The level crossing gate that has been delaying lakhs of railway commuters every single day may finally shut in 2021. Work on the 12-year delayed road bridge at Kalwa over the Kharigaon level crossing now is expected to be complete by May 2021. This extremely busy crossing gate has been responsible for collapsing the entire Central Railway timetable every single day, opening and shutting over 36 times in a day, detaining more trains than road vehicles.
“Yes. We intend to complete the road bridge by 2021 for sure and have given directives to the administration accordingly,” Thane Mayor Naresh Mhaske told Transport Web Journal.
After approvals in 2008, construction work on the bridge begun and the Central Railway completed their portion above tracks in 2017 itself but the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) work progressed slowly due to issues.
Officials said the problem arose in the east side as there was no clear land available for approaches and landing of the bridge. The land was disputed, and resolution of the problem took much of the time.
Giving a brief history of the construction, a senior official said “Work on the railway portion was completed in March 2017. On the west side approach, TMC completed 90% work, but rest was on hold due to a court stay. Similarly, on the east side, complete approach work remained pending due to court stay, which asked the TMC to deposit a sum of Rs. 40 crore. As per TMC records, in November 2019, the required land was purchased by depositing Rs 40 crore and work restarted.”
Elaborating on the latest status, an official said as on October 28, 2020, the status of the bridge is that on the west side approach, only finishing work like wearing coat, retaining wall construction is now pending. “On the east side approach, out of the five spans of 25 m each, girders of three span have been launched, other two casted and ready. Work on the deck slab, parapet and retaining wall is pending,” he added. The TMC has tentatively listed the target date of completion as May 2021.
Central Railway chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said the Kalwa level crossing gate affected punctuality majorly and closing of the gate will happen only after the road bridge is commissioned completely by following due processes of approaching the district collector. “But closing of the gate, along with commissioning of the new lines will immensely improve the punctuality and speed up trains for sure,” he said.
Siddhesh Desai vice-president of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, who has been spearheading a campaign for the bridge since over a decade now said he had lost trust in the TMC assurances. “There have been so many deadlines and so many promises that I only want to see the bridge complete now,” he said.
After 12 years, only a two-lane bridge?
Activists also questioned that once the road bridge is complete and the level crossing is shut, it will lead to serious traffic jams on it as the bridge only has two lanes in one direction. “They procured land, delayed it so much and still is not complete. At least the bridge could have been a bit wider so that it could cater to the future growth of the city, given the fact that two more lines are being laid. A two-lane bridge will soon outlive the requirements of the area. Kalwa always gets step-motherly treatment,” Desai added.