Indian PM launches new rail scheme for traffic-clogged Mumbai

MUMBAI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for an ambitious 4.2 billion dollar metro rail scheme to tackle traffic woes in the western economic centre of Mumbai.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 21 Jun 2006, 4:01 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 3:25 PM

The ceremony marked the start of plans to build nine lines totalling nearly 150 kilometres (94 miles) by 2021 to ease pressure on the overcrowded existing rail system in the city of more than 18 million.

Singh announced plans two years ago to make Mumbai a world-class city along the lines of Shanghai’s development and referred to the long-delayed metro rail project. Nearly one quarter of it is planned to run underground.

Mumbai has been India’s business and economic centre since the era of British colonial rule but its swift expansion has not been matched by infrastructure improvements.

Following devastating floods last July that left hundreds dead, Singh promised the backing of central government to improve Mumbai’s overburdened infrastructure as Indian economic migrants continue coming to the city.

The premier told the ceremony Wednesday that India’s cities had suffered from years of neglect.

“We need new investment in world-class public infrastructure for our cities. We have to invest in public transport,” he said.

“Our cities have to become more liveable and more people-friendly,” he added, saying airports, public parks and bicycle routes were also needed.

Roads are clogged and nearly nine in ten commuters, about six million people, currently rely on the ageing suburban rail network to get to work in Mumbai, according to official figures.

The first line in the metro project, the 12 kilometre (7.5 mile) east-to-west overland rail project across the peninsular city, is designed to cut travel times by more than two-thirds when it is completed in 2010/11.

The 23,560 million rupee (512 million dollar) first part of the project was won by a consortium led by Reliance Energy, headed by one of India’s best-known businessmen Anil Ambani.

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