Mumbai ferry operators fear losing their business owing to proposed Versova-Madh bridge | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai ferry operators fear losing their business owing to proposed Versova-Madh bridge

After 54 years in the business, ferry operators fear that commuters and bikers will prefer taking the bridge to the ferry from Madh

mumbai Updated: Dec 27, 2017 16:22 IST
Geetanjali Gurlhosur
Geetanjali Gurlhosur
Hindustan Times
A ferry at Versova.
A ferry at Versova.

The five-decade old ferry service between Versova and Madh island may soon shut, thanks to a proposed 1km-long bridge. After 54 years in the business, ferry operators fear that commuters and bikers will prefer taking the bridge to the ferry from Madh.

To reduce the travel time, the Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to connect Versova to Madh with the bridge. The Versova-Madh water transport is one of two short-distance ferry services across creek in Mumbai.

According to the civic officials, the proposed bridge will be a dream-come-true for Madh residents.

It currently takes about an hour to reach Malad station from Madh by road, while the ferry takes five minutes to reach Versova. There are three ferries that are operational between 5 am and 1 am. The proposed bridge would allow people to zoom over the creek in a few minutes, said officials.

According to Madh residents, nearly 20,000 people — including schoolchildren, college students and office-goers — take the ferry daily. “There are no proper schools, colleges and even hospitals on Madh island. During the monsoon, children have to walk through ankle-deep muck. It is very difficult during medical emergencies and sometimes, the ferry is closed for a couple of hours during high tide. We need a bridge at such times,” said Manoj Miranda, chairperson of Madh Welfare Foundation.

Krishna Koli, head of Madh-Gorai Sangharsh Samiti for fishermen, said minor accidents on the ferries are common. “There are no cops at the jetty. Sometimes, children fall overboard, people trip over the boarding plank and boats crash,” said Koli.

While the need for a connecting bridge is evident, the livelihood of around 60 employees of the Vesava Machhimar Sahakari Society Ltd, which runs the ferry service, is at stake. Neeraj Tapke, who has been operating one of the three ferries for the past 10 years, said, “Half of our passengers come with bikes. If they start using the bridge, what will happen to our business? We do not know if the ferry service will be required anymore.”

The project had been in the pipeline for the past eight years, said civic officials. Over the years, the BMC had to change plans after local villagers protested their properties would be affected.

Yogiraj Dabhadkar, local corporator and chairman of the Andheri (West) committee, told HT, “Now, the plan is to extend the New Fisheries University road towards Madh, without touching Versova Koli village. The bridge may affect the local ferry business but we have proposed to compensate residents by creating jobs for them.”

BMC’s chief engineer (bridges) Shitalaprasad Kori said, “The project still needs approvals from the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB). We will soon chalk out the alignment.”

The tender for running the Versova-Madh ferry service for 20 years was given to Vesava Machimaar Sahakari Society Ltd in 2010.

The service was started originally for the local fishermen, who travelled to the city’s markets to sell their catch.