India’s first monorail, which was perceived six years ago, was thrown open to the Mumbaikars on Sunday. This is one of the best things that Democratic Front (alliance of Congress and NCP) government made it possible for Mumbai. The financial and glamorous city needs high-tech transportation to go. A sum of Rs. 1,100 crore has been spent so far. More will be spent in the coming years to complete the entire project which will cover a distance of 19.54 km. However, the question which arises here is that, will the much-touted project fulfill the travel needs of a city with over 12 million people? Every train with four coaches has the capacity to carry about 560 people. Compare it with the suburban train network where each train has a capacity to carry 1,500 people but eventually carries 8,500. On an average, about seven persons die every day on suburban trains. The monorail system is more about flaunting new hardware and technology rather than addressing the problem of public transport. It is not connected enough and it costs too much for such little connectivity.
Anyways, this would be a different experience to Mumbaikars. It would have been better if they could monitor the interior by a camera to make the journey safer. If it is started from the beginning it would be easy to control the system. Let the ‘tired’ commuters have some relax on the air conditioned Monorail and in fresh air. This is simply awesome but what we as citizens need to do is to maintain cleanliness and board the monorail with discipline not like pushing, running in local trains. Time has come for all of us to become more disciplined. While, there is sure to be a race amongst eager Mumbaikars to be the first to travel in the country’s first monorail between Wadala and Chembur, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has raised the bar, saying that the mantle will not be conferred on the first citizen to buy the ticket. The person who gets inside any of the four rakes before others would be considered the first commuter of the monorail. We saw the huge line to become the first commuter of the monorail.
Two trains left simultaneously one from Wadala and the other from Chembur adding to the confusion over the first commuter. The first phase of monorail connects the central suburb of Wadala with the eastern suburb of Chembur. However, the station at Wadala is at least two km away from the Suburban local train station. Bus connectivity is absent as well. It has paved the way for a real estate boom in the area — which lacks formal employment and basic livelihood opportunities. To begin with, there is no luggage compartment in the train which means the working class is kept away from it. Moreover, huge redevelopment projects in places like Antop Hill — a large slum — will be undertaken in the area. Right now, Mumbai is lagging so much on the public transport front, that anything in that direction is welcome. It is far from being the best solution as it will be used by very few people. But it is too early to comment on how it will eventually pan out. The first step has been taken for the long-harassed Mumbai commuters experiencing an era of world-class travel with the country’s first monorail.
Mumbaikars, so far used to dirty, cramped, uncomfortable – though extremely reliable – suburban trains and BEST buses, the monorail is like a breath of fresh air on the 8.9-km-long journey. The shining and colourful skyblue-soft pink-refreshing green cars with streaks of black and white, the clean railway platforms and an air-conditioned environs in both the trains and platforms left most of the first viewers in awed silence. The train interiors are equally striking – mostly in pastel shades with large windows offering awesome multi-dimensional views and comfortable and uncluttered seating arrangements.
The stations – not too large area-wise – are also 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. 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. These are some of the thickly-populated areas which are not adequately serviced by the regular Western Railway, Central Railway and its Harbour Line. The aerial monorail, running at speeds between 31 and 80 kmph, will be a boon and help de-congest the roads below. 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.
Let’s see, how much time it will take for Mumbaikar to adjust with such high-tech transport.