Dream ride

A non-polluting, community-owned mass transport system for Mumbai

Published: Thursday 31 May 2001

 No land is required for Skybu the idea seems too good to be true: a community-owned mass transit system for Mumbai. But the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited with its skybus project has envisioned just that. Apart from bringing down pollution levels in the city (it will run on electricity), the new proposal will be owned by the people travelling in it. The government of Maharashtra has already commissioned a project, which is scheduled to take off within two years. Konkan Railway Corporation Limited, the company that has indigenously developed this technology, foresees that along a 10-km route for a city like Mumbai, a 10 sq km area -- with a population of 2-3 million -- could form a community area. The community would own the skybus running through their area. A series of such routes would cover the entire city.

Each member of the community will be a shareholder in the project and will be required to buy a minimum of 150 shares at Rs 100 per share and sign the shareholders agreement and become a gold cardholder. A gold cardholder would be travelling at a much lesser cost than other passengers. For example, the passenger would be entitled to a monthly travel charge card at Rs 150 valid for 100 journeys, which would mean that he/she would need to pay a maximum charge of Rs 1.50 only. On the other hand, a non-community member will buy the same monthly card at Rs 500 per 100 journeys -- that is minimum and maximum entry charge of Rs 5, which would even then be lower than the present bus fares.

According to B Rajaram, managing director, Konkan Railway Corporation Limited, the proceeds will go to a trust. Many non-governmental organisations ( ngo s) in Mumbai who have been fighting for clean air, have also extended their support to the project. Meher Rafat of Citizen's Leadership in Environmental Action and Networking ( clean air ), and Debi Goenka of the Bombay Environmental Action Group ( beag ), both Mumbai-based ngos, have been instrumental in campaigning for this project. "If communities become owners and the effort actually brings down air pollution levels, then why not?" says Meher Rafat of clean air .

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