch up with Calcutta in one of the few cool experiences it still can’t offer: that of fast, cheap commuting in comfort.

The Maharashtra government today cleared the decks for construction to start for the city’s first metro rail link ' a stretch of 11.4 km ' between the western suburbs of Versova-Andheri and Ghatkopar in the east.

Once complete ' the deadline is December 2009 ' commuters will for the first time be able to travel east-west without getting slowly broiled inside a crowded bus or paying the tough-on-the-pocket auto-rickshaw fare.

The travel will be more than three times faster and the rates ' with a 3-km trip tentatively priced at Rs 6, 8 km at Rs 8 and 11 km at Rs 10 ' marginally higher than bus rates.

“There is no air-conditioned public transport that is cheaper than this in the city,” said T. Chandrashekhar, the metropolitan commissioner in charge of the city’s transport infrastructure.

Other than air-conditioning, the Mumbai metro will have an automatic fare collection system, and special lifts for senior citizens over and above the escalators.

There will be an automatic train protection system.

“It is based on a sensor mechanism where the metro coaches would slow down when the distance between two travelling metro trains reduces, nullifying the possibility of a mishap,” a Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) official said.

The east-west rail connectivity (the suburban railway has only north-south lines) is likely to ease the congestion on roads leading to the airport.

Announcing the state government’s formal approval today, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would lay the foundation stone for the project next month and work would start in October.

A consortium led by the Anil Ambani group’s Reliance Energy Ltd will build the metro at a cost of Rs 2,356 crore.

The first phase of the project includes two other corridors apart from the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar stretch, which is entirely on elevated rails.

The second corridor, connecting Colaba in south Mumbai to Charkop in the west via Mahim, will have underground rails over the full 38-km stretch.

The third, 14-km corridor will join Bandra in the west to Mankhurd in the northeast via Kurla.

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