Mumbai/ Infrastructure Development during British Colonial

The Water Supply System

In the late 1840s, Mumbai’s urban development is significantly driven by its increasing financial power, though the island city’s rapid growth is accompanied by a steady deterioration in urban conditions. Water-supply being unreliable, pressured by its population density and doubled demands, the city is suffering from frequent shortages of water during summer months. Yet, the improvement of urban infrastructure in Indian cities had to contend with two sets of political dynamics: first, reluctance on the part of the British government to invest in its overseas colonies, for which any `internal improvements’ had to be profitable (Prashad, 2001, page 116); and, second, emerging tensions between colonial administrators and the Indian majority over any increases in taxes or property rates, particularly if the benefits of infrastructure improvements appeared to accrue mainly to European enclaves (Dossal, 1988; 1991).

When finally completed in 1860 the Vehar project was the first municipal water supply scheme in British India, but access remained highly uneven with only better-off households able to afford the smaller distribution pipes and taps within their homes (Dossal, 1988). Although the city’s first modern water system provided 32 million litres a day, this quickly proved insufficient: in 1872 the Vehar system was more than doubled in size and the drought of 1879 forced the rapid completion of the Tulsi scheme.

Though the colonial metropolis helped in bringing the foundation of Mumbai’s urban water system, the failures of technical modernization were increasingly ascribed to innate differences in sanitary practices or tolerance thresholds rather than the limitations to liberal conceptions of urban government.


The Railway

“The first train ran between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and Thane, a distance of 34 km, on 16 April 1853 at 3:35 pm. The 14-coach train took 1.25 hr to complete the 34 km journey, with a halt at Sion to refill the train’s water tanks. ”


The Mumbai Suburban Railway forms the backbone of the city’s transport system. The first railway was built in 1852 from Bombay to Thane in Maharashtra constructed under the Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway (BB&CI).

The development of railway is the first major transportation system superimposed on the metropolis region of Mumbai and influenced the further refined road network system.

The Development of  Mumbai Railway 1846, 1901, 1954, present

bombay-map_1846 bombay-map_1954

26040793 mumbaimap


Railway Construction Timeline

16-04-1853: Central Railway > Bombay, Bori Bunder (current Mumbai CST) – Thane (35.06 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
01-05-1854: Central Railway > Thane – Kalyan (17.36 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
01-10-1854: Central Railway > Kalyan – Vasind (27.80 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
12-05-1856: Central Railway > Kalyan – Khopoli (61.96 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
06-02-1860: Central Railway > Vasind – Asangaon (6.03 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
01-01-1861: Central Railway > Asangaon – Kasara (35.14 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
__-11_1864: Western Railway > Mumbai Central – Dahanu Rd. – (Ahmedabad) (119.3 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
03-09-1868: Western Railway > Mumbai Central – Charni Rd. (2.27 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
19-06-1869: Western Railway > Charni Rd. – Marine Lines (0.91 km) [mainline tracks, steam power]
18-01-1870: Western Railway > Marine Lines – Churchgate (1.30 km) – Colaba [mainline tracks, steam power]
__-__-1885: Central Railway > Mumbai CST – Byculla (4.04 km) [local train tracks, steam power]
__-__-1905: Central Railway > Byculla – Currey Rd. (2.03 km) [local train tracks, steam power]
__-__-1906: Harbour Railway > Kurla – Chembur (1.94 km) [freight (steam) service, single track]
__-__-1910: Harbour Railway > Kurla – Reay Rd. (11.31 km) [freight (steam) service]
__-__-1914: Harbour Railway > Wadala Rd. – Manhim Jn. (3.82 km) [freight (steam) service]
__-__-1915: Central Railway > Currey Rd. – Thane (26.95 km) [local train tracks, steam power]
__-__-1917: Central Railway > Thane – Kalyan (20.19 km) [local train tracks, steam power]
__-__-1924: Harbour Railway > Kurla – Chembur (1.94 km) [freight (steam) service, double track]
03-02-1925: Harbour Railway > Mumbai CST – Reay Rd. (+4.08 km) and Reay Rd. – Kurla (+11.31 km) [electrified]
__-__-1925: Western Railway > Grant Rd. – Borivali (30.39 km) [local train tracks, steam power]
__-__-1926: Harbour Railway > Wadala Rd. – Manhim Jn. (+3.82 km) [electrified]
05-01-1928: Western Railway > Borivali – Churchgate (33.98 km) – Colaba [mainline tracks, electrified]
01-09-1936: Western Railway > Borivali – Virar (26.0 km) [mainline tracks, electrified] and Colaba – Churchgate closed
01-01-1930: Central Railway > Mumbai CST – Kalyan – Kasara – (Igatpuri) [electrified > mainline tracks (120.56 km) / local train tracks (+53.21 km)]
__-__-1950: Harbour Railway > Chembur – Mankhurd (+4.05 km) and Kurla – Chembur (+1.94 km) [electrified]
15-04-1953: Western Railway > Bandra – Andheri (+7.17 km) [local train tracks, electrified]
01-04-1955: Western Railway > Andheri – Borivali (+12.15 km) [local train tracks, electrified]
__-__-1972: Western Railway > Grant Rd. – Churchgate (+3.59 km) [local train tracks, electrified]
01-10-1974: Western Railway > Vangaon – Dahanu Rd. – (Atul) [mainline tracks, electrified]
28-12-1974: Western Railway > Virar – Vangaon ( km) [mainline tracks, electrified]
09-05-1992: Harbour Railway > Mankhurd – Vashi (+7.51 km)
09-02-1993: Harbour Railway > Vashi – Nerul (+5.58 km) [single track]
16-06-1993: Harbour Railway > Nerul – Belapur (+3.75 km) [single track]
25-01-1995: Harbour Railway > Belapur – Khandeshwar (+7.54 km) [single track]
02-10-1996: Central Railway > Kalyan – Khopoli (61.03 km) [mainline tracks electrified]
29-06-1998: Harbour Railway > Khandeshwar – Panvel (+3.18 km) [single track]
14-04-2000: Harbour Railway > Chembur – Panvel (31.61 km) [double track]
12-06-2004: Harbour Railway > Kharghar station added
19-11-2004: Thane-Vashi Railway > Vashi – Thane (+18.50 km)
21-06-2007: Thane-Vashi Railway > Rabale station added
09-01-2009: Thane-Vashi Railway > Turbhe – Nerul (+4.85 km)



Gandy, Matthew. Landscapes of disaster: water, modernity, and urban
fragmentation in Mumbai, and Sustainability. Environment and Planning A 2008, volume 40, pages 108 ~130


1 Comment on “Mumbai/ Infrastructure Development during British Colonial

  1. As a topic, land reclamation is always going to be very interesting. However, it is not entirely clear whether you have established its unique effects on the urban plan of Mumbai. The railroad and water supply systems are very nicely discussed, but are you making a case that such infrastructure development have a different bearing in Mumbai because of its unique history of land reclamation? In a way, all cities undergo such modernization processes of building improved systems, but if Mumbai has a story to tell about land reclamation, the onus is on the research to reveal special sensibilities or attitudes to its urban processes. There was another narrative about the old vs new, indigenous vs colonial, and, perhaps you were alluding to temples vs infrastructure? It is important that this work does not only regurgitate other historical work on Mumbai. Continue with a more comprehensive documentation of the complete land reclamation plans (different key periods & phases), and keep the argument or narrative more strictly within an analysis of the different types of land – existing vs reclaimed. Then speculate on the different outcomes, building typologies (temples?), infrastructure building, land use patterns, and others, that arose precisely because of reclamation.

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