Soon, you can ride a Victoria with a renewed charm

Making a comeback:  A driver demonstrates a battery-operated Victoria carriage.

Making a comeback: A driver demonstrates a battery-operated Victoria carriage.

Once a common sight, the much-loved Victorias will soon hit the streets of Mumbai in a new avatar. The horse-drawn carriages disappeared following a ban by the Bombay High Court in 2015 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

“I had a lot of memories of riding Victorias, and I wanted my daughter to have the same experience. But the ban was enforced, and while everyone was talking about animal cruelty, people also spoke about the experience. Then it struck us that this could well work as a battery-operated carriage,” Ketan Kadam, founder and CEO of UBO Ridez, said.

The company is planning to flag off 120 carriages at the time of the launch, which is the same number of carriages present at the time of the ban. In its new avatar, the carriage will be powered by a lithium ion battery and will ply on the same circuits as they used to. The carriage can run around 60 to 70 km on a single charge, which takes around four-five hours. The carriage will have a top speed of 20 km per hour and will have a set of Bluetooth speakers. The carriage will also have GPS-based audio tour, which will provide snippets of the city’s history at its iconic locations.

“We are building them in two sizes. The smaller one will be used at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is a sort of private enclosure and there isn’t too much traffic, hence we will use the smaller ones there. The larger carriage, which is the actual size of the horse carriage, will come to the city in the second phase,” he said. The first carriage arrived nearly two years ago and Mr. Kadam and his team have, since then, been procuring all the requisite clearances for the vehicle.

Mr. Kadam, however, plans to use the carriages for more than just a short ride. “Earlier it was just a ride. We don’t want to stick to the old format of it being a joyride. We will promote tourism using these carriages.”

The company will offer a ‘hop on-hop off’ service targeting tourists. The carriages will ply on dedicated routes between popular tourist destinations such as chowpatty and Nariman Point along Marine drive. The company also plans to have weekend tours, which will need to be booked in advance.

Mr. Kadam said they are also seeking permissions to operate on other popular tourist places such as Carter Road and Five Gardens, which were earlier out of bounds for horse-drawn carriages.

The company will give priority to the original Victoria drivers for the new venture. Nearly 400 drivers were left in the lurch after the ban as several of them had no other skill. “The first preference is completely to them. Nearly 60 of them have already come forward. The first lot of carriages will go to them. After this, if more approach us, we will induct them as well,” Mr. Kadam said.

Mr. Kadam said they will launch the electrical Victorias after the monsoon and around the festive season. They will charge ₹300 and ₹500 for the traditional short ride and long ride respectively, and are still working out the details about the other offerings. “We could have charged higher. The idea is not to do so and make it a volumes-based business. I don’t want to make it a premium product.”

Mr. Kadam said this service could be started at any tourist centre. “This could really contribute to exploring tourism in a green format.”

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 5:37:13 am |