Chhagan Bhujbal, Minister for Tourism and Public Works, will Monday inaugurate the sea-plane services from Mumbai to Aamby Valley. For now, the services will only operate in one sector and commuters will have to wait for the launch of a similar service within the city, from Juhu airport to Girgaum chowpatty.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) along with a private firm, Maritime Energy Heli Air Services Pvt Ltd, had nearly two years ago planned a sea-plane service from Juhu to south Mumbai to cut the hour-long commute to five to seven minutes. However, the project is awaiting a key approval from the Mumbai City Collector’s office.
Jagdish Patil, managing director at MTDC, said, “We don’t know when we can launch the services from Juhu to Girgaum chowpatty. We have asked for a small patch of land to construct a floating jetty. We are waiting for an approval from the city collector.”
Patil said the jetty would be located on a land of about 5,000 sq m, built about a hundred to 200 m into the sea next to H2O, the privately-operated water sports complex. “We need the jetty for speed boats to take passengers from the sea-plane to the land,” he added.
The plan for the service from Juhu to Girgaum chowpatty recently got the final approval from the Ministry of Defence. The company that will operate the service has obtained eight other clearances over the past two years from agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Navy, police, the urban development department, BMC, Mumbai Port Trust, the environment department and the Airports Authority of India.
A state government official said for the Collector to grant land near the city’s coast, a High Court-appointed high-powered committee has to first clear the project.
The committee had first considered the project about a month ago after the company got the other crucial clearances. The committee members agreed that it is a good project, but there were some concerns about the sea view being blocked because of the operations. They had sought those clarifications and it was decided to visit the site for inspection, the official said, adding the committee would discuss the project again once the clarifications are in.
Once the service on this sector is launched, commuters will be able to travel on a sea-plane by paying one-way fare of Rs 750. MTDC and Maritime Heli Air have also planned sea-plane services to the dams at Lonavala, Shirdi, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Shani Singnapur. However, Patil said, the company is waiting for a formal agreement to be signed with the irrigation department for launching the service on these sectors.