07 August 2020

Table of Contents for Infratrack


The project would require latest technologies and involve the best consultants in the industry


For a city dubbed Urbs Prima in Indis, Mumbai measures up rather poorly on the recreational space index. It is currently less than 1 sq.m per person of open public space which is in sharp contrast to 31.68 sq.m in London. The city-based Abraham John Architects have offered a remarkable solution to the space crunch in the form of a sustainable development proposal called the Bombay Greenway Project – a linear green belt to be created above the existing rail systems. Their design of the project won them an international urban planning award in 2013. JOHN ABRAHAM and ALAN ABRAHAM, joint principal architects of the firm fielded queries from SHRIKANT RAO on the proposed green route. 


Briefly take us through the contours of the project as conceived by you?


We propose to create 917 acres of urban green space in a city deprived of recreational space – it is currently less than 1 sq.m per person of open public space in sharp contrast to 31.68 sq.m/person in London. This Greenway created above the existing railway lines will add value to them and would be an environment-friendly transport and leisure solution, turning Mumbai into a truly 21st century city in terms of green space and connectivity. The Greenway addresses a minimum of 77 lakh daily commuters, plus newly-generated tourists, cyclists and leisure-oriented public.


What are the advantages of the Greenway? 


The Bombay Greenway Project allows for a multiplicity of uses that a modern city like Mumbai should expect from its public spaces: the railways double up as a vibrant park setting up to speed cultural and retail reinvigoration, East-West connectivity and environmental restoration besides offering a green transport solution. The Greenway has a 740 crore litre rainwater harvesting potential; will allow for faster train services, upgraded railway stations, reduced carbon footprint and inter-nodal retail spaces. The proposal aims to offer a dynamic and engaging public destination. There is no land acquisition cost, the areas considered are only the ones above the current railway tracks. A cycle sharing scheme would allow a person to walk, cycle and use the train to one’s destination. What's best is that it would no longer be a trek to get to a garden space – it will be accessible at the local railway station and from anywhere else in the city! The Greenway eliminates the East-West divide by providing connectivity and accessibility across its length. It will not only de-congest the city's overloaded transport hubs by providing alternate greener, healthier zero-carbon means of transport, but will also save 4000 lives lost due to trespassing every year. The proposal will bring with it a lot of advantages: environmental, infrastructural and will impact the lives of millions of end-users.


Its strengths are the concepts of sustainability, rainwater harvesting and solar power that are inherent in the design. Introducing indigenous trees on the Greenway will enhance local biodiversity and help in reducing carbon footprint. The Greenway would reduce heat load on the railways and will allow for easy and effective air conditioning. Many services like electrical cables, gas lines, water supply and communication lines can run along the length of the project. The development of the Greenway will result in improved railway stations – this means better commuter facilities, new lounges and waiting areas, toilets and safer access points to the stations. It will also be a source of revenue for the railways, create retail spaces, generate tourism and improve and increase the value of all the properties along the railway track


Does the Bombay Greenway Project design and architecture derive inspiration from models abroad? If so, please elaborate?


The Bombay Greenway project is part of the worldwide synergy towards sustainable projects.


However, this is designed keeping local needs and issues in mind. After our project won an international urban planning award in 2013 we were happy to see several other projects bearing similarities to it come to the foreground. The recent Norman Foster project proposal in London bears a striking, though stark, resemblance to The Bombay Greenway Project. This proposal has come about a year after we have made ours public. Of course, we’d be happier if our dream came true over here. Further our proposal aims to integrate biking, walking, leisure, the arts, entertainment, etc holistically, to permanently bridge the east west divide of the city while keeping people constantly in touch with nature.


As far as parallels are concerned we can offer a few noteworthy examples from around the world. These include Bari Central station in Italy, Flinders station and the High Line in New York.


Of course, we are grateful for other examples happening in the world which further establish our cause.


  • 917acres of greenway to be created above existing railway lines
  • No land acquisition cost
  • Cost of construction equivalent to that of a 114 km long, six lane flyover
  • 740 crore litre rainwater harvesting potential
  • Greenway will enhance local biodiversity and help in reducing carbon footprint.
  • Contribute to reduction of heat load on trains that would allow for easy, effective and economical airconditioning
  • Will lead to better railway stations
  • Will address 77 lakh daily commuters
  • Become source of revenue for the railways
  • Construction time of 7-8 years from design finalisation to project completion


Your proposal if implemented is expected to dramatically redefine the utilisation of public spaces. Are we mentally ready for that kind of change?


