India’s first monorail between Wadala and Chembur may not be back on track until early 2019 because the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is yet to procure rakes and other equipment, officials have said. Worse, it is hard put to retain the current operator — Larsen & Toubro-Scomi Engineering (LTSE) — until the new one is appointed.

Monorail services came to a halt after a coach caught fire in November last year.

MMRDA is scrambling to purchase five additional rakes (trains), more than 1,300 spare parts and tyres — a necessity for resuming operations. Worse, with the consortium unwilling to run Monorail operations, MMRDA has not found a replacement.

The MMRDA had proposed India’s first Monorail in November 2007. The Maharashtra government had planned to construct nine other such corridors to unburden other modes of transport, especially the suburban railway network. However, with the failure of the pilot project, the state government abandoned the plan to build 190-km of Monorail across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The 19.5-km Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle corridor was due to start by December 2010; instead, the 8.9-km line between Chembur and Wadala under phase 1 was finally opened on February 2, 2014. Phase 2 between Wadala and Jacob Circle is yet to be commissioned. The operations on Phase 1 have been shut after a coach of the monorail went up in flames on November 9 last year.

RA Rajeev, metropolitan commissioner of MMRDA, said he had been working to resume Monorail operations. He did not reveal by when Monorail services would restart. But senior MMRDA officials said the entire line is unlikely to resume after early 2019. “We need spare parts and five new rakes. Of the 10 rakes provided by them, six are operational. Four are almost out of order because of cannibalisation; they have to be fitted with new spare parts,” Rajeev said. He estimated that five new rakes would arrive in Mumbai before May-June next year.

MMRDA was yet to take a call whether the entire 19.5-km corridor would be commissioned or only the first phase as it has only 10 rakes as of now. “We want to restart the entire corridor. But it is difficult because you cannot ask people to wait for 10 minutes for the next train. If people cooperate, we can resume the entire line with 10 rakes,” Rajeev said.

Another trouble that MMRDA is wrestling with is finding a new operator after a consortium of Larsen & Toubro and Scomi Engineering last month said its three-year contract with MMRDA had ended. MMRDA refused to accept the consortium’s contention. It is exploring legal recourse for an amicable solution. It argued that LTSE could not leave the project midway because the entire corridor was not operational.

“Their contention is that they have operated for more than three years… As the project was not completed, it cannot be said that operations have started,” said Rajeev. HT’s messages seeking comments from L&T and Scomi Engineering remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

The Monorail corridor was supposed to be a first-of-its-kind transportation system in the country, which would cater to 1.25 lakh passengers daily, but it has reduced to an 8.9-km joyride. The corridor saw around 18,000 passengers daily on the corridor.

MMRDA expects ridership to go up once Phase 2 is operational as it passes through dense localities of the city. MMRDA’s Monorail revenue was Rs 4.10 crore in 2016 and Rs 3.33 crore in 2017 (till the November fire).

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