I took the Mumbai Metro…..
Last week I took a short ride in Mumbai’s newly-opened Metro. It was mildly chaotic, the doors opened and didn’t close as station staff tried to huddle passengers inside or ensure that there were no glitches and the announcements though audible, weren’t accurate.
All this is to be expected in a service that’s has just started: teething problems, crowd management issues – tens of thousands taking a fun ride – and some unfamiliarity with entry and exit procedures.
At Rs 10 per ride for an 11km distance, the travelers are making the most of this limited and affordable opportunity. It is a very welcome change from the bumper-to-bumper bus and car traffic and snarls that have characterised this east-west trunk route in the island city, for as long as anyone can remember.
Travel rates will rise once the company that built the line (three years and more in the making) and the transport authority that will run the service sort out this issue.
India’s financial capital has needed such a service for goodness knows how long so in it enthusiasm to embrace the new travel mode, there are certain things that bear some serious thought:
Getting a hold on user fees: As India looks to boost its much-needed infrastructure, be it roads, highways or ports, it is important to get a hold on this issue as this is what an investor needs clarity on. If this remains uncertain, it will not give a clear signal to future investors.
Mumbai needs a network of metros if it to reduce congestion – and all must make money – but with only one approved project, only a small dent is being made in this major problem.
India is one of the work’s most attractive markets for infrastructure says PwC which adds that the government has called for $1 trillion (Rs 5,996,000 crore) in infrastructure spending in the five years through 2017.
Planning multi-modal transport: With the inauguration of the metro, Mumbai gets another mode of travel in an east-west axis that has been largely under-served. While buses on the route ran much below capacity, one newspaper report suggested that once the Metro rates go up, the travelling public will revert to buses. Assuming that the Metro authorities and the bus service people have not spoken about this, they needed to much before the Metro was flagged off. Buses taken off on this route can potentially be pressed into service in other routes where, as any Mumbai resident will tell you, demand overwhelms supply.
Safety and fire issues: The Metro has been approved for travel but I am not aware if there has been a safety and fire drill in the areas below the elevated Metro stations. The route is virtually sandwiched between rows of old and new buildings, and slums – and is almost cheek-by-jowl with them. In the case of a fire, one can only wonder how ambulances and fire engines would be able to approach the area, turn around and do their job.
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