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Just three trips in 10 days for Mumbai’s new water taxi service

The speed boat service has run just three trips between the two locations while the catamaran ferry, for mass transport, has had no trips at all due to lack of commuter interest.

The speed boat can accommodate around 12 people and cover the distance in 25-30 minutes, with Rs 1,210 for a one-way ticket. (Source: mumbaiwatertaxi.com)

ON FEBRUARY 17, the much-awaited water taxi service to connect Navi Mumbai and Mumbai was inaugurated by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Linking Belapur to the Domestic Cruise Terminal (DCT), or Bhaucha Dhakka, in South Mumbai, it was labelled as the solution to cut travel time from around 90 minutes by road to 25 minutes along the coastline.

But in the 10 days since then, operators say, the speed boat service has run just three trips between the two locations while the catamaran ferry, for mass transport, has had no trips at all due to lack of commuter interest.

“We will be holding a meeting on March 2 with all stakeholders to find a solution to the issue,” said Amit Saini, CEO of Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), the nodal agency for the project.

According to Saini, there are “issues of connectivity” between DCT and the “main points” in South Mumbai. “There is a need to provide end-to-end service from the jetty. It was brought to our notice by some passengers and we are working on it,” he said.

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According to officials, three operators were given the contract for these services — two to run speedboats and the third for the catamaran.

The speed boat can accommodate around 12 people and cover the distance in 25-30 minutes, with Rs 1,210 for a one-way ticket.

The catamaran can accommodate 56 passengers with a ticket priced much lower at Rs 290 for the 45-minute journey — an AC train ticket costs Rs 210, and AC taxi fare adds up to Rs 900.

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“We have not operated a single service since February 18 as there was not a single passenger for the trip. Operating one trip on a catamaran costs us around Rs 27,000 and we need at least 50 passengers,” I Y Mukadam, the catamaran contractor, told The Indian Express.

The other two operators are My Boat Ride and Mumbai Water Taxi, which provide speedboat services on three routes: Belapur-DCT, Belapur-Elephanta and DCT-Elephanta. MMB CEO Saini said the Elephanta service is “receiving good response on the weekends”.

“We managed to operate one service from DCT to Belapur, and two from Belapur to DCT. The response is low and many people who inquire on our phone numbers and online don’t turn up after checking the fare,” said a representative of Mumbai Water Taxi.

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“There is a satisfactory response for the Elephanta trip. There is a need to have connectivity between DCT and other parts of Mumbai. Many people don’t even know where DCT is and we have to guide them on how to reach the jetty,” the representative said.

“We have not managed to operate a single speedboat service from Belapur to Mumbai but we have been operating the Belapur-Elephanta service,” said a representative of My Boat Ride.

Several commuters between Navi Mumbai and Mumbai told The Indian Express that more than the fare, lack of connectivity is the key issue.

“I don’t have a problem paying the fare but after reaching DCT from Belapur, how will I go to my office, which is in Fort, about 4 km away? There is no feeder service or facility at the jetty like we have at railway stations,” said Ravindra Shinde, an accounting professional who commutes between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai every day by train.

Another commuter, Pankaj Pawar, points to a similar issue in Belapur. “There is no auto stand or bus stop at the jetty,” Pawar, a trader, said.

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While the project was conceptualised about 30 years ago, it could not be launched due to the lack of an appropriate financial model. The project was taken up again recently as part of the Centre’s inland waterways initiative with one Central and two state agencies — CIDCO, Mumbai Port Trust and MMB — working in tandem.

“There are two services slotted on the Mumbai-Navi Mumbai route — one that leaves Belapur at 8.45 am and the other that returns from Mumbai at 6 pm,” said a staffer manning the ticket counter in Belapur.

First published on: 28-02-2022 at 02:54 IST
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