Commuters are shunning Mumbai water taxis due to high ticket rate

With water taxi round trips costing as much as ₹800, analysts say cheaper, faster water transport modes are needed as alternatives to the congested land routes

November 13, 2022 02:17 am | Updated November 14, 2022 09:20 pm IST - MUMBAI

On February 17, a water taxi service was started covering three routes, all starting at Belapur.

On February 17, a water taxi service was started covering three routes, all starting at Belapur. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Water taxis are a welcome addition to the modes of transport available in the traffic-heavy island city of Mumbai, but commuters find it unaffordable for daily travel.

On February 17, a water taxi service was started covering three routes, all starting at Belapur. The route to the Mumbai Domestic Cruise Terminal (DCT) costs ₹200 one way, while the one to Elephanta Caves costs ₹750 for a round trip. The third route to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Transport (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai takes 35 minutes and costs ₹800 for a round trip. There are different vessels available, from six to 200-seaters.

“The Belapur to JNPT is doing very well. Belapur to DCT - response is not coming as everyone wants to go to Gateway of India. And Belapur to Elephanta is filling 80% capacity as it’s full of tourists. We do three round trips in a 32-seater vessel,” said Infinity Harbour Service partner Gurpreet Bakshi.

Residents of Navi Mumbai, however, say that they will not be using the service often. “I took the water taxi once to go to work and come back home, but I can’t afford to do it everyday,” said advocate Vishwas Ingale, 36, who lives in Belapur and works in an office at Kala Ghoda. “It definitely is a stress-free experience when you compare it to the local trains. But it drops you off at Mazgaon, so I have to take a taxi or bus to reach my office at Churchgate, which ends up taking the same time I would take in the train. So it does not check both the boxes of affordability and saving time.”

Cecilia Rodriquez, 32, a chartered accountant who lives in Kharghar and works in Churchgate, said, “I will not use the water taxi for a regular journey. It is not as cost effective inspite of saving time. I would rather take the local train for a little over an hour. I will not mind taking it once a while. The fixed timings of the taxis are also not flexible so it does not work for me.”

Another water taxi from DCT to Mandwa in Raigad district started from November 1 during three fixed time slots in the morning, afternoon and in the evening. However, due to less footfall, there will only be two round trips running from November 10, said Atul Kala, consultant with Nayantara Shipping Private Limited which is running the service. “We have done 60 round trips in 10 days with less than 10% people travelling in the water taxi. The passenger seating capacity is 200 and the price is ₹400 for the executive class and ₹450 in the business class,” he added.

Nitin Thakkar, 67, who runs an organic vegetable business and owns a two-acre plot of land in Mandwa, noted that there was already a jetty connecting Gateway to Mandwa. He said, “I don’t see the point behind the water taxi as there already is a jetty running perfectly fine connecting the two places. It is affordable and takes almost the same time.” However, Mr. Kala pointed out that the water taxi is built at par with international standards and promises safety along with comfort.

Experts say that water taxis need to become a more affordable mode of mass transport. “Water transport should be welcomed but it has to be affordable. It is not a mass transport so it is not feasible for commuters. There does not seem to be any last mile connectivity problem with any of the exit points,” said Neera Adarkar, an architect and urbanist.

“It is important that we should not depend only on the land route, which is already getting congested beyond limit. What is going to happen in the next 10 years is obvious,” said transport analyst Ashok Datar. “We need to develop a cheaper, faster and easier alternative. Instead of a taxi service that has limited seating, we can come up with a bulk train-like transport. There are other places in the world that are doing it, so why can’t we?” he added.

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