Monorail's Monday joy-ride

Feb 04, 2014, 07:35 IST | Fatema Pittalwala

On the first weekday after its inauguration, the monorail saw few office-goers, and more excited commuters

The experience of travelling on the Mumbai monorail at 9 am is completely different from that of travelling in a Mumbai local or a Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) bus. While the former may be impossibly crowded at peak hour time, on the monorail, one patiently waits at the station — with fewer commuters — to enjoy an air-conditioned and rather stylish ride to one’s destination.

India’s first monorail was inaugurated on February 1. Pic/Shadab Khan
India’s first monorail was inaugurated on February 1. Pic/Shadab Khan

After its celebrated inauguration on Saturday, February 1, the monorail saw few office-goers yesterday (Monday) at 9 am at Wadala. Though the ticket queue got longer and snaked out of the designated monorail stations later during the day, at 9 am the monorail commuters comprised mainly students, the elderly and anyone who was going along just for the ride. All the major stops on Phase I span industrial areas and residential colonies, and there is little movement from the office crowd.

It was a joyride as well as a mobile-photo op for the people who travelled on the monorail on the first working day of this week. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
It was a joyride as well as a mobile-photo op for the people who travelled on the monorail on the first working day of this week. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Making the journey from Wadala to Chembur, it seemed that the monorail may not alleviate the office rush by public transport as of now, but once the line is complete, maybe it will be more useful for the working commuter. “For now, the monorail may only help the employees of the oil refineries on the route. But once the entire line is complete, South Mumbai can be easily accessible,” said Chembur resident Anil Sharma who was at Wadala station.

Snaking queues bore testimony to the buzz generated by the monorail. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Snaking queues bore testimony to the buzz generated by the monorail. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Many first-time visitors asked security guards about the monorail and its stations, but some were aware of these details and the automated technology used in the monorail. Siblings Mohammad and Salima Shaikh, who live near the Bharat Petroleum station and study in grade 6 and 4 respectively, have travelled by monorail several times now.

The siblings study in different schools in Chembur and have been regular passengers since Sunday. After their 7am-12.30 pm classes, the two were on their fourth round on the monorail. “We were here on Sunday too, and spent a total of Rs 100 travelling, from morning till 4.30pm,” said Mohammad.

He added, “My sister and I are amazed by the train and hence we had planned in advance to rush from our respective schools and meet at Chembur monorail station to enjoy the ride together. Since we have been in the train several times now we are aware of all its systems, and we aren’t afraid to travel alone.”

In fact, Mohammad now guides first-timers who are not sure which station is next, and so on. A group of commuters from Bhandup were also taking the monorail ride just for the experience. “We have come here to know what it feels like to travel in the new service. We decided that since it would be crowded on Sunday we would travel on Monday,” said Yogesh More, 21.

The security guards at the stations had a tough time controlling the crowd and ensuring they stay away from the beam. “Our duty is to ensure that people board and alight the train safely but it has been a real task since morning, as most of them are children and also men who refuse to obey us,” said Ashwini Yadav, a security guard at Bhakti Park station.

The 2.34pm train to Chembur from Bhakti Park was late by 25 minutes, and it was then announced that this would be be the last train for Chembur. People waiting for their first monorail experience were both disappointed and frustrated. Further, many passengers did not know that the service would stop at 3pm, so the announcement and the downing of shutters took them by surprise and led to chaos.

Security guards at the stations were explaining to passengers how to alight and board a train and requesting people not lean towards the tracks. Passengers are frisked at the stations and are assisted with entering the platform with electronic tokens. Though surprisingly on its first Monday, officials were handing out paper tickets as there were few electronic tokens left.

A ticket official at Chembur station said, “There are too many people and we don’t have enough tokens to distribute.” The stations are not very big, but they are clean. However, in order to maintain the cleanliness, dustbins are needed on the platforms. Also, while commuters stand during the monorail journey itself, they could definitely use benches at the stations, while waiting.

One of the major problems that a monorail commuter could face is in getting to the station itself. A taxi from Wadala railway station (W) to the Wadala depot station of the monorail can cost up to Rs 50. Connecting to other modes of transport from the monorail will prove to be a problem for travellers. Shiv Kumar (68) and his wife boarded the monorail at Bhakti Park, but were disappointed that the lifts to the station were not working.

“It took us almost half an hour to locate the station as the taxi driver also had no clue. Once we got here, we found the lifts were not working and it took us almost 15 minutes just to climb the steps,” he said. Another elderly commuter complained that a separate queue for the aged and women is a must. Chembur resident Rinky Parekh, who was on her way to work in Wadala, said, “Everything about the monorail is top-notch, except for the lack of toilets.

There are no public toilets at the stations, and this is not good for the commuter. No matter how short the distance, toilets are always needed.” During the journey, as the monorail slowed while turning, the ride got a bit jerky. And with few seats, there was naturally jostling among passengers to get near the window. Though the monorail has enough overhead hand supports, children and shorter adults found it difficult to reach the handles.

With a population of 17 million, almost seven million commuters use Mumbai’s lifeline, the local train, for their daily journey and another four million use buses, autorickshaws, taxis and private vehicles. The monorail has a capacity to cater to 560 commuters during each run between Wadala and Chembur. Despite its teething troubles, as the monorail zooms across the eastern suburbs, giving commuters a view of the treetops and skyscrapers juxtaposed with slums along its path, it makes the 20-minute ride worthwhile.

With inputs from Neha LM Tripathi

Changing modes of transport

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is also the oldest railway system in Asia. The first train ran between Bori Bunder and Thane, a distance of 34 km, on April 16, 1853. Now, spread over 465 km, the suburban railway operates 2342 train services and carries more than 7.24 million commuters daily. Trains run from 4am until 1am.

The first tram ran between Parel and Colaba on May 9, 1874. Early trams were drawn by teams of six to eight horses, and electrified tram service began on May 7, 1907. Double-decker tram service began in September 1920; at the peak of service in 1935, 433 trams ran on 47 kilometres of track. The trams met travellers’ needs until the advent of trains; the service was closed on 31 March, 1964.

Since 1926, the BEST has been an operator of motor buses. In 1947, a week prior to India gaining independence, the BEST became an undertaking of the Bombay Municipal Corporation. The BEST operates one of India’s largest fleets of buses. The bus transport service covers the entire city and also extends its operations outside city limits into neighbouring Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira-Bhayander.

Coming next: Metro
Connecting the western and the eastern suburbs, the Mumbai Metro will reduce traffic congestion in the city. The Mumbai Metro is India’s first public private partnership and is scheduled to start in March 2014.

Day 1 numbers

Rs 2.2 lakh
Total revenue

Total passengers

Total trips

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