MUMBAI: These days, a walk past the 10-hectare sprawl in south Mumbai known as Azad Maidan reveals barricades running through parts of the ground. Portions of Azad Maidan as well as Oval Maidan have been formally sequestered by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) for soil testing and geo-technical investigations ahead of tunneling work on the most ambitious of the metro rail projects underway in the city.
Metro-III (as it’s called) is a proposed 33.5-km underground rail link through Colaba-Bandra-Airport-Seepz, expected to be operational by 2020. It will likely save 4.6 lakh vehicle trips and fuel worth Rs1.6 crore in a city that’s choking on exhaust fumes and crawling in the streets.
The project has been a long time coming. After an inauguration during erstwhile chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s tenure in August 2014, for the next two-and-half years, the corporation chased land acquisition clearances, Coastal Regulation Zone permits and sanctions from the tree authority, negotiated for traffic diversions and pursued environmental clearances in the green belt at Aarey.
Now, it’s finally ready for take-off. At Oval Maidan, a portion has been set aside for stocking of machinery while at Azad Maidan ground is being prepared for building a station and a shaft to insert tunnel boring machinery. “Around 23 of the total 150 piles for shaft work have been achieved at Azad Maidan. Separate 500 piles will be made for the metro station. We hope to start actual tunneling by September 2017,” said MMRC managing director Ashwini Bhide.
The ground testing work is being conducted on seven different stretches where separate civil contracts have been awarded for rail tunnel and station construction. According to sources, test results on the nature of soil — whether it is rocky or mostly clay — will be used to design boring machines for digging. “It’s complex work. Each design should be perfect and approved by general consultants, besides safety plans. Hence all precautions are being taken care of,” said Bhide, attributing delays to the need to secure various clearances.
Bhide is obviously conscious of the fact that the project has overshot the original deadline of 2016, which has now been extended to 2021. The cost too has now spiraled to about Rs 21,000 crore which includes expenditure on building about 26 underground stations, some of them in busy and congested parts of the metropolis.
At Azad Maidan, a wall of piled sections will be built underground, following which tunneling machinery will be inserted through a shaft. The big challenge will come during monsoon. Mumbai is prone to flooding and high tide is expected to create hurdles, for which arrangements will have to be made. “Wherever we have spaces ready for construction, we have begun the work. Also boring machine orders have been have ordered to ensure tunneling begins as per schedule,” said Bhide.
Much hinges on the speed at which work is undertaken. Road congestion is rapidly increasing due to rising population of private vehicles while ridership for public transport buses is on the decline due to their falling speed, say experts. A lot is riding on Colaba-Seepz Metro project.
Credits ET Realty