Mumbai BRTS: held up in transit

Bus transport project changes hands; planners say it’s sabotage

By Rajil Menon
Published: Thursday 15 April 2010

imageThe Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is rushing ahead with its multi-crore metro rail and monorail projects.

But its proposal to build the less expensive Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) has been delayed. Reason: the development authority, charged with planning for Mumbai, transferred the project to the municipality in February last week. “We have written to the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking (BEST), an autonomous body under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, to take over the project as they are already managing bus transport. We will continue to provide technical expertise,” said R Ramanna, MMRDA‘s additional chief for transport and communication, at a public meeting on March 2. Victor Nandgaonkar, officer-on-special-duty with BEST, said no such letter has been received. MMRDA said it has no time for BRTS as it is busy with projects like the World Bank-aided Mumbai urban transport project that envisages investments in suburban railway lines, bridges, pedestrian subways and traffic management activities, estimated to cost Rs 4,526 crore.

It is building a 146.5 km-long metro rail network for Rs 60,000 crore. A 100-km monorail network is also under construction (see box).

Cutting a joint of roast beef  Credit: Steve Johnson, Flickr

Independent transport experts termed the transfer as an act of sabotage. “There is a strong lobby trying to scuttle the project and MMRDA wants to concentrate only on big-ticket projects like metro rail, monorail and sea links,” said Sudhir Badami, a transport planner and member of MMRDA‘s technical advisory committee that was handling the BRTS project till now. He said the blueprint for two bus corridors is ready but now the project, already delayed by eight years, would be delayed further as the civic body will have to find transport experts and funds.

A private consultant appointed by MMRDA has identified two bus corridors to begin with—the 27-km eastern express highway corridor between Thane and Dharavi and the western express highway corridor of 23 km, connecting Dahisar and Kalanagar in Bandra. The cost of the two bus corridors is pegged at Rs 1,312 crore. Badami said the metro and monorail projects would take time to complete while travel demand is increasing everyday. “ BRTS can meet the shortfall; it is low cost, and can be completed in three to five years,” he said.

Abhijit Lokre, assistant professor with Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad said it is important that BRTS network is integrated with other modes of transport under a comprehensive mobility plan. His university was the consultant for the Ahmedabad BRTS corridor which is operational. Lokre said the new plan should spell out how commuters can switch between different modes of transport to reach a destination.

With inputs from Nidhi Jamwal

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