The Maharashtra govt has begun acquiring land for the 233-km rail project which would bring down travel time between the two cities from the present 6-7 hours to under two hours.
Looking to revive its economy which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the Maharashtra government has put on the fast track its large infrastructure projects. One of these is the delayed Pune-Nashik semi-high speed rail link, which would bring down travel time between two of the state’s most important cities from the present six-seven hours to under two hours, boosting passenger and freight movement and facilitating the creation of a Mumbai-Pune-Nashik golden triangle and economic hub.
Billed as the first low-cost semi-high speed corridor in the country, the 233-km-long line would cost Rs 16,039 crore and see trains running at a speed of 200kmph, with its design allowing for an upgrade to 250kmph in the future. It would be constructed by the Maharashtra Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (MRIDC), a 50:50 joint venture between the government of Maharashtra and the Ministry of Railways. The state and the Centre would provide Rs 3,208 crore each for the project and the rest would come from funding agencies in India and overseas.
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It was to answer the long-pending demand for a rail link between Pune and Nashik that the state government approved the project in 2017. But it was only after the Indian Railways green-lighted the project in June 2020 that preparations got off the ground. Jolted by the damaging effects of the pandemic, the government has put land acquisition work on the fast track, says Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Saurabh Rao, highlighting Deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s recent remarks about work being expedited for the ‘high priority’ project.
In all, 1,470 hectares of land would be required in Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik districts, Rao says—the rail line would pass through 112.10 km in Pune, 58 km in Ahmednagar and 63.75 km in Nashik. Around 575 hectares has to be acquired in Pune’s Haveli, Junnar and Ambegaion tehsils. “We will need around Rs 1,300-1,500 crore for acquiring this land,” he says, with the money to be made available by the Indian Railways.
MRIDC officials are confident of completing the project in 1,200 days once construction work starts. To save time, MRIDC would carry out in-house design and drawing work, doing away with consultants. It would also be the first such rail project to see both the lines being constructed simultaneously.
The broad-gauge line would start at the Pune Railway Station and terminate at the existing Nashik Railway Station, with 24 stations in all. There would be multimodal hubs at major railway stations along the route, ensuring connectivity to bus terminuses, metro stations and freight terminals.
MRIDC plans to procure six train sets with six coaches each, allowing a passenger load of 450 per journey. Revenue from the line is estimated at Rs 1,643 crore in FY25 and Rs 2,394 crore in FY30. The rail link between Pune and Nashik is expected to decongest NH 60 which sees movement of 51,000 tonnes of freight every day, passing through around a dozen industrial and agro processing zones. Passenger movement between Pune and Nashik is estimated to reach 87,629 a day in 2024, of which around 27,515 are expected to shift to rail in FY24, with the number going up to 36,678 by FY30.