Mumbai: The Maharashtra government Thursday flagged off India’s first water taxi service in Mumbai, a city known for its traffic snarls and crowded local trains.
This new service will drastically reduce the time taken to travel from South Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, a city spread across Thane and Raigad districts in the mainland, and vice versa by road. So while a trip by road takes 90-100 minutes, the water taxi service — under which commuters will travel by speedboat or catamaran — will cut this travel time to 45-50 minutes.
However, a speedboat trip from South Mumbai to Navi Mumbai will cost a pretty penny — Rs 1,200 per passenger, while a monthly pass will cost Rs 12,000.
The much-awaited project — which will connect the island city with various destinations on the mainland as well as tourist spots like Elephanta Island and Kanhoji Angre Isle — was launched in the presence of Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated the new Belapur Jetty in Navi Mumbai, while Sonowal flagged off the service in the presence of deputy CM Ajit Pawar and other dignitaries.
Work on the Belapur Jetty project began in January 2019 and was wrapped up by September 2021. The state government spent Rs 8.37 crore on this project, which was implemented under the Sagarmala programme — a flagship programme of the Union shipping ministry to promote port-led development by harnessing India’s extensive coastline. The Mumbai Port Trust, Maharashtra Maritime Board, and City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) worked on this project together.
“The country’s first railway service was started by the British between Mumbai and Thane before it quickly spread all over India. The city always sets a trend that is emulated by the rest of the country,” Thackeray said during the virtual inauguration. He also thanked the central government for its support in starting such a service and prioritising Mumbai.
This new mode of transport is expected to be a huge relief to a city like Mumbai that has countless congested pockets that often make travel a long and tedious process. According to global location technology firm TomTom Traffic Index, in 2021, Mumbai ranked fifth in the global ranking of urban congestion while the Mumbai suburban train network sees a daily influx of nearly 70 lakh (7 million) passengers, making it the most crowded public transport in the city, according to central railway figures.
As many as 131 projects worth Rs 1.05 lakh crore have been identified for implementation in Maharashtra by central and state agencies. Out of these 131 projects, 46 projects worth Rs 2,078 crore are being financially supported by the government’s Sagarmala programme, said Sonowal during the inauguration.
“Many projects under the Sagarmala project including passenger jetties, coastal infra, skill development, Ro-Ro service are being implemented in Maharashtra,” he added.
Ticket cost and schedule
According to government officials, four operators have been roped in for speedboats with a capacity of 10-30 passengers each and catamarans that can ferry 56 passengers as a means of mass transport, with a provision for monthly passes for regular commuters.
Tickets for speedboat rides will cost anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1,200 (depending on the route). The catamaran ride will be more affordable at around Rs 290.
The taxis will run from 8 am to 8 pm 330 days a year barring a few days in monsoon season when the Arabian Sea waters are choppy, a government official who did not wish to be named told ThePrint.
Tickets and service schedules will be available online.
The services will connect Belapur’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to the Domestic Cruise Terminal (DCT) at Ferry Wharf in South Mumbai. Both JNPT and DCT will also have water taxi services to Elephanta Island and Kanhoji Angre Isle, said government officials.
The government had started Mumbai’s Ro-Ro (roll on/roll off) service between Mumbai and Alibaug after a long wait around two years ago in August 2020. Before the introduction of ferry services, it used to take nearly 3.5 hours to reach Alibaug from Mumbai by road. It now takes less than 60 mins by ferry.
In 2017, there was a plan for a passenger water transportation system on the western coast connecting the far-west suburb of Borivali to a jetty at Nariman Point in South Mumbai. Reportedly, there were plans to even use this jetty for hovercraft and seaplane services.
This system would have taken 45 minutes to cover a route that takes double the time by local train, and nearly three hours by road during peak hours.
However, this project did not take off from the tendering stage due to concerns over its viability as the sea on the western side is much choppier, which would make it difficult to run the service all year round. Ultimately, the jetty was never constructed at Nariman Point.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)