Mumbai revives sea transport plan for daily commuters

Proposal to ferry commuters from Nariman Point to Borivali could not take off despite tenders being issued twice in the past

 
By Ashwin Aghor
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Mumbai's much-hyped and talked about water transport project that proposes to link locations along the city's western water front has been revived after three decades.  The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has invited tenders to appoint consultant for the project called the Western Corridor, connecting Nariman Point with Borivali.

Jaidatta Kshirsagar, minister in charge of public works and chairperson of MSRDC, says work on the project will start soon. MSRDC will construct jetties at various strategic locations along the marine route from Nariman Point to Borivali. “Ferry operators would be roped in to use the jetties,” he adds.

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The government will develop the infrastructure required for the project like jetties and passenger facilities. “The total cost of the infrastructure required from Nariman Point to Borivali is estimated to be around Rs 1,000 crore. We are working out technical and financial details,” Kshirsagar says. The consultant is likely to be appointed by December this year. The major stops along the corridor would be Bandra, Juhu, Versova and Marve.

The water transport project for the city could not take off earlier because of various hurdles, despite tenders being issued twice over past seven years and numerous studies on the project's feasibility. A group of experts from the state government conducted the first study titled Development of Waterways around Bombay Harbour for Community Traffic, for the project in 1983. In 1995, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the state-owned infrastructure company, commissioned a study on the technical aspects of the project by Kirloskar Consultants and Consulting Engineering Services (CES) in 1995.

Eastern corridor hurdle

Though MSRDC has initiated the process to build the Western Corridor project, the Eastern Corridor, connecting Navi Mumbai with Gate Way of India, still remains a distant dream because MSRDC has asked the state government for a site near Colaba in south Mumbai to build a jetty, instead of Ferry Wharf or Jamshed Bunder in the east coast. These sites are further away (10 km by road) from the main office complexes in Fort area, Colaba and Nariman point.

“Jetties at Ferry Wharf and Jamshed Bunder won't be convenient for the majority of passengers as they will have to take a bus to Colaba and Nariman Point from there. If the government allots a site in Colaba-Nariman Point stretch for a jetty, it will be beneficial for both ferry operators as well as passengers. Thousands of commuters from Navi Mumbai will prefer water transport if the jetty is constructed in the Colaba-Nariman Point area,” says a senior MSRDC official.  The corporation officials are optimistic that state government will identify the desired spot near Colaba-Nariman Point soon.

A hovercraft service was operational between Navi Mumbai and the Gateway of India for a short span of time in 1992-93, but it was discontinued because of several problems. “We are waiting for the government to make a positive move so that we can begin planning a service from Navi Mumbai to Colaba,” says the official. As Gateway of India is quite crowded, the state government wants to start the services on the eastern front from Ferry Wharf. “The train services on the harbour corridor are overburdened. So it has become necessary to think of an alternative—the catamaran services, which are faster than normal ferry boats. Besides, enough Navi Mumbai residents can afford catamarans,’’ says a senior official of MSRDC.

The proposal would involve constructing jetties, providing vessels and ensuring safe transport. The time frame of the project will be decided by the government. These vessels won’t be used during the monsoon.

According to sources, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will be entrusted with the task of developing the eastern corridor of water transport as Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and MSRDC have not done anything in this regard. In the first phase, MMRDA will develop water transport connecting Nerul in Navi Mumbai and Ferry Wharf in Mumbai. The matter will soon be put before the state cabinet for final approval, sources in MSRDC say.

There was a catamaran service from Vashi and Belapur in Navi Mumabi to Gate Way of India about a decade ago. The services were closed down later and MMB was assigned the task to create routes on western and eastern water corridor. When MMB did not act on it, MSRDC was roped in though it lacked experience in water transport.

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