It isn’t an exaggeration to call the local trains the lifeline of Mumbai, carrying 75 lakh commuters across the city every day. No other form of transport comes close to this figure; taxis and auto rickshaws ferry over 50 lakh people, while the numbers for BEST buses stand at 30 lakh and continue to dwindle. Of the newer kids on the block, the Monorail is labouring on with barely 15,000 or so passengers per day. But the city’s future hope could rest on the Metro, which after an initial struggle has managed to rake in 9 crore commuters over the past year.
Over the past year, Mumbai Metro’s Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor suffered from a slow pace of work and surging project costs, but it now seems to have finally garnered confidence in the minds of Mumbaikars and the footfall has remained steady in recent months. With Metro I becoming a success story, perhaps it is time that the authorities earnestly begin work on other corridors. Already the suburban trains are busting at the seams, and even Metro I, at approximately 2.5 lakh passengers a day, is the eighth most dense Metro network in the world.
The question remains, when the people are waiting for newer, better and faster modes of public transport, why is it taking the state government and allied agencies so long to deliver? Transport projects are plagued with delays and cancellations. The Monorail project, which was originally to have nine different routes, has come to a screeching halt with the Wadala-Chembur line performing below par and now the government has scrapped all other Monorail plans for good.
Plans for two new Metro corridors Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ (CBS) and Charkop-Bandra-Mankhurd (CBM) are also mired in trouble. The CBS route continues to be debated by the government, citizens and transport experts and everyone else under the sun. Meanwhile, the CBM line has been shelved.
What Mumbai needs most now is a strong public transport system, the only thing that will ensure that the seven islands are not buried in a sea of private vehicles. Here’s hoping the powers that be are listening.