Expected to boost connectivity to the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA), the City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO) plans to introduce hovercraft services from the Gateway of India to parts of Navi Mumbai by next year.
With a maximum carrying capacity of 50 people, the hovercraft would travel the distance in 18 minutes, down from 90 minutes taken by road at present. According to CIDCO, frequency of the crafts would depend upon the demand for the service.
“We are ensuring maximum ways of connecting the city to the airport. The hovercraft services will be the fastest way of reaching Navi Mumbai from the southern part of the city. For the same, we are in talks with the concerned operators, including Mumbai Port Trust, Maharashtra Maritime Board and others stakeholders. We plan to float the expression of interest for the same soon,” said Lokesh Chandra, CIDCO managing director and vice-chairman.
The first phase of the airport, which will see a terminal building and a runway, is expected to be completed by December 2019.
From the Gateway of India, commuters would descend at the hoverports of Vashi or Belapur, owned by CIDCO. “We plan to launch these hovercraft services within six to eight months, even before the airport is operational. Foreign tourists, who usually plan a stay in south Mumbai, will be greatly benefited from the ferry services. While we are yet to think of a cost model, we plan to keep it economical and cheaper than cab fares so that it becomes popular,” Chandra said.
At present, private operators ply ferry services ply from the Gateway of India to the coastal towns of Alibaug and Mandwa. Chandra said that they will try to convince the ferry operators to make space for their hovercraft services to Navi Mumbai.
“The initial cost of the project is expected to be around Rs 100 crore as each hovercraft costs around Rs 25 crore. We plan to launch at least have four hovercraft services to start with, depending upon the demand. We may also launch more ferry services from the domestic cruise terminal operated by the port trust in the future,” he added.
Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman of Mumbai Port Trust, said: “We have given CIDCO the permission to operate out of Gateway of India, cruise terminal and Bhaucha Dhakka. We have also earmarked the water route they can take to reach Navi Mumbai.”
By rail, commuters can take the train from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Targhar railway station, planned on the Seawoods-Uran line, to reach the new airport. The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation is also planning an elevated CSMT to Panvel railway corridor, which will see fast trains.
Besides, the 22-km Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, connecting Sewri to Nhava Seva, will cut down travel time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
The NMIA, built to hold 60 million passengers annually, would see 80 flights on an hourly basis. It will decongest the world’s second busiest Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, which operates on a single runway.