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Avoid traffic, take a boat from Thane to South Mumbai

Maharashtra CM’s plan to have seamless connectivity in MMR gives Rs661-crore water transport project a fillip

mumbai Updated: May 23, 2018 10:50 IST
Megha Pol
Megha Pol
Hindustan Times
Saket creek will be used to ply ferries to Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
Saket creek will be used to ply ferries to Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. (Praful Gangurde/ Hindustan Times)

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday assured residents of seamless connectivity throughout Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), for which, he said one of the options was water transport.

While inaugurating various road projects in Navi Mumbai and Thane, Fadnavis said Thane would soon be connected to Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan and Vasai through waterways.

While the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) is looking at a December deadline for the first phase of water transport project connecting Kalyan, Thane and Vasai, planning has already started for the second phase to connect Thane to Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

According to the TMC, a pre-feasibility study has been completed and presented to Fadnavis. A detailed project report (DPR) is now being prepared.

“The corporation has floated tenders to appoint consultant for preparing the DPR,” said Anil Patil, Thane city engineer.

Implemented jointly by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Maharashtra Maritime Board and Thane Municipal Corporation, the Thane-Mumbai waterways will cost Rs661 crore and will be funded by the state and central governments. The tender for a pre-feasibility study of the second phase of water transport was called in October last year. Work on the second phase is proposed to begin in March 2019.

There is no intra-city water transport service anywhere in Mumbai apart from the Gateway of India to Mandwa and Elephanta.

The government had proposed the Borivli to Gateway of India route in 2011, but since the sea on Mumbai’s western coast is rough (particularly in the monsoon), the project didn’t take off. Ferry operators couldn’t run services in the monsoon and operation costs proved to be too high. The eastern seaboard is calm and isn’t expected to pose similar challenges.

The Thane-Vasai and Thane-Mumbai will be the first intra-city water service in Mumbai. It will connect Thane (Saket) to Gateway of India via Trombay, Elephanta and Ferry Wharf and also Thane to Navi Mumbai (via Panvel and Jawaharlal Nehru Port).

For commuters, this is a welcome proposal. “I commute to Vashi every day for work. I have to go to Thane station from my house in Kalwa east and then board a train to Vashi. Moreover, the trains are overcrowded during peak hours,” said Yogesh Dandekar, 37. “If there is a direct ferry from Thane to Vashi, I will surely love to take it to work daily, as the commute will be much more comfortable and time-saving.”

The ridership report of the second phase has estimated that around 30,000 passengers could use water transport on a daily basis. This would help decongest existing public transport networks as well as reduce air and noise pollution. If the project goes to plan, it will save one hour of travel time to Mumbai and almost 40 minutes to Navi Mumbai.

The first phase has inched ahead after getting an in-principle approval in a meeting held on April 24 and headed by Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. This means that the water transport project will go ahead subject to clearances and approvals. The state also approved the multi-modal hub to be developed at Kolshet for the route. The project will reduce the travel time between Kalyan and Vasai to 70 minutes and each passenger will have to pay Rs29.

The civic authorities don’t anticipate any delay in getting approval for the second phase. The hurdles for them are the ongoing works on the existing bridges on the route.

Urban planner Mayuresh Bhadsavle pointed out that while it looks good on paper, there was little clarity on the economic viability and creating support infrastructure for the project.

“The entire concept is still in a very nascent state, the ground reality is completely different from the presentation the corporation has put forth the environment ministry,” said Bhadsavle. “The creek in Thane is completely polluted and lot of dredging will have to be done to start water transport. The capital cost of the dredging is not clear. Moreover, there should be proper access options for the people to reach jetties, thus support infrastructure such as parking and roads at the jetties need to be set up.”

The municipal corporation plans to develop three jetties at Nagla, Kolshet and Parsik first.

Patil said, “The first phase will have 10 jetties across Vasai, Mira Bhayander, Thane and Kalyan. The civic commissioner has announced to operate the first ferry service from December this year.”

The second phase is at too nascent a stage to configure its final route.

Bhadsavle said, “The economic viability is the most important aspect of the project, as the cost of operation and maintenance will be huge. A decade ago, the government had proposed a catamaran service from Borivli to Gateway of India which was suspended as the operation and maintenance cost could not be recovered. If this route with such a high passenger volume could fail, the corporation will need a strong financial plan in place for the project.”

He also pointed out that the fare structure, the target demographic and how commuters would be able to reach the jetties from their homes are key features that are yet to be defined.