Come Sunday and India’s first monorail will be thrown open to the public, eight years after it was first proposed. With the Maharashtra government now keen on unveiling key projects before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the monorail will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday.
With this, India will join countries like the U.S., Germany, China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia that run monorails.
This is the first phase of operation in which the train will run between the central suburb of Wadala and the eastern suburb of Chembur. A distance of 8.93 km will be covered in 15 minutes. The stretch usually takes about 40 minutes in Mumbai suburban trains. A monorail train of four coaches can carry 560 passengers.
According to officials, six trains will begin operating along the route in an interval of 15 minutes during the first month from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. “After seeing the travel patterns, we will increase the frequency. The hours will be like the railway system — from 5 a.m. to midnight. The fares will be between Rs. 5 and Rs. 11,” said Ashwini Bhide, Additional Commissioner of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. “A season pass or return ticket will not be available as in the railway system. But one can avail himself of smartcards.”
The overall monorail project covers a 19.17 km stretch in the Chembur-Wadala-Jacob Circle corridor, which will be the second longest corridor with 17 stations. The longest one is Japan’s Osaka Monorail. Mumbai monorail will flaunt three colours — pink, green and blue.
The monorail has been built by a consortium of engineering conglomerate, Larsen and Toubro Ltd and Malaysia-based Scomi Engineering Bhd. It is owned and operated by MMRDA. The entire project costs Rs 3000 crore, of which Rs 1100 crore has been spent on the first phase. Officials said the second phase is likely to take another year.
MMRDA commissioner U.P.S. Madan said the aim was to have seamless travel. “We are in the process of connecting the monorail stations to the existing railway stations and upcoming metro stations.”
However, transport expert Sudhir Badami was critical and said the monorail was an expensive system catering to a small number of people. “The government should have first addressed the existing railway system where lakhs of people travel. The Bus Rapid Transit System would have been cheaper and implementable in a short span. The monorail may not be an incentive for people to give up their cars and take to public transport because they may be travelling longer distances,” he said.
The project covers
a 19.17 km stretch