‘Sky-bus cannot fulfil Mumbai’s commuter needs’

| Updated on: Dec 11, 2012
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Rocky coast, insufficient draft nix sea transport options too, says World Bank official

Though Mumbai is getting ready for metro and mono rail systems by 2013, transportation through hovercraft, high-capacity buses and skybus, which have a lot of potential to improve the traffic situation in Mumbai, have yet to see the light of day.

Similar is the fate of the Churchgate-Virar overhead corridor project that can dramatically increase the carrying capacity of the Western Railway. Arun Mokashi, Senior Transportation Planner, World Bank, spoke to Business Line about these systems, and why various agencies have not been able to implement it. Excerpts :

In spite of having a long coastline, why has a coastal transportation system not taken off in Mumbai?

Having only a sea coast does not necessarily mean that a coastal sea transport system can be developed. Mumbai’s coast is very rocky; there is not enough draft for the vessels. There is a huge difference between the high tide and low tide, which will also slow operations. In such a marine environment, traditional ships and boats cannot be used at all. Expensive catamarans and hovercrafts are required. Proper port access and highly skilled manpower are also needed for manning such vessels. Plus, these vessels will never be economical if they only carry passengers. It will also require cargo movement and a RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) service, with which you can also ship (move) your cars within the city. The passenger requirement for such a system can be built over a period of time. In the beginning, large catamarans should not be pressed into service. Smaller ones can be used and then a demand should be built.

What happened to the high-capacity bus system and Sky-bus, ideated by former Konkan Rail chief B. Rajaram ? Why were they never implemented in Mumbai?

The high capacity bus system is very complicated, and it requires wide roads and driving discipline. It is not suitable for a congested city such as Mumbai. It could work on the Virar-Alibaug corridor, which is on the outskirts of the city. Such systems first need to be planned into a new transport system of an upcoming city. They cannot be imposed on the existing system like Mumbai. Sky-bus is still an untested concept and therefore should not be implemented. It is after all a bus lifted in space, but its capacity cannot fulfil the huge requirement of Mumbai commuters.

Will the Churchgate-Virar overhead corridor remain a distant dream?

About 30 years ago, any project based on the rails was a monopoly of the Rail Ministry. Then came the Kolkata Metro, which showed the way for public private-participation. Today, a number of metro rail projects have been planned in the Mumbai region, with the help of private players. In a way, such private players will give competition to Indian Railways in the future. The Virar-Churchgate corridor is a dream, but the Railways would be forced to think about the corridor due to the competition. The corridor is expensive and a very complicated system but it will happen.

> rahul.wadke@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 22, 2017

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