Mumbai is a city bereft of accessible open spaces and greenery. There are no dedicated lanes for pedestrians or cyclists. People are always ready for a better lifestyle which includes upgraded railway stations, comfortable commutes, more green spaces and alternative modes of transport. This linear urban park would allow people to again walk, cycle and keep in touch with nature. The Greenway is beyond basic transportation needs, it also caters to the leisure needs of an ever-growing city.


With space at a premium in the city and the need to build green space, cycling tracks and walking zones over the rail tracks, how easy or difficult will it be to implement the project?


The area considered is only above the railway tracks and hence does not involve any further land acquisition cost. This makes the project feasible in a city which has very little space to spare. We are creating from 917 acres of green space accessible from anywhere in the city. The project zone is from Churchgate to Virar, Mumbai CST to Thane, Mumbai CST to Mankhurd with an average width of 35 m. The only challenge is for the various agencies to come together and make the project a reality.


Have you assessed the cost of the exercise and the time-line for completing the project?


The costs have been worked out keeping in mind similar projects in and around Mumbai in the last 3 years. We have done this to account for localisation and current cost issues to get to as real an estimate as possible. The cost of construction would be approximately equivalent to that of a 114 km long, six lane flyover. Instead of a bituminous or concrete surface, it would have a landscaped surface and would be totally traffic and stress-free. Further, it being a high transit urban linear park, retail along the Greenway could be developed as a means to keep it financially viable and positive.


Tell us of the benefits that will accrue from the project to the residents of the city and commuters from the creation of new public spaces, environmental sustainability, leisure and connectivity point of view?


The Greenway integrates urban parks into our living, working and commuting spaces. This proposal directly affects about 77 lakh daily commuters, which is about the population of Switzerland, no less! It also aims to save more than 4000 lives lost on the railway tracks in Mumbai every year! Unlike most infrastructure projects like flyovers, free-ways and sky-walks in Mumbai, the Greenway would be self-sustainable. It is carbon neutral, it is green, it converts a negative (water logging) into a positive (water harvesting) and has a real positive impact on the ecosystem (sound/air/temperature/biodiversity) thus improving everyone's lifestyle.


The development of an urban park above the railway creates highly accessible and usable public spaces that enhance both the everyday commuter and the visitor's experience of the city. Significant transportation nodes double up as new social and cultural destinations. The proposal chooses to improve the interconnectivity and upgrade all existing railway stations while creating potential for new stations. The Greenway will provide a conducive environment for active modes of transport with flat and stress-free, tree-lined shaded pathways and zero-carbon transportation options.


Could you identify the agencies that would be required to implement such a project?


The main implementing agencies are MRVC, the Western and Central railways, MMRDA, BMC and the state government.


What are the logistical/operational difficulties that might arise during construction of this project? Tell us about the kind of business opportunities that will become available for players in the construction domain (contractors, material suppliers, green technologists etc) should this project be implemented?


The project will be one of its kind in the country, its construction would require the latest technologies and involve the best consultants in the industry. A construction period of 7-8 years is estimated from design finalisation to project completion. The construction would need to be undertaken in stages and will be delivered progressively from south to north. Proper project management would ensure little or no disruption in either the existing train schedule or road network. The city can make use of the rail network for logistical reasons, work would be undertaken when services do not run (1 am to 5 am) in a co-ordinated and efficient manner. On-site work would only involve assembly and final finishing.


All construction can be out of pre-cast concrete and/or steel, prepared off-site and transported via the trains and assembled on site using cranes. Quality would need to be checked at several stages and work can be dealt with concurrently. The process proposes the construction of individual sub-projects, which will enable cost management over time. In addition, this process enables revenue generation from completed components to be incorporated into the project funding of future stages. As mentioned before, it will also be a source of revenue for the railways, create retail spaces, generate tourism and improve and increase the value of all the properties along the railway tracks.


Tell us about the feedback from the authorities to your plan and design? What is your outlook for the city?


We have contacted the MMRDA, MRVC, the MTSU, the Western and Central Railways. Some responses have been positive, yet, there is still a lot to be done before the project sees the light of the day. We are following up and contacting agencies. Being architects and designers with no agenda beyond improving our city through design we welcome support in terms of logistics, feasibility studies and pushing the project further.

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