A crowded mess — this would be the best way to describe Andheri railway station. One of the busiest stations in the city, it is inundated by hawkers and illegal shops from both sides of the station. A word of caution: Stay away during peak hours. If you get in it will be a struggle to get out and vice versa.
Experts, however, are optimistic and believe small changes can make a big impact. According to them, basic maintenance such as clearing encroachments will open up a lot of space to manoeuvre commuter and vehicular traffic.
The ambitious autorickshaw deck, which was built at a cost of Rs8 crore, is the best example of encroachments taking a toll on available facilities. The two-lane elevated deck built between the middle and north FOBs meant for commuters to hail autorickshaws is not in use because of the hawkers and illegal shops blocking its entrance at Sahar Road.
Jagdeep Desai, transport expert, wants the auto deck to be started as soon as possible. “If the auto deck is made operational then it will surely ease the congestion and systematic operation of autorickshaws.”
A bigger hurdle, however, is Juta Galli, just outside the station, which has been usurped by illegal shops. This lane, which was once open to vehicular traffic, has now been completely shut. The experts said if the illegal shops and hawkers are cleared, it will give the autorickshaws a separate entry to the station.
Environmentalist Rishi Agarwal said, “Before the Metro rail came in, Juta Galli was actively used by autorickshaws. But the pillars of Metro bridge blocked the lane. After this, illegal shops slowly began taking over the complete road even pedestrians cannot walk properly on it.”
Also, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) buses exit the depot on the station road in the anti-clockwise direction — meaning towards the station. This adds to the traffic congestion on the road outside the station.
Desai said this problem can be solved by changing the direction in which the buses ply — this means carving an exit route for them that is away from the station.
Local MLA Amit Satam said, “I have proposed a plan called ‘Andheri station decongestion precinct’, which has been approved by the BMC. The road from Lallubhai Park coming towards platform number 6 and leading to SV Road will be zoned. There will be separate lanes for buses, pedestrians and autorickshaws.”
Expert solutions to decongest Andheri station area
- Widen access roads to ease congestion
The access roads to the station are fraught with hurdles — traffic jams near Andheri subway and near Sahar International at Sahar Road. The pillars outside Metro station have blocked a Juta Galli — a lane just outside the station.
Solution: Experts suggest widening these access roads. Also, Juta Galli should be open only for autorickshaws. Experts said this will ease the traffic on SV Road and allow a smooth passage for vehicles
- Disciplining autorickshaws
Autorickshaws are the main cause of traffic chaos and obstruction to commuter movement. Both the east and west sides of the station are badly affected by indisciplined autorickshaws.
Solution: Experts suggest proper management of autorickshaws. Authorities should designate a lane especially for autorickshaws and start share-an-auto- services to minimise the problem of drivers refusing the ply short distances.
- Change direction of best bus dispersal
The station has bus depots that operate more than 30 bus routes daily. The frequency of buses is decent, but their movement is slowed down by the chaos near the station as well as SV Road.
Solution: The BEST buses exit the depot in the anti-clockwise direction — meaning towards the station. This adds to the congestion. Experts suggested changing the direction — this means carving an exit route away from the station.
- Improve roads and pavements
Roads leading up to the station have uprooted patches on them because of rampant trenching. Monsoon makes the area hell because commuters have to wade through muddy water and potholes.
Solution: Though station roads are concretised, trenched or paver block portions are in a bad shape. Experts want strict norms on trenching of roads and reinstatement. Replacing paver blocks with asphalt will help maintain roads.
- Remove illegal hawkers
Both sides of the station have been taken over by illegal hawkers and shops. The BMC officials and the police seem apathetic to commuter woes. The autorickshaw deck — a two-lane elevated deck built between the middle and north FOBs meant for commuters to hail autos — is not being used because of shops and hawkers at the FOB’s entrance.
Solution: Experts suggested cleaning up the area outside the station by removing illegal hawkers and shops. The Rs8-crore autorickshaw deck needs to be opened up. If Juta Galli is cleared of hawkers, autorickshaws can take that route to reach the station from SV Road. This will reduce the time taken to reach the station from 20 minutes to 10 minutes.
- Multiple exit and entry points needed
Andheri is one of the most crowded stations as it has western as well as harbour line connectivity. The limited entry and exit options are congesting the foot overbridges during peak hours. The skywalks have not helped disperse the traffic because they are not being used as much.
Solution: Experts wants multiple exits from the station area on both the east and the west side. If commuters have more options while exiting the station, crowd dispersal will be faster and traffic movement will be better. In the west, the foot overbridge needs to be extended at platform number 6 towards NA Road.