The much-awaited Mumbai monorail, India’s first, was thrown open for Mumbaiites from Sunday. The 8.8-km-long line between Wadala and Chembur was inaugurated by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday, ending the city’s 88-year wait for a new mode of public transport.
Mumbai, with a population of around 17 million (2011 Census) goes on its dizzying move daily with around seven million souls commuting by the suburban trains and another three million by the BEST buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws and private vehicles — a phenomenon perhaps unmatched anywhere in the world.
The service started at 7am from both stations. Initially, the monorail will be operational from 7am to 3pm at a frequency of 15 minutes. The operation hours and frequency will be increased after studying commuters’ response.
The stations — not too large area-wise — are spotless, at least for now! They are situated at a minimum height of around 5.5 metres or around 20-feet — and much higher in some locations — at present accessed by staircases and soon by escalators.
As the monorail zooms across a section of southeast Mumbai in its first phase, the hitherto unseen aerial view above the treetops, tall skyscrapers dotting its path as well as large slum pockets, cinemas and residential complexes, the RCF oil refinery, the snaky Eastern Freeway and of course, the Arabian Sea, are well worth the 20-minute ride.
While this stretch is the first phase of the project, the second phase involves extending the monorail up to Jacob Circle. The 11.2-km-long Wadala to Jacob Circle line is expected to be ready by next year. However, it has facing further delays and cost over-runs.
The city’s first mode of mass transport, the suburban railway network that is used by 75 lakh people every day, began operations 160 years ago. The first train ran between Bori Bunder and Thane on April 16, 1853. The erstwhile Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) introduced trams and buses as alternative modes of mass transport in 1874 and 1926, respectively.
The monorail is Mumbai’s first public transport system post-independence. “It is going to give a new identity to Mumbai,” said Chavan, on Saturday.
Once both the lines are complete, Chembur to Jacob Circle will be second-longest monorail corridor in the world after Osaka monorail corridor in Japan, which is 23.8-km-long. The monorail will then connect the eastern suburbs to central Mumbai and is expected to carry up to 2 lakh commuters daily.
The monorail and the soon-to be completed Versova-AndheriGhatkopar metro corridor are expected to help people commute short distances and decongest the local trains and BEST buses.
The first metro corridor has faced a three-year delay and is finally expected to open this March. The 12- km- long line will connect the eastern and the western suburbs and is expected to carry 6 lakh commuters daily.
Chavan said Mumbai’s transport infrastructure will get a further boost with the opening of the Sahar elevated corridor, second phase of the eastern freeway and the Santacruz-Chembur link road in the coming weeks.
From both sides during the journey, the large tracts of darkish green-grey mangroves, gardens and golf courses, the hazy hillocks in the eastern side of the city as well as the mainland, Thane Creek (which separates Mumbai island from the mainland), big and small lakes and other water bodies are a visual delight for commuters.
(With inputs from Agencies)