The World Bank, which has financed a slew of railway projects in the city, wants the megapolis’ lifeline to be managed by a dedicated commuter railway company, a top official has said. “What Mumbai needs is a very efficient, sustainable and India’s first commuter railway company,” the multilateral body’s country director Junaid Ahmad said speaking at an event here over the weekend. He made the point while stressing on the need to create strong public institutions, rather than the ‘project by project’ approach adopted currently.
At present, the suburban train network handles over 6 million passengers a day across the four lines. The services are operated by the state-run Railways and are administered by the Central Railway and Western Railway both headquartered here. The suburban traffic also contributes a large sum to the overall passenger earnings of the Railways. Ahmad made it clear that the company which he is suggesting can be state-run and added that having such a company will have a lot of advantages. He said the company will be an “agile institution” which will respond to market signals, raise money in the market and gives shares to its workers.
Ahmad warned that if such a company is not created, it will be difficult to respond to the massive technological changes happening right now and such changes “will pass” the institution. The World Bank has been associated with the Mumbai railway since 2002 and is widely credited for funding of the airy and less energy consuming rail rakes through two projects. Ahmad said it is necessary for other public and transport utilities as well to adopt the same approach, of moving to stronger institutions rather than have only projects.
“The next challenge is to move from creating good investment opportunities, to actually create bankable institutions in which you can bring in not only private finance, pension funds and institutional resources, but you create an impeccable institution which will be agile. “As the world of technology changes, that institution has an incentive to adopt that technology,” he said.