Mumbai: Two years after launch of phase I, Mumbai Monorail loses Rs 8.5 lakh every day as only 16,000 people regularly use Wadala-Chembur service, termed by some as a transit system to nowhere.
At 10 am when Mumbai kicks into a state of hyperactivity and there’s a scramble for space on trains, metro and roads clogged with honking lines of cars, autos and buses, the monorail runs near-empty rakes between Wadala and Chembur.
The 8.9-km elevated route with seven stations barely registers a bump in passenger traffic as the day progresses. On an average, the transit system, whose phase I alone cost the state around Rs 1,000 crore, transports 16,000 people in a day, less than half the number of spectators the Wankhede accommodates for an IPL match.
Over two years after India’s first monorail was launched in the city, it is increasingly being viewed as a symbol of bad planning and wasteful expenditure. Some urban transport experts even describe it as a vehicle for joyrides.
From 2014 to 2015, Mumbai Monorail, which makes over 130 trips every day, managed to increase its daily passenger count by only 2,607, from 14,071 to 16,678. Every day, it loses Rs 8.5 lakh, a gap the operator hopes will shrink next year after the monorail extends services till Jacob Circle near Mahalaxmi under phase II. The work on the 11.2-km line is expected to be completed by December.
Till January this year, Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDRA) had spent over Rs 2,554 crore on the entire project, overshooting the initial estimate of Rs 2,460 crore.
The monorail has suffered a completely different fate than Mumbai Metro One, which was launched just four months later. The 12-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro line sees over 2.75 lakh passengers every day and has slightly eased the burden on railway networks.
There are a number of reasons why the monorail has not clicked: poor selection of route; absence of commercial hubs in areas serviced by the system; lack of feeder services to and from stations; and poor link-up with suburban train networks.
“Mumbai Monorail has been a disaster as it was planned as a standalone transit system. The northern end of the corridor should have started from near Ghatkopar railway station before running to Chembur and finally culminating at Grand Road. More people would have used the service then,” said transport expert Ketan Garodia.
“MMRDA avoided popular routes as it didn’t want to tackle problems such projects face in congested areas. The operational monorail route is a road to nowhere.”
The original project plan was changed several times before the Wadala-Chembur route was finalised. Phase I construction was supposed to be end in December 2010, but it dragged on for over three years.
“The planning that went into the project is a prime example of sheer stupidity. Why was the original route proposal changed?” asked RTI activist Anil Galgali.
Public transport expert Rishi Aggarwal said the monorail was currently not a viable option for commuters, but the situation might improve after the Wadala-Jacob circle line became operational.
“The second phase will be completed by December. We hope the number of passengers will increase then,” said Dilip Kawathkar, joint project director (PR), MMRDA.
In February, on an average over 17,000 people used the service every day. The number dropped to 15,274 in March. Six monorail rakes, each with four coaches, make a total of 131 daily trips between 6 am and 10 pm with stops at Wadala depot, Bhakti Park, Mysore Colony, Bharat Petroleum, Fertilizer Township, VNP & RC Marg and Chembur.
Many riders Mirror spoke to last week said they rarely used the service. Karjat resident Manju Nath Jorawar said often monorail coaches had only joyriders on board. “It is a poorly planned system,” he said.