Even as the country’s only monorail corridor completes three years today, the project continues to face trouble. The monorail was supposed to be a first-of-its-kind transportation system in the country which would cater to 1.25 lakh passengers daily but in reality, it has reduced to a 8.9-km joyride.
The Chembur-Wadala corridor, which was commissioned on February 1, 2014, has an average ridership between 18,000 and 19,000 passengers daily. According to the figures provided by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the authority is incurring an estimated loss of Rs8 lakh to Rs9 lakh per day on operation and maintenance of the corridor.
Meanwhile, even as the MMRDA is planning to commission the second phase of the monorail corridor by May, the shortage of rakes could delay the commissioning. Currently, the MMRDA has only 10 rakes in possession and the remaining five rakes are yet to be delivered to Mumbai.
According to MMRDA officials, they need the remaining rakes to ensure a smooth run once the 10.6 km Wadala and Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk (Jacob Circle) corridor is operational. “We have only 10 rakes and off them, only four are in use. The rest are not used as they are missing some technical parts,” said an official.
Sanjay Khandare, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA said that they need the remaining rakes to maintain the optimised frequency. According to Khandare, if the Phase-II is commissioned before the rakes arrive, the corridor will be operational on a “compromised frequency”. He said, “We will be able to operate with nine rakes, but for the monorail to be completely operational, we will need the remaining rakes. We are expecting them by June.”
There are a number of reasons why the monorail failed to click: poor selection of route, lack of feeder services to and from stations, absence of commercial hubs in areas serviced by the system, and poor interchange with suburban train networks. “Even after three years, the entire stretch is yet to be operational. It is a poorly planned route. The current corridor is almost parallel to the Harbour line between Chembur to Wadala so how can they expect more ridership,” said Ashok Datar, transport planner.
Fare hike on the cards
The MMRDA has invited bids for the appointment of the new operations and maintenance agency for the corridor. Currently, MMRDA pays Rs3,131 per trip for operation of the 8.9km corridor. This also includes maintenance of the fleet of monorails in Mumbai. The ‘per trip cost’ is now expected to double and MMRDA is planning to hike the fare once the entire 19.5 km corridor is operational. A senior MMRDA official said, “We will put forward the proposal before the state government for a fare revision once the Phase-II is operational.” Currently, commuters pay Rs5 to Rs11 between Wadala and Chembur.